The bus and train stop at 7th and K streets in downtown Sacramento, aside from being the home to a daily Hitchcockian swarm of birds, is also the go-to location for those getting released from the county lock up in the early morning hours. Many mornings, the just-released arrive at the stop. They look for assistance from their fellow Sacramento residents, asking for the use of a cell phone to inform loved ones of their release and impending arrival home.
On one particular morning, after getting off the No. 15 bus at this stop prior to catching my connecting bus to work, I had the pleasure of meeting “Tank” (real name unknown) – one of the newly released. Tank went from person to person, looking to borrow a cell phone to call home. He immediately reminded me of actor Michael Clarke Duncan of “The Green Mile,” except Tank didn’t seem to have the same warm, friendly smile nor the nice attitude toward waiting commuters. Most of the people approached found one reason or another not to let Tank use their phone (I understand from discussion with other commuters and friends that the best reason to give is that you are expecting an important call and don’t want to tie up the line).
Being the folksy son of the Midwest and Wisconsin that I am, I followed my better nature and let Tank use my cell phone. That is, I agreed to dial the number he wanted to call and put him on speaker (I know, not very trusting, but I live in the big city now and have no illusions about people). While he grumbled under his breath about this qualified use of my phone, he did give me the number to call, which I dialed. I switched on the speaker feature as the phone on the other end began to ring. Instead of establishing contact with Tank’s girlfriend, sister, mother or friend, the call went to her voice mail. Tank left her a message.
“Baby, it’s me, Tank,” he said. “I got out of lockup and will be catching the train home.”
He didn’t say another word. No “thank you” or any other words to show he appreciated my help. Tank just turned and crossed the street to the light rail side of the stop to catch the arriving inbound train. He boarded and was gone.
I often wonder about Tank. I wonder if he is still free or if he is back in lockup. I wonder if he was reunited with the woman he called. I wonder what his reaction would be if he were to read this story. If anyone reading this story knows Tank, or Tank, if you are reading it yourself, post a comment and let me know what is new in your life since that day we briefly met.