I like to ride the bus. Erie, for a mid-sized city, does a good job creating bus routes that go to important places. The M buses, for example, all go to the mall from Perry Square, and the 30 bus goes from Perry Square to Giant Eagle on 12th Street. Often, if I’m not on a schedule, I like to take the bus to get my groceries and relax at Panera when I need to read.
When I ride the bus, I don’t see many of you. In fact, I hardly see anyone like me on the bus, either. It turns out most white guys in their mid-20s with a car don’t choose to ride the bus. Inevitably, then, the people who ride the bus in Erie are those who ride it out of necessity. Maybe the person in the first seat doesn’t have a car. The woman in the back can’t afford the car she has, and the guy next to you only has one car and his wife is using it. In any of those cases, something makes it impossible for them to use anything else but their car.
That doesn’t mean they’re poor, though. Right? I mean, many of you don’t have cars, and college students in America have the most expendable income of just about anyone in the world. I’m not poor, either. I own a car, a laptop, a TV, a fancy cell phone, and I have a good job that pays for all of it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was coming back from Giant Eagle on the 30 bus. The bus was turning off of 10th Street onto State Street, and looked to my right and saw the new Erie Bank. Inside was a party celebrating the opening, and the individuals inside were the type of folks you’d expect to be at a grand opening of a bank: older gentleman in nice suits with pretty wives with champagne flutes in their hands. They stood in circles of three or four, and seemed politely interested in each other’s conversations, although not completely engrossed, either. Other people were walking around with hors d’oeuvres, doing their jobs and diligently as possible. As I sat in the bus, however, I noticed that not one of those guests looked outside. They didn’t need care about the world outside of their bank party: everything they needed was right there.
Then I looked to the people I was riding with. Each one of them had their eyes affixed on the bank scene. Sure, it could have been the thing to look at and a stop light, but the stares were deeper than that. Less of a desire of wanting to be in the bank, but more of wanting the ability to be in that bank in they choose to. Yet, they were separated, and sitting on the bus, it was pronounced. Between me and a man in the bank were the bus window, a good 10 feet of space outside, and another large window. So many barriers to people just like me, but totally different from me as well.
In just a few seconds the bus turned, and everyone went back to looking at what they were looking at before.