By Bruce A. Smith
He was a portly man about fifty years-old and boarded the #1 bus in Parkland.
He wore an orange cowboy hat, orange mittens, orange sneakers, and an orange sweatshirt that proclaimed: “Jesus is the Way!”
Oh, no, I said to myself. We’ve got a real-live whack-a-doodle.
The Orange Man plunked himself down in the seat directly behind me. I slid further into my seat, cringed, and waited for the Religious Assault.
But it never came. Rather, the Orange Man was quiet. Peace reigned on the #1 bus as we rumbled through East Tacoma, chugging down Pacific Avenue towards downtown. Near the old Tacoma General Hospital an older woman boarded, but she needed assistance. She had a wheeled-walker that I know has a fancy name but I can’t remember it. Nevertheless, the walker had to be parked somewhere on the bus and the driver called back to us:
“Can someone lift the handicapped bench seat so she can put her walker there?
I was the closest passenger. I leaned over and slid my hands underneath the bench seat as I had seen others do on other trips. But this was my first attempt to pull the lever and I couldn’t find it. An older gentleman nearby offered, “It’s on the right-side… on the driver’s side.”
I found it. It pulled easily and the seat lifted without a hitch. The walker lady parked her rig and sat down next to the helpful gentleman.
Secured, the driver accelerated and we resumed out trip to Tacoma.
Leaning forward, the Orange Man said to me in a loud voice, “Jesus would be so proud of you.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “I love being a good Boy Scout, too.” I quipped.
The Orange Man continued. “Jesus wants us to help each other. That’s what he teaches us over and over.” He proceeded with more Jesus-Stuff, then took a breath. I figured I had to take over the conversation or I was going to hear about Jesus until I got off at 25th St and the Light Link Rail to Freighthouse Square.
“So, I gotta ask you,” I said to the Orange Man. “Why are you wearing so much orange?”
“Jesus wants the world to be colorful!” he replied with a big smile, “and I’m doing my part.”
I laughed. “You sure are!” Ironically, I knew we were becoming bus-buddies.
“I have nine outfits, “ the Orange Man continued. “My favorite is my purple outfit because I was able to get a pair of really nice purple pants. But, I have a lot of trouble getting pants to match my outfits, so I have to buy a lot of women’s clothes – the pants especially because men’s clothing don’t include too many color choices.”
I had never heard such a succinct fashion perspective from a guy who didn’t have one iota of gayness about him. “Yeah, I can imagine that is a problem.”
“Yeah, so I buy a lot of women’s clothes, especially the pants, but they can be a hassle because the pockets are too small, and I can’t get my hands into them – or they don’t have any at all! It’s a bummer.”
At that point I realized that the Orange Man was wearing tan slacks, and not orange. He must have been unable to find the properly-colored slacks. ‘Tis a pity.
“I’m lucky. I work at Goodwill and they’re okay with my clothes,” the Orange Man continued. “I’ve worked there for five years, too.” The Orange Man continued in his loud voice and described his current predicaments in life with side-notations on how Jesus was involved, but most of it was lost on me. We were approaching 25th Street and I didn’t want to miss my stop.
“I gotta get off soon,” I interrupted. I’m getting off at 25th.”
“Oh, that’s right here – next stop,” the Orange Man joyfully announced.
I stood and headed towards the front door, but I turned and told my companion, “I’ll be keeping an eye out for that purple outfit. It sounds like a winner.”
“Yeah, I even have a purple fur coat!”
Jesus must be smiling. I know I was.