Midterm: The Working Poor
Nelly Martinez, 31, is a co-worker of mine. She struggles week-after-week working over 150 hours per week in hopes to provide for not only her family, but her sisters as well. She has two jobs, one at a North San Jose Togo's Sandwiches during the morning and afternoon, and the other at an East San Jose Shell gas station overnight.
It's a windy night in San Jose and Laura Hernandez, professionally dressed, is waiting for the 66 bus after baby-sitting a friend's newborn hours after an interview. She waits patiently, as the bus is scheduled to pass at 11:18 and can't miss it because it's the last bus until dawn. The coach pulls up a minute early, as it scrapes its boulder-sized Goodyear tires along the stick-stained sidewalk, opening its doors as it turns on its lights. Kimberly Cortez is driving that bus. Cortez has worked for the Valley Transportation Authority for almost five years and as a women, typically drives the last bus of several routes depending on the day of the week. But to Laura, and about 90 percent of passengers, they don't really care who's in the drivers seat. Others couldn't care less whose hands are on the wheel and feet are on the pedals. All they do is rely on a bus as a machine to get around. "This is my car," says Dipesh Iqbal, who has only been a resident of San Jose since January and has faced financial challenges, since he is new to the Bay Area. But to others, its a place to relax, a place to reflect, a place of peace. Just ask Hernandez."It's a ride home, but its also really convenient," Hernandez said. "When you sit here, you take a different perspective. You see people with wheelchairs you see people with other kind of needs." And that is what Kimberly provides. A place where people of all ages, all back grounds, all conditions, all differences. "It's given me a chance to do something that makes a difference," Cortez said. She certainly has made a difference, one that may go unnoticed, but sure goes a long way, literally.