Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sexist and Classist

If you don't ride public transit - and preferably the bus - there are parts of yourself that remain hidden. Parts of yourself you might not even know exist. But start riding it, on the regular, and you'll discover those parts. Oh, they will come out, like it or not.

So I may have already know that I am a bit sexist and a bit classist, but this week on the bus, I realized both anew in two moments where my thoughts bubbled over before I could control them, subvert them into something kinder, spin them into something reasonable. I saw my own truth and there's nothing to do with it but share.

The first was a packed bus; not quite standing room only but almost. All seats taken and some folks standing. Standing on the MAX light rail train is one thing; standing on a bus is another. It is significantly more uncomfortable. The first 7 seats on the bus, 4 on one side and 3 on the other, are reserved for Honored Citizens - seniors and those with disabilities. The seats flip up for wheelchairs, or are intended for those with limitations.

As we get fuller, at a stop, the bus driver says, "I have an Honored Citizen here, if you are not an Honored Citizen, please give up your seat." And what happens?

The three seats on the left: a dude, healthy, fit, age 32 or 33, and his girlfriend, similarly healthy. Next to them, an older man with a cane.

The four seats on the right: a very heavyset older man with probably developmental delays and three women, between 30 and 40, healthy and fit.

What happens?

Two women on the right start to stand up; one is clearly a fake-out stand up - she is waiting to see if anyone else will go for it. The other woman really was going for it, and she stands, takes hold of a strap, and the Honored Citizen has a seat. And my mind EXPLODES.

The youngish guy? Didn't even flinch. Didn't even think to get up. Chivalry, I've decided, is dead. I glared at his girlfriend with a mix of pity and rage as I left the bus a few stops later and I think my message was received.

The second was a very young mother, she couldn't be a day over 20, climbing onto the bus in the pouring rain with a whining toddler. They got the last two seats, near me, and upon settling it, she pulled out a soda bottle and opened it, then opened his baby bottle, filled it, gave it to him, and his quieted right now. I was horrified. I don't even let myself drink soda, diet or regular anymore; I know it's a chemical and sugar poison for the delicate human body - much less a toddler's! I was also most horrified that it was a Mountain Dew. What trashy parenting, I thought. Mountain Dew! Might as well be cocaine.

Then I saw that it was a Sprite, and I immediately on the heels of my Mountain Dew judgement was the thought, "Oh, well, maybe the little guy is sick. You have to have Sprite when you're sick."

As if my experiences are universal, as if my having Sprite as a kid on the couch with a cold means anything, and as if I know a damn thing about being a mother at that young age, riding the bus in the rain.

Try it: ride the bus for a month. It's a forced mile in both someone else's shoes, and in your most ill-fitting ones. Not bad to see, once in a while.


  1. That is pretty horrifying, but 20 w/ a baby... 5 more years for brain to fully develop. sad, infuriating to witness, maybe/hopefully better than it appears? yes, self-wareness has its challenges for sure.

  2. chivalry isn't dead! 26% of Americans believe the sun goes around the earth.