Wheee!

Today, on my ride home, I spent the time gazing out the bus window.

On a side street I saw a black dog running, all out running, tail in the breeze running, straight up the middle of the road.

I followed the taunt line of the dog’s red leash to a young man stationed atop a skateboard, knees slightly bent, whizzing along behind the dog with a wide smile spread across his face.

I couldn’t imagine who was happier at that moment, the black dog, the man on the skateboard, or me.

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Coming Clean

In rainy weather the bus is crowded. Fair-weather bike riders and those who would otherwise walk join the ranks of the regular transit riders, filling seats and turning bus rides into standing room only events.

One blustery winter day I boarded my regular bus, crowded with rain soaked riders.  The wet jackets and so many passengers made for a steamy environment, the windows clouded over and the bus was warmer than usual.

Soon I started to notice an odor – the unmistakable scent of cat pee.

I did a quick survey of the riders to see if I could figure out who the offending rider was.  Which one among us stank of urine?

This was my regular bus and most of those on board were, like me, daily commuters taking the bus in to work.  I searched the isles wondering who it might be.

As the bus continued on more people boarded, the bus heated up and the smell was more pronounced.

I could not imagine who was walking around stinking of pee.  I looked for a stranger, certain that some unknown rider was responsible for this offense.  Before I could discover the stinker the bus arrived at my stop and I made my way to work.

After a full day at the office I made a dash through the rain and caught my regular bus home. The ride home was just as crowded.

Soon enough I noticed the offending odor again. This time, I thought, I am going to figure out who it is.  I searched the crowd for a familiar face, looking for someone who had been on the bus in the morning.

Each person I suspected – the old man who always looked a bit shabby, the teen who didn’t appear to ever wash his clothes, the woman in a cat sweater and carrying bag of yarn – eventually got off at their stop, yet the odor persisted.

And as the bus neared my stop I suddenly realized that I was the only person still riding who had been on both the morning and evening bus.

I was the one who smelled of cat pee.

The Pissers - Jack (r) and Louie (l)

Resolutions

With the New Years often comes resolutions; resolutions to lose weight, exercise more and save money are common.  Though I do not generally make resolutions I do take time to reflect on what I value and how I can focus on what is truly important.

Three things I will focus on in 2012 are (1) building more friendships, (2) being open to new perspectives and, most important to me this year, (3) being a better listener.

I am going to use my time on the bus to focus on my resolutions.

Building more friendships

I have already made some strong friendships on the bus.  My book club, The Seventeenth Line, was formed on the bus (we are even named after the bus line we met on) and I recently pulled together a small happy hour gathering for other friends I met on transit.

In 2012 I hope to connect with more strangers and by the end of the year count them among my friends.

Being open to new perspectives

Riding the bus give me a chance to rub elbows (sometime literally) with people from all walks of life.  There is Peter the window-washer who refuses to get a driver’s license because he does not want to government to track him and Maryanne the artist whose paintings are inspired by people she sees while riding transit, each sees the world differently that I do.

In 2012 I hope to be open to different perspectives and learn to see things from new points of view.

Being a better listener

I love listening to people’s stories, it is one of my greatest pleasures. I shared in my About Me page that I appreciate the work of Studs Turkel, I also regularly listen to Fresh Air (what is it about Chicago!) and to The Sprocket Podcast, Portland’s own Brock Dittus and Brandon Rhodes irreverent conversationalists. For me, being a good listener helps opens the world up and teaches me so much.

In 2012 I hope to become a better listener, to quiet myself and give others the time and space to share their thoughts with me.

Everybody Loves Flowers

Everybody Loves Flowers

From the bus window I could see her standing just behind the bench at the bus stop.  Her umbrella was up and in her arms was a colorful bouquet of flowers.

The bus came to a stop and passengers exited the bus.

I watched as a young man walked toward her, her smile widening.

“Look”, I said to the woman seated next to me on the bus, “she met him at the stop with flowers”.  I could not help smiling as I watch the couple embrace.

