Riding the bus with Gary Winslow: 'A sad state of affairs'


  • Illustration by Lee DeVito

I don’t know what event triggered my need to write this story as, it happened about a month ago, but suffice to say I was so disgusted I simply had to. As always, I’m gonna be honest with you: This story doesn’t have much to do with the bus other than the fact that I got off the bus shortly before this incident occurred. It is, however, of great importance to speak on this, as the event in question is indicative of a larger problem that I see all too often — particularly in the ’hood. I know it’s not restricted to the ’hood, but that’s where I’m at, so that’s what I’m gonna speak on.

Know three things: Firstly, this story, at least to me, is as baffling as it is true, and I ain’t no wet-behind-the-ears type of dude. Secondly, I say all of what I say in opposition to what I find despicable in this story out of care and love of our community and the future of our children. Thirdly, I might piss some of ya’ll off, and, if I do, you’re probably who I’m talkin’ ‘bout, so check yourself as we all must. If you get offended, it’s but a small price to pay when compared to the welfare of our young ones.

So I got off the second leg of my journey home from work in Southfield down to the “D.” As I’ve stated in earlier stories, when the weather is good, I’ll skip that 53Woodward and ride my bike the rest of the way. In addition to that, this was a day I planned on takin’ it to the Model T Mall on the east side of Woodward. Its parking lot is vast and has assorted obstacles and terrain that I like to ride. Also there are additional interesting places to ride in the surrounding area, and the fact that it’s on the way home makes it a regular stop for me to test and improve my skills. As an aside, I’d like to clarify something that might not mean much to you but I would be remiss if I didn’t make this distinction: Going from point A to B is what I call “pedaling.” The assorted stunts I perform on my bike are what I call “riding!” Get it straight.

Anyhow, I arrived at one of my favorite spots, turned into one of its many driveways and pedaled my way to the top of my favorite embankment. That’s where I usually take off my backpack, set it down, stretch a bit, and then get to it. I did just that, and as I rolled, hopped, spun, and sprinted, I felt the freedom that only riding my bike can provide — true, unadulterated freedom!

It came time that I had done all I could do with the embankment, and I decided I would change venue to the sidewalk of the main stretch of the mall. I suited up my backpack and pedaled quickly, as I was anxious to execute certain maneuvers. I set my bag near the curb thinkin’ nothin’ of it. Where I was could be considered a tough area, but I pride myself in keeping a heightened sense of awareness in such an environment … always … almost.

I began to do the things I do, having a blast and nailing my tricks, giving me the confidence to push it further. One such maneuver is called a “manual.” Basically, it’s like a wheelie (or “catwalk” as they call it in the D) without pedaling, just pure balance and a oneness with your bike, and I love to hear the reactions of people when they see it; anywhere from lookin’ at me like I’m an alien to, “Oooh, that’s sweet! Do it again!”

Now the sidewalk is long and the curb is short, so I like to practice what I call “hop-up” manuals across a long section of it, and even though in BMX terms it’s not a big deal, I always get hype when I manual the whole thing. Now in order to do this, I have to swing around in the adjacent Forman Mills parking lot to get enough speed, so I proceeded to pedal into my route, cheesin’ like a child with a new toy. I approached, hopped up, planted my back wheel and went for the distance, the voice in my head saying, “hold it, manual, hold it,” ’til my front wheel dropped and the voice said, “Damn! Oh, well, turn around and try it again.”

I did just that, but this time I was distracted. As I was banking into my turn I heard a “Haaay,” in the background that sounded like it was meant for me. I looked up a noticed this sista in a convertible waving me down. Since I was now distracted, I figured I might as well go see what she was talkin’ ‘bout. I don’t ride with brakes, so I rolled toward her, draggin’ my feet across the pavement to slow down like Fred Flintstone, and came to a stop right by her door. I noticed there were three or four kids in the car, a couple boys in the back and a girl in the front, the oldest child being about 10 to 12 or so.

I stood by her door and said, “Hey baby, wha'sup?” a friendly and respectful greeting in the hood that I’ll commonly use, but little did I know that this time would be much different.

“Weed?” she uttered. I thought to myself, “WTF?” I thought that’s all she said so answered back, “Yeah?” as I watched her rifle through her purse. I stood there confused wondering what she was doing and why she said “weed” so loud in front of the kids … no discretion whatsoever. “Yeah, let me get two dimes.” WTF? I was like, “Nah, nah, baby. I ain’t got none. I was wonderin’ why you just said ‘weed’ to me.” And she was like, “Yeah I axt you if you got the weed,” and I’m like, “Naaah, baby, I thought you said somethin’ else.” Lookin’ disappointed, she stopped riflin’ through her purse, and I tried to laugh it off with her while being disturbed that she so unabashedly asked me like that in front of those kids. I guess since I got these dreads, I must automatically be the weed man.

