by Therese Allen
“Whoever said it never rained in Southern California never lived here,” I thought as I crossed Vermont Avenue at Manchester to catch the next bus home. It was pouring buckets of cats and dogs, and I was soaked! My watch said midnight, but it wasn’t that dark because it was a commercial area.
“Good. I’ll be home soon,” I thought as I saw the #220 heading north toward me.
“You want this bus?” the operator asked, looking down disdainfully at me from behind the wheel.
“Yes.” I decided not to say I liked showering outside at midnight in my clothes.
“I can’t pick you up when your wheelchair is not up on the island.”
“I travel this way at least four times a day and no other drivers have any problem letting the lift go all the way to the street,” I explained as politely as possible. I knew I had to be nice — the driver had the power to leave me. Most people wouldn’t believe this could happen, but I knew better.
“I don’t care what other drivers do. I know the policy. I know what this bus will do, and I cannot pick you up,” the driver snapped while she kept her well-manicured talons on the steering wheel. She slammed the door and sped away.
All I could do was watch the bus drive off while I was left on the street, getting more drenched with each passing minute.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, three people appeared. “Did that driver just do what we thought we saw? Drive off without you?” one man asked.
“Yes,” I stammered, trying not to shiver with the cold.
“Did you get her badge number?” a woman inquired.
“No, she wouldn’t give it to me, but I have the bus number, time, and location. I will report her first opportunity I get.”
“Here,” a second man said, “Let us help you get dried off. We’ll wait here until the next bus comes for you.”
As they all pitched in to dry me off, I couldn’t figure out where these people came from — let alone how they found all their supplies so quickly. They put each of my legs in a plastic garbage bag to keep me from absorbing any more water. They made another bag into a scarf, and draped towels around my shoulders for warmth and protection. They gave me hot coffee with just the right amount of cream and sugar: the perfect antidote for this blustery night.
The first man wrote down what he had observed and compared notes with me. Gratitude threatened to overwhelm me. At 12:30 a.m., the next bus came along, and as I’d done countless times before, I boarded it when the driver put down the ramp for me.
As this happened in 1987, I’ve long forgotten their names, but my gratitude to those three people is still fresh.