I went for a chilly, drizzly run this morning. Running is something I only do about once a week, if that. I’m often at the gym, but I’m not good enough at running yet to make it count in the same way and I haven’t put the effort in to get better at it. This morning, though, I woke up remembering that my dad is running his first marathon today. I can’t be in Richmond to cheer him on, so I put on my running shoes and hoodie, sent him a good luck text, and went out to run next to him for a while. It felt great, and then it felt hard, and then my hips hurt a lot (which is what happens when you run occasionally, but don’t push yourself to improve). But I ran with my dad for a few miles, and I loved it.
I left a library book on the Max yesterday. Specifically, I left Shadows by Robin McKinley on the red line train at Beaverton Transit Center, as it ended its westbound run and switched over to the eastbound. It was about 8:40 in the morning, I was carrying coffee and a tote bag and an umbrella and my phone. I had been reading the book at the beginning of my commute, but then set it aside to do something else, thinking I’d get back to it before I arrived. It was wedged between my left leg and the wall. When the train got to Beaverton TC (which always comes before I’m expecting it, and I have to switch there for the blue line), I got up with my coffee and tote bag and umbrella and phone, and walked off without the library book.
I’m describing this in excruciating detail in order that I might feel every little grain of salt I’m rubbing into my own wound. I left a library book on a train. The ignominy of this is large. Big ignominy.
Oh, I’ve forgotten a detail that makes it even worse. It wasn’t even my library book. It was a loaner from a friend who finished it early and knew I had it on my hold list.
The worst part, of course, is that I was only about a third of the way through, and it was zipping right along and I was loving it, and now I can’t read it until I can get another copy, or until I spend $9 and change on a Kindle edition. Which I’m not going to do, because, well, I’m not. Robin McKinley’s great with the vocabulary and the vivid and unexpected characters who are chock full of normal human details and feelings in the midst of their epic magic thing. But not even to punish myself will I spend $9 on the Kindle edition. Having to wait for another copy to roll up the library hold list is punishment enough.
But I can’t stop wondering what’s happening to this book in the meantime. It was pointed towards the airport when I left it. Did someone find it and think it looked interesting and take it somewhere fun? Did somebody pick it up and return it in a library drop box (this is Portland, I’d bet money there’s one of those at the airport)? Is it still sitting on the train? Was it there at the end of the day, and did the driver find it during a final sweep, and drop it in lost and found where it will lie unread forever and its soul will slowly die? Did a kid find it and stash it in her backpack, where it will sit for the next eight months, in a bath of gum wrappers and nail polish and nickels and pens until she finds it at the very end of summer vacation and reads it and falls in love and can’t stop telling all her friends about it and they’re all totally over it and wish she’d shut up about the main character who loves dogs just exactly as much as she loves dogs and how she doesn’t really like her stepfather either and did you guys know that origami figures can ward off evil?
I hope that one’s the one. I’ll happily pay to replace the book that never returned if that’s the one.
“Your pockets are behind you,” said my niece, shoving her hands into my jeans and digging around. And then she pulled my pants right down.
Today’s post is going to be a bit of a cheat, as it happened several months ago. I should have written it when it happened, but I was in the grip of no-blogging and I never did it. The story’s too good to forget, though, so I’m telling it now.
It was a sweltering August day, and I was on my way home on a standing-room-only bus on a busy Portland street. It was packed, and every stop we passed had at least one person waiting to board, and nobody got off. When we hit Division, there was a group of people waiting, including a man pushing a woman in a wheelchair. Everyone on the bus performed that physics-defying shuffle and compressed themselves into smaller air space under each other’s armpits, and we cleared the handicap section up front. They got on the bus, the man keeping up a friendly, cheerful banter with the bus driver while he folded up the seat and cleared a path and engaged the little locking mechanism and made sure she was comfortable; we went on our way.
Two decades on public transportation have given me a sort of noise filter that allows me to tune out most of what goes on around me while I’m commuting. I keep half an ear open for aggressive tone, because sometimes situations develop and you want to know where it’s going before it gets there. But I don’t actively pay attention to conversations around me. I gradually became aware that the woman in the wheelchair and the man with her had started bickering. Something about the groceries and cooking and who knows what else. They got louder and louder and suddenly at the next stop, he was hovering at the front exit and yelling, “Is this what you want? You want me to leave?” And he got off the bus. Which is not that weird. Couple fighting on the bus, at least one episode per week.
But then. The woman in the wheelchair stood up and said, “Seriously? Seriously? Take your damn chair!” And she got off, too, AND LEFT THE WHEELCHAIR ON THE BUS.
There are approximately eleventy billion sweating people on this bus, and we’re all just staring with our mouths hanging open as the bus driver bursts into flames and starts screaming, “You all are CRAZY. Don’t EVER get on my bus again!” The man, by now, is banging on the window and demanding to have his wheelchair back. The woman is laughing and crossing the street against the traffic light, leaving him behind. The bus driver has grown to three times normal human size and is roaring, “The hell with you, you can pick it up at the next stop!” He throws the break and we’re off again, across the intersection. The man is now running to catch up with us so he can claim the chair at the next stop, and the woman is running behind him, throwing groceries at him as she goes. The rest of us are in danger of tipping the bus over, because we’re all craning our necks to see out one side so we don’t miss anything. Loaf of bread, zing! Head of lettuce, splat!
The bus comes up to the next stop, and the driver gets up, opens the door and addresses the crowd waiting to board: “NOBODY MOVE.” He folds up the wheelchair, pitches it out on the sidewalk just as the man comes panting up and grabs it by the handle. The bus driver stood back, mopped his brow, and with an elegant sweep of his arm to indicate boarding, says, “Jerry Springer Bus, folks, all aboard. Drinks upstairs in the VIP if you’re 21.” He sat back down in the driver’s seat and said, “Damn. Only on 82nd Avenue.” And then we went on our way.
The thing about this is that it was so absurd that it made a miserable situation feel almost festive. The bus stayed packed, we were all still sweating and cramped and trying to fit 8 more people on at every stop. But shared absurdity is a wonderful thing, and the mood on that bus was pure joy. Even people getting on who had no idea what had happened were talking and laughing and making room for each other. And the rest of us got a pretty good story.
The madding crowd, people. It’s the thing.
Herman took a deep breath, looked into his beloved’s eyes, and swallowed the dragonfly. “It is between us now,” he said.