the red bag

7 January 2010

A couple of days ago I’m riding the short, three-stop subway ride to Victoria Park station and there is a lady in a red coat, with a red wool hat – the kind with the dangly braided “tails” that come down from the ears.  I like the look on her because it’s not the kind of hat that one might usually associate with a woman in her sixties.  And with all her red outer gear she’s also got a red shopping bag on the seat beside her.  And she’s asleep, hunching further and further forward as the movement of the train invites deeper slumber.  One of these hunches forward will eventually jar her awake.  I don’t pay much mind because lots of morning subway commuters doze the ride away.

We pull into Woodbine station and the doors open and just as they are about to close the woman jars awake and bolts out onto the platform. I see her standing there looking at the station name on the wall, probably coming to her senses about where in the world she is when I notice she left the red bag on the seat.  She realises it at precisely the same time because as the train pulls away she’s running after it, even hitting the side of it to get the driver’s attention.

I see by the pitying look on another rider’s face he witnessed the episode too.  And like me he’s probably wondering what to do.  I wonder if I should take the bag and get off at the next stop and wait for her to see if she got on the next train hoping some kind soul would do just that.  I wonder too if I should take the bag to a TTC employee at my stop for turning in to the lost and found.  Ultimately I leave it where it is – still in the spot where she last knew it to be.  I’ve seen bus drivers help passengers to track left belongings based on stop times, so I hope she’ll be able to get the thing back in a similar way. 

Thinking maybe I can help, I write down the number of the car and note the time on a piece of paper with a mind to notify the TTC lost and found with the information when I get to work.  But I find myself plunked into an early meeting when I get there and subsequently forget all about it. 

Next morning, getting on the train I recall the episode and feel guilty about my lack of action on the poor woman’s mishap.  I can’t get the frantic look on her face as she ran after that train out of my mind.  That bag might have contained her purse and wallet and who knows what else.  Maybe something precious to her.

A few years ago I left my purse on a streetcar.  It was a Saturday night and I didn’t notice I’d left it until an hour or two after I had reached my destination, as I was carrying a number of bags and parcels.  On the way home the driver tried to help, radioing in to see if anyone had turned it in, but unfortunately I’d have to wait until Monday to visit the lost and found.  As anyone who’s lost a wallet knows, it’s a horrible feeling. 

I decided to assume I would get the purse back.  Based on the idea that the vast majority of people are fundamentally good and honest, I chose to assume that the purse would be turned in and otherwise untouched and that helped me get through the next day and a half.  Turns out I was right.  The purse was turned in and everything in it was just as I had left it. 

I’ve been really hoping the lady in the red coat was able to hold onto some of that confidence in humanity and positivity, because it helped me so.  I was hoping that look of panic on her face had quickly turned to resolve and calm.

This morning I get on the train and there is the lady in the red coat and red hat, with her hand clutching the red shopping bag.  She’s hunched over sleeping. 

I wonder if I should poke her awake, and while I imagine having to explain that I watched the whole episode two mornings ago, she sleeps through Woodbine station and into Main St. station. Just as we’re pulling away, she wakes up.  And with all the calmness in the world, and her red bag, she walks over to the door and waits for the next stop.  She exits with me and the two of us walk down the stairs and into our respective Thursdays.

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8 Responses to “the red bag”

  1. Cathy Says:

    Almost skipped a line or two, to get to the end! SO happy for the Red-Bag Lady!! I think your good karma helped her immensely..maybe more than you could have otherwise! xoxo

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Aw sis – you give me more credit than I would ever give myself. But then I do believe in karma…

  3. Sharon Musson Says:

    It’s nice that you KNOW she got it back and that even nicer that she got it back!

  4. Tricia Says:

    “to our respective Thursdays”
    Great ending.

  5. Selma Says:

    I am so glad she got her bag back. What a relief!

    • Jennifer Says:

      Indeed! I had considered writing a blog post about the original incident. When I saw her again with the bag I went “woohoo!” and the post became a must!


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