I have a 15 hour layover in Atlanta where I am remembering a very rich tapestry of interactions while I am waiting for the bus. It is 2:34AM and the bus leaves at 8AM.
I am going to be mentioning the colors of people only because I want you to know how diverse backgrounds of people were kind to me.
It started out with me taking my luggage to the place where travelers can park their stuff for a reasonable fee of $5 per item. I charmingly asked the black attendant if my shoulder bag (which was slung over my suitcase handle) plus my pillow (piled on top of the suitcase) could count as one bag. He smilingly answered that they were three items and could not be counted as one because if one got damaged or lost–that would mess everything up.
He suggested that I try to stuff everything into my suitcase. That seemed an impossibility to me, but he was optimistic. He went so far as to give suggestions as to how to rearrange the contents, and then helped me zip up the very full suitcase. We did it! I was very grateful. He called out, “God bless you,” as I left. I think he saw all my Christian books (I was given a bunch on my travels) as well as the fruits of the spirit on my tee-shirt. I was touched by his generous, loving spirit.
Then I proceeded to try to get on the MARTA which is Atlanta’s mass transit. I attempted to figure out the machine with no success. I knew if I stood in front of it and looked really stupid long enough, someone would come to my aid. After about three minutes, a white man dressed in white came over and instructed me on how to do the process. But the machine would not take my money. He told me to follow him and I obediently did. We went up a few flights of stairs and found a machine that was less busy. As we walked for the three minutes, he told me that a church had given him his MARTA pass and he was trying to get a job and get back on his feet. “It’s a long story,” he said. But it seemed he wanted to serve me just as this church had served him.
He helped me go through the steps to get a card so I could take the light rail. As we walked down to the place where I would catch the train, he said he really wanted to get a job. I told him I would be praying for him and I asked him his name, which is Kennie. I would have prayed for him right then and there, but I sensed he wanted to go. I thanked him profusely and he seemed happy.
My intention was to visit a Catholic Worker house called The Open Door. I had directions to the place via mass transit, but I misread the instructions. I got out on the wrong stop. A MARTA attendant let me back in for free when I explained my mistake. I got back on the train, and then when I was trying to get out by tapping my card on the proper place, I could not get out. A Hispanic man, seeing my plight, put $2.50 in the machine and recharged my card so I could get out. His eyes and face lit up with joy as he saw how happy I was to have escaped from the MARTA terminal. He didn’t speak English, but his made it clear he was late for work and he rushed off with a spring in his step that told me he probably regularly took great satisfaction in helping people.
I came out of the station looking bewildered as I often do when I don’t know where to go. This is helpful because it extends an invitation to people to ask me what I need. A old black gentleman asked me where I was going without a word from me. I told him and he pointed down the street to the bus stop I needed.
After waiting for the bus for a while, I figured out that if it was this hard to get to my destination where I hoped to spend the night–getting back was going to be difficult. I had already blown my round trip ticket on MARTA somehow. I decided to just head back to the Greyhound Bus Terminal. But first I wanted to find a bathroom and an ATM. After I found the ATM (wow! $3 fee for using it!) I saw a black guy with a MARTA uniform.
“Are you a MARTA guy,” I asked merrily.
He smiled and said, “Yes, I am.”
I proceeded to tell him how my round trip ticket had not worked out and wondered what I should do. He explained that I could probably get back on the train for free if I just called on the phone inside the station. I also asked if there was a coffee shop, and he said he thought there was a Starbucks a few blocks down.
“You are off duty, aren’t you,” I said incredulously.
“Yes, I am,” was his reply.
“Well, I am doubly grateful to you because you were willing to help me even though you weren’t working,” I exclaimed. He smiled, and I said goodbye.
I could not find the coffee shop, so I wandered into the gigantic AT&T building. There I met Stanley, the black security guard. He was more than happy to hear what at first he thought were my woes about Atlanta. But I told him and his friend sitting at a table near Stanley’s post how friendly everyone was in Atlanta. Stanley was happy to hear positive things about his city, and he told me later that his goal was to surround himself with positive people who would encourage him. Stanley was getting off work and he wanted to help me get on the MARTA and be able to take in a little sightseeing down town. That ended up being an experience which I need to blog about in a separate post.
The other kind act was by the ticket agent at the Greyhound Station. I had to get my ticket re-issued because I had lost my driver’s license which I needed to show the driver because I had printed my tickets myself. Fortunately at Columbus, where I first got on, the driver did not ask for my license which I discovered was missing five minutes before I boarded the bus. When Jasmine saw that I still had 8 hours to go before my bus left, plus a 12 hour layover in Memphis, she turned somersaults to try to figure out a way to get me to my destination faster. I admired how she tried so hard to help me out. I had already accepted my lot of staying all night in the terminal so I wasn’t too disappointed. I had no idea I was spending 12 hours in Memphis. Well, that is long enough to have another Adventure!