That’s Just So Carlos!

Today was a tough day at work, falling somewhere between “complete shit” and “uphill battle”.

My MAX ride home after 11 hours of giving my nose a good grind put an unexpected smile on my face…but it, too, ended well after getting off to a touch and go start.

What I typically enjoy about my time off from work is that it’s solitude.  After spending however long tending to the needs of customers and staff – I call them my internal customers – and most importantly, the needs of the business, well…I can get a little…Garbo-y.

The luxury of choosing who I will spend my free time with and what I will or will not do doesn’t start as soon for me as it does others.  Mine starts not when my car door slams, rather when my front door does.

Ish.

I’m usually greeted by Myrtle screaming at me after being gone literally half a day.  Particularly when I’m working an alt-schedule as I am this week.  Sunday was 10 am to 1 am, today and tomorrow are 10 to 8…although I failed by an hour in my departure time today.  Mistress Myrtle let me know as soon as I came off the firewell stairs – yes, I can walk up stairs again! – with a frantic mewling that I could hear in the hallway.

How dare you leave me unattended so long!”

“Need I remind you that dinner is at 6 pm, sharp?!?”

Or, being merely human, she worries about my ability to survive in the wild for prolonged periods.  Either way, all is forgiven once I crack open that Fancy Feast!

Until she remembers that she hates all food, all the time and starts complaining about my cooking.

But!

Let’s get back to what I just realized is my respite from needs and demands…my MAX commute home.

I’m waiting on the MAX platform, resisting the urge to consider what ball I could have let drop that would have prevented my seeing a train pulling out as I came out of the airport.

13 minutes.

That’s how long I get to tap my toes until the next train.  At this hour, the Red Line trains are single car affairs.  I surreptitiously assess the size of the crowd trickling in as we wait for the transit security guy to inspect the car before we load in.  

It’s not too bad.  It won’t be crowded.

I also use this time to gauge which end of the car to head to, preferring the front of the train.  There’s several people with clunky bags at the rear and just one single fella with a small bag at the front door.

I’m actually only one of three people that aren’t jockeying for position outside each open door waiting for the inspection to be complete.

Human nature…when I think of it as an individual, he’s that kid that runs headfirst into walls with a bucket over his head for…protection?

It’s not like we’re going anywhere for – I check the departure clock – 6 minutes.  What is the friggin’ rush to board?  Simply being told to wait until the inspection is over?

<eye roll>

Anyway, I start sidestepping my way toward the front of the train and arrive there to see the somewhere-on-the-autism-scale inspector come off the train and bow slightly while making a surprising sweeping gesture toward the doors, welcoming the passengers on board with a flourish.  I’m not sure of the actual intent behind the gesture, but I feel myself grinning.

There’s only four of us in the elevated front of the train.  I think there’s 19 seats, five rows of two on either side of the aisle.  One in the front row on the right side of the driver’s compartment to allow the driver room to enter and exit.  

We’re pretty spaced out.  The guy with the small roller bag is on the left in the third row, I sit on the right in the fourth row.  He gives me a strange glance as we’re each settling in.  The other two people that didn’t rush the doors are in front of me.

Ever since the MAX stabbings just under three weeks ago I tend to not sit in the fifth row.  The front of the train is elevated, but someone from below could easily reach over the unprotected seat back.  

I may have a little MAX PTSD.

My stop is the 12th stop.  There’s a lot that can happen in 12 stops.  It’s the retail witching hour:  the stores have closed and many of the riders coming on board look as if they are just leaving work.

Mostly, people Mother Teresa would bitch-slap get on.

The guy that sits behind me after boarding at the third stop sounds like he’s snoring through his nose.

I just sit there and try to look normal as I imagine nails on a chalkboard with each breath.  

He gets off two stops later.  

A few stops later I hear someone – someone who sounds permanently stoned – talking behind me.  I put up my mental buffer against street urchins panhandling for change, but realize that’s not what’s happening here.

I turn around.

There’s a kid hanging forward up the stairs from one of the yellow support poles.  He’s asking the new, silent breathing rider behind me if he knows where the Roseland is and whether this will take him there.

He sees me and looks plaintively up at me, asking me if this bus goes to the Roseland.

I check my desire to tell him he’s on a train while also registering his peach fuzz mustache and yellowing bruise around his left eye.

And his friendly, lost eyes.

I tell him it does take him there, but stop short of telling him how many stops there are…I’m not sure he’s really in any shape to keep track of stops.  He heads back to the other end of the train with a genuinely grateful “Thank you, sir!”

I’m mentally preparing myself to go out the rear doors when I get off and tell him the next stop is the one he wants.  Doing something nice for a stranger almost always makes me feel good.

I can hear him talking in the back with his friend about how great the show is going to be.  

We get to the Rose Quarter stop and I can hear them start talking about whether or not this is their stop.  I’m mentally answering them with a “no” as the doors start to close and I realize one of them decided it was their stop and ran out.  The kid who had asked me if this was his bus had not made it off and we’re pulling away.  

I’m hearing people tell him he can get off at the next stop and come back over and thinking their show must have been at the Moda Center in the Rose Quarter and not at the Roseland.  

He’s yelling that he has to get off.

Suddenly, he runs puts me and lands chest first against the driver’s door, fists balled and beating the door over his head, yelling at the driver to stop.

“I have to get off!  My friend is back there.  Let me off!”

I’m low-grade alarmed at the outburst, but I can see his energy waning as quickly as he burst by me.  My alarm turns to concern that the driver will call the cops, ruining the potential concert he was so excited about.

He leaves and heads back to the rear of the train,

I can hear him mumbling about how he has to get off the train.  I turn around and he’s leaning on a pole by the rear doors, dejectedly moaning his defeated mantra about getting back to his friend.

It’s kind of heartbreaking.

I realize that he’s been holding the driver call button down while he talks.  He lets it go and the driver is in the middle of a surprisingly calm reply about getting off at the next stop to go back to the Moda Center as we come off the Steel Bridge, this is my stop.

I get up and move to the back of the train.

He sees me coming, locks eyes on me and blurts out, “Hey!  Sir!  I know you’re the manager…can you make the driver stop and let me off?!?”

What?  Lol.

“Is your concert at the Roseland or the Rose Quarter?” I ask.

“The Roseland!  And my friend got off and the doors closed and I’m stuck and I have to get back there!” he frantically rambles.

He sounds like an upset toddler, I expect instant huge tears to erupt from his eyes and streams of sudden mucous to run from his nose at any moment,

I tell him his stop is two away.

“What?!?” he giggles with relief.

“Your friend got off too early”, I say.

“Oh my god, that’s so great!  Gimme a high five.” he yells.  Manically happy again.

I high five him and he asks my name, extending his hand and telling me his name is Carlos.  I tell him my name and he pumps my hand vigorously, saying, “I’m so faded man!”

Before he releases my hand, the train jostles and he’s thrown off balance, his grip on my hand being the only thing keeping him upright.

I help steady him, mentally registering the odd freeze frame we must have been.

I move toward the now open door, tossing a “You get off at the next stop, ok?” over my shoulder as I exit.  

He followed me off the train, still babbling his thanks.  I’m not entirely sure he realizes he’s no longer on the train.  I gently turn him around – don’t make it weird, Diezel – and tell him to get back on.  “Just one more stop”, I say, worried he won’t make it and I’ll somehow end up in charge of him.

“Just one more stop!” he replies as he stumbles through the door.

As the doors close, bouncing off his head before reopening to let him board.

I turn and head home, grinning like a fool.  My cruddy work day pushed to the rear of my consciousness.

Oh, Carlos

That’s Just So Carlos!

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