Sunday, November 30, 2008


The cost of the fare on a bus is at level now that one has to consider obscene. The monetary value is not the full price. There is the price of waiting at the bus stop. There is the price of getting on transportation where it is only practical to bring with you what you can carry with comfort. People do their groceries with a bus. They handle important matters with the bus. They conduct their whole lives with a bus. These are incredible hardened people. They sometimes do this with straggling children in tow. Sometimes they do it alone. Sometimes they have some kind of disability to keep them company. Sometimes it is physical. They are times it is a demon inside of them. Sometimes you can see them talking to that demon as though it were outside of them. You hate it when in mid conversation their eyes lock on you and they speak to you.

There is a schedule to follow. There is a route to understand. There is a course to plot from your route and bus schedule to your appoint time and place to calculate, adjust as the process inevitably changes and develops, and to physically and mentally prepare for. Every whim you may have needs at little over thirty minutes to an hour of leeway.

The transit bus is the site of our democracy that we pass by, tail gate, and watch drive away that many do not seek to enter. It is hidden away. Even the people inside them now are covered over by the garish film on the windows. This is not an original idea. People have known about it and reflected about even essayists. Rosa Parks knew about it. The child outside the window that is the future of this city needs to know about it. Some people who know better need to be reminded. You yourself sometimes forget. Sometime you ignore it. Enter a bus in the city of Miami and as you take the ride you have time to reflect on the development of social justice in our community.

There is an obscene price to pay to drive your car in a city. It doesn’t matter how economical that car of yours is you must feed it. There is that twinge in you, that flicker in your mind, when you hear a momentary sound, a slight apprehension, that sense of whether enough has really been done to service this car, that runs in your mind every time you get into your vehicle. Then there is all the other costs just to get it out of your driveway. Once you are out of the drive way the jackals come to take more of your money away through parking fees, tickets, car washes, and the consequences that await you when you enter traffic with everyone else in the community. On a good day, it is just the flower lady or the fruit vendor who at least provides a service. There is the flyer people and you accept them or keep the window rolled, the face tight and looking forward, and unwelcoming or that man or woman who provides no service and yet begs for your money just the same and this is the truer test. The hardest test of all is the person who asks for a ride when they don’t look like the kind of person who would ask for a ride. If you say, yes, you are of the people, but is your little world in the car ready, can you really make conversation, are you really making a good deed or did you make a terrible mistake? Is this a person from a culture who is used to this and thus you are not providing any important service. Was this something better left to someone else. Some else would have done this. The man in the car behind you. The couple in the van. When they say it is just a few blocks away were they purposely vague. How out of the way are you going to go?

You eventually develop a strategy for these encounters. You have a way of handling these situations. Sometimes it really has to do with whether you are a man or a woman. Sometimes it has to do with whether you are alone or not. Sometimes it has to do with whether you are really in a hurry. You may play dumb and say you are not going in that direction. You may feign that you don’t understand. You may simply drive away. You may only help those who are obviously in trouble. You may help only when it is you asking the victim, that poor person who ran out of gas, the person facing the steaming open hood, the person pushing the car, or sitting in the seat of a car with hazard lights on in the median like an animal in a trap too long. You offer help then and often they don’t really need you. They are okay. Thanks anyway.

There is that person you turned down that you shouldn’t have. You did it automatically. It took you seconds to realize how elderly they were. It took you a while to realize that things were not so bad. You could have pushed all that stuff off the passenger seat. You drove and then you thought about it. You realized that you had failed the test. You drove back. Just like you did other times. There were other times. The conspiracy against you hits you quickly. Of course, this is the way it is, isn’t it? The driver in the way. The turn into an alley to nowhere. A circle around and then you get to the point where the person was and that person is not there. They must think you arrogant. They must think you must get your comeuppance. You must work on your reactions. You must sum up people better. Perhaps it meant nothing. They really were bad. The next person helped them.

If the car breaks down and there is not road side service and there is no way to fix it at that time of day at that place and you decide to get on the bus to get home, you have time to reflect on your own life. That significant other that you could have called for help that in reflection did not see you as significant. You did not even bother to make the call. The people you could count on that you are never going to bother. The fact that getting on the bus is an option and that you have considered that option and that you have taken that option says a lot about you.
The driver is from Haiti. The severe young woman with the attitude who refuses to pay any more than she has already paid despite the warning the driver has made about the cost of the fare, takes her seat. The bemused young man with her does nothing because she has paid for him even though she is the one working at the fast food restaurant. The argument continues because this driver is a man who may not know English that well but he knows what has to be done in a bus. You do not want this blessed man’s job but you envy his resolve. Eventually someone gives the driver the few coins that were needed to make the bus continue in its route and the young lady gives some thanks and the driver makes some kind of joke everyone can understand. It is clear that this driver knows what he is doing. The young man with the young lady does nothing.

There is a man seated next to you. He is young and poor and yet, he has the latest in gadgets. The price of that gadget could have given him more than the chance to use it to kill his time that he has chosen. It is not clear what this small snapshot of a life means. You wonder if he has made the best decisions in our society. You wonder if society has made the best decisions about him.

Eddie Hernandez

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