A few years ago, some well-meaning people started a sort of a campaign to ask the question, “What would Jesus drive?” Their aim was to nudge Americans to think about their transportation choices, since our country burns so much fossil fuel in the process of getting from here to there. Would Jesus drive a Hummer? A BMW? A Volkswagen? I have always maintained Jesus would ride the bus.
Bus Riding Memories
A friend mentioned Jesus and hybrid cars just a few days ago, and that made me remember some of my bus rides here in Oklahoma City. Most people tell me they wouldn’t ride the bus, and that I shouldn’t either. They believe only chain-saw murderers ride the bus. Sometimes there are scary people on the bus, but I think Jesus would ride anyway.
Once, my grade-schooler and I were catching the bus in mid-afternoon. It was about a week before Christmas, and we were at a corner where we did not normally catch the bus. Not seeing a designated bus stop, we stood at the far corner of the intersection.
The bus stopped and the driver growled, “Well, I guessed right!” I gave him a puzzled look and said, “We need transfers please,” as I pushed my Easy-Fare ticket into the machine. He said, “I guessed right—you wanted to ride the bus—I thought maybe you were waiting to cross the street.” It was then I noticed that there was a sign (not a bench, not a shelter) designating a bus stop about 30 yards from where we were. There was a speed limit sign in between, at eye level, and this particular speed limit sign not being transparent and all, I did not see the bus stop sign.
He stopped for more passengers, and was grumpy with them too. My child and I played a game and tried to ignore it all. At Penn Square Mall, there was quite a scene. A man boarded the bus with a walker. He was having a terrible time getting to a seat with his packages. The bus driver was very angry with a lady in a green coat. He kept yelling, “Lady with the green coat” repeatedly. He made her come from the back of the bus, climbing over several people (with her packages) and come to the front (nearly tripping over the man with the walker) to show him her bus pass. He said she had not shown it to him the first time.
At N.W. 23rd and Penn, I got out, grade-schooler in tow, to transfer to the eastbound #23. The green coat lady got out too. We were behind schedule, partly because of the big scene at Penn Square Mall. Just making casual conversation, I said to the green coat lady that the bus driver was a big grump. She said, “Oh, girl, he be jus’ EVIL!” I couldn’t argue with that. She then said, “Did you see what he did at the mall?” I answered that I saw he demanded to see her bus pass. She said that wasn’t all. One problem for the man in the walker was that the driver refused to kneel the bus! She repeated, “He be an EVIL man.” She then added, “I be prayin’ for him—my church be prayin’ for him—my friend’s church be prayin’ for him.”
I have to admit; praying for the man was not the first thing that came to my mind.
Things Take a Turn for the Better
Next, the green coat lady said she believed Larry would be driving the #23. If we had been on time, our driver would have been Mike. Sure enough, Larry pulled up in a few minutes. Larry greeted the green coat lady warmly; it was obvious she was a regular. He was very friendly to us too. The bus was very full, but there were seats left at the front.
At 23rd and Classen, a young girl (about 14 or so) got off the bus. As she crossed the street and the bus waited at the light, Larry said, “I’m so proud of her—she’s a good kid; she rides this bus every day to get home from school.” He went on, “Do you know what she did the other day?” He explained that she had taken on a leadership role in a service project at her school. The kids raised some money to benefit a senior center. The green coat lady chimed in, “I know some wonderful teenagers; people think teenagers are all gangsters and drug dealers, and it’s jus’ not true.”
The atmosphere of this bus was a night-and-day difference from the one we had left. Larry’s bright attitude and the cheerful green coat lady made me feel like a menacing fog had lifted. Even though this bus was not filled with millionaires, the feeling was comfortable, several conversations going on, laughing and joking.
Jesus does ride the bus.
Sometimes, Jesus is the green coat lady. Sometimes, Jesus is the man who digs for some extra pocket change for someone who boards the bus but doesn’t have enough money to pay the fare. Sometimes Jesus is the lady who yells “STOP” as the bus is about to pull away from a stop because the passenger who just boarded left a briefcase behind. Sometimes Jesus is a man who finds an umbrella and gives it to the driver to be taken to lost and found as he leaves the bus, stepping out into the rain with no umbrella for himself.
So, hop on a bus. Someone will be there—someone you’ve wanted to meet.
Stories are all true, though names have been changed.
Arden Rea lives in Oklahoma City.
Oklahomans can be mysterious. Ask an Oklahoman what she thinks about taxes, and you’re likely to get an earful. Oppressive, unnecessary, unfair, government pickpockets, incompetent bureaucrats… That’s why it’s a little surprising that just over a week ago, Oklahoma City residents voted to continue a tax they could have ended.
Odd, isn’t it? Generally, Oklahomans will tell you that if they have to pay taxes, they don’t want to support any boondoggles and pork-barrel projects. So, you might expect this sales tax to go towards something guaranteed to be successful, a bread-and-butter project. So what have we voted for?
A convention center — now there’s something all of us need for our family reunions. Several thousand of your nearest and dearest can gather for a weekend.
Then, we will somehow turn our small river into a whitewater rafting area? Now this is one thing we’ve all been needing desperately!
There’s more, but the smallest project–$10 million (that’s less than the $17 million contingency fund) is sidewalks. At last, one thing we need!
Time will tell about the wisdom of this project. We’ll all be watching.
Oklahoma City residents have a choice to make on Tuesday, December 8. Do we continue to pay a penny of sales tax to support some new stuff for our City or not?
Many reporters and bloggers around town have already weighed in on one side or the other. One point that appears to have gone unnoticed is that of basic fairness. So, let’s look at fairness.
First, let’s go back to those wonderful memories of economics classes we took in school.
To be specific, let’s talk about progressive and regressive taxation. If the terms progressive and regressive are not part of your most treasured memories from school, read this next paragraph. Otherwise, skip on to the next!
Progressive taxes are those that impose higher rates for those taxpayers who have the greatest ability to pay. That is, the wealthiest taxpayers, or those in the highest income brackets, pay higher tax rates than those who have less income or wealth. Regressive taxes are taxes that place a heavier tax burden on those with less wealth or lower income. For example, a sales tax is regressive since low-income families have little choice but to spend everything they make and thus pay sales taxes. They pay a higher percentage of their income in sales taxes than do those who are wealthy enough to save or invest—those who need not spend their entire paycheck just to cover basic necessities. Some cities and states attempt to remedy this situation by exempting groceries from sales taxes, or providing some sort of tax rebate for low-income taxpayers. Our City does not have any program to remedy the regressive nature of sales taxes.
Note that both MAPS projects have been financed by sales taxes. Cities find sales taxes easy and inexpensive to administer. Imagine the difficulty in implementing a city income tax! Still, there are some important questions to ask about MAPS 3.
Where is the money going?
Where is the money coming from?
The various projects are listed and described on several sources listed below.
So, vote on Tuesday, December 8! And when you do, ask yourself if a new convention center paid for by regressive taxes, is what our city needs. I don’t think so.
Arden Rea lives in Oklahoma City.