DEFYING THE GODS.

When I sat for breakfast this morning, I made a mistake.  As I ate TJ’s excellent home-made pumpkin bread and sipped French-pressed coffee, I proclaimed via Twitter: “After this breakfast, it doesn’t matter what else happens today.”  Upon a friend’s warning that I was tempting fate, with the confidence of Oedipus before the fall I proclaimed:

“Come at me fate”

Then, without leaving a portion of my bread for Poseidon, I bid the dog farewell and headed for the bus stop.

The turn-around on my blasphemy was nothing short of impressive.  This morning’s ride was the jerkiest I’ve ever been on, and I lacked the legs for it.  The driver used breaks like I use commas, breaking up long stretches, separating instances, my feet missing the floor as she, with the elan of a brick, made gouging cuts across lanes a sedan wouldn’t make, as the bus’ interior reached a broiled eighty degrees, and me in my hoodie and running gloves, sweating in desperation, nearly spilling into seated passengers by the nearest of margins, for hers was the strength, and the power, and the calamity, for ever and ever, amen.

And as I returned to terra firma and the bus shoved away toward its next target, the final insult settled on me: I was never offered a transfer ticket.

The worst was over, at least.  The crowd at the bus stop was outspoken and joyful and that gave me a smile.  I wasn’t long waiting before some poor soul decided to talk to me.  I assumed he would ask me for my transfer ticket, which is what happened when I first rode the bus this year.  Instead, he simply asked how I was doing.  I shrugged, and took in his calm, ambassadorial face.  I looked at the plastic tag around his neck and thought “Ah – this man must work for the Metro.  He’s here to ask me about my transit experience, I guess.”

My response to his next question must not have been satisfactory.  He repeated it.  “Is there anything you’d like to pray for today?”   The question was a little funny: I don’t pray, but if I did pray, and had something to pray for, you bet I’d be praying already.

“Not really.”  I waited: he clearly wasn’t done yet.

Sure enough, he leaned in for the hard sell.  “Well, then do you believe in Jesus Christ as our savior?”

It may have been the tiredness, or his earnest presumptuousness, or just a fluke.  But in that moment, I laughed joyously in his face. “Nope! I really don’t!”  It was all so out-of-context.  He may as well have asked if fruit flies were my favorite vegetable.  In any case, the young man was expecting perhaps any reaction but that one.  His face dropped and he looked a little lost.  I’d have felt bad if he hadn’t been intrusive in the first place.  He pushed through his necessary rote and I nodded when appropriate, writing as I went.  I gave him my first name and he walked perhaps five feet away, praying for me aloud without a lot of fervor.  I nodded and thanked him without looking up.

Could I have handled that better? I’m not sure I could hope to.  I avoided an elongated conversation, got my point across, and expressed a lot of contentedness and joy.  Despite crashing and paying double this morning, I could not have been more content and comfortable.  My slipshod Buddhism was strong! I felt no shame or guilt for turning him down, and I’m sure he found some sympathetic marks.

The rest of my day was just a day.  And now I’m exhausted.  Time to do the essentials and crash.



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