Transit cops, meanwhile, are twice as likely to be washing

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A portly middle aged woman climbs aboard Metro Transit’s No. 5 bus just south of Lake and Chicago and takes the seat behind the driver. It’s about ten o’clock on this freezing, slippery Wednesday night.

“Why, you got your bandanna tied just like my folks down in Louisiana,” says a man sitting directly across the aisle. “My folks are originally from Haiti. Yeah, we made it out. Twelve years now. They chew tobacco working in front of the sewing machines. They couldn’t smoke because they worked near the cotton fields. I was born down there in ’57.

The woman squirms in her seat and gives him a pleased, embarrassed canada goose outlet store smile. “You understand. People need respect. Get it and give it. A lot of kids, they might learn from books, but they don’t know how to put it on the table. Well, take canada goose outlet new york city care, now,” he says a few blocks later as she bundles up to leave. “Salut! Bonne chance!”

Another passenger slips on the stairs while climbing in. “He’ll be all right,” the Haitian man says cheerfully. “In the morning. Hey, sir!” he calls as the man walks down the aisle. “Do you know you can sue your HMO for that?”

When I ask him what he does for a living, he tells me canada goose jacket outlet he works at the Cabooze. “Actually I work at the biker bar beside it. You know it? The Joint? They get a little crazy, but that’s all right because they get crazy with each other,” he says with a big smile. “And that’s because they’re around each other all the time. Well, gotta go!” he says, pulling the cord.

A few minutes later, buy canada goose jacket cheap at 48th and Chicago, two men step aboard. One, toting the yoke of homelessness a shopping bag of full of clothes in one hand, a shopping bag full of newspapers in the other pays his fare. The other, a raw boned, middle aged redhead in a trench coat, sits down in the first seat perpendicular to the aisle, opens his wallet, and, as if he’s just made a momentous decision, announces, “I need change for a five or else I’ll ride for free.

“My mother canada goose uk shop is cognizant,” he says to his companion in the same booming voice, obviously continuing a conversation that had begun outside. “She’s okay. It’s just that she doesn’t get what to do when she gets up in the morning. That’s why I take care of her.”

“What about a nursing home?” ventures Homeless Guy. “She won’t go?”

“Nah!” Trench Coat Guy replies, dismissing the option. “I wouldn’t do it even if she would. Anyway,” he adds with a note of finality, “nice talking to you.”

“Did you find your fare, sir?” the driver calls out. Silence. “Sir, did you find your fare?” Silence.

Homeless Guy leans out of his seat and taps Trench Coat on canada goose outlet shop the arm. “He’s talking to you.”

At one time Metro Transit slotted paid Canada Goose Parka advertisements in the narrow band that runs from the front to the back of every bus, near the ceiling. Now, though, the space is occupied by messages from the transit company driver recruitment posters and so forth. One notice, printed on a bold red background, reads, “It is a felony to interfere with the safe operation of a bus. Transit police ride MCTO routes in uniform and undercover. Violators will be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Thank you for your cooperation.”

In recent months, questions about the safety of the local bus system and the diligence of our transit police have been high profile news fodder. WCCO TV (Channel 4) aired video footage of a driver being savagely beaten on the No. 18 line in early January, leading to the assailant’s arrest. A few weeks later canada goose outlet the Star Tribune published a story suggesting that the crime had been an aberration, and noting that despite a 12 percent increase in ridership since 1994, assaults on drivers had declined 41 percent. In late February WCCO came back with an investigative segment that featured some stark revelations: Metro Transit had fed the Star Tribune misleading numbers. Though the Twin Cities’ bus canada goose outlet canada system is one of the safest in the canadian goose jacket United States for passengers, driver assaults have actually risen 35 percent over the past two years to the highest level of any metropolitan area in the nation. Transit cops, meanwhile, are twice as likely to be washing their patrol cars as riding the buses, and they spend an inordinate amount of their other time on the job writing parking citations.

Conspicuously absent from the barrage of coverage has been any sense of what it’s like to actually ride the bus. Who relies on local public transportation? What are the daily rhythms of the bus? Does the fear of mayhem affect the trip for drivers or passengers? To find out, I spent ten days riding the No. 5 line. I chose the 5 because it’s the busiest Twin Cites route, averaging a suspension sagging 21,400 passenger trips per day as it goes back and forth between the Mall of America in Bloomington and Brookdale in Brooklyn Center, cutting straight through the city of Minneapolis along the way.

