The sign “Do Not Feed the Pidgeons” reflected the overall condition of the bus terminal. At 6:30 am, the quiet, slow pace of people waiting for connections, to begin their journey, or arrive at their destination, felt dingy even though it’s only a few blocks from Times Square. I walked by metal benches, one pole with a few sad-looking power outlets, and a bathroom with what appeared to be a permanent sign claiming it was being cleaned. Depressing enough to make me wish for first-class accommodations. Generally, I prefer to use public transportation, yet waiver when faced with grimy, disheartening conditions. At times like this I wonder, why do I want to engage with the grittier side of humanity? I readily admitted to myself that a warm cup of tea with a fresh-made omelet would be greatly appreciated yet decadent in this environment. After walking the entire length of the bus terminal, I made my way to the large number 30, where I began my one hour wait.
I was ready with my audiobook and a few snacks. One person, a young woman, was already waiting. She was gathering her items, including a blue/green guitar. After she arranged her bags, she sat and began to sing. I listened to my book while admiring her ease of singing solo in a bus terminal. The line began to grow and as departure time neared, she asked me to watch her belongings while she went to the restroom. When she returned I commented about her singing, and she offered to sing a song for me. The words and melody told a story of adoption, the foster system, tough love, and setting out on her own with one suitcase and a garbage bag. Her voice was strong and clear, confident with her ability to survive and thrive. I was reminded of the way mosaics and crystal sparkle as I felt the energy of her young, passionate voice. Our connection was in stark contrast to the dismal bus terminal and I wished the music had the power to sweep the port authority clean. I became aware of my own exhaustion from years of fighting to be heard, often as useless as the bathroom sign with the claim of being cleaned. Her voice, and song, filled me with promise, with the memory of spirit-filled purpose. As her voice stilled, I knew, without a doubt, why I preferred to engage with the grittier, vulnerable side of humanity.