As the popularity of the buses increased, their numbers multiplied, and by 2002 three companies were wrangling over the little block, Forsyth Street between East Broadway and Division Street. One company owner hired several women to sell tickets on the sidewalk, and his competitors followed suit. Quarrels between rival ticket sellers became commonplace.
Each day, hundreds of people descended on the strip. To take advantage of the surge in foot traffic, local business owners eventually began selling Asian snacks like sweet olives and shrimp crackers, along with less exotic items like Pringles for the increasingly prevalent non-Chinese traveler. In closet-size booths around the corner, peddlers traded in cheap cigarettes, smuggled aboard the buses from out of state, while on the sidewalk, bored-looking men handed out business cards imprinted with come-ons aimed specifically at the homesick, like “Innocent lady, sweet home, comfortable service.”
In just a few years, a vibrant, competitive and largely self-contained economy had materialized around the bus stop, or bah-see zhan, an economy that employed at least 200 people, all of them bound to one another in a complicated network of alliances, dependencies and feuds.
(Image by spinachdip)