There are folks in this world that get a raw deal in life. Some are handed cards that that they fritter away in bouts of selfishness, some don't play the game enough to realize how great a hand they have to play, but some get a hand that is just downright lousy.
Meet Jack. Jack is a legendary passenger on OC Transpo. If you have driven the 2 route, or any route that chugs it's way around the Hintonberg or Mechanicsville area, you've likely run into Jack. He's the guy wearing the leather hat, smiling and friendly, and pushing his old bike everywhere he goes. Jack is a really nice guy to talk to, though many avoid Jack's sort of demeanour. He likely has a few slight mental issues, which might as well be a sign around his neck for most folks to pretend they don't see him. It's unfair the way folks look at him sometimes, but I guess that's life and it doesn't seem to bother him. Jack's great to everyone. I've often wondered if he's homeless and to be honest, I've never asked that question of him, only assumed. I guess it doesn't matter though. Jack is good people. Down to earth, and nice.
Last night my friend Greg picked Jack up on his bus. Greg grew up around Mechanicsville, and has known Jack for many years. Like Jack, Greg is one of the good guys. Down to earth, approachable, the kind of driver we all like to see when the front door swings open. Having served Jack for years, Greg's built up the inevitable reparté that drivers build up with a regular like Jack. Something was a little different tonight, however.
"Hey Jack, where's your bike?"
"They stole it."
"Who stole it???"
Jack went on to explain that he put his bike on the rack of a crowded bus. He took a seat somewhere, and when he went to exit the bus, somebody had taken his bike off of the rack. Imagine for a second what Jack's bike might look like. This wasn't a Cannondale road bike with a trip computer and custom seat. It was a half broken down jalopy owned by a man whom most of us assume is homeless. Who on earth steals this kind of bike? It wasn't something you're looking to flip for a few bucks. It may have been worth the world to Jack, but it really wasn't worth Jack to the world.
Greg was angry.
Jack then told Greg that it wasn't the driver's fault, the bus was really full, and the driver could not have known.
Jack's compassion and understanding for a driver is inspiring. It really is amazing what we can learn about humanity from a person who spends much of his time wading through people who don't treat him like he is, in fact, human..
What is also really amazing to see what a few of my co-workers have done with this story.
It all started with Greg sharing the story on a local forum. Most of us know Jack, and we all know Greg. No less than twenty drivers began plotting to get Jack a new bike. But how? And What? It isn't just as simple as heading to Canadian Tire with the $200-$300 that these drivers have already pledged and buying him a brand new bike. Some big flashy new wheels will just get Jack a nice reason to worry about the next guy looking to steal his bike. These drivers surmised that he needs a bike to get around, but not something that will get him right back in the same predicament the next time he parks the bike somewhere.
Four or five drivers already had bikes to donate, and wanted Greg to give them an address to drop them off. It was almost like competitive donation planning, each driver wanting to be the one to help out the most. One driver won the sweepstakes by offering to donate an older Trek bicycle, with a good Kryptonite lock to help the man keep his bike where it belongs. You can't argue with Kryptonite. That stuff defeated Superman. The driver is going to drop the bike and lock off with Greg today, less that a day after Jack told Greg about his story.
Greg's told us that he plans to carry the bike around with him until he runs into Jack again, as Jack is a regular customer on Greg's line. I only wish I could be there to see Jack's face when he gets his new wheels, and the keys to his new lock.
I work with some pretty awesome people. Sometimes it takes a bad hand to realize that the hand you're holding is really pretty good.
And from the seat I'm sitting in, this city is all aces.