Whenever I board Westbrook's No. 4 (for the uninitiated, that's the Metro bus line from Westbrook's Main Street to Portland's Monument Square), I'm reminded of a scene in the Oscar-winning film Crash.
In it, the rapper Ludacris's (excuse me, Chris Bridge's) character, Anthony, and his partner in crime, Peter Water (Larenz Tate), are amid a philosophical debate about the former's pride for not stealing from black people when Water hails a public bus. What follows is Anthony's conspiracy-laden scolding of Peter for having the gall to ride the bus:
Anthony: "What the Hell do you think you're doing right now, man?"
Peter: "Waiving down a bus."
Anthony: "Man, put your hand down, dawg. Are you out of your mind? You actually expect me to get on a bus?"
Peter: "No, I was hoping we could push you car around town. You know why? 'Cause we just don't do stuff like that no more."
Anthony: "You have no idea, do you? You have no idea why they put them great, big windows on the sides of buses, do you?"
Anthony: "One reason only: To humiliate the people of color who are reduced to riding on 'em."
The film's screenwriter Paul Haggis almost definitely did not have Maine in mind when he scribbled these lines into the movie. (We are, after all, among the whitest states in the country.) Yet Haggis did tap into a sentiment shared by, I think, most Mainers, even if we generally are less cynical or conspiratorial than Anthony: Public transportation is an act of reduction, an unchosen behavior of the less unfortunate that might even bring upon humiliation for the rider.
Which is too bad because the Metro provides a vein from the heart of the Paper City to the heart of the Forest City that yields less traffic, cleaner air, and more free time.
And did I mention it reduces America's consumption of oil and saves you money?
- John C.L. Morgan