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.

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Comments

writercorinna March 30, 2010 @ 2:42 a.m.

This doesn't ring true to me. I am a white girl born and raised in San Diego and everyone treats everyone the same way on the trolley. I've been here a lot longer than three years, now that I'm going on my fourth decade of life, and I think you do a poor job of supporting your claim that the only white people who ride public transportation are homeless. Get off your high horse and quit making San Diego look bad or else provide more concrete examples of how people ARE being helped just because they are NOT white. (oh and if you want to sit next to someone who has stuff on the seat, most of us in San Diego know to simply ask, "May I sit here please." It has been my experience that regardless of the skin color of the person making the request, it has never been the case that anyone has refuse to yield a seat to a passenger. The next time you need help, ask for it. We don't beat around the bush too much in this town and we smirk at people who try to communicate by casting some look while declining to verbalize).

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David Dodd March 30, 2010 @ 5:22 a.m.

I'm white, not homeless, and have been using public transportation exclusively in San Diego for well over a decade. I have no idea why you feel insecure about it.

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MsGrant March 30, 2010 @ 12:08 p.m.

My husband and the San Diego Chief of Police were once profiled in the MTS flyer as examples of people who ride the bus and the trolley to work. He sold his car and we figured in the two years he took the bus and trolley to work downtown(he eventually got a job at another company so it is no longer an option to use the MTS) we saved at least $5,000.00. No car payment, no insurance and no monthly parking fee. Oh, and no "shock and awes" either. Just simple economics.

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antigeekess March 30, 2010 @ 2 p.m.

Well 'I' don't have any problem with this piece at all, KariAnn. Sounds like an honest report of your experiences and a genuine intention to do some good.

No idea why other commentors are all up in your jock. (Well, yeah, I do have some idea, but I won't bother with a trip down that dead-end street.)

Careful on that bus. San Diego's not Oakland or Richmond, but things can get hinky anywhere there are humans wandering about at will.

A li'l pepper spray never hurt nobody.

:)

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MsGrant March 30, 2010 @ 2:42 p.m.

This is the paragraph that I found hard to follow:

"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 hate to break it to you, but most people are not thinking about you or your position in life, especially on the bus. They are not thinking "What are you doing here?" They're probably thinking more along the lines of "I have to remember to get stamps". To presume that being a white woman on the bus is the cause of all-encompassing consternation for the non-white riders is narcissism at best, and more likely paranoia. This struck me as an essay on the writer's discomfort with taking the bus and HER thinking "What am I doing here?"

My white, white-collar husband never encountered any such perceived hostility nor did he ever think to look for it.

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MsGrant March 30, 2010 @ 6:30 p.m.

Backtracking time!! So, I was just out in my front yard, mowing my lawn whilst my husband edged. We have a sort-of busy street when everyone is leaving the base. So, I keep seeing people look at me and then do a double-take. I'm scratching my head, wondering if I have suddenly developed a pronounced hunchback or some other affliction, when it dawns on me...they are shocked to see a pleasant looking, sort-of middle-aged white woman mowing a lawn. Worst still was that the double-take was accompanied by a pitying look which conveyed their discomfort at seeing a white couple reduced to mowing lawns and doing yard work "in this economy". Except this was our own lawn. I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that in all my walks, bike rides, car trips and any other excursions around my 'hood, I have yet to see the actual homeowners doing their own yard work. I was looked at as most likely an outsider, reduced to menial labor "at my age". Wow.

As an aside, I love mowing my own lawn, but usually I do it on the weekend, and there is considerably less traffic, and therefore no double-takes. It is really great exercise.

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David Dodd March 30, 2010 @ 10:41 p.m.

AG: I didn't have a problem with the story at all, just sort of curious about her perceptions concerning white people and public transportation, and the idea that she's different enough to draw attention. I wrote a piece about taking my daughter somewhere, it all revolves around public transportation (with a load of other themes), I'll post it shortly.

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SDaniels March 31, 2010 @ 12:40 a.m.

Dunno 'bout you all, but I have a problem with someone generalizing for all San Diegans here:

re: #1:

"...we smirk at people who try to communicate by casting some look while declining to verbalize"

This from someone calling herself a "writer" in her handle?

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David Dodd March 31, 2010 @ 1:11 a.m.

I dunno, I usually have my face burried in a book or a newspaper. I have had some delightful conversations on the bus or trolley. And I've seen some bad things happen, too. Can't say I've ever smirked.

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