Thursday, February 26, 2009

Life on the Via Bus

Riding the Via bus is like taking a forty-five minute glance into all the unique lives in San Antonio. When I began riding the Via, I remember looking up every time at those who stepped on, almost instinctively, and unconsciously examining the people as they dropped their fare of coins into the machine. Never looking on with judgment, but rather a thoughtless reflex to satisfy my eyes' curiosity, I am given a brief view of these people and their lives, their journey intersecting with mine and humanity embracing us.

I may glance up briefly nowadays, as my eyes have become more familiar with the culturally diverse world around me. Some things haven't changed, though, as when I allow my mind to escape from whatever homework I may be laboring on and enter into the minds of my fellow travelers, to imagine how and where they have lived, and where they are going.

I can only wonder about the homeless man who has managed enough money for a ride, sleeping across three seats on his way to nowhere (sometimes they just hop on, blabbing and making a fus with their belongings to force the driver to continue on, and hopping off a few streets down without ever paying). Or the by-sexual lovers who ride at night, on my rides home from a late assignment, making out across from the old woman whose scowl only fuels their ambitions. Then there's the new families, the young husbands and wives who fight while their children scream for what always seems the longest of bus rides. The business people, the nurses in the scrubs, the lawyers in business suits, the construction workers dragging dirt from their shoes.

And there's me, carrying my skateboard, wallet, and morning smoothies as I enter on the bus, balancing the textbook my neck is hurting over, scribbling on my worksheets as the bus bounces along the streets. I love riding the Via bus for the extra time I have to do homework, especially to day-dream about the people who ride as a collective sample from the world moving on the outside. Today's ride home was a typical five o' clock rush hour on the bus, people packing in like sardines as we drudge along in traffic. I always have to stand for about thirty minutes on these rides, forcing my homework to remain in the over-sized backpack I log around, and allowing me to observe the interactions among those riding, the gossiping or sleeping or those staring off outside.

There were two lovers who got on today, clinging to each other the whole way, until they finally got off as I watched a cloud of dust blow into them (and I laughed out loud). I have always felt compelled to take pictures of these unique people on the bus, why I havn't until recently, I can only say that my eyes have widened to see them as an important aspect in my own life, as subjects whose lives of this time in San Antonio have influenced me to think about my own place in the world. Like the great photojournalist Robert Adams once said,

"At our best and most fortunate we make pictures because of what stands before our camera, to honor what is greater and more interesting than we are. We never accomplish this perfectly, though in return we are given something perfect--a sense of inclusion. Our subject thus redefines us, and is part of the biography by which we want to be known."

Monique Mireles laughs with her boyfriend Luis Contreras as they ride on the Via bus together on Thursday, Feb 26.

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