In the past five years, in this weird stage of my life where I’ve been waiting for my younger daughter all over metro Atlanta (and other cities) or otherwise killing time (granted, while shooting street photography, riding bikes, and writing books), I do a helluva lot of loitering (a nebulous term, at best— most likely meaning hanging out with no clear purpose).
And yet, I have never once been asked what I’m doing, questioned about my motives, told to move on, or in any other way led to believe that I don’t have the full, unencumbered run of the joint. I have never been arrested for using a bathroom or filling a water bottle without making a purchase (even though I have), and no one has ever suspected me of wrongdoing for nosing around. I know that’s white privilege, coupled with middle-aged-woman invisibility (my superpower), and I see it manifest itself often in other ways additional to loitering, but yesterday took the cake.
I was on the Atlanta Streetcar for over an hour taking photos for my longitudinal photo essay, A Streetcar Named Aspire (three years and counting — you can see it here), when some folks who were perhaps without homes boarded the streetcar. A streetcar employee told them they had to get off. She made a big stink about it, and made a call or two (perhaps to the police), and they finally got off. She then walked past me and apologized about them, as if they did a damn thing to bother me (which they didn’t).
She never once, however, asked me for my ticket. In fact, I haven’t been asked for my ticket in well over a year. I apparently can not only loiter to my heart’s content while some other people cannot exist casually in public space or access basic human needs like bathrooms and water, but I can also ride mass transit for free as well (although I always do have a ticket with me). There’s something wrong with this picture.