It was a four-hour shift. I spent almost that long at the bus stop.
It was spitting snow when I left the house. By the time Southie left the West End Store, a white blanket covered the intersection. By the time I got off work, YakTrax were required, and there were no buses or MAX crossing downtown. That’s not unusual after 10 PM.
I hurried to the bus stop. The tracker wasn’t working, but the bus was due at the top and bottom of the hour. Eventually I would catch a ride. I had a nice post-work buzz going, and the landscape was pretty. I could wait a while.
And I waited. I checked Transit Tracker for MAX, there was a train scheduled to leave four blocks away in ten minutes. I’d head there, while keeping an eye out for the Hawthorne bus. I passed a familiar looking group at the Madison stop. I went to the light rail stop. I hadn’t seen a train going any direction in a while. The sign at the MAX said, “You might want to consider not using public transportation tonight.” Great. I went to a different bus stop, on 6th Avenue. There was one of the #14 buses, sitting sideways blocking the entrance to Broadway on Main Street.
I tripped back to the MAX, still no sign of train. Midnight rolled around, and little by little people started walking. At 12:35 AM, I saw a bus taking an odd turn, and I got walking. I made it to 4th and Madison just as the #14 Hawthorne pulled up. The driver waved off my fare.
He was the only bus still in service.
We conquered. He turned and made one more pass. I hope he made it, for everyone’s sake.
Now I am heading back to work, for a full shift this time. If I leave three hours early I might make it on time.
Ice storm!Snowmageddon!Close the schools! It’s the end of times!
SPOILER ALERT: I survive. In fact, I came out of it pretty good.
We haven’t had a real winter for a couple years, so Mother Nature is making up for it in spades. The past week hosted non-stop sub-freezing temperatures, and the past few days have added liberal doses of precipitation, leading to enhanced thrills and spills. Cue Paul Simon; “Slip slidin’ awaaay…”
I had a feeling the day would be atypical when I saw the Heavy Duty fire truck driving the wrong way up the Avenue. I was coming out of the office with my cash drawer, ready to start a swing-shift at the Nightclub Store.
I followed my early routine, getting my shift’s accoutrements together. People kept asking me what was going on next door. “I dunno! I just got here. Probably a fire drill. They have them all the time. Or somebody is cooking bacon in their room. That’s the biggest “emergency” most of the time.”
Except… The street doesn’t usually fill with fire trucks, and fire marshals in red Jeeps don’t usually come in such numbers. Time to stick my head out and see what was happening.
I’m not much for holiday songs, but this ditty came out during my teen years and I felt the urge to revisit. George wasn’t my favorite Beatle, but he was one of the top four. He also did an ode to constipation that I will put up at the end, if I can find it.
But that’s later. First we’ve got to get through New Year’s Eve.
I arrived at the Waterfront Store just as Uncle Cliffy came out of the back office with my till. “I’ll take that,” I said. I took the cash register drawer from him and went into the employee office.
Mrs Brady was working with me. Wednesday is freight day, so I have a helper. Since she would be working with me for three hours, I felt no need to rush.
I counted the safe first. The rolled coins, then the bundles of bills. I didn’t bother counting the bundles of ones. Coworkers aren’t desperate enough to steal ones.
BUT. There have been a rash of shortages involving bundles of $5s. One or two bills missing from one or two stacks. Accidents happen, but not consistently, not repeatedly, not without intent. I have been helping catch the mice in the pantry. I counted every $5. On the dot, the way it always is when it’s Uncle Cliffy’s safe. Same with his till. But I had time, ten hours worth. I decided to count his till.
Just to double check.
I wasn’t quite that broke, but I had just finished getting all my bills current. Mortgage, credit card, bro-in-law/weed-card loan, etc… I had about ten bucks left, in the aforementioned configurements. It would be enough to get me dinner and a ride.
She got off work at 6:30. Knowing I would go insane and smoke waaay too much weed while waiting, I chose to meet her at the airport. “How about we meet where we used to play Scrabble. Security gate D?”
