Saturday, August 15, 2015

Public Transit Adventures, Part 1: The Panhandler

Hey, friend!

Today I want to start what I hope will be a series of fun tales - written with you (yes, YOU) as the main character - from my adventures in Philadelphia public transit. I see some characters in my daily travels, and my hope is that you will get a laugh from reading about them (or avoid them, if possible).

If you are not from the area, or you are lucky enough to not need public transit that often/at all, let me try to set the scene for you:

Early evening. Smelly bus terminal. Drivers, maintenance staff, and commuters cram through single doors down hallways with leaky ceilings, to arrive outside to trash-covered sidewalks.

Picturesque, right?

You think you are safe, waiting with the crowd while the bus pulls up slowly. But then, here he comes: unshaven, ripped pants, stained shirt, possibly missing teeth. You think nothing of it since you have your headphones on - the DO NOT DISTURB sign of regular life. You can kind of hear his plea to your fellow passengers:

Hi, sir, my name is ________. I don't mean to waste your time. I am not an addict or a thief. I have hit hard times and was wondering if you could possibly spare some change or some food. I would greatly appreciate it.

One by one, the head shakes begin. Maybe he gets lucky once or twice, with some nickels or half bags of potato chips. But no matter his haul, he continues. The bus stops right in front of you, and you take a step back to avoid getting clipped by the doors. And then: he strikes.

He goes over his lines to you, ignoring your sign and stopping you from boarding. You shake your head like the others and excuse yourself. You think it ended then and there. But on this day, the man who has seen better days decides he needs to make an example of someone - or everyone.

He tilts his head at you, then turns to the crowd and raises his voice:

Wow. Is everyone so selfish? People can't even help each other these days? I'm not asking for millions, I just want a little food! This is ridiculous!

He takes another look at you, as if to say that his troubles are your fault. If only you had reached into your pocket, he could enjoy a meal for once.

Out of sheer curiosity, your look back as the bus turns the corner. You roll your eyes and maybe crack a half smile as you see him being chased away by police. And just like that he is gone, more than likely to return tomorrow.

You briefly wonder if he will remember you, if maybe your next meeting will become a verbal sparring match. But that thought quickly fades as it is replaced by upcoming dinner plans and dog walks. A near crisis avoided, you drift off to the sounds of your sweet tunes, thankful another adventurous day is behind you - like your new friend.

Now does that make you want to buy some tokens and hop on the next bus or what?

Thanks for checking in, amigo! Come back next Saturday for part two, or perhaps something completely different!

Crap open a cold one!

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