The great thing about riding the bus is having no distractions, and thus, plenty of time to think. This is also the problem with riding the bus: Having plenty of time to think. If you’re prone to rumination like me, sometimes thinking isn’t the best idea. But every so often, I decide to put down my smart phone or my book and just look around on the bus, like I did this Monday, and when I do I am reminded of truths I’d forgotten since the last time I looked around.
First: You see that, for the most part, it really is true that the people who ride the bus are the poor. You count yourself lucky that riding public transportation is a choice for you, something you can decide you want to do instead of have to do to get to work or school.
Second: You notice that most of the poor – in spite of what FOX News might say – don’t actually have fancy phones, and they most certainly don’t have Kindles or iPads. They might be reading the newspaper, but just as likely are not, and it is rare to see anyone with a book.
Third: You see that the poor all look pretty dang tired. The older poor look exhausted. Every day you ride, no matter what time you ride, they look tired. And the younger poor look frustrated, angry, irritated, confused.
Fourth: You remember that almost all of the poor are in some sort of uniform. They are waitresses or vet techs or cosmetology students or mechanics or nurses aides or Goodwill employees. They are trying to make it in a world that says if you work hard you’ll succeed. You realize that mantra really does depend on the definition of success.
Fifth: You realize the younger poor are often nicer to the older poor. They stand so the older, more tired version of themselves can have a seat. They pick up canes that are dropped on the floor. You realize, with shame, that the poor – at least these poor on the new route you now take to the new job you have that allows you the choice to ride the bus or drive a car – take care of each other and are, quite frankly, kinder and more patient on even rotten days than you are on good days. They are more humble and more steadfast and less whiny than you are.
You wonder, watching, if you would have the energy and determination to keep going if you had to pull on a waitress uniform each day and have your pay check determined by the mood of the family who stops in for breakfast on their way to whatever kind of day they are going to have, a day that seems like it will be better than yours by far because, at the bare minimum, they had a car to drive to your restaurant while you had to ride the bus. And you decide, with some amount of embarrassment and shame, that you don’t think you would be.