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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another bus story

11 September 2009

So I’m riding home on that short, middle leg of my journey.  It’s always a pleasant place to be at seven o’clock because the ride ahead is neighbourhoody and fast.  I can’t be the only one who thinks so because the drivers are usually pleasant on this route too.

Before that though, we pull up to a stop beside three supermarkets, and at first it seems no one is getting on until the driver lowers the “kneeling bus.”  I expect an older lady with a shopping cart but realise a full thirty seconds later it’s two fellas climbing on; one guy leading the other blind guy.

As they make their way up the step, the blind man is saying “thank you, thanks so much, thanks very much, thank you…” to the other guy.  He sounds like Dustin Hoffman being the Rain Man.  They slowly get on and pay, all the while the blind/rain man is saying “thank you, thanks very much, thanks…”  After thanking the driver for the transfer slip, the man automatically moves to the first seat to the driver’s right.  The first of the seats reserved for disabled people.  The seat where sight impaired people always sit.   The one in which, when it becomes apparent that a disabled, or old, or encumbered person is boarding, you automatically vacate.

Today though, there is  couple sitting in that seat and the one next to it, and they just sit there, sort of stunned, and sort of giggling, as the blind guy, thanking everyone and the guy helping him, makes his way to the handicapped persons’ seat area.  He goes to sit down in the first seat, and I watch astonished as the couple just sits there.  Sitting in the guy’s lap and realising someone is present, the blind guy adjusts himself and sits  in the girl’s lap.  The girl and guy just sit there and giggle. 

I want to holler at them from back where I am, “YO!  IT’S A BLIND GUY!  GET UP!”  “IT’S THE ONLY SEAT HE CAN ‘SEE!’”  Eventually blind guy is on to them and gropes his way across the aisle to another seat, with help from the other guy who helped him board.  When blind guy is seated, other guy moves to the back of the bus and we realise he was a stranger helping a blind, ever thankful, stranger. 

I can’t help it.  I keep looking at the couple; who are still giggling, nervous and sheepish.  And I think what a shame that nobody ever taught them to give up a seat for a blind guy.    

And I hope they don’t always have to sit in the seats they’re sitting in.