…But it comes!
I have most of the stuff I really need. I have a lot of stuff I want, or can get it without much effort. What I’ve wanted this year are not material goods. Peace in my soul and mind cannot be bought. While not in distress, I’ve felt better mentally.
I need a hug. Preferably from an old friend. Do Christmas wishes come true? Since Monday is also considered Christmas this year, I have until midnight to find out.
I was the first awake in the house. I skipped shaving. It’s Christmas and Sunday, for Chrissakes. Besides, I am on a mission.
I scooped up socks, stripped my bed. Stuffed an energy drink and fresh trash liner into the duffel bag, and loaded it into the granny cart.
Off to the light rail and the laundromat. Laundry is two weeks overdue, and strangers thinking I’m homeless are offering me blankets.
I woke up this morning, not wanting to move. Laying there for 45 minutes did nothing for my mood, so I got up. As I shaved, I felt life creeping back. By the time I came out of the bathroom, I was almost ready to skip and jump!
Lately, life has been a rollercoaster ride. Facing a lot of moods I would rather not. My usual means of escape have been unavailable, or don’t work. It was a rare feeling to seem complete so early in the day.
I’m guessing my mood won’t be as good twelve hours from now.
It’s back to the Nightclub Store after three days off. I have spent the past two nights working at The Waterfront, going through a bag of personal possessions I’ve been toting between stores. Rain showed up, so I offered her bits and pieces. A half-year’s worth of Busted! Magazine will be available at Rain’s Library of Crime. (My sister’s mugshot, as well as Meg’s, are in the pile.) There were copies of Portland Mercury that held Valentines for Rain, Angel and Clairissa. An I, Anonymous about cigarettes and folks’ price-bitching. An almost-used bottle of peroxide, which I regifted to Stuttering James. He tries to keep clean, but it’s hard living out of a shopping cart or three.
There was a stack of Exotic magazine, the local stripper catalog. I thumbed through a dozen or so, read a couple articles. Saw no dancers that I recognized. I offered them to Festus, but he wasn’t interested. A regular customer, who used to buy porno once in a while, came in. During the post-election riots, he gave me some weed and remained calm as I worried about buses and getting home. He is always positive, and always catching me at stressed out times. Having meant to do him a solid, I offered him the stack of semi-pornos, and any hard feelings caused by my gruffness were long gone. Hey buddy!
The pens are plugged in, charging. (Those are Sister’s. My trusty sidekick is already cocked and loaded.) The Magic Pen will keep my moods civil, if not downright giddy. I have to be optimistic. It’s the last Friday of the month before payday. It’s gonna be a shit-show.
“Hi, this is the electrician with REACH, we’d like to come take a look at your bathroom. Would an hour be okay?”
“Of course, but knock twice at least. We are day sleepers, and might be out of it…”
Last August, during the height of home repair ambitions, I attempted to swap out the light switch in the bathroom. Sister had pointed out that the wall was hot around the light switch, alarmingly so. After much internet research and a consultation with the carpenter neighbor, I tore into the wall and immediately regretted it. The wires didn’t match. I duct taped everything, and got the electricity turned back on just before sunset. Since that time we’ve been using a Coleman lantern in the bathroom. D batteries are expensive, but one set has lasted months. It’s better than a fire.
Soon, urban lumberjacks were invading the house with ladders and groovy tools. Drills with lights inspired Alien imagery as they poked through the attic. The old ceiling fan came out, looking an accordion made of dust. While one electrician worked in the crawlspace above, the other ran wires through the wall, and soon we had light over the bathroom sink. No more shaving like Ray Charles!
Once the electricians departed, and Luna came out from under Niece’s desk, I took the inaugural shower. A hot, steamy, fog-engulfed experience had been replaced with a completely dry mirror. The air was crisp by comparison. The mold on the ceiling might eventually go away after all…
It may not seem like much, but it’s the universe’s Xmas present to us. Our most gracious thanks to you, Universe. For light. For being. For everything.