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July 25, 2008

Just another day on the bus

There are a lot of new people taking the bus and they're very needy, holding open the doors while asking the bus driver convoluted questions, "Do I get off here and transfer to get to X or do I go to there and ride another bus to get to X or will I get lost?" As if the bus driver can answer them and let them know if they'll get lost. I personally can get lost on the way to the breakroom at work, so "lost" is a relative state of being, doubtful a random bus driver can analyze it for every strange passenger. I'm impressed with the drivers, though, they're far more patient than the seasoned riders who are pushing these needy newbies out of the way in a huff and rolling their eyes and making comments.

I understand why new folks are so confused, after all the Los Angeles mass transit system is mysterious and convoluted doesn't run on any meaningful sort of timetable (a bus that is meant to arrive at 5:40 will show up some time between 5:25 and 6:15) and none of the different systems work together, so a Metro Bus and a Commuter Bus and a Santa Monica Bus may all take you parts of your route but it's a piece of film noir detective work to figure out how those routes work together. Add in rail lines and the subway (both of which are separate systems that don't work together) and you have quite a thriller getting to work each day.

And riding the mass transit offered in this city has never been more grim or challenging. More people on the buses and trains doesn't mean there's more seats to sit in or parking spaces at the stations. The parking situation at my usual park 'n ride lot has deteriorated so that people are now getting in fights and yelling and threatening to call the city/the police/somebody they know in the Mayor's office, etc. It's kind of funny in a sad, pathetic way. I've reached the Zen acceptance place where there's no use complaining about it ... it is what it is. I drive more and more these days since there's nowhere to park at the transit lot. Fridays are good though, there's usually some parking on Fridays.

Friday before last I was on the bus next to my friend Karen -- well, we're not really friends exactly but we've been riding the same route together forever and she is the only person I ever talk to on the bus. She's HEELARIOUS too, which helps. I was telling her I think I need to get an unemployed boyfriend -- sure I would have to pay for dinners and movies and stuff but he could drive me to the bus stop and pick me up every day and that would probably work out better for me fiscally in the long run. And we were laughing and then we heard the girls in the seat across from us complaining about how the bus didn't have good air conditioning and why were we sitting here just waiting and they didn't understand why the bus couldn't be properly air conditioned if we were going to just be sitting here waiting (all those things long-term commuters have come to accept as part of the "charm" of mass transit in Los Angeles) and so Karen turns to me and says, "Yeah, they're complaining about the air conditioning ... just wait until the bus catches fire!"

"I know!" I said, "or when it breaks down in the middle of the 5 and there's no replacement bus for two hours and it's seven hundred degrees!"

"Yeah," said Karen, "or remember that time we broke down going up the hill on the 101 and the bus actually started rolling backwards down the hill!!"

And we were amusing ourselves this way for a good five minutes when we realized the two new girls had stopped talking and had looks of sheer horror on their faces.

"Did you say the bus caught on fire...?" asked one of the girls.

"Oh yeah," said Karen. "It happens a couple of times a year. But it makes the air conditioning problem seem a lot less urgent."

And we laughed. Then we got back to talking about the cost ratio benefit of me getting an unemployed boyfriend. I still need to work on the ROI on the scenario but it's worth contemplating.

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Have a great weekend!

Posted by laurie at July 25, 2008 8:42 AM