On a Bus From Hamden to New Haven

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Photo Credit: Carl Castro

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Photo Credit: Carl Castro

As I walked closer toward the bus stop, near the corner of Dixwell Avenue and Skiff Street, memories from walking through the streets of New York  filled my head. Broken shopping carts with trash inside, cigarette butts and old lottery tickets scattered around the bus stop shelter, much like the ones I’ve seen in New York

It was my first time using Connecticut’s public bus system and feared that the usual bus riders would scowl at me–seeing a foreigner invading their territory . It turned out to be an unexpected experience. What I saw was a lively group of people that were much more welcoming.

It was Sept. 3, 2014 and the humid weather caused sweat to trickle down my sideburns.

I planned to take the D bus to the CitySeed farmers market in downtown New Haven and I hoped to catch the Caseus Cheese Truck while I was downtown.

The cheese truck allows you to order custom grilled cheese sandwiches with your choice of add-ons, which include pulled pork, bacon, mac and cheese, and hot cherry peppers.   I sat down waiting for the bus, hoping that Google Maps was right about the bus schedule. Soon after I arrived two women showed up and sat in the shelter next to me. One was an older women with brownish hair and, the other, a younger woman bopping her head to the music blaring out of her earbuds.

I walked over and asked if this bus was going to New Haven. She had to take her earbuds out to hear my question the second time.

“Yeah it does,” she said. “It use to be a $1.00 when I was younger, but you better have  a $1.50 now.”

I looked up and saw the  bus coming towards us. It was 12:15 p.m.–right on time. I walked up to the bus and inserted $2.00 into the machine and said hello to the bus driver. He nodded, said hello, gave me a 2-hour transfer ticket and turned his head back on the road. I didn’t get back any change. My experiences on New York public buses made me expect stains on the seats and lewd writing on the walls, but instead found the bus’ interior clean and neat.

And it was cool. The day was hot, and I was grateful for the working air-conditioner inside.

It didn’t take long for the bus to fill up with talkative passengers. Sometimes passengers would recognize someone else on the bus, come up to them and shake their hand or fist bump or give a quick hug. Willie Mims was one of the lively passengers on board. Just a few stops away from the New Haven green she came on the bus with her friend following behind her. She wore a business suit with cheetah patterned shoes, tortoise patterned sunglasses, and a gold chain nearly an inch wide. She sat down next to me while her friend sat in the seat behind her. Mims said she’s New Haven resident that has taken the bus for over 20 years. She’s commutes to and from work on the bus and has been taking her siblings to the doctors since they were 11 and 14 years old via the bus.

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Photo Credit: Carl Castro

The young woman at the bus stop sat close to the middle doorways and scrubbed her nails with a file. I told her I was writing for the New Haven Independent about people using public transportation to go in and out of New Haven. Then I asked if I could take her picture and after she gave a short laugh she said, “yeah go ahead.”

As she turned to her own world– picking up her cell phone– I took in my surroundings.

A heavier set woman took a seat towards the front. She was wiping her sweat off her forehead with a washcloth and gave a loud whew as she sat down inside the air-conditioned bus.

A gentleman wearing a yellow Lacoste shirt, torn jeans, slippers and a frayed backpack. He took a seat at front of me and I said hello.

Passengers on the D-Bus Photo Credit: Carl Castro

Photo Credit: Carl Castro

“No habla ingles, ” he said.

I nodded my head letting him know that I understood, even though I don’t speak Spanish.

We came to another stop where a woman was shouting on her phone with an angry tone of voice. Her long, braided, black and blonde hair was tightly wrapped in a shape similar to a bee hive. She had a red, low-cut shirt, black pants, a red fishnet glove on her right hand and a black and red stroller that matched her outfit.

There was no baby inside the stroller, although she did mention a baby during her angry rant on the phone. As she took her seat other passengers stared and shook their heads.

A man with another stroller came onto the bus shortly after, but this time there was a dog inside.

Mims noticed I was trying to to get a picture of the dog.

“Get out of the way,” she said, moving her hands left and right, shooing people aside.

A dog in a stroller is wheeled in to the D-Bus

A dog in a stroller Photo Credit: Carl Castro

They move out of the way and I finally get a clear shot of the dog. I took a few shots with my camera while thinking to myself that it’s so hot not even dogs want to walk outside. I turned to Mims and thanked her for the assist. As she was looking at the photos I took the opportunity to talk more about the topic I writing about and asked if she would like to be in the article.

Willie Mims the Bus Queen. Photo Credit: Carl Castro

“Is this going to be on News Channel 8,” she asked.

“No, but it might be on the New Haven Independent website,” I said.

“New Haven Independent? Never heard of them,” Mims said.

We were approaching my stop and I asked Mims if I could take her picture. Like a knee jerk reaction, she fluffed up her hair, straightened out her blazer and smiled.  Before I could leave, Mims wanted to clarify something about her.

“I’m the bus queen honey,” she said. “Make sure you write that down.”

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