At the bus stop

People-watching is always a good time, and the very best people-watching is bum-watching. 

The commute to work at my last job was a two-bus trip, so I stood at a downtown bus stop every morning, and every evening. Lots of bum watching at the downtown bus stops, lemme tell you, and so I will tell you. Try and stop me.

Today, a couple of memories and ruminations from the downtown bus stops.

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Mine was an early commute, so some of the bums at my morning bus stop were still asleep, in bags or in tents, or simply huddled in their forever clothes in the doorway of the pawn shop.

Some mornings a bum doesn't wake up, and one morning a bum had died in his sleep, or been murdered.

It was a morning like any other, for me. I stood at the bus stop and waited. Down the cross street, there was an emergency medical technician (EMT), his van parked with blue lights flashing, tending to a bum on the sidewalk.

Nothing's unusual about that. It would be unusual not to see EMTs tending to bums on the sidewalk. It's the closest we have to universal health care.

Usually, though, the EMT is talking to someone on the sidewalk, checking blood pressure and heartbeat and eyeballs and all. That morning, the man lying on the sidewalk had nothing to say, and the EMT was hammering on his chest through plastic-gloved hands, and then breathing into his face through a plastic contraption with a breath-lock, designed so the EMT doesn't catch or give anything.

Watching from a block away, I wondered about the safety contraption separating their mouths. How does it works, and does it work?

And while I wondered, the EMT stopped giving mouth-to-mouth. He got up from his knee-down position, and shook his head 'no' at the cops. Police always accompany the EMTs on bum calls.

My bus came before a probably-plastic sheet was probably pulled over the bum's face, but even from a distance, even not seeing it, obviously the city's homeless population had been reduced by one.

Plenty to ponder during that morning's ride to the job.

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Another morning a few months later, there were two bum emergencies at the same time, both already in progress as I walked to my bus stop on 3rd Avenue.

Directly across the street, in front of a homeless shelter, an EMT vehicle and two cop cars had all their blue lights on — a pain in the eyes, even in daylight. The EMT was talking with a bum, while the cops did nothing but stand together, laughing about good times.

In the other direction, a block down Whatever Street, another emergency van was accompanied by three police cars, and an EMT was talking to another bum. I couldn't see the cops, and my guess is, they stayed in their cars, busily turning doughnuts into crumbs.

From where I stood, only a few footsteps from the bus stop, I could see either of the bum emergencies, just by turning my head. If I was a smartphone guy, I would've made a video.

All I could think was, EMTs are heroes, and there aren't many true heroes in the world. But there couldn't be a worse health care system for the impoverished, than EMT sidewalk calls. A very last chance to do something, for people we never want to do anything for.

What a different place America would be, if it had what's called Christian values. If someone gave a damn about people on the lower and lowest rungs.



  1. I am so so glad I live in rural Germany and don't have to witness things like this. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I saw something similar to your first story happening.

    1. What happened that morning was only a little more than what happens all the time, here. Your country doesn't allow open-air suffering, people living and dying on the sidewalk?

    2. It probably happens here too, in more metropolitan areas. I don't think it's nearly as extreme as I've seen in some videos from the USA though.

    3. America has some good people, but it's run by heartless bastards, in business, in government, and in the churches.


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