Understanding the P2P Express
Standing on the sidewalk next to Ridge Road, a converted school bus, that reads P2P Express, stops in front of the group of young men and women, and one at a time, we file up the three steps and as we sit down in one of the many royal blue seats, we hear hip hop music blaring from the overhead speakers. Individuals sit at least one seat apart, unless the bus is overly crowded, and groups sit next to and across from each other. Individuals are on their phones, sometimes talking to groups around them, and friend groups were conversing and getting to know other groups. After riding past multiple stops, the first stop, where about half of the passengers got off, was the stop on Franklin St. right next to Varsity Theater. The second popular stop, where the majority of groups exited the P2P, was the stop adjacent to Frat Court.
Typically, in small, public spaces where everyone has their own goal and/or destinations, such as elevators, city buses, trains, and planes, it is not uncommon for individuals or friend groups to keep to themselves and either only talk to others in their group, or focus on their phone or book. However, this civil inattention does not exist on the P2P as one would expect. This unexpected distinction, led me to do an ethnography to pin down how this old school bus is created as a space of fun for passengers. My observations led to my conclusion that University of North Carolina students identify the P2P as a space of pleasure because it is a safe and easy space to make friends because the music that is played is enjoyed by everyone, and everyone is open to meeting new people.
I rode the P2P two times during a single weekend for about 30 minutes, at the University of North Carolina. Both times I got on the bus at the P2P stop located on south campus at Ridge Road, in front of Koury and Ehringhaus Residence Halls. In some ways, I acted the same as the other passengers on the P2P, so as to blend in, but in other ways, I stood out. Because I was a researcher in this setting, I got on with a friend so that I did not look isolated, and I dressed up in clothes beyond what I would typically wear around campus. Despite this, I did not get off at one of the two popular stops and I had not been drinking, as many other students had been, so this set me apart from other students. I observed the other riders and took notes on my phone, so as to avoid bringing attention to myself. I recorded everything that I saw; from the P2P itself, to the people in it, and everything that I heard; from the loud music, to the conversations.
The driver of the P2P almost always plays popular, loud, rap music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, that encourages social interaction instead of civil inattention, as one would expect to find on such a bus. When students get on the P2P, they expect this type of music to be playing, and they expect this as part of the way to enhance their P2P ride. Iwamoto, Creswell, and Caldwell, describe the importance of this rap music as having become a “social and cultural phenomenon for adolescents” (page 338, para. 1). This social and cultural phenomenon is proven when everybody knows the same songs, and everyone is singing along and enjoying themselves, in the same way that you are. It creates a sense of community and commonality between yourself and other strangers. This space of music and friends mimics the party destination that the majority of the students on the P2P are aiming to get to. When choosing where to spend your Thursday, Friday, and/or Saturday nights, you are going to choose the option that screams the most “fun” to you. The same people and music that occupy this fun party space that you want to go to, are the same people and music that occupy the P2P.
As every college student knows, it is easier to become closer friends with other students who “share the same interests, values, sense of humor, sexual orientation, musical tastes, and hobbies” (Buote, 681). As a first year college student, I know that the thing I was the most worried about when moving to Chapel Hill, was wondering how and where I was going to make new friends, and find students similar to myself. The P2P, is a space where many people converse with, and meet new people. When they get on the bus, they know that everyone else is going to the same destination or same party as themselves. Because not every student enjoys going to frat parties, you automatically know that this is one thing that you both enjoy participating in. The reason the P2P is such an open arena for new friendships is because you know you already have at least one interest in common, and so it easier to start a conversation talking about what you have in common, than trying to start a conversation and having no idea where to start. The P2P and meeting new people is especially important because there is a “strong relationship between new friendships…and their adjustment to the university environment” (Buote, 685) and “subjects reporting more friendships connected to school were more likely to report feelings of success at school” (Skahill, 50). Without the P2P, and its accepting environment, it would be significantly more difficult to start conversations with complete strangers that could potentially lead into lifelong friendships.
My observations exhibit that the P2P can be a fun spot for students to hang out and meet new people, all while getting to their party destination. Making friends is an important part of any college student’s university experience and the P2P is a great space for these new relationships to foster. The music allows this space to be exciting and songs enjoyed by everyone can create the basis for these new relationships. This study could be used in the future to determine the other purposes and effects of using bus systems like the P2P. The fact that this space is a key spot for making new friends, is a very interesting concept, that seems foreign to many people, but that should be examined further for clearer understanding.
Buote, V. M., Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M. W., Adams, G., Birnie-Lefcovitch, S., Polivy, J., & Wintre, M. G. (2007). The Importance of Friends: Friendship and Adjustment Among 1st-Year University Students. Journal of Adolescent Research, 22(6), 665-689. doi:10.1177/0743558407306344
Iwamoto, D. K., Creswell, J., & Caldwell, L. (2007). FEELING THE BEAT: THE MEANING OF RAP MUSIC FOR ETHNICALLY DIVERSE MIDWESTERN COLLEGE STUDENTS-A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY. Adolescence, 42(166), 337-51. Retrieved from http://libproxy.lib.unc.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/195945749?accountid=14244
Skahill, M. P. (2002). The Role Of Social Support Network In College Persistence Among Freshman Students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 4(1), 39-52. doi:10.2190/lb7c-9ayv-9r84-q2q5