The Man on the Bench

Setting:  the main Bus station – Salem

The part of God is played by a 50 year old developmentally delayed man

The part of St. Anthony of Padua is played by a 19 year old named Tesla

It was not a good day. The news had been grim and grimmer.  I was nervous about leaving my school. As I had left, I stopped to break up a fight between two teen mothers. Fights are rare at our school. They were rolling on the ground, elbows and chins bloodied on pavement, hair being pulled, nails leaving marks on faces.  My parking lot monitor and I resorted to the laying on of hands to stop the scratching and hugging them apart. Social media trash talk – I hope he was worth it.

Rattled, I headed downtown to my threat assessment meeting.  Folks from all the schools meet weekly to discuss mayhem potentials.  This is what it means to be a school administrator in 2015. But first I needed to swing by the local bus station to pick up passes for my students without transport. 

I walked through the waiting lounge to the elevators. The man on the bench said “Hi” I bid him a good day. I presented myself at the main office and laid down my stuff to carefully count the stacks of passes. I ended up with a small brick of free rides, my “Go Bag” which amounts to the keys to half the building on campus, my ID and access cards and phone, and my own car keys in the other hand. The $500 worth of passes always make me a little nervous.  I walked back through the lounge.  The man on the bench said “Just take care of business.”   Lunchless, I stopped at the bus station convenience store for liquid. I juggled things to get my debit card out. “Two dollar minimum” I was told so I grabbed at the nearest rack and added some chips.  Then I quick-marched across the floor towards the waiting buses and beyond to my parked car. The Man on the bench said “Don’t run – They’ll wait.”  

Just past the buses I re-shuffled my stuff looking for my car keys. I did not have them. I slapped all my pockets but no.  I pictured the counter of the office upstairs, my keys next to the bowl of Halloween candy that the women stock with chocolate too good for the public. I reversed.  Back in to the elevators. The Man on the bench looked at me quizzically.  “I left my car keys upstairs.”  He palmed his forehead and shook his head.  Upstairs – no keys; the ladies did not have them - They were not on the floor. Now I was worried, but not much to do except re-trace my steps – slower now, scanning the floor.  I pictured someone walking the block with my fob, trying cars till one beeped.  Back in the lobby I headed for the store. The man on the Bench asked “What is it with you and the keys?”  The clerks did not have an answer.

I decided to check the car. Maybe I had locked them in, and just thought that I had them with me.  The man on the bench just watched as a girl with pink hair called my name. “Peggy,  Hi! do you remember me?” She was familiar, but…  “I’m Tesla! From last year.” Yes indeed, psych student. Now with pink hair and a wee blond bairn in a stroller.  I tried to stop and really see her, ask her how she was, greet the baby, but soon I told her I was late for a meeting and had lost my keys, and asked her to forgive my hurry.  She cheerfully bid me goodbye headed for her bus. 

At least the car was there. Nicely locked up. No keys visible. I stood there for a moment and looked up at the blue sky. I was fully aware that my trouble was a small trouble in this world of pain, but I still asked for help.  I thought about if I should call work, or home, or AAA.  I decide to check in with Bus station security before I called for help. I walked through the idling carriages one more time.  Tesla and her babe were coming out the doors. “Peggy, I found your keys!  They were in the potato chips! I gave them to the clerk and told them that I would come find you.”  I hugged the teen mother and  laid blessing hands upon the little blonde head.  Back through the lounge.

The Man on the bench said “Potato Chips were her downfall – that’s a surprise!”