It’s running right now. On the other side of the city, a northbound 5K is about to pull alongside the barren Sears Tower parking lot near Chicago and Lake. In four hours, during the dawn rush hour, 21 different No. 5’s will ply the streets. Around sunset, more than an alphabet’s worth of 5’s 28 in all will form a veritable north south armada. An inner city route, the 5 doesn’t represent the “typical” Twin Cities bus experience. Local buses are like the metropolitan area they traverse: populated mostly by white people (82 percent, to be precise). Half the passengers are age 35 to 54; two thirds are women; more than three fourths use the bus for commuting. Metro Transit doesn’t break down the numbers by route, but it’s clear the 5 lays claim to a far more diverse crowd. It’s a rolling casserole of humanity, seasoned with fresh ingredients every few hundred yards.

Aside from the morning and evening rush hours, when the aisle is crowded and seating becomes a game of musical chairs, passengers on the 5 generally segregate themselves into three distinct areas. At the front of the bus are the infirm, the elderly, the scared, the package laden, the quick trippers, the friends of the driver, and the obsessive compulsives. Conversations here are usually good natured and genteel, with enough of a screwball quotient to keep everyone on their toes. The middle section, laid out so that no one faces anyone else, is for the most part occupied by twosomes and low profilers, riders armed with books and/or headphones. Clearly, these people don’t want to be bothered.

The back canada goose outlet online uk of the bus is where the rabble goes to rouse. With a trio of seat benches configured like three sides of a rectangle, the space is tailor made for performances. In winter the back is considerably colder and danker than the rest of the bus, and year round the proximity of the roaring engine results in loud canada goose outlet conversation. That the space is often ruled by the antics of young African Americans is probably no coincidence: cheap Canada Goose Just as many blacks have adopted and empowered the epithet “nigger,” the old “back of the bus” stigma official canada goose outlet has undergone a cultural coup d’tat.

As the No. 5 exits the Mall of America just after the shopping center’s canada goose factory outlet six o’clock teen curfew, a loose contingent is camping it up in canada goose outlet uk canada goose uk back. in Columbia Heights, nigga, with no way to get home!”) to word play about the Sharing and Caring Hands shelter (“Ain’t that run by that ugly bitch?” “Yeah, but what about those other two ugly bitches, Sharon and Karen Hands?”) to trading insults. This last exercise centers increasingly on one member of the group who seems to be taking offense.

“He’s a swollen face ass nigga.”

The focus shifts briefly to the heftiest member of the group. “He be like Fat Albert,” someone observes, only to be rebutted by a cohort: “Hey, wait a minute Fat Albert’s our hero, Cuz.”

“You be lookin’ like a low budget Cris Carter,” says Fat Albert to the kid who just nicknamed him.

“Nah, he’s a hairy beast nigga, like a Critter y’all seen that movie Critters?”

“Shit, he’s a pack of paleface nigga, a Cincinnati Reds face nigga! He’s a Count Dracula who can’t count ‘Ah, 1.3.25.'” The litany dissolves in paroxysms of laughter.

Pulling south out of Brookdale at the north end of the No. 5 line, a twentysomething passenger spinning rap rhymes in back is interrupted by a drunk in a light blue watch cap. “Did you steal from me?” the drunk demands. “You’re too old to steal from, and I ain’t no thief,” the rapper replies. “No, you’re right. I was someplace else. I wasn’t around you,” the drunk says, and lays off.

The rapper tells me his name is Soul Taker. What’s he rapping about? “Oh, I’m just throwing out the garbage now,” he says. “That’s point zero zero one no, wait! that’s point zero zero zero one percent of what I’ve got.” Does he have a rhyme for the No. 5 line? After an initial attempt involving gunplay and gin, he stops. “No, man, that ain’t right,” he says. “Let me do something positive for the kids in the.”

On another evening a sharp looking guy sporting sunglasses, a black cane, and a thin line of beard running from ear to ear makes his way to uk canada goose outlet the back of the No. 5 as it heads north on Chicago. “Chilly is ready to go par tay on the north side!” he announces, opening a can of beer from the six pack cradled in a bag on his arm and passing a second can to a stranger canada goose outlet in usa beside him.

“That’s Chilly. You want to talk to someone, you should talk to him,” says the woman sitting next to me.

“You doin’ a story on the 5 Canada Goose Coats On Sale and you want a rhyme from me?” cheap canada goose asks Chilly. “I got a rhyme for the 5, baby.

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