The South East Metro Transit Center by Jesus G. Vigil

6000 Scottcrest Drive
Houston, TX 77021

April 2004–The South East Metro Transit Center is located in a very diverse section of Houston . METRO has 15 safe, conveniently located Transit Centers where bus riders transfer from one route to another. Simple-to-use transfer information is posted at each location. Construction of the 15th Metro Transit Center , which will be served by four routes, is under way at Northline Mall. Major transit centers are also planned for Downtown and the Texas Medical Center . (Organizational Information/Metro Facts. METRO 2004 http://www.hou-Metro.harris.tx.us/about/mtafacts.asp). From early in the morning to late in the night, people board the bus in pursuit of their unknown destination.

Once at the transit center you will witness people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, etc. Each person has a story of their own. Day after day and night after night the encounters and experiences will change. My personal encounters have varied greatly.

Early one morning I arrive at the transit center to wait the routine 15-20 minutes for my bus. I inspect the cold concrete bench for pigeon crap before I take a seat. There are many concrete benches located throughout the center. An empty discarded soft drink bottle rolls on the floor and comes to stop at the tip of my shoe. The bottle accompanies cigarette buds, empty chip bags, candy wrappers, sunflower seeds, and many more pieces of trash. The trash cans around the center are extremely full. That explains the trash on the floor. I slowly look up and an elderly gray haired woman catches my eye. She is walking towards me holding a grocery bag in one hand and using a walking cane with the other hand. The limp in her walk justifies her need for a cane. Her eye glasses are extremely thick and in desperate need of repair. She wears red lipstick and dark blue eye shadow. The elderly woman smells like talc powder. She continues to make her way towards me. “Do you know what time it is?” the elderly woman asks in a slow and shaky voice.

“Sorry I don’t” I reply.

The lady smiles and limps her way to the other side of the bench that I am sitting on. She is a person that I see regularly at the center. Due to my knowledge of the bus route I was sure what bus she was waiting for. She was most likely waiting for the 29 TSU/UH which will take her to the apartments located next to Quinton Mease Hospital . The 29 TSU/UH travels north bound from the South East Transit Center and pass the Quinton Mease Hospital, Texas Southern University and the University of Houston among many other locations. This route is often used by foreign students mainly those of Middle Eastern descent and of Asian descent. If you board that bus you would hear many languages besides Spanish and English.

A gust of wind blows through the center and gives me goose bumps. The wind brings along with it a smell of French fries most likely from the Mc Donald’s across the street. As I inhale and enjoy the smell I am distracted by an approaching bus. Unfortunately it passes my stop. I continue watching the bus until it come to a complete stop on the other side of the center. As the doors open a large group of people begin to exit the bus. As the people clear up, a child with a chocolate bar in his hand begins to exit the bus in a hurriedly fashion. As soon as he is off of the bus completely he trips on a crack in the concrete and falls. When he hits the ground his chocolate falls out of his hand and onto the floor. His mother quickly exits the bus with a stroller. She manages to pick him up just before he ever gets a chance to pick up his candy of the floor. “Candy! Mommy! Candy!” the child screams.

The woman places her child into the stroller buckles him up and walks away. The child lets out a piercing cry because he was not allowed to retrieve his chocolate bar.

Buses zoom in and out of the center yet mine is nowhere to be found. A man runs past me and attempts to catch his bus that has just pulled out of its stop at the center. His hair combed nicely. He is dressed in a black pin striped suit and is carrying a black leather brief case in one hand. “Stop the bus!” the man yells in desperation.

The bus was traveling at a high rate of speed and did not stop for the man. He then walks back to the center angry and cursing at the bus. “I am going to report that bus driver!” the man yells at everyone as he throws his briefcase onto the floor with rage.

The man walks to the bus schedule posted on the wall and slides his index finger down the list in search for the time the next bus will arrive. He constantly looks at his wrist watch and paces around as if he is late for work.

As I wonder what the man in the business suit is thinking I am startled by a deep raspy voice coming from behind me. “Do you have some spare change?”

I quickly turn around and see a middle aged homeless man wearing an old tattered mechanic shirt, extremely dirty khakis, and a dirty pair of worn out tennis shoes. He is carrying a bag full of aluminum cans. I am overwhelmed by the smell of beer and his bodily odor which mostly derives from his neglect of personal hygiene. “Do you have some spare change?” the man repeats in a higher tone.

In total shock of what my five senses just encountered I hesitate to answer his question. “Uh…umm…uh… I’m sorry all I have is my transfer!” I shout.

He stares at me with the same look he had when he asked for some change. He seemed to make no facial expressions whatsoever. The man mumbles as he walks away with his head hung low. The sight of the homeless man dragging his bag of cans across the concrete floor distracted me shortly.

The National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty reports that over 3 million men, women, and children were homeless over the past year- about 30% of them chronically and the others temporarily. (http://www.homeless.org/do/Home)

My bus is still nowhere to be found. I know the bus is running late because many elementary, middle, and high school kids are making their ways through the transit center to wait for the buses that will take them to their schools. The laughter and conversation of the children of all ages consumes many of the noises that could be heard earlier in the morning. The larger quantity of children prevented me from being able to see the buses than began to pull in at a faster pace. Some children exited the bus and others boarded them, many of them were going to different schools in different parts of the city. The noise was increasing so greatly that the pigeons that were quietly perched in the beams of the structure began flapping their wings and flying in and out of the center.

Many elderly people arrived and began waiting for the 29 that will take them to the Quinton Mease Hospital for their doctor’s visit. Other college students like myself also began to arrive and wait for the bus that will take them to either TSU or UH.

All the benches were full to their capacity so I gave my seat to an elderly man on crutches. He had a blue cast on his right leg. Many of the people began to complain that they were late for a doctor’s appointment, school, court, work, and many other things.

Amongst all the chaos I notice the elderly lady sitting next to me getting up and informing us that the bus is coming. The bus pulls up and the lady walks before me. She waits for the people to exit the bus before she boards it. The bus lowers it self. She grabs the rail and gently enters the bus with a bit of struggle. She stops at the entrance to search for her pass but since the driver is late he waves her along with everyone else in. I then follow her into the bus.

The doors close and I am left wondering if the elderly woman got home, if the child stopped crying, if the elderly man got some money, and if the man in the business suit was late for work. I also asked myself if the discarded trash was picked up of the ground and what else will happen to other people at the South East Transit Center .

The South East Transit Center is located at 6000 Scottcrest Drive at Old Spanish Trail.

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