Thursday, June 01, 2006

Stopping to smell the orange blossoms...

Finally back online this morning. For the entire day yesterday, I had no connection to the internet. Couldn't read my favorite blogs or e-mail, couldn't screw around with my college's online course I'm on the waiting list for, couldn't read the news or play online scrabble. My god, my life had ceased! In truth, I didn't miss it as much as I once might have.

The bulk of the day was spent with my middle son, attending a field trip to our City Hall and museum. Because the trip was local, the cost of a school bus wasn't an option. $700 is far out of the question thanks to the skyrocketing insurance costs. So we used the public buses. Picture forty, squirmy third-graders with two teachers and six parents, all waiting for the bus in 90 degree heat, then getting on. I tell you, regular bus riders had the gamut of expressions ranging from eye-rolling impatience, to reflective sweetness (the homeless was either sweetness or he was a child molester), to amusement. The bus drivers get a lot of credit – they were unbelievably gracious having to give our passes, work out the fares (or not – by the time the last of the adults were getting on, I don’t think they were counting anymore), all despite having their time schedule to keep.

I couldn’t remember the last time I took a city bus anywhere. The last public transportation I used was in Washington D.C. and New York City, two years ago. In the Los Angeles suburbs, public transport use is dominated by the long distance business commuters that really have someplace to go and the hoppers who have no place to go. In fact, riding the bus seemed to be the occupation of the some of the passengers.

When we first got on, a man appearing to be in his forties, with raggedy black trainers and overly large plastic frame glasses, with nondescript slacks and t-shirt, jumped to our assist with our upcoming transfer. He knew which corner the bus we needed would be (the southwest corner), he knew the time of the stop (we were cutting it close) and the next time it would come by if we missed it (in thirty minutes). Even though my son’s teacher had the itinerary, I could tell she was glad to hear it from an insider. Walking that many kids from school grounds to the bus stop took time, the line of children kept separating as they discovered things around them (sticks, leaves, stuff on each other like backpacks, cameras, pocket toys), and then again, getting on the bus, delayed us even further. The man sat close the driver and watched the kids with peaked curiosity.

We tried to get all the children on seats in order to lessen the chances of injury – you definitely have to hang on to something if you’re going to be standing because those buses really lurch when the driver puts on the brakes. I had to laugh at the stiff sitting of the passengers who ended up next to the two or three kids small enough to squeeze into one seat. They hardly breathed lest they touch a coutie-ridden kid.

I have no doubts at the audible sigh of relief when we unloaded at our destined stop.

The tour of the city hall was interesting – the children were divided into small groups led by various docents. While most were of retirement age, ours was younger, a worker at our local camera shop. He gave an excellent tour, kept the children intrigued and gave me some food for thought about oranges being that such was the San Gabriel Valley’s main crop back during the founding years of Southern California.

He told a story of his grandmother who lived back east. One Christmas remained in her memory all her life, the Christmas where she received as a gift one navel orange from Southern California’s Sunkist Oranges. One orange. The children laughed at the story but of course didn’t understand the larger idea behind the story. They eat oranges all the time, orange juice, orange popsicles, orange Kool-Aid, orange Skittles. Orange, orange, orange. They simply couldn’t fathom the treasure of the orange. Later, the museum curators explained how the local folks never got to taste the most luscious oranges, the sweetest, because those were always shipped. The locals only ate seconds, the rejects from the packing houses.

“The best oranges were too valuable. You wouldn’t use it, or eat it, you’d sell it.”

So the grandmother remembered that one amazing orange.

As I watched the kids toss about balls in the park after eating their sack lunches before we hit the buses home, my son’s voice echoed in my head about what he wanted for his upcoming birthday. A video game, a PSP, more Nerf missiles for his toy “gun”, a radio control car, etc. Where was the orange? This birthday will come and go and will fade into his tangle of memories. It will most likely disappear.

In our society today, in modern, American society, is there any orange to give?

Tonight will be J’s band performance at school. Saturday will be M’s ballet recital. Sunday is a birthday party to attend with M for a school friend. Then the week will start all over. I’m glad the internet is up and running again, glad to be online again. Just another week…eh?


Fromage de Merde said...

I take buses now, on the once in awhile. Scary it is, scary. And I've no gaggle of infants terrible to use as a shield!

Maybe I could rent yours?

purple_kangaroo said...

That orange story is touching and poignant. Thanks for sharing it.

Dale said...

I hear you.

But there's always an orange to give. Always.