The Bus Toll


  • Life

    The Bus Toll

    (c) 2010 by Tom King

    Taking public transit was
    Supposed to be a cheaper way
    To get from here to there
    And from there to home,
    But for the tender-hearted
    There are hidden fees.

    I traveled on my card
    The first time through.
    An experiment with the new
    Cashless economic system.
    Fearful the plastic wouldn't work
    And me with no backup.

    Between the bus and train,
    I was befriended
    By a fairly well-dressed fellow
    Who offered to show me the way to the station.
    I was grateful not to have to walk alone
    In that part of town.

    Didn't sleep well on the plane, though.
    My companion guide to the train
    Casually having mentioned.
    His homelessness.
    And me with no cash had muttered
    Excuses why I could not help him.

    Coming home he met me at the train this time,
    And walked me back to the bus station.
    This time the story was different.
    And my name was the same as his father's.
    I didn't tell him we'd met before.
    That I knew his game.

    I gave him twenty anyway.
    On the bus I slept, short of cash.
    I'd carefully planned to make the trek
    And spend as little as possible.
    Keeping a reserve as a reward
    For my frugality.

    I'm pretty sure he bought a bottle.
    He'd asked me just for three or so.
    The price of just enough
    To warm a belly or deaden pain.
    It does not matter I am under orders,
    To treat with kindness, not to judge.

    I sympathize with those who pay,
    The extra price that lets them
    Travel where the bums do not sleep
    Huddled on a loading platform
    Against a warm door;
    Where the skilled at homelessness talk quick cons.

    Do I give the taxi man the twenty bucks,
    A guy working a second job to make ends meet?
    Or hand it to the helpful hobo schmoozing for a drink.
    Or the big-eyed kid who ran away and brags he lives his own way,
    Eating from dumpsters, but managing to fast talk a free ticket to Chicago.
    Mostly a night on a warm bus to somewhere else?

    Maybe every other time I'll take a cab or park my car.
    Next time around I could pay the extra
    To encourage the self-reliant guy with kids to feed and self-respect,
    And to sleep in my seat with nothing on my mind
    But where I'm going
    And who I'm going to see when I arrive.

    Maybe the next time after that I'll save the extra.
    Pass among the bums; refresh my memory
    Lest I forget how close a man can be to losing all
    And more directly pay the toll for sleeping
    For worrying about where I'm going
    And if all will be well when I arrive.

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    Rhymer commented on The Bus Toll


    Such an interesting write, you certainly have the talent to write a book if you do not already have one published. Excellent piece. I'm afraid I fall in the same catagory as you when it comes to people begging. Can't say no. Where I live, it is not a common occurrence but at least twic a year someone will come by and ring the doorbell, dragging a small child along. Always hungry with a very sad story. I always dig in the pocket and hand over the cash. Sucker or good samaritan, the vote is still out. 10 from me.



    I have one book published on how to host a successful charity golf tournament. I've got a novel my wife and I did together that we're looking for a publisher for and I'm working on 3 more book projects as well and have been approached to do a second golf book. I give money to people in trouble because I figure if they are lying to me, that's God's business. As a Christian, I'm under orders to feed the hungry, not ask 'em how they go that way. The con artists are God's business. Giving is as much about my soul as it is about their bellies. How'd you find your first publisher or agent? Can't seem to get anyone to read our novel. I know it's tough so I keep trying. Thanks for the critique. Tom

    twayneking commented on The Bus Toll


    * I decided that since my truck was broken down, I'd take buses and trains to get to the airport. I figured I'd save myself a little money and see how well the transit system worked, my having spent a year giving advice to the government on how to make it work better. I spent about what I would have to drive myself over to the DFW airport and get a friend to park my car at his house, not because the transit system wasn't economical. It's the hidden cost of such a trip that will get you, for it is a trip through dark places. I saw a man sleeping on a bus station loading dock in sub-freezing temperatures. I was conned by a neatly dressed homeless man who apparently makes a passable income showing people how to get from the train to the bus station and back in downtown Dallas. He has quite a convincing patter and you won't have to hear the same story twice and apparently his father had a lot of names as it's always the same as yours. If you have cash when you start and you're not completely heartless, you will part with a portion of that cash before you wend your circuitous way from stop to stop and finally arrive at your destination. The taxi guy got almost the last of it. I put the rest in my son's gas tank. I apparently, am not supposed to have any cash on me. Jesus said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Precisely, why I gave the guy the twenty bucks. I figure I helped solve his worries for that one day. It's all we're asked to do. Tom

    Poetry is what gets lost in translation.

    Robert Frost (1875-1963) American Poet.

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