The Day Starts When the Bus Stops
For many Connecticut residents the New Haven green is where their day starts. As the central hub for public buses,the bus shelters around the perimeter of the green are often crowded. For some it’s a last resort, for others it’s the only option. The reason why is as unique as the people themselves. On Sept. 12, 2014 five people, who were waiting for the bus near the New Haven green, shared their stories.
A crowd of people wait for the bus near the New Haven green on Chapel Street. Here they can catch a ride to nearby towns like Hamden, West Haven, East Haven, and can go as far as North Branford. It’s a bustling group of diverse people, talking and sometimes yelling profanity at one another. The number of benches along the street aren’t enough to seat everyone waiting for the bus.
Some of the benches are used as beds.
As soon as the bus arrives portions of the crowd scurry toward the bus door and into empty seats. People with children put extra effort to board the bus first.
As buses pick up and drop off passengers a man wearing a silver mask rides a bicycle down the street. He had a large boom box that played, what sounded like, dubstep music. He gracefully circled around the block pointing and waving one hand like a maestro in an orchestra.
Chapel Street’s rundown courtyard bus stop is quiet and calm between bus rides.
As the hustle and bustle of New Haven streets continued, five people waiting for a bus–a flamboyant Elton John fan, a stripper, a chorister, a landscaper and a pick-up artist–shared their stories.
Connecticut is the dullest place on earth.
After having his car confiscated by the New Haven Tax Collector’s office, Richard said he has no choice but to take the bus. He lives on a monthly disability check worth $219 and is hoping to receive social security income soon. He’s been diagnosed with heart disease and HIV/AIDS. He uses the bus to visit friends, go shopping and to keep doctor appointments.
“I always liked New Haven and the New Haven Police, but the tax collectors office can kiss my ass,” he says.
After the 53-year-old Chapel Street resident talks about his obsession with the “old version of Elton John” he says he’d like to see more buses running on the weekend and a bus that goes from New Haven to Monroe and from Monroe to Branford. Richard is a former Florida resident but he said he likes living in New Haven because it’s the closest place he can find to Manhattan without paying for Manhattan rent. With his homemade shoes and his I’m making a statement outfits, Richard said he wants to live in Manhattan.
“It’s the life [of Manhattan] that I love,” he said. “Connecticut is the dullest place on earth.”
My boss just calls me up and tells me where to go.
Mando, a 40-year-old landscaper, uses the bus primarily to go to work. Speaking with a Spanish accent he was waiting for the bus to go to work. The only problem is he doesn’t know where he’s going until his boss calls him, it all depends on where the job is. With his 15 years of landscaping experience he said he moved into New Haven two months ago and doesn’t have car. He hasn’t had a problem with the bus system yet and says he already knows what bus to take to wherever he needs to go. He didn’t want his face shown in the photograph, but was willing to show a tattoo on his hand conveying death is connected with time.
I’m blind in one eye and I can’t see well in the dark
Ronnie Lee, a 57-year-old choirster, said he hates the fact that buses stop running after 5 p.m. on the weekends and wishes that there were more buses going towards Waterbury. Ronnie sings for the Zion Baptist Church choir in Waterbury and finds it difficult to get there on weekend afternoons. Lee relies on disability checks and the bus is his only mode of transportation.
“It’s hard for me to get to the afternoon programs,”he said. “There are no buses to take me there and no buses to take me back.”
Because of this scheduling issue, Lee can’t sing every Sunday.
“Now that I moved here [New Haven] I can only sing twice a month,” said Lee, “but I still go to church every Sunday.”
Lee was a resident of Waterbury before he moved to New Haven 6 months ago, but once he was on disability the only housing he could afford was in New Haven. He also says getting around New Haven on the weekend at night is hard because there aren’t any buses running to his neighborhood near Fitch Street.
“Sometimes I’ll come here for a summer concert and have to walk all the way to where I live,” he says. “There are plenty of people that have that problem, I’m blind in one eye and I can’t see well in the dark.”
I know if I do it, it’ll come back to me.
Tiffany Lynn, a 26-year-old stripper, was roaming around the New Haven green, strangers for a dollar to pay for the bus fare. She said she mainly uses the bus to get to work nowadays because of troubling financial issues.
“My boyfriend just sold his ’96 Honda Prelude,” she says. “He sold it for a lot less than what he expected. He was pissed”
Her and her boyfriend are currently living in a motel in New Haven where she said monthly rent has been a struggle to keep up. On top of that she said she’s on Methadone to help her combat a long time drug habit. But she said those were only a few of her worries. Lifting up her sunglasses, Lynn showed bruises around her right eye and a few more on her shoulder.
“We’ve been together for 7 years,” Lynn said. “I still love him though.”
As she talked about her woes a woman gave her an informational brochure about God. But even with all those problems Tiffany says, she tries to help others when she can.
“I try to help friends when I can even though I’m the one that needs help,” she says. “I know if I do it, it’ll come back to me. It’s Karma.”
Now that I’m like this I’ve got to take the bus.
Eddie Lover, a 40-year-old resident of Orange Street, has been disabled for 20 years–relying on the bus to take him wherever he needs to go.
“I was in a motorcycle accident in 1996,” he said before showing me his scar across his abdomen.”The car ran me over twice, the first time was over my body and the second time it stomped on my head.”
Lover said the accident left his left side of his body paralyzed for months and still hasn’t fully recovered. He also said the bus drivers are always considerate when he steps on to the bus making sure he sits down before the bus moves. Eddie doesn’t work and he said he goes on the bus to roam around New Haven and to keep himself busy. He said he’s usually greeted by friends when arriving at a stop and tries to talk to every female he sees.
“I don’t like staying at home all day. I’ll go on the bus, flirt with the girls a little bit, say ‘what’s up’ to the guys and keep going,” he said. “You know why I like talking to girls on the bus? Because most of them have have low self-esteem.”
After surviving his motorcycle accident, Eddie says he’s been trying to make the best of things and enjoy life.
“I do believe in God,” he says “I do believe that God gave me a second life and I’m going to enjoy it.”
I’m moving to Atlanta because it’s way to expensive here.
Rafel Sanabria, a 18-year-old student, takes the bus every day to Riverside Highschool.
“I’ve been taking the bus for about 10 years now. As long as I could take the bus on my own.” Sanabria said.
His bus trip is relatively short, a 5 minute ride he said. He’d rather take the bus than walk because “it’s easier”. After graduation he plans on moving to Atlanta where, he said, he eventually wants to buy his own car and co-own a house with a friend.
“My friend is in the job corp right now and he’s just waiting for me to get a job,” Sanabria said. “I’m moving to Atlanta because it’s way to expensive here.”