So a bit back Jessica shared a picture of this dry cleaning place in my city on Google+, with the comment, “It is also an act of kindness to take a picture like this.”
I saw a similar picture a year or two ago my friend Mark’s Facebook page, with the comment, “Signs of the times.” I read it as resigned gallows humor. I read it as a rather smart marketing strategy: yeah, we’re in a recession, in one of the worst job markets in the country. People don’t need things like dry cleaning. Until they do. They get the job, they stick with you for life; they tell their friends. It seemed a little desperate; it seemed like good business acumen. The sort of thing my Depression survivor grandfathers would have nodded their heads at appreciatively.
Yesterday I bought a short-term bus pass. In Portland you can buy about a million different looking things that will get you on a bus or train or streetcar. I don’t envy that the bus driver’s job is to learn to differentiate between these kinds of things to know if you have paid the proper fare to be on the thing you are on that day, on top of driving around a giant thing around in a way that doesn’t kill any passengers or errant cyclists.
There are two kinds of short term bus passes. One looks like a lottery scratch ticket — you scratch off your authorized days. The other looks exactly like a daily ticket.
Passes, you show to the driver. Tickets, you put into the feeder as you board.
Yesterday, I bought one of the kind of passes that look just like daily tickets.
Today, leaving work, I searched frantically for my pass and realized that I had. Oh shit. Jesus. Fed. My. Two-week bus pass to the ticket reader. On my way to work. That. Day. Oh shit. Oh Jesus.
It was OK. There have been times in my life when a stupid decision like this would have cost me dearly, the long walk home plus the overdraft fee for the transaction. But it was OK. The bus had just shown up and I was just annoyed that I was going to have to cross the street to the convenience store to get proper change. Fine.
A guy deboarded and saw me frantically patting myself down. He gave me his transfer.
After I got on the bus another guy saw that I was still searching every pocket in hopes I hadn’t flushed $40 down the toilet, frantic. He handed me his transfer, which by then I didn’t need.
It can be hard to explain why I don’t leave Portland when living here has not always worked well for me. The thing is I can take this sort of kindness for granted. I can put a vicious cynical spin on it.
I have that luxury.
(The title of this post was taken from Aaron Cometbus’ short story, “Portland,” which is no closer to approximating the Portland I live in than the television show about Portland, but I like it better, because I started out as a bad mood myself, and I hate birds.)