The M104

Nancy with MTA bus driver David Abramski and grandchildren Anya and Eliza, (from left to right)

MTA bus driver David Abramski with Nancy and grandchildren Anya and Eliza, (from left to right) via NY Daily News

By Nancy Eder, a member of Get Your Wordsworth

It’s Friday on a snowy, slushy day in March. . . my regular pickup day for the girls at school and then up to 103rd St. for their hip hop classes. Afterwards trudging with knapsacks and lunch boxes and the two girls in tow, we head up to 110th Street to wait for the M104 bus. As the girls’ knapsacks are heavy, I take them on to the bus as the girls scramble to the back of the bus for seats. We disembark on 122nd St. and trudge through the wet snow home to our apartment building. I drop my bags and reach back for my own knapsack to discover It’s not there! I’ve left it on the seat of the bus.Oh my god! I’ve got everything in that small precious bag: my NYU ID for the gym and the library, my cell phone, my Mastercard, my bank cards, my MOMA membership card, my MTA Senior Citizen Easy Pay card and not least of all, the Ring of Keys to my world. I can’t even get into my building.

I buzz Anya’s parents since they live on the 12th floor and they let me in. In a daze I arrive with the girls to collapse on the sofa and try to focus on everything else that was lost in the mishap. My money stuffed wallet. My driver’s license. Though I no longer drive, it’s the government I.D. with photo required for train travel and other ID requirements. My library card, my membership to other museums and the Botanical Gardens. But with all this, nowhere do I have my current address and phone number in case of loss. Frantic. Scared. Angry at myself. I’m all these things.

“Mom, take it easy. The bus driver will probably recover your bag. Don’t cancel everything. Give it time,” Michael implores. No. I insist. I must cancel all that I remember. Michael is calm, cool and collected as he then dives into the computer to report the missing items to the MTA. He calls the cell phone company to report the loss, stop the service and order a new telephone. By now it’s almost 7:00 p.m. and I’m exhausted with worry and sadness. I borrow a set of keys from him for my apartment and go upstairs to my own nest.

I wrestle with the magnitude of the problem I’ve created for myself. Round and round in my head I relive the experience of getting off the bus with the girls concerned that they have taken the lead and headed off the back of the bus with me behind them.  This is dangerous enough, and I know that I should have gotten off first. They are strong enough to push the door open, but you never know if someone is  zipping on a bike between the sidewalk and the bus.  The girls now 5 3/4 and 8 ½ are both confident little New Yorkers, but not careful enough or aware enough of traffic safety and cyclists.

I try to console myself. No one was injured. No one is ill. All that is lost is money and time beginning with changing my Mastercard and waiting for a new one.

But the night doesn’t end. Sleep won’t come. I’m wired. I picture the little knapsack thrown out in Harlem in an open street basket tossed after being emptied. I picture it on the floor of someone’s apartment all the contents strewn around. . . I try to read the news on line, but when I turn out the light afterwards my eyes are wide open. I’m torturing myself with worry and concern. I acknowledge that this could happen to anyone regardless of age. The weight of Anya’s bag on my shoulder was reassurance that I had everything in tow. The girls were my priority. Eventually around 3:00 a.m. sleep arrives.

I awaken at 6:00 a.m. with the thought that the mind never really sleeps. My driver’s license has expired I recall and so has the address on the license. So there’s no need to change the locks on the door.

Morning is broken. I’m awake and open my computer to compile my automatic pay list. At 9:30 a.m. there’s a knock on my apartment door. It’s the UPS man with the magic envelope containing my new Mastercard. Boy! They want to make sure that you can spend money and SOON.

Now I can make calls and changes for my automatic monthly charges, my computer service, my phone bill and the NYTImes home delivery.

The final nuisance is to contact the folks at EasyPay MTA card. I dread canceling this card, both for the finality of it and the time it takes to replace.  I put the phone down on my bed while I continue working on the computer. It takes 25 minutes before someone answers. “Your new card will be issued and sent to you in two weeks.” Oh, sure, think I. It will most likely take double that amount of time.

