Inner City Observations

I can’t help it. I observe things and people everywhere I go.

These days I am mostly observing in NYC’s Harlem, simply because I go to college there. I listen to a lot of conversations at bus stops and on buses. And what I get to hear is interesting, at least I think so.

Yesterday, for instance. Two young African-American women on an M101 going crosstown from Amsterdam and 125th street. They pointed to several other young women on the street as the bus passed and talked about their styles, their relationships, in unfavorable ways. They then turned conversation to purchases of clothing, both for themselves and for their children. What perked my ears up here was the method of purchase. Each young woman works for some big-box store clothing retailer and knows several other young women who work for other retailers. These companies offer employee discounts, which then are traded around through these circles of young women so that all purchases can be made on employee discounts, no matter where each one works. Some young women don’t work at all, or get fired from jobs for not showing up for shifts, another tidbit I picked up from this conversation. Yet all of them benefit from the other’s employment, using special codes on store websites to purchase items they would otherwise not be able to afford. Retailers often offer employee discounts of 25-30% or more, so the savings on such purchases can be well worth it (yeah, I worked in retail years ago, I know about employee discounts, and I also know people who work in retail today). This type of purchasing has been around for awhile, and is likely to continue in these communities.

Speaking of buses, another observation made by standing at bus stops waiting to be able to get onto a crowded bus at rush hours. When buses are really crowded people will get on via any open door. Doesn’t matter that only the front entry nearest the driver has the payment machine for metrocards. City school students, their parents, it doesn’t matter. If the bus is small or one of the double car buses, doesn’t matter. Open door, people get on. Today I realized it looks a lot like getting onto a subway car. Use all available doors.

More observations? Probably. Can’t help it. I listen.

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