The Poisoned Ink Well

Sunday, November 23, 2003


My friend rides a bus to and from work. She has a job as a waitress at a well-known eating establishment in Baton Rouge (not Hooters, the favored Republican restaurant of the bayou state.) She lives in one of the roughest parts of the city, but doesn’t complain much, and smiles at the change that jingles in her pocket and pays her bus fare every night after serving up coffee to academics, drunken high school students, and the tourist who wander in looking for authentic Louisiana cuisine.

She works with a bunch of college students who have never had to make their own way in life, twenty years younger, and they sneer at her because she needs to leave work 5 minutes early each night to catch the nine o’clock bus and not be stuck waiting for the ten thirty bus which is the next one on the route. She transfers and it probably takes her an hour and a half to arrive at her home in the Chemical Corridor of the city.

The ten thirty ride is scary for a middle aged woman at that time of night, and not safe, and to get to the earlier bus all she needs is that extra five minutes. They don’t like to punch in early; those Old Navy, Gap clad children of suburbia, working only to have extra peanuts to throw at the lecturers in the large damp auditoriums at LSU. They love to give her a hard time, driving by her in the rain, and late at night unwilling to stretch their imaginations, or to reach that point in themselves to find any empathy for someone who has seen every thing that life will never offer.

I don’t remember us being like that and I wonder if this is reflective of the way life has changed, or is it because in Baton Rouge, a Republican strong hold of the religious right, they sometimes refer to the city buses as welfare transportation and argue in letters to the editor that they shouldn’t have buses at all.