Tuesday, December 09, 2008

called out

riding my bus home is rarely dull, and today was no exception. the driver had a virtually full bus, and as the riders started trying to convince him to skip stops because there wasn't any room left, he pulled into a packed one. he opened the door and hopeful commuters piled in, and he just kept imploring us to "move back! move to the back of the bus!" there truly wasn't any room, and it wasn't long till people started telling him about it. i should mention here that the bus is generally mostly full of african american folks, with a healthy dose of latinos, and, well, me. anyway, we've been sitting at the stop for what feels like ages, trying to invent room for more people, when one woman starts yelling out the bus's identification number, "twenty-eight-eleven," and directing people to call metro and report him. "stuff like this doesn't happen on connecticut avenue," she said, "because white people call. we can do that too! everyone call metro! twenty-eight-eleven!" she looked at me, then, and said "no offense! you can call too! you should call too!" i, of course, hadn't taken any offense, and soon enough the bus got going.

later in the trip i was thinking about how i could tell this story (i thought it was pretty funny, and i didn't even tell you about the little kid with the madagascar lemur toy that played "i like to move it move it" every five seconds), and describe how i've felt since i moved to my neighborhood, and how it's evolved. when i moved here - a neighborhood whose demographics mirror that of my bus line - i felt like everywhere i went, a spotlight was shining on my face. it wasn't that i got called out all the time or anything, though that has happened. but these days, i feel like most people who live here have gotten used to seeing me around, and i know quite a few of my neighbors on a first name basis. in reality, the dimming of the spotlight is probably much more about my comfort level than the way i'm actually perceived. i'll always be an anamoly, but i knew that coming in. anyway, i was thinking about all of this as i walked onto my block. there were three kids hanging out in front of what's known as "the bad house" - our lovely, busybody neighbor warned us about it soon after we moved. two, on bikes, looked to be third or fourth graders, and the third, maybe fifth or sixth. i gave them a pretty close look as i walked by to see if i knew any of them, didn't recognize anyone, and kept walking. in retrospect i know i could've said hello - i just tend to leave kids to their business - but i didn't, so they decided to. sort of. when i was just past their group, i hear, low and fast, "whitebitch." nice. i didn't really know how to react, so i just turned halfway around, still walking, and said, "funny."

so what should i have done, and what would you have done?

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