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

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cause and effect

As I was reading, I looked up and caught a glimpse of tousled gray hair just visible in the window on the sidewalk side of the bus. Then I saw a hand raised and then lowered. I went back to my book.

The bus was stopped at Watt and El Camino and had just finished boarding several passengers. The front door hissed shut and the bus pulled away from the curb.

"Hey, this old lady needs the bus," the woman seated across from me at the back of the bus yelled. "Stop, this old lady needs the bus."

Outside, the elderly lady with the gray hair raised her hand again as she continued her slow progress toward the bus stop.

"She's late for this stop," the driver responded, but then he pulled back to the curb. He opened the door and lowered the bus to make it easier for the woman to climb aboard.

"I'm a little late today," the woman said as she slowly shuffled onto the bus. She showed her bus pass to the driver and took a seat in the front.

After the bus was under way again, I had a twinge of guilt. Why didn't I make an effort to alert the driver that he had another passenger? This reminded me of the gentleman on the bus who had raced from his seat to help a woman carrying an infant and lugging a large stroller.

The woman who had alerted the driver about the old lady was looking out the window and singing along with her headphones. Her singing, for lack of a better word to describe the noise, was loud enough to disturb my reading on the other side of the bus. OK, I thought to myself, she helped the old lady, she deserves praise for that, but she wasn't even close to carrying a tune, which moved her noise from disturbing to painful to hear.

"Hey, there's a five-dollar bill on the sidewalk," the woman said loudly to no one in particular. "Man, I could really use that five dollars."

The bus was stopped in traffic on Watt, waiting to turn right onto Butano.

"Hey, could you open the door so I could get that five-dollar bill?" she shouted toward the driver.

The side door hissed open and the woman dashed outside. She was back in her seat at the back of the bus before the traffic on Watt started moving, happily folding the $5 bill and putting it into her backpack.

As the bus continued on its way to Sac State, the woman called a friend to tell her of her good fortune.

At one point in the conversation, she said, "What you put into the universe you get back."

I agreed, silently to myself. A transitarian rewards program, perhaps.

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