Matthew Lickona 2:45 p.m., Dec. 10
I moved here to San Diego from Cleveland Ohio with my husband about three years ago now. Of course like everyone else we came here for the beautiful weather, and a change of heart.
Everyday seems to be a new challenge even with our new laid-back setting; Two dogs to care for, rent, food, and of course those student loan bills that always come to me as pleasant reminders of the college degree I don't have.
With one gas-guzzling car between the two of us, I end up taking the bus almost everyday to my job in Balboa Park. Its been a regular routine for me for months, but it still amazes me the reactions I get when people find out I use the MTS. Why do I get these shock and awes? Because I'm not Mexican, I'm not Black, I'm not Filipino, not in my elderly years, and I'm not homeless...
Perhaps, to see the looks on some people and assume what they're thinking is prejudice, but working at restaurants most of my life, I've become a pretty good judge of facial reactions: The sour face when their drink doesn't taste right, the look of displeasure at the wrong meal being brought to them, the fake sincerity of asking for better table, even if "we know we're being a pain".
When I look at other people on the bus, The faces I see are mostly, "What are you doing here?". I understand that I could be wrong, but I have a feeling there are a lot of minorities that look at a young white girl and are convinced that she must have come from a privileged life. Or at least she must have had more opportunities given to her.
I'll get a death stare from the heavy set black woman while we wait at the bus stop and as she sits behind me on the bus, I overhear (With as loud as she's talking I can't help but hear) her conversation on her cell phone about church choir practice. I give up my seat to the young Mexican girl and her toddler, only to find when I turn around a row of single passengers with their bags not budging from the empty seat next to them
I sometimes take my bike, and once I had trouble picking it up to put it on the front bike rack. Embarrassingly, with my heavy book bag sliding up my back, I lost my balance and fell over top of my bike. I looked up to find a rainbow of different faces all in line to get on the bus, all looking down at me, most with a smirk.
What can you do? I can understand somewhat where they're coming from. If I saw Paris Hilton eat it while tripping over her stilettos I'd probably laugh too. But believe me I'm no Paris Hilton. I was raised in a blue-collar, working class family in Ohio. I knew what its like to wear hand-me downs, and not be able to go on the expensive school trips. But I also remember the contempt I had for the "rich kids" in my school that seemed to get everything they wanted.
When people think of San Diego, most picture sun bleached hair, tanned skin, blinding white grins, But once you live here you find out that what really makes up San Diego is the huge diversity we have.
The real shame is the only way to break through these stereotypes is to break down the walls of distractions. People hide behind their I-pods and books and cell phones so that they don't have to sit akwardly next to a stranger in silence. It's so easy to keep the same opinions and mindsets when you never look up to see the world for what it is.
I'm going to make it part of my routine to put down my book and talk to someone different. I've done this a few times already, and aside from getting the occasional rambler, I have had some really eye-opening conversations with people from all different walks of life. I can't change everyone's mind and I've given up trying to. All I can do is try to challenge myself everyday to look beyond my own problems. I think the more we know about each other and where we come from, the closer we all will be to a better world.