December 16, 2009

Adventures in Bus Riding

This is a picture-less post, guess my words will have to paint it for you.

I took the bus home from work today. Sometimes I do this. It's common in most cities, but it's "weird" in LA. I just like not driving occasionally. Iron Butterfly's Inn-A-Gadda-Da-Vida happened to be playing over my head phones when a young guy took the seat next to me on a mostly empty bus. He pulled a bible from his backpack and began reading it.

He was clean and dressed like kids dress, with layered saggy pants, a too small t-shirts and a hoodie. It's dark out, so I can see in the reflection of the glass window I'm trying to gaze out of that he is nodding his head slightly, as if agreeing with someone who is speaking to him. The nod grows to a full on head bob and he begins gesturing with his hands as if he is now speaking to whoever was just talking to him. He glances up and down from his bible and gestures more broadly now, as if he is giving a sermon to the entire bus.

Los Angeles seems to be riddled with people with mental disabilities, it's sad and I feel bad for him, so I try to look harder out the window to not make him feel self conscious. AC/DC's If You Want Blood comes on and I drift off into thoughts about how awesome it would have been to see Bon Scott perform live and then I feel a tap on my shoulder.

The guy next to me is looking me straight in the eye, no sign of whatever form of crazy was tormenting him before. He asks me if I believe in Jesus Christ.

Without getting into my religious beliefs, I can say that I believe there was, at one point, a man named Jesus Christ who existed. So I say yes.

He goes on to tell me, at a very high speed, that the LA Christian churches are coming together this Christmas season to recruit people to spread the word of Jesus Christ. Would I please spread the word to 10 people before Christmas day? And at the end of his spiel he lets out a huge sigh and smashes his fingers into his eyes like he couldn't BE more relieved that it was over.

Then he looked up at me expectantly with huge eyes. Now, I don't have any clue what the 'word' even is and are there really 10 people that don't already know about Jesus Christ? I mean we're not talking about a local band here. I'm not even remotely pro trying to influence anyone's religious beliefs. But I looked at this kid, so hopefully and nervous and there was no way I could say that I wouldn't tell 10 people. Dashing his hopes and hard work would have been too heartbreaking. So I said yes, that I would tell 10 people. I lied to the nice religious kid at Christmas time. Yay me.

He gave me a big smile, said Merry Christmas, faced forward in his seat and immediately started to fist bump with, who I am assuming, was the person he was speaking to earlier. He was happy and I was happy I made him happy.

Then a large rent-a-cop who had been listening locked eyes with me, smiled and started shaking his head as if him and I were going to share a 'check out the crazy' moment. But he was in full view of the kid and so I scowled at him for trying to collapse my pretty house of cards.

About 15 minutes later the kid tapped me on the shoulder, asked if I "stay around here," which I really didn't know how to answer since we were on a moving bus. Turns out he didn't really care and moved on to his next question, which was if I have a cell phone number. So I guess that's what I get for lying.


Tamara said...

Many people who struggle with mental illness seem to gravitate toward public transportation. I actually like riding city buses for this very fact. I love ministering to these people, and loving them for who they matter how peculiar. Mentally ill people are often the victims of stigmatization, and people find it acceptable to poke fun at them. I appreciate your sympathy and concern. Often times it is tempting to feel awkward or uncomfortable around these individuals. I personally recognize these people who suffer from mental disorders are often passionate and creative. If you can see past there oddities, you will discover they are still people in need of relationships. (But, it is probably wise to keep your cell number a secret.) :)

Mrs. Dobson said...

All the lonely people, where DO they all come from...