Saturday, May 31, 2008

Air Journal: May 29 Welcome to Florida

Well, I said I wasn't going to do any entries, but I figured planes are sort of public, since it's not like I'm letting strangers in my car, so here goes. And also because I've gotten so used to narrating my travels in my head, it was kind of hard to stop.

I usually try to fly out of Burbank airport because it is closer, but mainly because it is infinitely less painful than LAX. But because I was making reservations with 24 hours notice, the cheapest flight I could get out of Burbank required me to pay $100 more than LAX for the privilege of changing planes twice each way instead of once. Forget it.

My friend Steve was nice enough to drive me to LAX. I didn't want to make him too late for work, so I got there with more than 2 hours notice. I'll omit specific airline names, but apparently the airline whose website I booked on have a partnership with another airline. My flight home would be on the airline I booked with, but the one out there was with the "partner" airline. I thought that meant I should go to the partner airline terminal, and since it wasn't the same terminal as the original airline, I hoped I was right because trying to change terminals from the outside would probably have either resulted in my getting hopelessly lost, getting stuck on a plane to Singapore, or getting run over by a jet. I walked up to the e-ticket check-in computer, but it wasn't taking my reservation code. So I got in line for the "I'm either a moron or I don't have an e-ticket, which also qualifies me for being a moron" line to talk to a person. I guess either there was a computer problem between the two airlines' reservation computers or I had made the reservation so recently that it hadn't gotten transferred, but it worked out.

Part of the reason LAX is stupid is that they make you carry your checked bags to the X-ray machine, even though they don't make you wait.

(My mother keeps talking to me even though I'm clearly busy. She's impeding freedom of the press as far as I am concerned.)

I sat around and waited for awhile. I was kind of spacy, but I think I managed to read.

One of the things that annoys me, and I consider it akin to the "let's crowd around the door of the bus even though someone is trying to get off" problem, is when they get ready to start boarding the plane, and everyone has to get up and crowd around the gate, even though they're probably in zone 9,361 and are clearly not going to board anytime in the near future. Morons.

I ended up sitting in the very last row, but then again, people who make reservations less than 24 hours ahead can't really be choosers. I did actually get a window seat, though, and I like window seats. Some woman came up and I guess her seats with her two children were not contiguous, so she asked if I would move. I'm usually willing to consider it, but I was just kind of a borderline wreck and I wanted to cower in my corner, so I apologized and declined. They did their standard "the plane is fully booked so stop acting like an asshole and just put your oversized carry-on bag overhead or shove it under your seat already" announcement. As it ended up, there was an empty seat and it was the one next to me.

One of the flight attendants kept stopping and telling corny jokes to the kids sitting in front of me. "A man has a carrot in his ear. A policeman walks up and asks him why he has a carrot in his. 'Sorry, officer, I can't hear you because I have a carrot in my ear.'"

The flight was pretty uneventful, until I get up to deplane (and I never stand up until it's clear that I will actually start to move soon. Plus I was in the very last row. I was apparently the only person who realized that they weren't going to move faster than everyone else in front of them. Morons.) Then I realized that my pants were stuck to a piece of used chewing gum on the edge of my seat. I was pretty sure the gum wasn't there when I got up to use the lavatory, so I strongly suspect that the children who were sitting in front of me were the culprits, but whatever.

When I stepped off the plane at the airport in Charlotte, North Caroline, the first thing I smell is fried chicken. Welcome to The South. There's a Bojangles Chicken and Biscuits right next to the gate. It made me a little sick to my already malfunctioning stomach. I walked up and down the terminal and almost everything was deep-fried or otherwise greasy looking. Except the gelato, but I didn't think that would be a good idea. I settled for some weird bagel sandwich.

After I ate that, I went to sit outside the gate to wait. The man sitting next to me has a gym back which says, "The 17th Annual Greater Horseballs Invitational Golf Tournament." I just didn't want to know. Someone else can google it. Some other redneck waiting at the gate had a Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird t-shirt on. Don't even ask me about the "Freebird Syndrome."

The plane from Charlotte to Florida was only about 2/3 full, so I got another window seat next to an empty seat. It was a really short flight and we got in early. As I stepedp from the plane to the Jetway, I got a blast of hot, humid air. Ugh.

It was around 9:30 and the airport had pretty much shut down for the night. Not for the same reason Burbank's airport does, which is because it's too close to residential areas, but just because no one really wants to go to this Buttfuck Nowhere part of Florida. Part of the floor in the walkway from the central area to the exits was cordoned off with industrial fans blowing on it. The area smelled like someone had spilled a giant barrel of Vicks Menthol Vap-O-Rub. By the time I hit the restroom and got to the baggage claim, our bags were already coming off. Trust me, for this airport that was an anomaly.

I grabbed my bag and stepped out into the warm, humid, 10PM air. I was outside less than 3 minutes when I got bitten by my first mosquito of the visit. (It will not be the last.)

Welcome to Florida.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Metro Journal: May 28 National Bad Day Day?

