|So long for now, Line 9. Thanks for your hefty dose of sweet humanity.|
For two years now, I have seen a carrot dangling in front of my apathetic eyes. "Don't miss more than 16 hours due to sick leave, or you will not make the next step up the ladder," they tell us. It doesn't matter if you're so sick your life is in danger, or that you are contagious to anyone who comes in contact with you. All upper management cares about is whether your beat-up body is in the seat.
Transit workers sacrifice ourselves so deeply to this job that many of us don't live more than a year after retirement. Our bodies are abused and beaten, used up, then replaced with another eager soul with great dreams of "not being that guy". After a few years, even the most rosy-eyed newbie learns the cards are stacked against them. With each new contract negotiation, this job with "wonderful benefits and opportunities for advancement" becomes yet another pipe-dream in the annals of corporate slavery. We all become, at least once but usually much more than that, jaded and angry as we "hit the wall". This, among other painful factors, is why transit workers are some of the most depressed in the world.
When one of my closest friends ever died this past week, no words can describe how excruciating a grief I felt. Sobbing while driving is not conducive to safety. However, every option to my marking off had been exhausted. From my Station Agents to Assistant Managers, every effort at my being relieved came to a burning-rubber halt. At the end of a signup, too many operators mark off, leaving no extra bodies to fill an empty seat.
|A few early flowers trumpet the spring|
to come, which Wayne will not see
as an earthly soul this year.
My Inspirational Thought for Today, pulled from my cherished Oban Distillery hat this morning, was one written by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. As our country's First-Mom during the Great Depression and ensuing World War II, she took it upon herself to sow the seeds of hope for a nation feeling anxious. Each week, her newspaper column implored millions to dig deep into their well of personal strength. It was this internal fortitude she described which propelled me to safely drive my bus that dreadful day I learned Wayne Kyle had died.
As a professional driver, I'm ashamed for not marking off to properly mourn. I was even more grief-stricken when Wayne died than when either of my parents passed. That's intense, given my respect and admiration for Mom and Dad, whose dedication for my tomorrow made today possible. We love our parents and owe them great debts for their multitude of gifts to us. But our friends also ken us from deep within, and are most-often the sounding boards for our sins, hopes, dreams and failures. While parents push us from behind up to a certain age, our friends pull us through from there. Both my folks had lived great lives and were ready when their souls were recalled. Wayne and I still had plans together, and I feel robbed by his untimely departure. Incredibly cheated by it.
Wayne saw through the searing pain of my divorce. He would not allow me to wallow in self pity; instead, he demanded I stand up and live once again. For over a year, I forgot how to laugh, unless I had my daughter with me. Anna was a lively toddler, and I would dance her around in my arms, singing along to Glenn Frey's remake of "Soul Cruise". Our time together was all I craved, and I poured every ounce of energy into those three days each week. When Anna went back to her mother, I replaced my grief with intensely-hard work.
When my workday was done and Anna was with her mother, Wayne was there to find ways to help me laugh, to envision the beauty I refused to see. It had become easier to accept defeat than embrace the love surrounding me. Gradually, I began to breathe again. The hurt remained, but it softened whenever Wayne said something outrageously irreverent, daring me to laugh.
One day of extreme grief for his death was all I could afford. Wayne's soul implored me to continue. To ignore him would have been disrespectful to the toughness he always displayed. Within that hard outer shell, Wayne's heart pumped out goodness and concern for everyone around him. Even toward those whose ass he thoroughly-kicked, physically or intellectually. One night of drunken sobbing after my pain-drenched shift was enough. He allowed me a day to recover from it, then demanded I saddle that horse and ride again.
Last night, I did gallop back into Portland's dense traffic. It was much easier this time. The tears had mostly passed, save for a few renegades I quickly willed away. Wayne respected the job I do, having read many of these posts over the years. To wallow any further in grief for my friend would have done him a great injustice.
Once again, my Beloved picked one of the folded-up gems from my Oban hat for today's ride. It was only fitting she chose this quote. During an evening trip when I read it to my passengers, it deeply struck home in one young lad. I thought this had landed on largely-deaf ears, given the continuing banter of some lively fellows in the back. Yet this one lad felt it.
He walked up to me before departing and thanked me "for all you do, especially for what you said to us. It means more to me," he said, pausing and turning away so (he thought) I couldn't see his face scrunched up in personal pain (I did), "than you could ever imagine."
He then offered his hand to me, which I shook. Warmly, pressing deep into his grieving soul, searching his eyes to feel the pain within.
Inside his hand was a $10 bill. "I want you to have this, as a token of my appreciation for all you do."
I immediately protested. For the past two weeks, sharing inspirational quotes has rewarded me much more than I believed my passengers had received. Even though many have expressed their appreciation for my attempts to "uplift" them, this lad's tears affected me deeply and needed no recompense.
|Perhaps these shoes are a gift|
from a friend whose own
are too big to fill.
"You must do the things you think you cannot do." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
I drove a bus through a river of tears Wednesday night. This was something I didn't think possible, but given the circumstances, was wholly necessary. And Wayne? He just smiled through it, sending me comfort all the while. And that, my friends, returned the smile I lost just 36 hours before.