And so I carry oranges with me. I brought them this past week during my Greyhound pilot test with my folding bike to Macon, Georgia. I gave them out to:
- The guy who offered to help me with my “bulky bag of bike” as I left my hubby after he dropped me off as close to the bus terminal as he could get at 5 AM in the pouring rain in Downtown Atlanta;
- The clerk at the check-in desk;
- The man behind me waiting on line E with the Yankees cap (fellow New Yorker?!) and the duck logo (I kid you not — I didn’t notice that until later when I looked at the selfie I sent to my hubby to let him know I was on line);
- The man sitting on the garbage can playing the guitar when I was unfolding my bike after arriving in Macon, in my final covered moment before what turned out to be hours in the rain — you can hear him in the background in thisTikTok:
- The group of guys at the station waiting for local buses when I returned;
- The lady sitting a few seats over from me while we waited for the Greyhound bus coming up from Florida (which ended up being an affiliated BoltBus) to catch back to Atlanta;
- The young woman next to me on that rainy ride back to Forsyth Street SW, right next to the Garnett transit station where I then caught the MARTA train north. Where I then rode my bike the final three and half miles home, as is my habit. Where I then unpacked the few oranges left in the bag, smiling at these simple, sweet memories as I did so.
I had made friends, or at least friends enough to wish each other a blessed day. To watch each other’s luggage while we used the restroom for that final time so we, god willing, wouldn’t need to use it on the bus. To feel human together for just a moment.
This “wanna orange?” habit had started a little while after I began riding my bike in Atlanta as transportation 10 years ago and often got to talking with people who were unhoused, either in passing or while sharing space on buses, trains and the Atlanta Streetcar (especially that first year it launched — you can see my most-viewed photo essay, A Streetcar Named Aspire, here).
Sure, I’d carry some single bucks to share but there seemed to be the need for something more. I often shared half my wrap from the nearby Sweet Auburn Curb Market with this one woman who lived beneath a sculpture I passed often. We already shared waves. We shared smiles. We shared conversation. I was often riding Atlanta bikeshare, which I nicknamed Sharey. Her name was actually Shari. And then I heard that a group that rode around on their bikes gave out oranges. You know, the little ones. The clementines. The cuties. So I started doing that, too.
And then when I was taking a last-minute Megabus ride from Atlanta to South Florida during my 91-year-old father-in-law’s whole hip-break saga in early 2020 (hubby and I were tag-teaming our suddenly urgent trips down there during this quickly developing nightmare), I was nervous about the midnight layover in a parking lot while waiting to switch buses. And so I “packed.” Oranges.
I have such a story about that night, which I may tell in my new book, Round America with a Duck (or maybe in a companion children’s book!) because there will definitely be more oranges. That night in Orlando absolutely confirmed my expectations about these simple little orange orbs. What I know for sure at this point in my life is that, really, everyone likes oranges (or at least to be offered one). And it changes things.
Re: my father-in-law, you can read a different story about different oranges from that trip, titled Honeybelle. FYI, I bought a cheap bike while in Florida to use as transportation to and from the hospital, rehab facility, dialysis center and more (meet Della Ray). He died of COVID during the first month of the pandemic — I’m the one who first used the hashtag #Zoomeral on Twitter for an online funeral. (My post is no longer there since I quit Twitter as a result of the recent Musk mess — which, by the way, lost me a very large following as an influencer and I could really use your help building my “platform” again, because this.)
And so as I was getting ready for this Macon trip, my hubby asked me nonchalantly, “You bringin’ oranges?”
Yep. Oh, my darlin’, clementines.