There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Morning package delivery

At Watt and Whitney, a middle-aged woman boarded the bus. Her speech was slurred as she announced to the driver she was going to Fair Oaks. As she fumbled with her money, the driver explained that the bus would be going to Howe and Fair Oaks. Her response was hard to understand and the driver reassured her more than once that he'd get her to Fair Oaks.

As I watched this I wondered who this middle-aged woman was. She was slightly built and had the appearance of someone who had recently taken a shower and was just starting out on her day. Her blonde hair was tied back in a short ponytail. Her pants and sleeveless top were clean but obviously warn. Was the slurred speech caused by a stroke or some mental illness? She was clearly unsteady on her feet.

The lady stumbled toward the seats, stopped and addressed the driver: "I'll go to Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart at El Camino." Satisfied with the driver's affirmative reply, she plopped herself down next to a young woman.

For the brief ride from Whitney to El Camino the lady sat slouched over as though she had fallen asleep. The woman seated next to her was clearly relieved that her seatmate had abandoned an initial effort to engage in conversation.

When the bus stopped at El Camino the reason for the slurred speech and unsteady movement became apparent. Clutched in both hands as she exited was a plastic grocery bag tightly wrapped around a square bottle that could only be some sort of liquor. As she made her unsteady passage from the bus and down the street she was very careful with her package.

It wasn't yet 9 a.m.