Riding the bus around Oakland as I do is sometimes boring, sometimes maddening—but yesterday it was illuminating. I was sitting under my headphones as usual when two adorable teenage boys got on; one of them was carrying a bottle of unopened vodka—no bag, just the bottle. The kids were certainly underage, maybe 15, so I noticed, but soon went back to my music, tuning out. A few minutes later I heard a hubbub on the bus, and saw that women were shouting and the kids were laughing. Curious, I took off my headphones.
Two or three women were yelling at the kids, asking them how old they were, and why they were boldly carrying a bottle of booze out in the open. They weren’t yelling at them for the alcohol per se, but because, they said, the kids were likely to be stopped by cops, arrested, sent to Juvenile Hall and who knows what else. The kids were being totally good-natured about the whole thing. At some point I said to one of the women, “It Takes a Village,” and she nodded and said “That’s right.”
“You should have it in a bag,” I told the boys. Seated across from me was a nearly toothless man holding a frayed backpack, from which he drew an old plastic bag and handed it to the kids. We all applauded as the boys, still laughing, bagged the offending bottle.
“This is great,” I said, as the conversation continued, mostly about black men and cops. I almost hated to get off at my stop.