Hey Mr. Driver Man, Don't Be Slow

Okay, so that was the briefest hiatus of indeterminate length ever...or, as Beck would say, "That was a good drum break!" Hope y'all didn't drop me from your feed readers and such. I was feeling moody yesterday and, well...you don't want the gory details, but the upshot is that I'm going to continue updating sporadically as usual.


I imagine every major city probably has That Bus. You know the one - well, if you ever take transit, you do, anyway. In Denver, it's the #15. It runs up and down East Colfax Avenue, and because Colfax is That Street, the 15 is That Bus. You never know what you'll see or who you'll meet when you get on board the 15.

The 15 also happens to be the bus that takes me to school. So yesterday morning, just like every weekday morning, I got on board the 15, and just like every morning, there were no seats. Except one.

The guy sitting on one of the sideways-facing bench seats right near the front says, "Hey, you can sit here, Bro."

"Thanks," I say, taking the offered seat.

"Those are nice pens, I like that kind," he says. It takes me a moment to figure out what he's talking about. When I was standing in front of him, he'd seen the two Pilot G-2 Mini rollerball pens sticking out of my left hip pocket. Yeah, I'm a nerd and I keep pens in my pocket - imagine that.

Ordinarily, I wear headphones on the bus. For every random guy who wants to make polite conversation about pens, there are three or four more who are drunk at 8:00 in the morning or high or insane or some lucky combo platter of all three and yell incoherently in your face. The headphones are a wonderfully convenient signal of, "Go spread your crazy someplace else, Weird Old Homeless Guy." Today, though, my iPod battery is dead, so no headphones.

"Yeah," I say, "I really like these ones." He launches into a long explanation of just how and why the Pilot G-2 is such a great pen, easy to write with, strong, clear line, rubber grip for comfort...can't beat it.

"I could use a pen," he concludes, "I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork today, and I forgot to bring a pen."

"Here,' I reply, handing over one of the pens from my pocket, "why don't you take this one?"

He smiles, says thanks, and pulls a book out of his bag. He uses my his pen to sign his name on the book's title page and hands the book to me. "You ever read this?" he says. At a glance, it appears to be a book full of Christian testimony from prison inmates.

"Nope," I say.

"It's a great book, changed my life," he says. "You should read it!" His body language makes it obvious that he doesn't expect me to give the book back to him. Perhaps he thinks we've just made a transaction - a pen for a book, fair and square. Perhaps he carries around stacks and stacks of Maximum Saints: Make No Little Plans by the Rev. Yong Hui V. McDonald, and presses a copy on everyone he sits with on the bus. Anyway, I nod politely, not quite sure what to do, and leaf through the book.

He explains how he's headed down to some government office or other in order to straighten out an error in some sort of Social Security payment. He's been evicted from his apartment and needs the money in order to secure a warm and dry place to sleep, and get cleaned up so he can find a job. He'd slept the previous night sleeping outdoors. Unlike so many people who offer such stories on the bus, he doesn't seem to be angling for money at all. He's just making conversation.

And to think, I'd left the house grumbling and in a foul mood because I'd had trouble with my new contact lenses that morning.

He gets off the bus at Colfax & Broadway. I wish him luck. He says thanks again for the pen, tells me to read that book, and says, "If I see you on the bus again, maybe I'll have a pen for you!" Over the rest of the ride to school, my mood improves dramatically.

Sometimes it doesn't take much to give your perspective a much-needed adjustment. Sometimes the karmic payoff for something as simple as giving away a pen, one of a dozen or so just like it that I have, is bigger than you might expect.