On the Racial Dynamics of Bus Boarding

Yesterday, as I was getting on the bus to go visit my new home and meet my new landlady and sign the lease agreement, I slipped through a jumble of high school students queued up to use the money-ticket machine. Me ‘n’ the picture of me on my bus pass smiled at the driver and walked to a seat. While staring out the window, I suddenly remembered this post:

As we walked down the long sterile corridor, we came to a big double door with a large sign that said in bold block letters: ICU, KEEP OUT, NO ADMISSION, AUTHORIZED MEDICAL PERSONNEL AND IMMEDIATE FAMILY ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT, NO EXCEPTIONS. I turned to Bobby and whispered that somehow I didn’t think I’d be able to pass as one of his sisters, and maybe I’d better go back. Bobby shrugged and said, “It’s ok, rules don’t apply to white people.” I was dubious, but sure enough the (white) nurse on duty just looked at me and nodded, and we walked right through the security checkpoint and into Bobby’s mother’s curtained cubicle without incident.

… and hey! Didn’t I just queue-jump through a line of brown kids? I did, I totally did!

Um. Oops.


  1. wolfa wrote:

    See, it’s considered normal to walk by people who are searching through for cash or tickets to pay if you have a weekly/monthly pass. Am I missing something?

  2. ximena wrote:

    When my students line up to board the bus in the rain I pretty much join at the front of the line. Sensei’s respect-your-elders priviledge, haha! I hate being old.

  3. criminy.crickets wrote:

    Well, maybe I am just paranoid.

    It’s a bit odd, though, because the only bus passes that don’t need stamping in the ticket machine are the ones that Cal students get. And Cal students are, well, markedly whiter than the rest of Alameda County. So even though it makes sense in each individual case, the net effect is still one of white people routinely bypassing queues of brown people.

  4. wolfa wrote:

    Ah, here all the bus passes are just wave them at the bus driver, so no stamping for anyone; if anything, it probably speeds up the poorer people who are more likely to have a pass (a one month pass saves you money on the 32nd ride, I think) than the richer ones who are more likely to use buses occasionally and have tickets or money.

    (Stamping? What would be the point of that anyhow? If you have a monthly pass, why would it be stamped every time you used it?)

  5. criminy.crickets wrote:

    They don’t make different colors for each month, you just buy a pass whenever and get a 31-day revolving window after the first use, I think.

  6. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Did you make them sit in the back of the bus, as well?

  7. Robert wrote:

    I ride Muni (SF), and I usually have to blindside and toss a few Chinese grandmothers over my shoulder to get on board. Sometimes I win, sometimes I get trampled. No one in the world queues quite as well as mainland Chinese.

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