For the last year or so I've been taking the bus into work. I rise very early in the morning and bike to the bus stop along the highway. At first I locked my bike up and got on board. In June I began throwing it onto the bus bike rack, a sort of cow catcher at the front. Once in town, I ride from the main terminal to the office.
There's a pedestrian bridge spanning the highway by the bus stop. I cross it each morning to reach the Eastbound lanes. Bike in tow, I take an elevator up to the span, cross to the other side, and take another elevator down. I could take the stairs, but I guess I'm lazy.
You can see the second of the two elevators in the photo at left – that tall column. I found this picture on the Internet. Try to imagine it in the predawn hours.
Four out of five days this past week, I encountered a woman sleeping in this elevator. She awoke as soon as the elevator door opened. I said hello. She said hello and rose to her feet, on the defensive. I asked if she was okay. She said yes. Clearly, she was not okay. The elevators are heated in cold weather. Homeless people are not common in my insulated community.
That first time was on Monday. The same scenario played out on Tuesday and Wednesday, though on Mittwoch I said, "I've seen you here three days in a row." She mumbled something about having to start work early. As if that explained sleeping in an elevator.
On Thursday it rained, and I went to the bus stop on foot. Took the stairs instead of the elevator. I didn't see the homeless woman, but where else would she be?
To be honest, I didn't give her much more thought on those first few days, after I got off the elevator and went down to the bus stop. But the mere fact that she was reduced to sleeping in a heated elevator – disturbed from time to time by people like me – stayed on my mind. I wanted to help her, but how? Social Services? Reporting her in any manner would surely result in her being jailed.
She was there again on Friday. Sound asleep. A wadded up piece of something as a pillow, a water bottle and backpack beside her. This time she barely stirred when the elevator opened and I got on with my bike. But she did stir, slightly, and I said, "Hi." She said hi back, rolled over, and seemed to go back to sleep.
I'd been thinking about her. I'd anticipated her. I wanted to help. It wouldn't do much good, but I reached into my pocket and took out the five dollars I had ready for her. I did not want to embarrass her. So when the elevator door opened again I tossed the five bucks down. Throwing money – watching it flutter down – did not feel good.
She stirred again as the money hit the jacket she used as a blanket. But I was out the door and on my way, a little embarrassed, a little self conscious.
I should have given her more.
It is early Saturday as I write this. She is probably there right now. I wonder if she'll be there on Monday?
Here is a similar post.