Riding the local bus while on travel and the two dollar heart-warming incident

I tend to travel down to Atlanta every three months or so every year. Some years there are more trips down to the land of peach pie, peach streets and peach lanes.  I have been doing this now for 8 years affording me the opportunity to see Atlanta become the mega-metropolis of the south.   One thing I can note is that despite all my business trips down to Atlanta, nothing had given me the opportunity to understand the city better than riding the bus when I lived down there for a few months.

Every morning I would take the bus from the Lindbergh station to the CDC. Campus where I would step off right in front of the Pink Pony (a strip joint). I never understood why we didn’t do a research study there. Anyway, the bus would go onto Buford Highway where I would catch glimpses of countless new ethnic restaurants, strip malls and pedestrians oftentimes risking their lives.  Many who walk in Atlanta have to brave the crazy traffic and barely-there sidewalks. There were many a night during which the local news recounted another pedestrian being hit by a car.

Many of those on the bus with me were Ethiopians and Mexicans often deep in thought. The bus ride was fairly quiet. I often buried my head in my latest book or job search paperwork.

One day a friend from Washington, DC came down to visit me. Because the train system in Atlanta includes an airport stop, there was no need for me to go pick him up. I decided I would wait at the Lindbergh station outside. I sat on a bench and every so often I looked up to see if he had just gotten off the train.

A man, perhaps in his thirties, was standing about waiting for the bus to arrive. He looked at me every once in a while. I stealthily ignored such looks, being the New Yorker that I am.  one point I look back up for a while thoroughly scanning the crowd. The man heads over to me. I catch a concerned look in his eye. He extends his arm towards me and I look at his hand. There appeared to be two dollars therein. I am confused. Why is he offering me two dollars. Surely, I must be worth more than that. He then says to me in Spanish “necesitas dinero para el autobus. Aqui tengo dos dolares. Por favor tomelo” ( do you need money for the bus. I have two dollars. Please take it). At that point, I start to laugh because 1) I always am laughing, and 2) I tend to display inappropriate affect at times. I explain that I don’t need it as I was waiting for a friend but that I was most grateful.

I was intrigued by his offer and I looked at the bus line. I noticed for the first time that there was some kind of exchange system going on that I had never taken in before.  At that point my friend arrived and I made a joke about me being worth two dollars.

The next few mornings instead of being knee-deep in reading I looked about the bus. The man seated in front of me, on one of the rides, had two dollars in his hand and stuck it out the window. Another man outside the bus grabbed it and boarded the bus with those two dollars. He passed the man seated in front of me, nodded at him, said thanks and kept going. They didn’t know each other but one had automatically extended a helping hand to the other. I then noticed this pattern repeat itself the next few rides. People were helping each other get to work or wherever else they had to be. It was mostly, Hispanics helping other Hispanics; which are a fairly nascent population in the south that somewhat lived in the margins. They didn’t all live in the same neighborhood pickets nor did they know each other. However, there was a system of giving meant to lift each other up.  I couldn’t believe I had not noticed that before. I had been too mired in my own world and books to have seen this fascinating world inside the bus.

Now whenever I ride the bus in a new locale, be it the Bahamas or the Caymans, I look both outside and inside the windows.  The bus norms do provide great insight into a location’s culture and value systems.  Thus, despite generally suffering from horrible motion sickness, I ride the local bus in new places. You never know when you will get a two-dollar offer and what it will be for.

7 replies »

  1. Great journey you take the reader on in such compact story. A bit like the bus I guess. Makes me look at public transport (or though it I should say) with different eyes. Loved reading this.


I welcome your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s