the kindness of strangers

just a few weeks ago i boarded a bus bound for Hayes Valley. it wasn’t entirely crowded, but most of the seats were occupied. i was facing forward in the seats nearest to the handicap section in the front of the bus. i was running a little late, as was the bus, so my nerves were up just a little bit knowing that i would be arriving at my destination late – and i dislike being late. i appreciate punctuality although i do find myself usually running around ten minutes late at all times in my life. i’m not sure how that happened or when it began. i would chalk it up to the fact that perhaps i was born ten minutes late (wouldn’t that be great to blame it on that?!), but in reality – i was born several days early – so, yes, i’m still searching for the someone or something to blame for my eternal tardiness.

half way to my destination, i hear the stairs in the front of the bus lower. that pump-of-air-being-released sound. this could only mean one thing :: a wheelchair. alright, alright. before you start plotting ways to burn me at the stake, i’m not being rude about people in wheelchairs (in fact, i have a great deal of compassion and admiration for any and all people who are faced with such a fate). at this point, i just thought, ‘ok, well.. if i wasn’t late before, i’m extra late now.’ you know what i mean ? human beings can be so terribly self involved – it has been our downfall since the dawn of time (damn it, Eve)(ok, scratch that, i don’t believe in God and i sure as hell don’t think that one female is to blame for our ‘sins’ – it’s a highly comical story though). as the lady in her wheelchair is slowly being raised onto the bus, those sitting in the handicap section who are not handicapped, begin to gather their things and find new seats or places to stand. this included one very adorable elderly woman who begins to carefully gather her purse and shopping bags. as she slowly meanders towards the open seat next to me, i see she’s dropped a dollar bill out of the pocket of her trench coat. i point to the seat behind her, but she only looks at me with a very puzzled expression. i was afraid of saying, “hey, you dropped some money !” because in all honesty ? this is public transportation in a major city and i had visions of people rushing towards her now empty seat in an effort to score one whole dollar before the little old lady realized what happened – yes, i have quite an active imagination. so i stand up, walk to the seat, grab the dollar, and hand it to her as we both sit down together, saying “you dropped this.”

she turned to me with this genuine look of complete amazement and bewilderment.  she begins to thank me profusely, saying things like, “anyone else would have taken that, thank you so much.” i just replied by saying, “well, i would hope someone would do the same for me, but you’re welcome, it’s no big deal.” so the bus starts up again and continues to barrel down Van Ness Ave. a few minutes pass and i am sitting in silence, facing forward, patiently awaiting my stop, when the little old lady taps me on the arm a few times. i turn to her with an expression of ‘what?’ on my face and she holds her hand out like she is going to give me  something. perplexed, i hold my hand out and she drops two quarters into my palm. she looks at me and says, “it’s only fair. anyone else would have taken that whole dollar from me. thank you so much.” i try to give the quarters back to her, telling her that was totally unnecessary, but she insisted i keep them. at that point, we began talking about the city and where we are from. a few stops later, she climbs off the bus. she thanked me again, wished me a good day, and from the sidewalk outside of the bus she waved at me through the window with a big smile on her face. ‘what a beautiful way to start the day,’ i think, forgetting all about the time.

[colored pencil on paper]




Filed under illustration (both acrylic and oilt)

3 responses to “the kindness of strangers

  1. Richard Lark

    As all your stories are, this too was an excellent read. I doubt you are, but don’t forget to include yourself in that “kindness of strangers” title as most people would have just lifted the little old ladies single dollar. You have a good heart my dear! Love to you!

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