Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not about running....

First, a little background to this posting:

I used to teach in San Rafael, but I have always lived in the East Bay and I took the Richmond Bridge every single morning. Trying to avoid traffic, I would usually leave my house by 6:45 am at the absolute latest, but usually it was more like 6:30. As I am not a morning person, this was generally the grumpiest point of my day. I made it into the car, but I was not happy about it.

Taking the bridge every day, you get to see the same people in the toll booth. Some of them just took your money and moved on, and one woman seemed pissed about having to see me every day (I made it a personal vendetta to be extra cheery when I was in her lane and always told her to have a nice day), but there was one woman who stood out from the rest.

Every single day, this woman had a huge smile on her face. I would literally feel myself smiling as I realized I was in her lane. You'd drive up and she'd say, with a big grin, "Good MORNING!" and just like that-- it WAS a good morning. Sometimes she'd send me off with a "God Bless you" or a "Have a great day!" and sometimes she even called me "honey." Whatever the words, I always felt better as I drove away. I used to think about (indeed, some friends have heard me discuss it-- probably several times) how that job could be totally tedious and perhaps if I was a toll worker, I'd be pissed like the other one, but this woman really took every single interaction she had with people as an opportunity to share some warmth and kindness with the world. Those interactions reminded me that I always had an opportunity to be kinder to someone, to be in a better mood-- it reminded me that we choose so much of our outlook on the world, and there was nothing stopping me from reaching out, in whatever small way it was, to another human being.

She was my favorite toll person. Hands down.

Flash forward to today, when I was crossing the Richmond Bridge again. I almost missed the sign saying "In Memoriam of Deborah Ross." I couldn't see the picture clearly, but I thought-- I hope it's not that wonderful woman. I came home tonight and found out that yes, Deborah WAS the name of my favorite toll person and that even worse-- she was murdered by a recent ex-boyfriend, while she was working in the toll booth.

Obviously this is heartbreaking and it has made me very sad. (I'm not going to have a rant about domestic violence, but go support your local organizations.) I didn't really know her, so I didn't go to the funeral (plus, it was two weeks ago), and it's not like she was a big part of my daily life-- especially now that I don't commute to San Rafael any more. However, her life was important--I am sure that if she impacted my morning commute in such a positive way, she must have done the same thing for thousands of people over her toll person career. So I'm writing this in memoriam of such an amazing person, and also to remind myself that we never, ever know what impact our words and actions can have on others. Deborah Ross had no idea what my name was, but she made my life better just by her joy and warmth toward others. I hope that I can keep trying to do the same.

9 comments:

Kevin said...

As I read your post about Ms. Ross, I had a sneaky, tragic suspicion you were going to tell us she was dead. That was a nice, moving tribute, Victwa.

Glorybelle said...

Oh no. I had read about that incident not too long ago and how terribly sad. It's nice to know that even though you saw her for just seconds each day, she touched your life. I hope she is at peace now, God bless her.

foodie hunter said...

i remember reading about that in the paper. i had no idea that it was the same woman. this is so sad.

i'm glad that you decided to write about the positive impact she had upon your day while commuting. i'm certain that others felt the same way.

Tom said...

That's so inspirational and sad at the same time - thanks for sharing.

Lauren said...

Terribly sad. A lovely tribute by you. Lauren

miki said...

Don't even know what to say. I was so outraged to hear another domestic violence story in the paper and it makes it hurt more to know that she had this type of impact on strangers she saw everyday. So sad. What a loss.

Jo Lynn said...

Very nice, Victoria. That was a sad story when I heard it and I didn't have any other information about her. Now the story is even more heart breaking.

Suz said...

Such a sad story, Victoria. Thank you for sharing your memories and reminding us all of the difference we can make putting positive energy out into the world.

Anne Carlson said...

Good job, favorite niece o'mine. I suppose I could be less grumpy for a little while, especially to total strangers.