Fifteen minutes later, the phone rings. Is this Nancy Eder? “Who is this?” I’m the bus driver. Are you aware that you left your knapsack on my bus?”  NO! I can’t believe it. I’m thrilled, relieved, disbelieving and believing all at once. “How did you find me? Since my phone was made inoperative last night, and I was carrying no identification outside of the driver’s license which had my old address, HOW were you able to locate me?”

“I checked your ‘contacts’ on the phone and began calling names until I got to Dan.” That’s my son in Seattle. How could he call there? “Well, I used my own phone to make the calls. But I reached either his wife or girl friend,” he explained, “and she gave me your home phone. “Well, I sure hope it was his wife, because as far as I know he hasn’t got a girlfriend.” We both laughed.

Totally relieved and amazed that my knapsack was safe, how could we arrange for me to get the bag? He offered to drive over to my apartment.  No. Why don’t I just meet you at the same bus stop where you let me off on 122nd St. And so it was that at a prearranged time that same day, I wrote a hurried thank you note on the computer, tucked a blank greeting card with a typed message from me and $40 into my purse, grabbed Anya’s hand and ran up to wait for the 5:30 p.m. arrival of Mr. David Abramski, the bus driver, on the M104 bus.

Promptly at the appointed hour he arrived with one unknowing passenger on the bus. Anya and I ascended the stairs and I gave him a big hug as he passed me my treasured little black backpack with everything in tact. . . . money, keys, phone and trust in the human race.

But the story doesn’t end there.

He looked vaguely familiar to me. After exchanging stories, he handed me a bus map with his name, badge no. and tel. # of the MTA written not so clearly on the cover. At home I was already busily writing up an expanded version of the thank you note I gave him to submit to Metropolitan Diary. This, if printed, would serve as a public display of thanks to David.

But I wasn’t sure I got the spelling of his name correct, SO I entered: “David Abramski bus driver” into the Google line. Up came a photograph of David on the bus in his uniform. I immediately recognized him.

Five years ago, I was still working in the Village and often traveled uptown by bus from NYU. I remember him because he was so kind to passengers, greeting each new rider with a “hello” and even handling a difficult woman with kindness and ease. As the seats emptied, I moved to the front and began to talk to him. He told me that he had been homeless for ten years and had lived under a tunnel under the Riverside Drive. On his own he had overcome homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, and pulled himself out of unemployment to get a job eventually with the MTA. He lived in Union, NJ. In the same year that I sent in a commendation for his service, he was commended by 20 other bus riders. Out of 10,000 MTA drivers, David was awarded the honor of “Most Friendly Bus Driver in NYC.”

And now THIS was the same man who had returned my knapsack. I sent the article on the web to Michael. Michael cleverly contacted the reporter, Pete Donohue, of the story which appeared in the Daily News. Pete Donohue emailed me to ask me the details of the story of the lost bag. Last night, two days after the incident, Anya, Eliza and I were photographed with Mr. David Abramski at the 122nd St. bus stop all smiling and happy.

The article about his heroism for the second time appears on the web and in the Daily News – with honors. (Check the web for ‘Daily News – Eder/Abramski’ March 13, 2013)

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10 thoughts on “The M104

  1. Patricia says:

    What a delightful, uplifting story! And…I did google the story and saw the happy photo. How fortunate for you to have experienced the touch of humanity!

  2. Erica Goldman-Brodie says:

    What an uplifting story! Such a wonderful, loving reflection on all!

  3. Lauraine Jaeger says:

    Restores your faith in humanity.

  4. Jeanette Campbell says:

    how lovely to be reminded about the kindness of strangers – and empathise with you about your horror night of worry!

  5. Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful story! I will repeat it over and over to confirm my belief that some people are truly good.

  6. Nancy says:

    Thanks to you all for your kind reflections on The M104 writing piece. I appreciate hearing from those I know and those who are new to our blog.

  7. This is so heartwarming and satisfying it can’t help but point out how rare, in David’s helpfulness and cheer and how positive impact were your actions. Of all the fans David had, you were the only one who made a fuss both times. Bravo. Rebecca

  8. Dan says:

    You’re a great story-teller, Mom. Loved hearing about it over the phone, and now I’m enjoying it afresh as you’ve done such a great job capturing the wonderful tale.

  9. What a great story. Thanks.

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