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Paying it Forward


I like riding the el and the subway but for the convenience of not rushing or breaking a sweat when I walk; I ride two buses faithfully every morning.

The cost of public transportation is undebatably in my budget. I buy a weekly transpass for $24 every Sunday afternoon at the Fresh Grocer before picking up food for the week or my son picks one up for me on Friday when he picks his up.

Pass buying is on a routine that must not be interrupted.

Besides the cost effectiveness of spending $24 up front (it would cost me $39 to get back and forth to work every day by paying strictly cash on the bus or subway) a transpass also allows me to travel “free” (certainly hassle free) all day on any mode of public transportation; so I have secured travel back and forth to work at a savings and if I want to go somewhere after work, make a few stops, hang out a bit, it’s covered in the initial $24 investment.

I don’t like digging in my purse for change, I don’t like standing at the front of the line dropping nickels, dimes, quarters, I can’t stand trying to get the machine to take my crumpled dollars, and transfers scare me (how long are they good for? Can I use them here? Do I hand them to the driver or put them in that thing that sucks the dollars up? Where did I put it? I just had it, did I throw it out with my receipt?)

I’m still learning to navigate the streets of Philadelphia so I much prefer the ease of use called the transpass.  Believe me, I have gotten more than my moneys worth from my routine purchase of a SEPTA transpass.

Production at my job starts at 7am. Yeah, that’s bananas,  I know. But it does. So I have to be on that first bus by 5:55 to make my connection at 6:17 and hit the Port by 6:50am. It is a delicate dance. Tuesday morning I cha-chaed my way to the bus on time, swiped my transpass and slid onto the vacant seat next to an elderly woman. I remember her because when I sat down she huffed as if I had purposely invaded her space. As I was fumbling around in my purse, my elbow barely touched her and she snapped back in her seat like a retractable measuring tape. She thrust her body closer to the window like I was made of the original sin and she didn’t want the taint of me contaminating her. For a moment I thought she might pull the emergency exit and climb the hell out the window.

At the next stop I took the seat in front of me to give her the space she ever so clearly desired. I pulled my mobile phone and tangled headphones from the side pocket of my purse. While untangling the headphones I pulled the cord and got off the bus. There is usually a 6 minute window before the next bus. When my regular bus driver pulled up I was still fiddling with my headphones. I reached into my side pocket for my transpass and didn’t feel the familar smooth plastic card between my fingers. I checked the other pocket, the inside of my purse, my pants pockets, then I began to panic.

“Damn” I said “I think I dropped my damn pass!”

I pulled out $3 to pay the fare and the driver said “Nah girl, don’t worry about it, I know you always have your pass. You probably left it at home or its in your purse. Don’t worry about it.”

Man, that was very cool of her. I sat down and went through my purse.  No pass. I did not get upset or angry. I simply went to plan B. Buy tokens after work. It is Tuesday,  I’m off Friday so I only need to get home today, get back and forth tomorrow, Thursday then Friday I’m off and it’s payday.
Coolbeans. I’m good. 
After work I bought tokens.

Wednesday morning I am running late and fly out to my regular bus stop. I am fumbling with the tokens and quarters, balancing my purse and body against the jerky bus movements when my driver says good heartedly “you just can’t get it together this morning can you?”
I laugh as I’m being jerked back and forth on the bus and tell him to hush up. “Your evil bus swallowed up my transpass yesterday! ”
He looks at me, smiles and says “Oh! Ms. Mary found your transpass yesterday!  Yep, she sure picked it up right off the floor!”
Again, not a tinge of anger. I said “whelp, Ms. Mary found a blessing!” I laughed, sat down and opened my book.

A few stops later a woman got up to exit and the driver said “hey tell Ms. Mary to come here.” I had no idea she was actually on the bus. I put my head down feigning reading.

From the corner of my eyes I saw the driver indicating towards me and saw him mouthing “that’s the lady who dropped her pass yesterday. ”
Ms. Mary turned, looked at me, narrowed her eyes, pursed her lips and sat back down. It was the same angry woman I had sat down next to the day before. She looked at me like “and?”

But you know what? I still didn’t get angry. I had what I needed. I needed nothing more.

With all the banter between me and the driver I realized I hadn’t gotten my transfer so I walked back to him. I smiled and said “all that chitter chatter I forgot to get my transfer!”
He was visibly upset. He handed me a stack of transfers. “Here” he said “These will get you anywhere you want to go today for free. And when I see you tomorrow I’m going to hook you up again because I KNOW you paid for that transpass!”
I was so struck by his random act of kindness that I felt tears welling up inside me. “Thank you” was all I could muster before sitting back down.

Ms. Mary didn’t matter in that moment. Justification that karma was kissing me on the mouth was all I needed.

My stop came and I exited the bus. Six minutes later my connecting bus rolled up. I boarded and handed her my free transfer. She took it and said “you didn’t find your transpass?” I said “I sure did, Ms. Mary has it!” I told her the story. Although I laughed when I told it, she was also visibly upset. Her fiancé typically rides the bus with her in the morning.  She motioned to him “Babe” He looked up. “Yeah Babe?” “Babe, give her your transpass.” I’m standing there like “wha..” He didn’t hesitate or have an attitude.  He reached into his pocket, pulled out a knot of money the size of a full ream of paper. I said “you can give me that instead.” He said “Nah, baby girl (um, I’m 47) that ain’t no transpass.” Then reached back into his bank vault and handed me a monthly pass.

Twice. Twice in one morning Mama Karma wrapped her earthly arms around me and embraced me for all that I’ve freely given.

Some people doubt me when I say “stay calm and think past go.” But I know what I know. Turn yourself inside out when you can and don’t give in to base emotions too easily. Avoid latching onto anger or a sense of what is fair or unfair. Retribution and revenge are heavily sought where personal responsibility and accountability is overlooked.

The truth of the matter is I was careless and lost my pass. Ms. Mary found it.

I take most things in stride because I believe God provides and I have never, even in my darkest hours, been disappointed.

Despite her rude attitude it may be that she needed it more than me.

Maybe God was providing for Ms. Mary this week.

About The "SoKey" Experience

Each morning I wake I pour myself into a goblet, slowly inhaling the scent of my own faults, swirling them around the glass, allowing them to breath, then I sip, allowing my own inconsistencies to soak my tongue before swallowing. If I am tipsy from my own frailties - I'm less likely to become drunk on yours. -SoKey (introspection)


2 thoughts on “Paying it Forward

  1. Maybe Ms Mary can learn the lesson of generosity and right from wrong from the 1st bus driver. She may need that a little more.


    Posted by Anonymous | July 21, 2014, 12:40 am


  1. Pingback: Allergic Reactions | The "SoKey" Experience - September 28, 2014

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