Picnic at the Bus Stop

Most of my skirts were still in the laundry basket yesterday while I prepared to go out to a learnin’ how to ride the bus event that my friend had clipped out of the newspaper for me. I had a short brown skirt and a pair of navy leggings, neither of which were modest by themselves, so I put them both on, along with a teal mid-length sleeves kind of shirt and a sweater. The two not-so modest pieces of clothing made a very modest outfit, even though I felt like I looked a little silly.

My friend drove me to the local bus station. It was raining, so I took her umbrella and went in. I had registered a couple days ago via e-mail, and needed only to initial at the table and find a place to sit. At the table, I picked up a pen, pad of sticky notes, and a stack of different bus schedules that I thought I might need.

After learning the basics of riding the bus, and asking a few questions, I met a news reporter in the hall. I told her a little about my media degree and asked for a business card. She had to take a few phone calls, and came back to give me the office e-mail. I then joined the group for a very short bus ride just down the street and back. At the end of the street, I spotted a McDonalds, and thought that there may be other restaurants nearby. Back at the station, I talked with one of the younger ladies who worked there. She looked up the bus schedule, map, and instructions for me to get back to my friend’s place, and then printed off the details. She also gave me a bus pass that would get me to where I needed to go.

I had more than a couple hours to wait for the next bus that was going to a street not much more than a mile from my friend’s apartment, so I headed out into the rain to look for some lunch. I passed a couple questionable grocery stores. After walking for what seemed like over a mile, I decided to turn around. Being pushed by the wind, which threatened to break the umbrella, turning it inside out a few times, I finally stopped at a grocery store. It looked clean, but didn’t have anything that I thought looked healthy, let alone vegan, except for some dried beans. There was a young man working there, and I saw some items behind some of the counters that made me think twice about being in that store. On my way out, he asked if I was looking for something. Although I had been looking for something for lunch, like a granola bar or a bag of trail mix, I didn’t want to be there, so I told him the other honest answer, and that was that I just wanted to get out of the rain.

I headed past the station and towards the McDonalds. The wind was giving me resistance, pushing against the umbrella and making it difficult to continue much further. Plus, I was getting wet, and so was my purse, and the items inside (most of which were paper). I approached a  building on my side of the street and thought it might be a gas station, where I could get something simple to bring back to the station and munch on while I waited for the bus. After all, it was lunch time. As I approached, I discovered this hoped for gas station was actually not a gas station, but a pizza place. McDonalds doesn’t have very many items for the vegan, and it was on the other side of the road and a little further.  Hoping this pizza place would have a cheap personal pan pizza, I stopped in, and discovered there were no seats.

I looked at the menu, and then asked. There was no personal sized pizza, but there was a small. I thought about getting bread sticks instead, but decided on the pizza. I ordered the smallest pizza they had with baby bella mushrooms instead of cheese, and then thought for a brief moment and added banana peppers to my order.

I watched the man put together the pizza and then it disappeared into the oven. As I stood there, waiting, I opened up facebook on my phone. Soon, I put away the phone and the pizza was done in a few minutes. The man seemed very friendly, and even pointed out where the napkins were. I grabbed a stack after paying. As I was about to leave, I got a call from someone who was worried about me, and then called my friend to let her know that I would be trying to take the bus back. I then hugged the pizza box to me and slipped out the door, back into the rain (which I hoped would let out by then). Not wanting to ruin my pizza, I tried to hold it as flat as possible.  I fought through the rain and wind to get the pizza back to the bus stop.

There was a narrow little 3 walled shelter with a bench for the bus station. The bench was wet, and the one driest part had what looked like a bird dropping on it, so I got out a napkin and wiped some of the water off the bench, threw the wet napkin into a trash can, and then sat down with the box in my lap and my purse and the umbrella beside me. A young woman approached just then.

“Hi,” I said, “When is your bus coming?” It was coming in about five minutes. “Would you like a slice of pizza?” I offered.

“Sure,” she responded casually.

“There’s no cheese on it, is that okay?” I asked.

“That’s fine,” she said.

