A Milwaukee Transit Journal

by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle Notes From the Bus Stop

Waiting for the #14 on the corner of Holton and Burleigh, it comes to me. Buses crisscross this city. Past quaint bungalows, failing malls, high-priced condos, green boarded drug houses, fancy Pick & Saves, and shabby corner stores. Routes stretch from the glitter of our lakefront and snake in and out of our ghetto…even reaching the tattered edges of suburbia. And the passengers are from all circumstances and means. You’ve got the environmentally conscious rider, doing without a car, sparing the atmosphere further pollution. Elderly people who can no longer drive, but know these streets like the back of their veined hands. Students. Unemployed and under-employed job-seekers. Well-to-do folks in business suits with briefcases and cell phones. The getting-by alright but my van ain’t acting right today folks (that would be me) and the I like to take the bus sometimes anyway folks. And I can’t forget the homeless soul that is blessed with transfer after transfer from charitable do-good strangers. Some souls ride around this city all day ’cause it is something to do. Movement. Mass transit. It connects us. Gets us where we want to go. Where we have to go. I wonder, who’s getting there, who’s just passing through. Who’s just enjoying the blurred view of other people’s lives through these mass transit windows. Time For School I wait on the bus stop with my 9 year old. School buses go too fast, at least down my street. Children seem to grow too fast, at least in my neighborhood. “I was 20 and still jumping out of trees!” she exclaims to me. “Seem like now days lil’ girls are having babies so young!” And this strong black woman sighs a full breath of despair. She is a grandma in the neighborhood and her face is etched with deep lines…a lifetime of disappointment. Her five year old “grandbaby” is already looking nine and she pleads for people to understand that this girl is just a playful child. I’ve had this conversation countless times. I saw a girl-child on the #10 the other day. This new mother was dressed in grown-up clothes but possessed a little girl’s smile that said she was no more than 14. I helped her move her baby stroller out of another passenger’s way. As she thanked me, I caught the look in her eyes. The one of, “Yes Ma’am, I am burdened by this catch 22 blessing of newborn life. What am I going to do?” My mind drifts to my own nine year old baby girl. She is wearing my blouses now, and sneaks into my perfumes and cosmetics, and has tall attitude sometimes. She is 9 going on 21 and can’t stand the fact that I wait with her on the bus stop. Humph! She’s too big for that! As she gets on the bus, I swear to myself, I will fight to keep her a playful child…struggle as long as I can. Center Street Route Riding on the bus to Karate Fitness, I tune into a conversation. I hear a hungry young man, no older than 16, bragging to his friends. “I’m a kick her in the face with my size 12! Stomp her like she a crack head!” He is referring to his girlfriend that hung up the phone in his face last night. He went on like this for a few minutes. Violent. Sensational. Exaggerating. Buddies roaring with adolescent laughter. A slightly older young man in the group asks, “Hey, when you coming back to school? You ain’t been in a couple of weeks, Man!” Hungry young man says, “When my momma buy me some damn shoes!” He kicks his foot into the aisle for group examination. His buddies nod with understanding. It appears to me that his shoes are fairly new. He is dressed in the latest brand-named gear. Did Mom or Dad buy this for him or did he obtain it on his own? My motherly instinct tells me he is hungry. He seems angry. Agitated, he pulls out a cigarette and plays with it. He tells his friends that he is going to score a pound of weed. He wants gold teeth for the summer. They encourage him. I hear these conversations too much. The old lady seated in front of me is scared and only looks dead straight ahead. I am staring at this hungry boy too hard! He shoots me a glance…the kind teenagers give to nosy adults. Nervous, I smile. Irritated, he smiles. He gets off the bus. Yes, he is hungry. I do not know where he is going, but I do know what he needs. He needs that community love that nourishes its youth soul-deep. Strong hands to guide him and show him all routes, yet will teach him to choose the right one. A community that embraces and doesn’t give up on him. A place to be heard. Thing is, most of us are not sure what to do about another person’s plight. I think the first step is to realize, this…these… theirs… are our problems too. PEACE

Who’s On the #10: Observations 1999-2003

by Dan Knauss

Riverwesters going to mass at Gesu. Bald white man leaving Gesu giving out St. Christopher medals. White teenage girl with rosary going to St. Hedwig’s. Russians speaking Russian. Africans speaking an African language. French and Spanish speakers. Old people with vintage 1970s wardrobes. White female Marquette students coming from Grand Avenue Mall with liquor in juice bottles. Black man drinking from beer bottle in bag. Hispanic teenager with Pabst can in bag smoking a joint in bus shelter. Retarded man with bread to feed to birds. Babies and toddlers. Impromtu preachers. Preacher-busdriver. Busdriver with Rastafarian hat. People reading novels. Students reading textbooks. People listening to music. Woman reading Bible. Santa Claus bus driver giving away candy. People talking to themselves and imaginary friends. Elderly and disabled people helped to seats by driver and riders. Boys ejected who try to get on board without ticket, money or pass. People who give up seats. People who don’t give up seats. People who don’t want to sit at the back of the bus. People who directly to back of the bus. Poor, old, and deranged people allowed to get on board without ticket, money or pass. Marquette students going to Hooters. Men craning their necks to look at waitresses in Hooters. Women talking about going to Potowatami. Marquette students who don’t know how much the fare is. Marquette librarians and instructors who live in Riverwest and Shorewood. Marquette undergraduate with his wife and baby daughter. White hippy and black man conversing about Jesus’s experiments with hashish in India. Black man joking about terrorists blowing up a downtown building on 9/12/01 told to shut up by everyone. Grizzled white man with split high tops and bag of empty cans. White woman putting on lipstick on the way to work. Men falling asleep on the way home from work. People I know by name. People I recognize but don’t know their names. Strangers. People talking to friends. People who don’t want to talk to anyone. People who don’t like you looking at them. People who talk to anyone. Girl meets boy–they seem to hit it off. Where will it go? “We met on the bus.” People wondering who farted but pretending not to notice. People fanning their noses and asking who farted. People with bad body odor. People with interesting body odor. Men and women with strong perfume/cologne/aftershave. Retail clerks talking about Buffy and Friends. Stylish and most definitely gay man. Loud and happy probably gay bus comedian. Obese people. Skinny people. Men with pot bellies and Packers clothes. Women with pot bellies and Packers clothes. Disabled veterans. People who open windows. People who close windows. Woman singing. Class fieldtrip.

by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle and Dan Knauss