I went into the office the other day, where office = homeless women’s shelter, to meet with my boss and work onsite for a change. I decided to take the bus, because I hate driving downtown and I especially hate parking downtown. Luckily, there’s a bus route just a short walk from my house that drops me off half a block from the shelter. Less fortunately, it is widely regarded as the slice-of-humanity bus.
While the express commuter buses are ridden by businesspeople in ill-considered footwear and carrying briefcases or stylish shoulder bags, the slice-of-humanity riders favor sensible shoes and plastic garbage bags. My strategy is to sit near the front. It’s not that I think the driver would help me were something untoward to happen, it’s that a.) I want to be near the exit; and b.) people sit in the front when they’re getting off soon, so if someone unpleasant sits next to me, they won’t be there for long.
On this ride, I had a seat to myself until we arrived at a major intersection with many travelers waiting. I surveyed them through the window and hoped that the young man in the yellow polo shirt would sit next to me. He looked harmless. As it turned out, he did sit next to me, and he was harmless. But odd.
“Man, it’s hot in here,” he said as he sat down. I nodded. It was rather warm on the bus, especially after standing out in the 50-degree drizzly weather. “Do you guys mind if I open a window?” he asked no one in particular. He stood up and pulled a high-up window open, then sat down and fanned himself. “Soooo hot,” he muttered.
I took a good look at him at that point. The boy had sweat streaming down his face. Now, I’m one of those people who’s always cold, so I’m not a good judge of temperature. I looked around at other riders. Everyone on the bus had a jacket on and many were wearing hats. No one looked uncomfortable, except the yellow-shirted kid sitting next to me. “At least I’m not in Texas,” he remarked. On that I could agree.
Yellow-shirt stood up and put his face near the open window in a desperate attempt to cool his inner fire. A few stops later, he got off the bus. I had the impression that we weren’t actually at his stop yet, but that he’d decided to walk the rest of the way to escape the burning hell-flames of the bus. But I don’t know.
When I arrived at the shelter, I got on a computer to dredge up some statistics for future use. I checked the records kept by the Family Services Coordinator. She works with the women who come in with children, helping them secure night shelter and get the kids in school. I read through the spreadsheet on which she had tracked the mothers who came in last month. One column header read, “reason for homelessness.” Scrolling down, I read all the reasons the mothers gave for being on the streets with their kids. The words that appeared most often: domestic violence.
If you’ve followed my previous rantings, you already know that I’m not a big fan of the cultural set-up that systematically pushes women into positions of dependency on men. Here is one reason, in living color. Women without their own resources, fleeing abusive men, wind up homeless. This scenario is far more common than the broader media narrative about homelessness would have us believe.
To round out the day, I discovered that the check I’d been waiting for, which I thought had been lost in the mail, had actually been stolen and cashed. Yes, the bank cashed my check for someone who definitely did not have ID with my name on it. As a result, I now have a brand new mailbox with a lock on it, and I can look forward to who knows how much hassling with my client and/or the bank to get my money, if it is even possible to get it.
Oh, I also got turned down for a gig I wanted last week. The email said, “You were a worthy candidate, but we had many incredibly strong applicants.” I have heard some version of this refrain so many times now I think I should put it on a t-shirt. It would say, “Was a worthy candidate,” with an arrow pointing up. I could wear it while marching with Occupy Seattle. I can get there on the slice-of-humanity bus.
UPDATE: Thought I’d add this cheery tidbit: the city of Topeka, Kansas is considering decriminalizing domestic violence. So men who used to batter with near impunity will be able to batter with complete impunity. And what is there to say about that?