April 2018

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gang aft a-gley

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men

Gang aft a-gley,

--Robert Burns, "To a Mouse"

Odysseus planned to go to war, win, and come home a war hero. Instead, he took ten years to wander his way home. He was blown about the seas by Poseidon's wrath and ended up between a classical rock and a hard place. He had to outwit a one-eyed man eating monster, and tear himself away from the island where a beautiful sorceress held him love-slave for eight years.

Before heading home at last, he and his hungry fellas landed on an island where the beef mooed mournfully on the barbeque. I don't know if he went home a vegetarian, but he probably did.

Today, like Odysseus, I planned a simple trip that turned into an odyssey. I went to lunch with my previous student Brett (who was fourteen years old when I met him and is now thirty years old). After lunch, Brett would drop me off at my masseus on his way home. After a healing massage, I would walk a short distance to catch a bus to Virginia Mason Hospital for a Brain Tumor Support Group. I planned to catch the bus home right out front.

My massage was on 12th Avenue, and I needed to catch the bus on 10th Avenue. I had a good fifteen minutes to walk the two blocks it took to get there. Unfortunately, however, there are about six blocks with names instead of numbers between 10th Avenue and 12th Avenue. Still, it looked like I would make it in time.

I hobbled my way to Broadway Avenue, also known as 10th Avenue. Oh, wait, no. Tenth Avenue does seem to merge with Broadway, but this far north, Tenth Avenue is its own street. I watched the bus go by as I made my way to Broadway.

I still had forty minutes, and I remembered that the hospital was on 9th Avenue--just one more block--so I headed down to 9th. Only 9th Avenue didn't exist this far north, so I wanded my way through the streets until, now too late for this support group, I found a bus that would take me home.

I was exhausted. I have blisters on my feet from walking so far and a blister on my hand from gripping my cane as I traversed those broken sidewalks. I boarded the bus and sat in the front seat for people with disabilities.

When we stopped near Group Health Hospital, the driver hollered to a blind woman on the sidewalk, "Ma'am,  do you want the 8?" A guy standing at the stop yelled up, "No, she doesn't want the 8," and the driver yelled back, "Yes, she does."

This woman boarded the bus, and I slipped to the next seat barely in time not to be sat upon. This woman could not see, and her speech sounded more like moans than words. She was clearly anxious that this was not the right bus, and rocked and shouted, "The eight?" Each time, the driver affirmed, "Yes. This is the eight."

As we turned right to go around the hospital, she stood up and shouted. She was clearly upset. A delivery truck was parked illegally in front of the hospital, making it tricky for the bus driver to make it by. As we squeezed by, the woman yelled very clearly, "Baaaad."

When at last we turned onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, she nodded with her whole body. This turn she recognized. It was going to be okay. We both relaxed.

When I got home, there were no suitors trying to win Ann's hand in marriage. Usually there would be, but Ann is on a camping trip, so I didn't have to shoot arrows at an obnoxious mob. I just took a nap.

Homer doesn't mention the inevitable truth that Odysseus took a nap at the end of his journey. Homer really should have mentioned that part.

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