As a newcomer to Pittsburgh I've been exploring and getting lost quite a bit. I don’t particularly mind this, in fact sometimes it even provides me with a great story. Such was the case last night.
I spent the early evening in a futile attempt to meet up with Danny and Laura (hey, at least I got her name right in the blog posting). After we came to the realization that we wouldn’t be able to figure out where each other were I set out to get back home from downtown. Luckily for me I knew quite well how to do this as I’d done it 3 times before. I went to a bus stop that a bus driver had dropped me at after I had asked him "which stop will get me back to Oakland?" on my second night in town. This bus stop had always been shady to say the least, but buses to Oakland stopped there (even though the sign at the stop didn’t say these busses would) so I could put up with it.
Despite my good track record with this stop things weren't going as planed last night. The busses that usually stopped for me just kept passing on by, and after an hour I started to get suspicious. I figured I’d give it at least 30 more minutes because I was having fun watching an obviously mentally disturbed man gesture vigorously at ever car that passed by. While enjoying this spectacle I would have an encounter that would impart some very important knowledge to me.
This encounter began as a woman asked for some money, because she had only $2, enough for her bus fair, but not her friends. At first I informed her all I had was a five, so I couldn’t help. Undeterred, the woman continued to beg adding that “we really need the bus fair, we just got out of prison.” I found this interesting, but I simply reiterated that all I had was a five, seeming as though I wasn’t completely convinced of her colorful story. The lady then upped the ante one last time, reaching into her purse and pulling out her jail identification bracelet that included a picture of her mug shot and personal information. After seeing this I figured I’d rather have these ex-cons on a bus heading away from me rather than standing at the bus stop with me so I told them I’d give them my $5 in exchange for their $2, and I’d let them figure out how to break the five on their own.
As they walked across the street to get change at a Subway I started watching the mentally disturbed guy again. And then I noticed something interesting…he was wearing a bracelet like that woman had on…he just got out of jail. Then I started noticing the wrists of the other 35-40 people at the stop, about half of them had these bracelets, “Oh my God I’m at the jail release bus stop” I though to myself. Suddenly all of the peculiarities of this stop started to make sense, no wonder there seemed to be a never ending supply of downtrodden people getting on busses headed to “the wrong side of town.” No wonder every bus driver that had picked me up had a look on their face that appeared to say “I’m doing you a favor man.” After these realizations I decided to use my last $2 to get the largest water I could find at 7-11 and think of a way to get home.
Luckily for me after getting out of the 7-11 I saw a security guard at a bus stop on the other side of the street. He told me of a better spot about 2 and a half blocks away. As soon as I arrived at this stop there was a 71A Negley bus waiting to drop me directly in front of the friendly confines of my apartment. Yes, all this time I’ve been spending with prisoners I could have been at home had I only known of this stop a mere 2 and a half blocks away. In the final analysis of the night I did give away $3, but I gained the knowledge that I was at the jail house bus station and got a great story out of it, all in all I’d say that for $3 it was a bargain.