He is a regular at my neighborhood bus stop, he looks to be in late 20’s, has sandy brown hair and is disabled. He walks with a labored gait, one leg dragging slightly, and his speech is impaired.
This morning the bus was early, leaving the two of us waiting together for some time before the next bus arrives.
We exchange general pleasantries about the weather and then, in his halting speech, he asks me where I am going.
I share that I am on my way to work. In an attempt to fill time, I go on to tell him that I take this bus and then the train to my job every day. I grumble about having to make that connection. Then I share that I think my job is a drag, complaining about having to sit behind a desk all day.
I ask where he is off to this morning.
As he begins to speak I listen carefully, it is hard for me to understand exactly what he says. He speaks slowly, due to his disability but also, perhaps, because he has grown accustomed to people like me who fail to understand him.
As he speaks his smile broadens and I make out the phrase, “over the river and through the woods”.
His eyes are now twinkling and his smile so broad that I cannot help but smile too.“Over the river and through the woods” I repeat, questioning what I have heard.
“Yes” he responds quickly.
“To grandmother’s house I go” I state, almost instinctively, remembering the childhood rhyme.
At nearly the same time he says, “But not to grandmother’s house”.
We laugh together.
He explains, again slowly so that I can follow, that he is on his way to work in Tigard, a suburb outside of Portland, and will travel over the Willamette River and through wooded suburban neighborhoods to arrive at work.
It is over an hour commute and he changes bus lines more than once.
He goes on to tell me he likes his work at a fast food restaurant because everyone, his co-workers and customers alike, are nice people. Plus, he shares, his work keeps him busy.
Our bus arrives and we both board, me feeling rather small after my morning complaining and him smiling as he starts his journey over the river and through the woods.