On the 780, the guy who was sitting behind me was talking on his phone to someone, recounting how he had had a car accident the day before, so he was riding the bus. He asked the person what would happen to his car insurance, since this was his second accident in 6 months. Seems this time the bumper (not sure if it was front or rear) got completely broken off, so they would have to weld it back on. He was waiting for the estimate, but was guessing $2500. Anyway, apparently he's already paying $1020 every 6 months for the insurance on his Ford Focus. I didn't turn to look at him, but he sounded like he was maybe in his late 20s or early 30s, although, well, hard to tell, but that sounds like an awful lot to me. I guess the person on the other end said his premium would likely double. He didn't sound too happy about that. He said maybe he could afford $1500. Um, get used to riding the bus, buddy.

While I was waiting for the 207, some guy was walking down the sidewalk asking where the DMV is. It used to be at that corner, but there had been a sign up for a long time saying they had moved to some other location. I guess the sign is gone now, and, well, I'm waiting at a bus stop. Why the hell would I memorize the location of the DMV?

On the 207, I see a car that has been pulled over at the northwest corner of Western & Fountain. Then one that was pulled over on the southwest corner of Western & Fountain. Further down Western I see another police car and motorcycle. Wow.

(Sometime last year while I was waiting for the morning DASH at Hollywood and Argyle, an LAPD officer (Hollywood is just a district of the city of Los Angeles, although I think I said that already) pulled over a car at the stop. While she was writing down license plate information, two giggly young Japanese tourists with their cameras out walked up to her and asked if they could take her picture while she was writing the ticket. She agreed. I often wonder if that was the high point of their visit to the U.S.)

Did I mention my nerves this morning were still more shot than Dick Cheney's hunting companion's face?

I got some better news this afternoon, so I was less cranky. The porn shop on Western which has "Got Porn" on one side of their sign now has "Honk If Your A Zombie" on the other side. I'm guessing a lot of Harvard English majors don't end up working in porn shops in Hollywood, or the signs might use better grammar.

The 780 at Hollywood & Western left while I was waiting for the crossing light. Oh, well. Then, right next to the sign, I realize there was a man handing out copies of the Watchtower in various languages. He was talking to two people so he wasn't pouncing on other potential converts, but a woman walks up and, lo and behold, actually asks if he has a copy in English. I was floored.

As I've mentioned before, though, during the evening rush, this line, which is supposed to run every 15 minutes or so, can go anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes between buses. I phoned my Aunt Mary (is there anyone who doesn't have an aunt named Mary?) but the next 780 was there in about 5 minutes. And since it was so close behind the last one, it was more empty than not.

The woman behind me, who had seemed relatively normal in the second I glanced at her before sitting down, started making these kind of grunting noises. I began to wonder if she should have honked at that porn shop and whether she was considering what sauce to use when she ate my brains, but then she said, "Hang on a second." She was just on her cell phone, apparently grunting her agreement as the other person nattered on. Then she switched to another call. Eventually she told that person she had lost her phone on another bus. (Pause.)

"You did? What did they say?" (Pause) "Call me back."

I started to wonder if the person on the other end had called the other phone and this woman was asking what the person who answered that phone had said. Anyway, she switched back to the other call after leaving that person holding for about 5 minutes. She switched between a couple other calls along the way.

I was knitting since I had a seat to myself and I was still too spaced to concentrate on the rather dense 18th century horror novel I've been trying to read. The author randomly capitalizes words even more than I do. It's simple knitting, so I just stared out the window, noticing things, like the ducks swimming in the Los Angeles Drainage Ditch, er, River, and the small health food shop in Atwater Village which has not the normal single L.A. County health rating sign posted in the window, but two of them, side by side. The Department of Public Health inspects restaurants, or any place that serves prepared food, and then assigns a letter grade based on their score. The establishment is required to display the letter in their front window. I don't know why this place would have two, but it looks pretty bad when a health food store ends up with a 'B'.

We caught up to the previous 780 in the left turn lane from Los Feliz to Central. We even ended up passing them. I just don't understand how that works. I did also notice that that bus was significantly more crowded than ours was.

Unfortunately, this is prematurely to be the last entry. I leave town tomorrow for a family emergency.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Metro Journal: May 27 Not In Service

This morning I had excellent timing, never waiting more than 2-3 minutes for a connecting bus. I knew I would miss the DASH, so I got off at Western. When I got off the 757 at Melrose and walked to the crosswalk, waiting for the light I saw the westbound 10 coming! I crossed, gloating because it was a morning of perfect timing, and then I look back at the bus, which was stopped at the light. "Not In Service." I walk the rest of the way to work, not getting passed by any westbound 10s.

I got some unsettling news from my mother in the late afternoon. It left me rather dazed. I walked out of the gates a couple minutes after 6, and as no one was waiting for the DASH, I figured I was SOL, and began my dazed walk towards Western. Halfway there I was passed by a west/northbound DASH, although somewhat suspiciously its headsign was not turned on. I needed to move, anyway. I spent more time looking down at my feet than usual, and had to force my head up to pay attention to my surroundings. And even with all that time staring at my feet, I still had my daily sidewalk faceplant near-miss.

