Friday, August 21, 2015

Privilege

     This morning, five minutes before having to catch the bus, I realized that I did not have any change to pay for the bus ride. The smallest bill I had was a five, bus fare is $0.85 for students. (I know, that is really cheap compared to big cities. Hagerstown is wonderful.) I didn't really want to spend $4.15 more than I had to, but, needing to get to work, I was prepared to suck it up and pay the extra. Not that I missed my opportunity to ask for change for the five from the other person waiting for the bus - but she didn't have it. Neither did the driver when I asked her.
     Then I had what some may refer to as a "moment of privilege." Before I could insert the $5 bill into the machine, the driver said to me, "If you don't have it, don't worry about it - just pay me the next time." I thanked her and sat down.
     I am white, young, married, female, straight, able-bodied, etc. But none of that was my "privilege" in this situation.
     Would the elderly disabled black woman who got on the bus before me have had the same thing happen to her in that situation? Yes, absolutely. Because she and I share the same set of relevant "privileges:" familiarity, friendliness, and honesty.
     She and I are both regular riders on that route; we both are on a first-name basis with most of the drivers; we both look the driver in the eye and say, "Hello, how are you," in a genuinely friendly tone when we get on the bus and, "Thank you," when we get off the bus. The drivers can feel at least moderately certain in both our cases that we will pay what we owe the next time around.
     I just happened to be the one that didn't have change today.

     It's also called "respect" in some circles. Generally, people in those circles agree that "respect" must be earned and that one gets it by giving it.

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