Sunday, May 8, 2016

Holding together

At a certain hour of the morning, when the sun is still rising, the light hits the street at just the right angle. It doesn't matter how bleached out the asphalt is (or how black it is), when the rays gleam at that magical moment the road before us becomes a ribbon of gold. For that brief moment, we are gliding on a gilded highway. There are no oil stains, no skid marks, no cemented chewing gum visible during that passing illusion. The eyes widen, the glare draws the gaze, and the harsh environment is softened as we speed toward the source.

I used to enjoy the same effect on the 36, now the 72 has given me many of those moments, thanks to the broad expanse of Oakland Park Blvd. Saturday mornings we don't have to contend with the gridlock and accidents which are the order of the day during the week. By noon it reverts to its normal busy self, but for those precious hours we have tranquility.

One morning after the above spectacle had taken place, a man boarded and presented his pass directly to me rather than proceed to swipe it through the fare box. Inspecting the pass, it was clear to see the magnetic strip had worn down to an unreadable remnant from frequent use. There was writing in pen on the back, in the recognizable hand of a Central Terminal supervisor, indicating that a few days remained on the monthly pass. Presumably middle-aged, he boarded somewhat sheepishly, not quite sure enough to hold his gaze. Recognizing the validity of the pass, and familiar with their temporal durability, I told him it was ok and waved him on. I thought nothing more of it and was well on my way when he wandered back up to the driver's area.

"You're the first driver, of all the drivers, who articulated your recognition of the problem with the pass, instead of looking at me like I'm holding a foreign object," he gratefully explained, slightly choking up.
"It's alright, those things wear out, it happens. It's not the end of the world."
"I'm out of work right now and I use this pass 7 to 8 times a day to follow up on job leads and go to interviews," he continued.
As we spoke, it became apparent that this was a once-proud man, educated, and unfamiliar with his present reality of having nothing, including personal dignity. Yet this became a shining moment, when a flawed man with nothing to give revealed himself in a way we rarely do when we allow ourselves to be equal hearts.

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