As I rolled away, I thought to myself, “triflin’ ass b—,” as I was both shocked and unsurprised at the same time. See, in an area where pretty much anything goes as long as you don’t get caught or offend the wrong person, you can become quite jaded, but, unfortunately, at the same time, the stupidity and boldness of people (regardless of where you’re talking about) never ceases to amaze me. Still, what might shock someone from the outskirts of the city can become quite commonplace for seasoned veterans, and that’s what I chalked this absurdity up to — for a minute.

“You know what it is, G”, I said to myself as I shook my head in disbelief, trying to regain my focus. Little did I know this chick was soon to show me how bad it really was.

I gave the manual another go but was unable to fully concentrate due to the sickness I just witnessed. My mind was ruminating on what just transpired, but I kept attempting to get back into a groove, trying this run again and again. Remember that backpack of mine I set down by the curb? No sooner had I completed a couple more attempts, the last of which found me drifting a little farther from my belongings, than one of them damn Bey-Bey kids came runnin’ at my bag, snatched it up and went runnin’ back to the car. Luckily, I looked in time to see him do it and I hollered, “Yo-yo-yo! Hell naw, that’s my shit!” and barreled down on his ass like Star Trek rammin’ speed to get my shit back. He got as far as the car and I abruptly stopped just behind him sayin’, “Nah, nah, that’s mine young man. Give it here,” and he handed it back to me without protest, embarrassed that he got caught. He tried to justify his misdeed by whimpering, “Oh. Oh, I didn’t know it was yours. I thought somebody forgot it.” I knew that was a damn lie but I was in a precarious position. I wanted to scold this kid to the fullest but I was right there in front of his mama and figured that was her job.

I stood there for a split second, waiting for her to handle it, but her reaction was a real-deal shock. “Hahaha, you thought you had a free one! Thought you got you a free backpack, hahahaha.”

I thought: “WTF? Are you for real? No scolding for theft, no ‘you did somethin’ wrong,’ no ‘Apologize for takin’ somethin’ that ain’t yours’? Nothin’? She saw it as a joke that this boy was a fledgling thief — and not a good one, to boot, so you know what that could mean for this boy’s future don’tcha? Jail, prison or death. Damn! Damn! Damn! Hell, she’s probably a booster herself and encourages shit like this with her raggety ass. Who’s to say she didn’t send him out the car in the first place. That’s what you call triflin’ … for real.

Well, after I got my bag back, accompanied by one of the most reprehensible displays of slapdash parenting I’ve witnessed to date, she started up her car and started to leave. I guess I should give her a modicum of credit for makin’ sure all of her little Bey Bey kids were in the car before she drove off. As they left, I shook my finger at the young man with a stern look and authoritatively told him, “Stop stealin’ stuff, boy! It ain’t no good!” As they drove off, even the young lady in the front passenger seat looked embarrassed, but not ol’ stupo at the wheel. No, she just drove off amused and clueless. Hell, at least the little boy looked like he was ashamed. Damn shame!

To me it’s pretty obvious where this situation falls in the spectrum of right and wrong, but I still have conflicting emotions. Conflicting emotions you ask? Please allow me to explain:

There are few types of people on this earth that I empathize with more than single mothers. I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be to raise, feed, shelter, and discipline your child or children while bringing home the bacon any way you can, and trying to stay sane in the process — alone. I understand that some of ya’ll can get so bogged down with your situation that you just let things go sometimes. I understand that some of you feel guilty about your children not having a father and can sometimes compensate by unwittingly spoiling your kids; it’s not a good idea, but still, I understand. What I do not understand, however, is how a mother can laugh about her child tryin’ to steal. That shit ain’t funny! What kind of triflin’ fool are you if you brush off your child being a thief, or worse yet, encouraging such a thing?

My dearest single mothers, please know and understand that the key word in “single mother” is “mother!” If you don’t teach and discipline your children, who will? Some of you have a good support system and for that, you’re blessed, but you are still mama, and we need you to raise good kids to grow and be productive (or at least not destructive) participants in our society. We don’t need more dad-blamed Bey-Bey kids to deal with! God willing they’re going to become men and women and, when they do, who do you want to say raised them? The streets? The penal system? Or mama?

I know, I know, I ain’t perfect neitha. The list of my imperfections and mistakes could probably fill a book, but what I do know is what’s important: you and all of our kids. I say what I say ’cause I love you all — and at the risk of sounding like a self-important and self-appointed Daddy, I only want what’s best for you and our future. May we all strive to be better today than we were yesterday. Peace and love, ladies.


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