I opened up the box and handed her a slice of pizza. A young man who looked like he could use a slice of pizza also came to the bus station, but he didn’t get close enough, and was standing out in the rain, smoking a cigarette. I thought about approaching him with the box and offering, but I didn’t want to get up, and I knew the bus would come soon. I still wish that I had offered, though.

The bus came and picked them up, along with another person or two who had come. I opened up the box to grab a slice of pizza, and discovered some garlic dipping sauce was added to the box, along with a whole banana pepper in addition to those on the pizza. The rain was coming into the shelter, and I also didn’t want to make a mess, so I closed the box between each slice. I checked the ingredients on the garlic dipping sauce, and discovered that there were no dairy products, at least none that I could tell, nor egg products. I had seen the list of dipping sauces at the pizza shop, and they had been tempting, but I didn’t want to pay extra for them. I thought that it was possibly an answer to prayers, whether I had actually thought the prayer directly to the Lord or not, it was what I had wanted. I also thought that the man might have picked out that one for me, in consideration of the possibility that I didn’t eat any dairy. I opened it up, and dipped the crust in the sauce.

As I was about to finish, I received a phone call. The phone slipped out of my hands and into the garlic sauce. It was my mother calling. “Hold on, mom,” I said into the phone, and then pulled out a napkin to wipe off the sauce. I told her I was eating, and she told me to call her back. I finished my pizza, bent the box, and threw away the box and napkins. Then, I picked up my purse and went back into the station, where it was dry and there were places to sit, to wait the rest of the time there. While waiting to ask permission to wait there, I used some hand sanitizer on a napkin to clean my phone.

“Ridin’ the bus. It’s easy. It’s easy.” I heard a recording of a commercial rap jingle, whatever it’s called. A young woman discussed a video that they were going to make with the two women behind the counter at the station. I realized that I might be in the way of a commercial, but I was getting ready to leave anyway. I went to get ready. On my way out, I saw that the camera was set up. I thought of going past it, but I didn’t want to be rude or to interrupt or inconvenience them, so I ducked out a side door and went around the building to stand at the bus stop.

At the stop, I met a man who was going to board the same bus. I told him it was my first time, and where I was headed and which bus I needed. We boarded the bus and went down the main street at the city. There were many stops on that main street. The man told me to get off at the next stop as he was leaving the bus, so I pulled the string shortly after the bus started up again.

At first, I thought that was my street, but then I looked at the map and instructions, and realized it was not the same street. Passing a group of loiterers and a man playing his guitar and singing for change, I went into a store, waited a few minutes, and found someone to ask about the street I needed to get to. A woman pointed out that the street was a block or two down the road, but that I could catch the bus that I needed at this stop.

As I left, one of the loiterers were calling me. It sounded like he was asking “Where’s the steak?” I was wondering what that meant, if I looked fancy dressed and they were going to bully me for money, but suddenly I realized that he was trying to point out the street that I needed to get to. I had misheard him. He was really being nice and friendly, after all. My fears were eased. I thanked him, but told him I was told I could catch the bus at this stop.

“You look lost,” one of the women said as I got to the crowded bus shelter. She and some of the ladies there tried to be helpful. One of them lived not far from where I was headed. They confirmed that I could catch the bus I needed to at that stop, so I waited.

I waited and waited, growing a little more anxious. I even checked the time on my phone. When it seemed like the time had passed that the bus should have been at the other stop farther down, I noticed another bus that had a street that was familiar to me. It was also not far from where I needed to go, although a little farther. I felt impressed to get on that bus.

On the bus, my friend called me, and I told her where I’d be. After I got off the bus, I called her again. I then waited around at a drug store, looking through the clearance just to pass the time. I didn’t get anything, but soon left and went around to the side of the building to wait for my friend, out of the rain. She came to pick me up, relieved that I had gotten to a familiar place. I, too, was relieved and thankful to the Lord that He didn’t let me get lost.

Today, I had an interview at the fast food restaurant that I applied to the day before yesterday. I had worked for one of the managers there, who put in a good word for me. The manager who interviewed me today said he would have me come in tomorrow for orientation, and get me started work this week. He then called me, as my friend was driving us back to her place, to tell me that I didn’t need the orientation, but will start work either tomorrow or Friday. Praise God!

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