Friday, February 5, 2010

Citizens of 4F, Feb. 5, 2010

What has become of Donald, I wonder?

Donald has been a fixture of the morning 4F bus ride into downtown Minneapolis for nearly every single day of the last three years. He is a high-functioning adult with some form of developmental disability; a chronological age that appears to be 40-something, but a personal manner that makes him seem like 10 or 12 years of age. He carries an oversized lunch box and wears converse tennis shoes, sometimes covered with rubber over-boots. When it's cold he, wears either a Twins ball cap, or sometimes zips on the hood to his parka. Very often he plays a hand-held video game on the ride downtown. Twice, I've seen his cell phone ring during the bus ride, and it appears these calls are from some family member checking on his well-being. He is very deliberate and careful when he takes out his phone, and he talks loudly and clearly to someone who obviously knows him well.

Donald and I have never spoken. He sits near the front of the bus and has already boarded by the time I get on. There is never room for me to sit near the front, so Donald and I only meet eyes briefly in the morning as I pass by him. Though I have no specific knowledge of this, I have always imagined that Donald must be a participant in one of those social programs that pairs up people with disabilities with jobs that offer benefit to both the businesses and the workers. Minnesota is one of those places with a lot of these kinds of programs. Although our Republican governor has undermined some of these opportunities, Minnesota remains one of those places that offers many subsidies to improve life quality for people in need, and when I see these cheerful, slightly handicapped people working about town at various businesses, it always makes me optimistic for human civilization, or at least for the Minnesota version of it.

Once, I ran into Donald at the downtown Target store while running errands at lunch. He recognized me instantly from across two check-out lanes, and broke into a broad smile of recognition. His hand started to come up in a wave, but then he shyly edited himself and simply continued to grinned broadly. He was gone long before I made my way through my own line.

After two years of seeing Donald every day, I've not seen him at all the last two weeks. I wonder if the economy has taken his job, even here in compassionate, liberal Minnesota. Surely not even this economy could be that cruel. Or, perhaps is he sick, or hurt in some way. It's just not like him to miss the 4F bus.

I hope Donald is alright. I would feel much better if he were back on the bus.

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