Rain splattered fat drops, streaking her legs as she exited the gym to catch the Tiger Central Line just lumbering up the road. She clutched her tote bag stuffed w/ gear, a pair of work-out shoes shoved atop the lot under her arm. Derville pulled up, brought the bus to its knees, “Salut Derville! Ça va?” said she. “Comment vas-tu?” said he. They slowly moved through the fat, smacking rain, the window wipers making lazy work of the splattering rain–a deluge. Already the water was coursing down past the gym, an ankle-high lake. She jumped off the bus at Firestone, juggling the bulging tote bag, and ran into the Library. At her desk, she unpacked the bag and discovered she only had one shoe- her New Balance cross-training shoe! She picked up the phone and dialed the Tiger Transit Dispatcher, “Hello, I just caught the Central Line at Dillon gym and think I might I have dropped a shoe on Derville’s bus, could you please ask him to look for it?” She heard the Dispatcher. “Base to 109, do you see a shoe on your bus? Passenger thinks she left it when she got on at the gym.” She heard Derville’s voice, “Noooo, I don’t see any shoe. When I stop at Firestone, I’ll look for it.”

Gigi had to move, better to go look for it. The rain had stopped as suddenly as it had started, bright sun lit up the plaza, puddles mirroring silver light. Miss Helen’s Central Line was pulled up at the circle in front of Firestone. Gigi ran up to the bus and explained her loss to Miss Helen. “I lost my shoe! It dropped out of my tote bag when I got out of the gym! I got on Derville’s bus but he didn’t see it.” “For real?”said Miss Helen, all ears. “Yeah, it’s a work-out shoe.” “I’m going to find your shoe,” said Miss Helen. Gigi retraced her steps: back down the hill, past Marquand, across the street from Dodd and on the walk down to Dillon. She saw nothing on the grass as she approached Dillon entrance. Maybe the shoe had fallen when she ran up the stairs from the locker room? But she remembered having seen the shoes under her arm in her tote bag when she ran out to catch the bus. No shoe in the locker room. She left the gym forlornly and paused to look at the corner where she had caught the bus, a torrent of rain water still swirling, gushing down the hill into the big drain on the side of the curb. She suspected the worse. Her shoe must have fallen out, gotten caught up in the flood and been carried away down into the drain. She walked over to the drain; the grate was embedded in a curb with a wide entry way for all matter of objects and critters unlucky enough to be swept away by a downpour. Yep, for sure her shoe had gone down the drain and was probably headed for the Delaware River as she stood.

She walked back to the Library, up the hill, still hoping to espy the shoe. No luck. At her desk at the Library, she called the Dispatcher – “Was Derville able to look for my shoe?” Derville had gone off duty, but responded to the Dispatcher to say that he had looked everywhere but there was no shoe on his bus. Gigi had lost her shoe.

The following week, Gigi went to the gym wearing a second pair of sneakers, the Tretorn ones she had bought from a shop that closed years ago in Princeton on Witherspoon St. They had fit fine then, not much support, but very cool in their ankle- cut and flat soles- lousy for walking she discovered on the treadmill, nothing like New Balance cross-trainers. She would have to buy a new pair next weekend. They weren’t cheap and the one she lost was practically brand new as she had only worn the shoes at the gym. That Monday afternoon, as she headed for the garage, Miss Helen’s Central Line was parked at the circle. Gigi jumped on the bus and Miss Helen announced, “I found your shoe.” “Whaaaat?” astounded, spoke Gigi. “Yeah! I found your shoe last week, but I didn’t know your last name or where you worked so I held on to it until I saw you.” As passengers boarded the bus, Gigi sat slowly down, and Miss Helen pulled out of the circle. “I can’t believe you found it Miss Helen!”said Gigi. “I told you I was going to find your shoe! I was driving past Dillon and I spotted sumpin’. Ray was passing me on the other side and I said to him- Ray does that look like a shoe? Ray said , that don’t look like a shoe. I said, I think that’s a shoe! I’m goin’ to stop my bus and see.” She had stopped her bus, hopped down and ran over to the field where the object lay. Sure enough- “It was a sneaker! All dirty, filled with water and mud, oh girl! It was a mess!- but I picked it up and put it in a bag. I took it home, washed it and set it out in the sun to dry.” They arrived at the garage, Miss Helen pulled down the mike and announced, “New South Garage, one day down, 4 more to go”. Passengers smiling, bid good bye, and thank you, as they got off the bus. Miss Helen stood up, opened the storage bin above the driver’s seat, and took down a plastic bag, from which she extracted a sneaker. Gigi took it- New Balance! The sneaker, fresh, bright, clean like the day she bought it. Gigi jumped up and gave Miss Helen a hug and a kiss. “Miss Helen! You’re an angel!” “I told you I was going to find your shoe!” Miss Helen proclaimed.

The next day, when Gigi boarded the West Line from the Market Fair, she was asked “Did you find your shoe”? The story circles the line the way the shoe circled the campus coming to rest on the lawn at Whitman College. Miss Helen said she would find it- doing her run from New South Garage to Firestone Library every day from 3 to 10, she had kept a look out and sure enough- she found it: not only did she spot it but she left her bus to pick up the water-logged, dirty thing; took it home, washed it clean; then saw it made its way back onto Gigi’s foot.

That’s Tiger Transit. Next time Miss Helen passes you on her Central Line route, tip your hat–you might just have it brought back to you one rainy day.

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