Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Driving The Bus For My Friends
(The people are real; their names are not!)

Our county has a public transit system. I drive a bus for the system part-time to help bolster the family coffers. Driving has been an interesting "ride." Some of my riders are daily routine riders; some just ride periodically. Then there's the "newbies" that ride for the first time.
All are an interesting mix of ages, genders, and philosophies.
Let me introduce you to them.
Toby is a regular. He is middle aged, mentally challenged, and a very hard worker. He has been a "merchandise handler" in a local grocery store for several years. He probably has the mental age of a 12 year old, but is able to function as a productive adult in today's world with assistance. He lives alone in his own apartment, is clean and tidy and funny. We laugh and joke with each other, and he worries about me if I don't show up right on time. He talks to himself, mumbles, and I can always tell if there is something wrong. He is caring and sharing.
CeCe is a regular rider, too. She is middle aged, gray-haired, and has a good sense of humor. She lives with and is caregiver for an older handicapped sister. She washes dishes at a local restaurant, shovels snow in the winter and mows lawns in the spring and summer. She also cares for an elderly lady that lives close to her. She loves to gamble. Four afternoons a week, I deliver her to where ever the hottest games of Bingo are being played, and on night five, she bowls. She loves going to Vegas! She recently saw her dog get run over by a car. She was heartbroken. She shared that experience with me, and before we knew it we were both in tears and sharing "lost dog" stories.
Another regular rider is Tia. Tia is one of the happiest people I know. She has Downs-syndrome, but does that hold her back? No! She works in the laundry department of a local children's home. A job she does with much pride. She has a younger sister who plays basketball at her local high school. Tia is her biggest fan. She told me the other day that they are moving this summer. She will be missed.
Bob is an elderly gentleman who rides with me daily. He retired 15 years ago, but when his wife died, he hated staying home all day, so he got a job working with his daughter in her pet-grooming business. He is 81 now, is almost blind, but his spirit is an inspiration to me daily. He always has a dog story to tell, and his Christian light is always shining. He still loves life and all that is in it. That is apparant every time I talk to him.
Jen is a student at our local community college. She has shared her ups and downs with her boyfriend with me. She has asked my advice. I think it is wise for her to seek her own way, so I keep my remarks to a minimum. But I do act as a good listener.
Mary is a single mom with three teenagers. I haul her too and from the grocery and let her exceed the "4-bag-limit" on my bus. She cannot possibly haul groceries for four people in 4 bags! She is struggling with raising the kids alone, working full time, and going to college, too. What an admirable person she is. I know her children, too. They are good kids, with lots of respect for their mom.
Of course, not all of my riders are Mr. or Mrs. Pleasant. No, some are crabby and try to tell me how to drive. Constance doesn't like to have anyone else on the bus when she rides. Berneice doesn't bathe often enough, so I get out the air freshener when she exits the bus. Ann thinks we should "drop everything" whenever she calls to schedule a ride, but seems grateful when we do go to haul her to the store or post office.
One lady, an invalid, calls the transit office and visits, just because the dispatcher is nice to her and she has no one else to talk to. When she rides with me, she is so cheerful, you would never know that she is confined to a wheelchair full time.
I could go on and on. Someday, when I am old and gray, I am going to write a book by the same title as this blog. But for now, let me just say that these people have taught me what caring is all about. These people are my friends. My good friends!

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