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January 14, 2009

Three-hour tour

The bus ride into work today was completely fascinating. The 101 was backed up like nobody's business and so the bus driver got off the freeway somewhere around Sunset and within about 15 minutes it became clear to me that she was perhaps a little unsure of where exactly we were headed.

After passing the same furniture store on Western about three times, it was clear to everyone that the bus driver was really lost. I got to see all sorts of Los Angeles I'm not familiar with, such as beautiful historic Filipinotown. Did you know we had a historic Filipinotown? And that it is spelled that way on the sign, with an F? No? Neither did I! What a great thing to learn about my city! Although perhaps not at 7:30 a.m. while my boss and office and job reside in central downtown.

The really fascinating thing about the bus ride was how different people responded to the unscheduled sightseeing tour. Some people were just listening to their ipods and looking out the windows at parts of Los Angeles we don't often visit (I was in that category, along with four or five others.) One guy who was working frantically on his laptop seemed actually relieved and hunkered down with what appeared to be a pie chart.

But some people got kind of fearful and lost, you know the "Where are we going? Why is this happening? Where are we going?" folks. A few of them needed to talk it out with each other, come up with possible scenarios, try to guestimate where we were.

And some folks were downright nasty. Rude, belligerent, angry. You could tell when it started just with their body language and posture. I wasn't really freaked out by the three-hour-tour, the way I saw it at least the bus wasn't on fire and I figured as long as we were still in Southern California we were fine. If we started seeing signs for Bakersfield or Yuma, I would probably make a phone call. But those anxious angry people started making me a little anxious. It's funny how one dark cloud of a human can turn the mood in a room (or a bus.) Two women in particular just had a field day on the poor bus driver, who was already anxious and worried about being lost herself. The weirdest part was how one of the angry ladies seemed to just blow up with rage like she was feasting on it. I've been taking this bus for a long time and have seen her do that kind of thing before -- once about the parking and once about some other bus malfunction.

It's as if her default setting goes to HOT RAGE in an instant. She's probably in her early 60s, this lady, and I don't know anything about her other than I just avoid her whenever possible. But today I had plenty of time to see her in action. It made me feel kind of bad for her, because it sure sucks when your life is so tight that any detour sends you into rage -- Lord, I have been there -- and it made me glad that somehow I have managed to tone down the rage in my own life. I saw her and saw myself in her, I used to get so angry at just the smallest thing! I remember once about six or seven years ago practically instigating a riot over a parking spot at the Burbank cineplex. I'm not proud of that, I think back on it with some shame, but at least I managed to somehow someway deflate the rage out of my life so that these days it's no longer my default go-to emotion. Sometimes I still get angry but it's nowhere near the old intensity. It's like I'm not even the same person. Usually I don't even get really mad, just frustrated, and it passes so much faster.

Rage ages you. You can see it in this lady's face, in her whole demeanor. I tried to think back on the period in my life when I was angry all the time and pinpoint what caused it (listen, we had a LOT of time on the bus this morning for navel-gazing, ok?) and all I could figure out was that I was angry because my life felt out of control and that's how I reacted to my own chaos. I've gotten a lot of the crap out of my life and so maybe I'm just no longer so tightly wound up, always ready to break apart.

It feels so much better to be one of the people looking out the window and discovering Historic Filipinotown than to be one of the ragers, boiling up with anger at the slightest thing, yelling at the driver, making angry phone calls you want everyone on the bus to hear so we can all bear witness to your outrage.

And of course we made it to downtown and everyone lived and we were a little late, a lot late, but the world kept spinning on its axis. Just another day in Los Angeles.

Posted by laurie at January 14, 2009 9:26 AM