There are quite a few things I miss about Houston. I miss my church full of hipsters (that were hipsters a decade before they were cool) and artists. I miss all of the great, cheap Indian & Pakistani food. I miss my coworkers in my cube farm in Houston and how we would mess with the smokers in their designated area below us. I also miss my commute.
I took the bus to work in Houston. Since I only made $26,000/year and was supporting myself, my wife, & our newborn son, the bus was a financial necessity for me. My bus route was a straight shot down Westheimer from the Westchase District to the Galleria. It took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for me to get to work.
There were regulars that I saw two or three times a week (buses passed every 15 minutes so they or I might jump on an earlier or later bus).
There was the high school kid who slept for most of his ride. Once he didn’t wake up in time and three of us simultaneously reached for the line that signaled the driver to stop while the person behind him shook him awake.
There was the accountant, Anthony, that I walked next to for a quarter of a mile to our connector. We talked about the car he was saving for, the skyrocketing price of gas, how full of shit George W Bush was, or we just walked in silence.
There was the student at the Art Institute of Houston, who would sketch the entire way home. One time he finished his sketch of the bus with a thought bubble above his head saying “time to get off.” Me and two other guys thanked him for letting us watch him draw. It felt like a piece of performance art done just for us.
There were the guys who had DWIs. You could tell them apart because they wore suits and ties and read the Houston Chronicle. They disappeared, never to be seen again, after their 30 day license suspension ended.
Then there were the one-timers who, for one reason or another, I only intersected with that one memorable time. There was the younger Tejana woman who blushed and smiled when I gave her my seat on a full bus. One time a guy got on wearing Orthodox Jewish clothing but he was covered in tattoos (a Jewish faux pas). I vividly remember a firebrand old lady who got into a heated argument with a homeless man. There was the older woman wearing a baptismal gown who made the sign of the cross every time we passed a church.
Lastly, and certainly not least, there was the homeless man the bus drove past. I always saw him near the Starbucks at Westheimer and Hillcroft. The first time I saw him, he was walking on the sidewalk and punched himself in the nuts as the bus went past. Me and a couple of other riders turned our heads to stare at him in disbelief.
The next time I saw him he was looking at the sky with a hand raised, like he was in prayer. His eyes were fixed on something that wasn’t there. As our bus pulled up to the stop, he lifted his eyes an inch or two so he could see above the bus. A few of us on the bus blatantly and unashamedly stared at him. There were two or three Starbucks customers that were standing outside their vehicles, holding their Venti Whatevers, riveted to the homeless man’s “prayer.” I’ve always thought of that man when I think of Old Testament prophets.
What I did because of my financial poverty ended up being something that enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade those bus rides for an Aston Martin with a TX tag. There’s less wealth in that car than there is in the bus it passes.