“Oh, so lovely” the woman next to me replied, her accent heavy.

A moment later the woman next to me said, “Thank you for showing me, I feel so good now”.

A Sign

A Sign

I always enjoy gazing out the window as the bus passes through different parts of the city, houses and storefronts making up my view.

After an evening out I caught a bus I do not normally take in order to make my way home. Looking forward to seeing a new part of town, I found a seat by the window.  Passing through a business section I saw a sign in a storefront window and delighted in the message.

You

Are

Awesome

Finding the Way

A chalk-drawn arrow points the way to downtown, a gift from someone before us who wished to leave a creative marker. We wait and soon a streetcar arrives to take us on our way.

It’s a warm summer evening and dinner conversation hovers on the topic of life changes, there is excitement and uncertainty about what comes next.  As the café empties and staff dim the lights we leave, making our way toward a bus stop.

Walking the city at night it is fairly easy to find our way, addresses and street signs help us to make our way toward a destination and the illuminated bus stop has posted maps at the ready.  Here, finding the way does not pose a challenge.

In quieter moments, when not seeking out the next city bus or laughing over a glass of wine, finding the way is not always so clear.  Without a road map the path can be uncertain, with no signs to offer guidance the direction to take not clear, instead each step is into the unknown.

Your path is not yet made, your destination is undetermined and all you have yet to discover still a mystery to you. Savory this uncertainty, enjoy the unexpected, each new encounter rewarding you along the way.

Moving forward you will find your way.

That’s Savage

A slim teenage girl, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, too much eyeliner and a lip ring, boarded the bus and sat across from me. Her backpack, worn backwards so that it rested against her chest, was cradled in her lap.

And then a kitten’s head popped out from the open zipper at the top of the backpack.

I smiled.  She saw me and smiled too.

“How cute”, I said, unable to contain my surprise at seeing the kitten.

“I know”, she said, “he’s great too, he’s a great cat.  My Mom, it didn’t take her long… she really likes him”.

And so her story unfolds.

She was at someone’s house, not a friend’s house, she wouldn’t hang on at that place, she was only there to see the kittens. Yes, she was thinking about a cat but really didn’t plan to come home with a kitten.  Her mother didn’t expect her to come home with a kitten.  But she did and now her mother loves him too.

I ask what his name is.

“Savage”.  His name is Savage.

Of course there is a story to his name.

There were three kittens at this place.  Two of the kittens were playing with a toy mouse, like soccer, hitting it back and forth to one another, cute, yes, but hardly exciting.  Then she tossed the mouse to the third kitten.  And, just like that, as she tells it, from a quiet sitting position he leapt into the air, caught the mouse with his teeth, did a back flip and landed solid on the floor.  Then he walked away as if that wasn’t just a big deal. “Whoa, that’s savage” she exclaimed and hence his name.

She told me that he has ear mites, that place wasn’t great, the place he was before.  She had to take him home.  She cleans his ears now and she gave him flea medicine too.  Next, she said, she is taking him to get fixed because it’s not right to not do that, you’ve gotta do that.

She takes him out of the backpack to show me his markings, grey strips and white toes, and he is completely comfortable in her hands.

He wears a harness, she is training him on being on a leash and would like for him to ride on her shoulder.  He sleeps with her every night. And he purrs, he purrs all the time and he follows her around everywhere.  She likes to watch him eat.

“I love him.  He’s the best cat, I mean he’s so savage, right?”

“Right” I say and wished her and Savage well as they leave for home.

5 Dirty Words

Our public transportation service provider, is sharing a few dirty words.

Greenhouse Gas

Waste

Congestion

Pollution

Inefficiency

You see, TriMet, our public transportation provider, want to keep it clean and would like to would like to remove these dirty words from the community’s vocabulary.  Read more about what TriMet is doing here.

If you are feeling creative, you can enter the  Dirty Words Twitter Haiku Contest.