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April 12, 2010

Riding on the metro of love

Now that I am sans automobile, I am taking all sorts of alternate transportation ... buses, shuttles, the subway, my feet. I haven't been on the subway since September or October and I am happy to see they finally installed turnstiles! It always shocked me that Los Angeles was the largest metropolitan subway in the world that operated on the honor system. The honor system. In L.A. Uh, Alex, I'll take "contradiction of terms" for $200, please.

While I'm excited to see that there is now some form of turnstile action happening in the subway, it seems like a waste of time if you have a whole row of tap-activated turnstiles next to a large one designated for disabled access that has no turnstile at all. It's just wide open and anyone can pass through it (that's what's happening in the picture below.) So, how does this work? People who buy tickets and pay the fare use the turnstiles and those who still skip out on the fare walk through the open space?

metro-turnstiles
Fascinating. (Image taken with my iphone, pretty good huh? It is the only electronic thing I have that is still under warranty so while the Great Breaking of 2010 is in full swing I decided to leave my nice new Canon camera at home and just use my iphone for pictures.)

I was telling a co-worker how pleased I was to see turnstiles, even if there are some gaps, she commutes on the subway every day and so we sometimes talk about mass transit in L.A. And that was when I learned something totally crazy.

"The turnstiles don't actually keep you out if you don't tap," she said. "They're entirely for show."

"Whuuuuut...?" I asked. Perplexed.

"The turnstiles aren't locked. They work whether or not you tap your metro card. You can pass through any turnstile no problem whether you paid or not."

"So what is the purpose of the turnstiles?" I asked.

"I guess maybe it makes us look like we have a real subway?" she said.

And so there you have it, Los Angeles still has the largest metropolitan subway running on the honor system.

- - -

During rush hour we all cram onto the subway like sardines and then exit en masse and tromp up the stairs in a clump. Here is a Los Angeleno who really does not care that he is making an entire trainload of humans walk around him on the stairs:

dude-blocking-stairs.jpg

Hundreds of folks walked around him and he just sat there. Also fascinating. (I blurred his features, which do you think is better... a blur or a big black bar? Hard to tell.)

- - -

You know, whenever I notice people in Los Angeles doing things that are goofy or inconvenience the general public around them or seem incredibly rude, I am not really irritated, I'm mostly fascinated at their audacity. I guess I don't have the self-posession to boldly block the stairwell for a thousand people when there is a bench five feet away. It amazes me, that's all. But what is funniest of all to me, and why I love posting this stuff, is the comments people come up with to explain or excuse whatever it is. "Maybe he was disabled and so he made it down the four other flights of stairs and had to stop and rest." "Maybe he's got a titanium leg and sitting on the stairs is more comfortable than the bench." "Maybe he is in the CIA and partially blind and doing a field study of the pedestrian flow in the red line."

Once, many years ago, I wrote about seeing a smelly old homeless dude in the downtown public library who was very clearly looking at and enjoying some extremely hardcore pornography on the public computers in full view of everyone, including little kids. Los Angeles can just be so gross sometimes. Anyway, one commenter wrote, "What is porn to one person may be a WWF website to another, or art, or research. And yeah, I have known one to two scholars that looking at porn is actual research - studying the effect of porn on culture, the role of the woman in porn as a feminist study..."

I read that comment and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow! He was such a good student he was even multitasking! If you count masturbating into a plastic bag as part of his research study..." hehehehe.

Anyway, the point is: I secretly love that inherent in most people is this desire to find some explanation for cruddy behavior. Like there's just this automatic drive to find a plausible excuse for it. To me it shows that most people at heart are willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt and that's a good thing, or else we'd all be in the 15-items-or-less line with 67 items in the buggy. I generally don't make excuses for people, I just assume they're suffering from an abundance of crazypants, but I am always surprised by the things others come up with. I think it's reassuring that there are so many folks willing to believe the best in people. The only downside is that I don't think you kind souls live in Los Angeles...

Posted by laurie at April 12, 2010 5:43 AM