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July 7, 2005

London, are you OK?

I just do not understand the world we live in.

I hope ya'll are all OK, is everyone all right? I checked on acer this morning already, she says she's fine on her website. I just don't understand. These are normal folks, going about the workday, when did the whole world lose its damn mind?

On the local news they keep telling Los Angeles to be vigilant, too, attacks put everyone on alert I guess, and that there is increased police presence on the subway and trains and buses.

But of course, by increased they mean there is an actual police presence today. Los Angeles must be the only major city in the entire world to have an "honor system" subway. You should buy a ticket, but there are no turnstiles or ticket-takers to verify that you bought one. THE HONOR SYSTEM. Because that works so well in Hollywood!

About five years ago, the entire subway system was "patrolled" by Sheriff's Deputies -- in other words, on the first week of the month (when most people forget to buy their new passes) two deputies checked tickets at 7th & Metro. Occassionally you'd get a spot check during morning rush hour. But night time on the subway (and all the time between rush hours) is an empty void, the whole of the transit system is a place for the homeless to sleep, for panhandlers to work the crowds, a warm spot for the various crazy and brokedown folks on cold nights.

I took the subway twice a day, five days a week, for almost three years. I remember crossing Pershing Square at 7:30 p.m. one night and walking across to the stairs which lead down to the subway platform. A homeless guy was holding the hand rail and defecating on the stairs. It was such a normal occurrance that people were just walking around him, shaking their heads, keeping a distance. No deputies in sight, again.

Eventually, the Sheriff's Department didn't have enough manpower to keep an eye on the subway, so about a year ago they moved to a private security guard company. Now you get an occassional 19-year-old girl in a black jacket checking tickets outside the Universal Station. In other words, we went from bare minimum security to no security in less than a year.

Today, however, Sheriff Lee Baca is telling Los Angeles that we're on Orange Alert and there will be increased law enforcement on the transit system, and all citizens have to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

Pardon? Suspicious activity? HAS THE SHERIFF EVER BEEN ON THE SUBWAY? It is one big old party of suspicious activity! This past January, I waited at the 7th & Metro platform for an evening train home. The man in front of me got onto the subway car with one of those red gasoline cans, full of gas. You could smell it.

I decided to wait for the next train. In fact, that was the night I decided to start taking the bus, even if it increased my commute time by half an hour. I love mass transportation, I do, and I support it, but I had a tenuous relationship at best with the subway and the open gas can sent me over the edge.

And working downtown on the 19th floor of a big tall landmark building is scary. People tell me all the time that I'm just worrying over nothing, and I guess they're right, and there's nothing to be done about it exactly. It's just a feeling of being slightly on edge all the time. There are police and fire trucks all over downtown today. No one in my office seems the least bit sad or scared or interested by the news, what's happened in London. I don't ever want to be that way. I don't ever want to get to a place where loss and destruction and horror don't phase me.

I just wish it wasn't happening.

I hope ya'll are all OK.

Posted by laurie at July 7, 2005 9:21 AM