Where I come from public transportation is not very prominent. There are taxis and an off-shoot of it called ‘public cars’ but there are not many buses. It was not until recently that my small town acquired a trolley and those are really used by old people. In my old university there were buses but they were used for the students and the trolley system was sometimes used for the general public. In general, I have never used public transportation to get around. If I needed to go to a place I’d walk, even if it took me 30 minutes to walk there and 30 more minutes to walk back. Nevertheless, here it’s different and buses are not only extremely useful but a real necessity. In my stubbornness, I had to cave in and start using the buses to get around, especially for grocery shopping.
This new collection of works will detail my observations and participation in the usage of public transportation and in meeting with other people.
The first time I used the bus I was very paranoid about the schedule and the time it would arrive to the bus stop. Back home buses are never on time and there is no real schedule. You just stand there waiting and waiting until some bus passes by. The worst part was that if you were late for a class and you were waiting for the bus you would never make it.
The bus arrived one minute late; my surprise was monumental and my joy unexpected. Once I got on, like a cub being born into the world, I didn’t know anything. I knew where I wanted to stop but I didn’t know where to signal for the stop. Do I tell the bus driver? Do I pull a lever? So, like I was taught in anthropology, I watched my surroundings and the people on the bus. I quickly learned that there was a small rope-like-lever which I pulled and it signaled the bus driver I wanted to be dropped off.
My destination was Walmart, yet when we passed by I noticed that the bus did not stop nor did it announce that Walmart stop. I freaked out and pulled the lever and was dropped off close to the Applebees. It was not far from Walmart but I felt foolish for freaking out. I felt even more foolish when I remembered that the route made a turn and would leave me directly in front of the Walmart.
No time for regrets. I made my shopping; oh hail the Dollar tree! When I had finished I remembered to go to the Walmart stop. The problem was that I didn’t know where it was. I knew the Applebees stop. After 15 minutes of searching for the Walmart stop I caved and walked all the way to Applebees. There my adventure really started.
At that stop, under the hot sun, I was accompanied by two suspiciously drunk men. Some will call them white trash, but I don’t like that term. Anywho, they were talking in their heavy country drawl that I could not understand. I being a woman in a patriarchal society, I was afraid. Afraid of what they might say. Afraid of what they might do. I held my ground and did not make eye contact. Just the usual for a woman anywhere where you’re objectified.
The bus made its stop. We all got on. Unfortunately, the drunken men sat across from me. I kept myself sitting tight, my legs crossed, my mouth shut and my eyes averted. Yes, this is how society has made us women believe we’re safe. Nevertheless, I kept my ears open for any sign of danger; like a frightened woodland animal.
The men went about with their drunken slurs. They’re ‘I love you man’ and ‘we are brothers’. This went on for most of the trip but at some point they began to whisper. It was there that I knew I was in trouble. At some point one of them turns to me and I knew I had been sighted like the prey they believe me I am. I hold back, act blasé.
Purdy girl like ya’ shouldn’ be frownin’. Ya’ll should smile.
I smile but turn my head. He keeps trying to hit me up. Asks my name. I don’t look at him. He asks if I speak English. I don’t talk. He then proceeds to talk in Spanish. I don’t say anything. He keeps rambling. At some point I’ve had enough. I turn and say:
I know English.
And I give him my best bitch smile. He gets the hint. He frowns.
‘k, I won’ bother youse no mo’.
I sigh in relief. I am safe for a couple more minutes before he tries to talk to me again. I’m not out of the woods yet. I know I need to get to my stop. It’s close. He turns to me again and at that moment the bus stops and a couple of recently out of jail junkies (I know because they practically announced it to the whole bus) get in. They all know each other. The drunken man focuses his attention at the other fellow junkies.
I still don’t feel safe. The bus signals for my stop but I notice that it’s not in front of the building but across. I can’t chance another encounter with these people. I pull the lever, I get off. I believe I am safe. I have trouble crossing but I manage. Afraid they might follow me I decide to go around the building I usually get picked up by the bus. I go through the back of the building where there’s five more buildings. It takes longer to get home but I make it.
I don’t want to get political but there is clearly a problem with the society we live in where a woman can’t feel safe at a bus stop or within a bus even though there are at least 10 more people in there. There is nothing wrong with a man talking to a woman but there is something eerily disturbing when a man tells a woman to smile. My smile is not there for your amusement. I am not a doll nor a piece of meat that has to look pleasing to your eyes every time you feel like it. I am a human being like you. I do not exist for the amusement of any man and I do not need men degrading me into a sexual object by telling me to smile. I do not need your attention. I do not need any man pointing out I am beautiful, pretty or sexy. I know what I am and these comments are unnecessary, disgusting and sexist.
Signing off, TWS