Hans is a cook. He gets up at 3 am – 6 days a week, and gets on the bus outside of his house. Hans sleeps. Then the bus goes to the Downtown hub where Hans has to get on the bus that will take him on a 40-minute ride to his restaurant. Hans sleeps some more.
The bus turns and speeds up, and slows down, but Hans has gotten used to this trip. The comfort of the bus ride may not be the best it can be, but this is the only time in this man’s day that he can call his own. Hans has 6 children and his wife has a disability. He is a proud father that works hard and takes care of his family. Hans does not drive. Reasons unknown, he just depends on the reliability of the bus daily, and he uses the bus as a means of survival.
This is a photograph of me as a child in Louisiana when my parents divorced, and my Mom, who was a working, single mother in the sixties, found herself having to work a full-time job. She figured out that she could put us children on the public bus to get a ride home after school for a quarter each, then her life would be easier, I was scared at first of riding it, but soon began to like it. We dressed like “little men” back then, and I had an early experience of “public daily life” on that bus ride everyday.
This was probably my first experience of being so close, and sharing a common bond with people of color. The year was probably 1966, being a child I did not know of segregation and the plight and racism that was all around me. I only knew that the black lady on the bus always had some taffy or candy for me. Also, waiting at the bus stop, we were always entertained. Grown-ups are so kind to children, when they are traveling anywhere alone. I think it is the nurturer in mankind.
I have had a personal grownup experience with the public transit system here in Orlando. (LYNX), and I have on and off had to take the bus out of “need”, and “survival” for many years. For 4 years, just as Hans, I would get up at 4:30 am, catch the bus outside my house, get the transfer at the main hub, and take the bus to Disney World, and sleep. I also got used to it. My fellow passengers included dishwashers, restaurant workers, construction workers, maids, and hard laborers of all types.
Mostly on this bus there were workers from the theme parks. There is a pickup by Sea World, where families of mostly “English” tourists get on. They do not realize that most of the people on the bus want “quiet” and “no interruptions.” Some rough looks and a few disgruntled folks would occasionally cause for some uncomfortable situations. I love it when some passengers spread out and take up both seats… to sleep in a little better position. I learned quickly to sleep straight up and down in my own seat. Because if you spread out, you will get less sleep, for someone will be tapping you to get on your side and let them sit in the empty seat. The bus is full always.
So a call went out to the creative community to participate in a new idea of getting on the bus, and to “See” what would be reported and created. Initiated by the “forward thinking” Patrick Greene. I attended the first meeting as many others, because whatever Pat invites you to, you just do it. Sitting in a room of about 25 or so folks from all disciplines, we listened and learned of Pat’s project. We drew numbers from a hat, and were given routes to take on certain days. Many questions were fielded, and many of the people in the room were excited about the opportunity. I being a “rider” of the bus system for many years had a question of another sort. “What would I do on the bus that I had not done before? I decided on that day that my ride would be the most normal and boring one of all the other people. Artists, poets, dancers, filmmakers, experimentalist, performers, writers, all would be reporting and riding the bus for the first time. I offered some advice to the crowd that was more of a warning… that the riders in this city are on the bus for “survival”. The act of being filmed, or talked to, or interviewed would most likely be met with opposition. I even wondered if some of these people would not be allowed on the bus at all, or if the bus driver would “kick” some of them off the bus. That would not be good. My input into the meeting was all but knocked out of the water. This group did not get my intent with only looking out for the safety of my fellow creatives… As it has turned out my original fears did not come true, and I am happy that so many different perspectives have been conveyed. As far as me and my activity I did on the bus. I slept, just like all the other times before. I fell asleep before the bus left the main terminal. Woke up at the end of the line at Wet and Wild, stumbled out of the bus, went to Dairy Queen and ate a nice lunch, got back on the bus, slept all the way back to the downtown terminal, transferred to my bus to get me back to my house in College Park. Project done. (And scene).
There is a lot to be said about the ability to “sleep” on public transportation. If you are able to sleep then the “system” is doing something right. If you have the convenience to sleep on your trip, feeling safe, at ease with your fellow passengers, with the professionalism of the driver, then this means our LYNX is really not as bad as people say.
For sure Orlando has a long way to go compared to other cities, but there is hope that with SunRail that many “workers” will be able to survive a little easier.
Introducing VINNIE the SHEEP.
This is Vinnie, he is Hans, he is me, he is that maid that is sleeping on the bus, he is that student that is resting on the bus, and he is that child that is not scared to be on the bus. Vinnie represents the “Sheep” that you would normally count, to fall asleep. Well, if the ride is so great, that it even puts the “sheep” to sleep… Then all is well with our local public transit system.
Vinnie was designed by me with the durability to travel and be passed around at local events. To publicize the “project” here and to give exposure to different groups of people and creatives that may not know of Patrick Greene’s ideas of experimentation.
As of now, Vinnie got kidnapped by a group in town, before he could make it to the Avalon and before he was introduced to the Third Thursday Art Gallery Hop, the Transit group, and Mr. Greene. So where he will travel to next time is anyone’s guess…
Vinnie is a happy sheep; he has a tattoo on his little sheep “rear” that advertises the project… So many people will see and be drawn in to the projects page for more information and more communication because of his travels to many other events in town…
Vinnie represents all the riders on the LYNX. This community is thriving on cross promotion of projects, support of all that is creative, realization that Orlando is growing in leaps and bounds in all directions, because hand in hand, or hoof to hoof our art community realizes the importance of intertwining, everyday life with art. It is all around us, it gives a city it’s flavor, and leaders like Pat and many others will leave daily life in Orlando a lot more colorful for our children. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this all. Be on the lookout for Vinnie and I. We show up everywhere, well rested.
This post first appeared on Frankie Messina’s Apartment E blog.