My journalism professor gave us this amazing in-class assignment today. He gave us only fifteen minutes to run around campus. We could go anywhere. We could talk to whoever we wanted to. After time was up, we had about forty-five minutes to write a feature story based on our findings.
When he first announced this assignment, my stomach sank. That type of thing is totally not me. But that's what I love about journalism. You're just thrown into it. I didn't really have a chance to worry about talking to strangers and looking like a fool because I only had fifteen minutes.
Most of my classmates remained in Johnston Hall, the building where our classroom's located. I decided to venture outside and enjoy what little time left I have in the sunshine. I decided to interview a ton of people by the bus stop at 12th and Wisconsin Ave. I think I got ten different interviews in. They were really brief. But it was still interesting to talk to them. Some were willing, some were reserved, some were rude, some were confused. I didn't want it to be an in-depth feature type of thing. I wanted to include as many people as the word count would allow; a real "all walks of life" type of piece that would accurately do justice to the people at a Milwaukee bus stop.
Here's what I came up with:
Bus stops are a place of transition. People come, people wait, people leave – most within a span of fifteen minutes. Never have I really seen the temporary residents conversing. It seems like everyone leaves without their story told.
After a long day serving food at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Janet was finally heading home. Her wrinkled face and weary expression contradicted her cheery scrubs, an explosion of floral pastels. While she usually works in catering, she served cafeteria food today because of the lack of catering events. BBQ Pork and broiled fish were on the menu. Janet was going.
Kara, accompanied by three children, were coming. The two boys, Perrion and Karon, were Kara’s sons while the younger girl, Kya, was her niece. As Kara lit a cigarette, the children bickered and fought outside the sheltered bench.
“Perrion!” Kara yelled with no concern to the people around her. “Get off your brother. I ain’t gonna tell you twice!”
Kara took her niece to the Brookfield Mall for her birthday. They went window shopping and shared a Cinnabon. Kya handed me her used bus ticket, perhaps the only souvenir she had to remember her trip by. The group was headed home with the lingering taste of cinnamon and cream cheese frosting on the minds.
Fifty-year old Iris was waiting for the 30 bus. She was on her way home after a full day’s work at the Bradley Center. She has worked there for 23 years setting up food events. Though it’s not the most glamorous job, she enjoys the Marquette basketball games in the winter.
“Marquette is a sellout crowd,” the Golden Eagles fan said.
While she’s required to wear a catering uniform, she shows her spirit by donning a Marquette head on her commutes.
Like Iris, Charlae was waiting. She was also headed home, not from a day of work, but a day of class. She is a freshman studying business administration at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
“I don’t really like the long commutes, but I need to be home to take care of my baby,” the young mother said about her one-year old, Davante.
Dynesha, another student headed home for the day was leaving. She is also a freshman, currently studying street law at the New School for Community Service.
“I wanna go to law school and become a street lawyer,” the twenty-year old mentioned. “I wanna help people like me.”
Dynesha didn’t explain what she meant by “people like me” but I could take a guess.
Confession: I used to be terrified of the bus stops I passed every day on Marquette’s campus. I thought they were dirty, were for people below me, were for people who would never rise up to become something great.
My fifteen minutes at the bus stop revealed to me what bus stops really are. Not a place of transition, but a place for transitionary people. A place for people to come, to wait, and to eventually leave.