The 780 was pretty crowded. I ended up sitting in the very back in the corner, which I usually eschew, but I just wanted to limit contact with humans as much as possible. The seats directly in front of the back row sit perpendicular, with their backs to the windows. A man sat in the seat right in front of me and pulled out a rather gross-looking sandwich. I normally have this thing about smelling other people's food, particularly in places I don't want to smell other people's food (don't ask what happens in the microwave on the floor my cubicle is on at work), and today in particular, my stomach was already unhappy. Sandwich man got off a couple stops later, only to be replaced by a couple, the woman in his vacant seat and the man right next to me. They were speaking Spanglish and their non-stop conversation was just grating on my fried nerves. A few random phrases in English I managed to pick out, in spite of my best efforts to ignore the human race: "He wanted to beat her up." "She's an ok person."

After an eternity of torture, they finally got off.

When the 780 got to my stop, the back door opened on this gaggle of giggly teenagers and their mothers. We're talking total mob. The sidewalk is rather wide at that point, but the slow-moving group was impassable.

I have this thing about sidewalk etiquette. Most sidewalks in my area are what I call two-laners, wide enough for two people walking from opposite directions to pass each other, usually without issue. What really annoys the hell out of me is when two people are walking side-by-side, and don't make room for someone to pass them either from in front or behind. When I'm coming up face-to-face with this type of situation, I play Sidewalk Chicken. I have a deceptively mild face, but dammit, I'm not stepping into the grass to wait for your rude asses to pass me. I will stand my ground. Or rather, walk my sidewalk. This is something I am acutely aware of not doing to people when I'm the one walking with another. Unfortunately, it's one of those inconsiderate behaviors that transcends age, sex, or culture.

Inconsiderate giggly teenagers and their equally inconsiderate mothers? Not In The Mood.

They were just lucky I was too wiped to start using my excessively-politely-insulting "Excuse me" voice.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Metro Journal: May 23 Private Feline Transportation


I drove my car to work for the first time in a month, because I had to drop off my Super Fuzzy Butt cat (not her real name) at The Best Little Cat House in Pasadena for her third annual kitten clip. I am not making any of this up. Except for the cat's pseudonym.

(Super No-Longer-Very-Fuzzy Butt helps take pictures of my knitting for Ravelry)

[Pictures added by popular demand. Well, one person asked.]

Metro Journal: May 22 BYOC?

The last woman to get on at the same 780 stop as I do sounds like she's paying in nickels. She's there forever and I hear dozens of the things going in. I'd say pennies, except the machine doesn't take pennies.

On the 207, a white-haired man gets on around Sunset. He's got a camera bag and a "I am a tourist in case you couldn't tell" man-purse slung around his neck, and he's carrying a rather large suitcase. And a folding chair. He's having quite a time with it all, and another passenger has to help him by holding the chair. Then he doesn't even sit down. He stands behind the yellow line. He brings his own chair (and there were more than plenty open, even at the front) and does not sit down. He does, however, get off at the next stop, and the laborious process is reversed.

Transit TV has a headline reading, "China sends emergency relief to quake-hit pandas." With these headlines, and I don't know what wire feed they get them from, they print the headline and then the first sentence of the story. (In this case, people who normally gather bamboo to feed the pandas obviously have their own problems, so the pandas are in danger of starving.) Very often the first sentence does not at all explain the headline. I'm not saying they're mixing up headlines and opening sentences. I'm saying that a lot of these things seem to be written by people who were never taught not to bury their lead.

Every morning I religiously check the weather forecast. You have to if you're going to be spending large periods of time walking or standing outside, which are sometimes required when you ride the bus. Thursday's forecast was for cooler temperatures than Wednesday's (getting into the mid-60s F). Friday and Saturday had a possibility of thunderstorms, which in Southern California only happen a couple times a year. So I bring a fairly warm jacket. I don't need it in the morning, because it already seems warmer than the forecasted high. I walk a couple of blocks to a restaurant for lunch, and it was trying to drizzle. It was also much cooler than it had been at 9AM, but the sky was still more clear, just with occasional dark clouds. At 3 I walked across the lot for my afternoon foofy drink and it was definitely not raining or looking too ominous. Then, around 5, someone points out the window and says it's raining. And indeed, it looks fairly wet out, and there is no longer any sunshine peeking through the clouds. I think, crap. I had no umbrella, because it wasn't supposed to rain until the next day, and besides, the sky was very clear and the sun rather warm when I left home in the morning.

I decide this constitutes a RideShare emergency. I need to leave before it starts pouring in earnest.

As I'm waiting for the elevator, a co-worker is on his way out, too. We discuss the wacky weather and how I'm leaving a little early so I don't get bronchitis twice in one year (ok, that was my mental rationalization, but anyway), he asks where I live, I tell him, he says that's right on his way because he lives in Pasadena (which borders Glendale's east side) and I get a free ride! And he gets to use the carpool lane! Yay!

We talk about some of the weird things people will do on the bus, the kinds of things "reality TV" shows could never begin to capture...

Metro Journal: May 21 What Brown Can Do For You

A woman is handing out Yet Another Religious Tract at the corner of Hollywood and Western. Fortunately she's talking to someone else and can't multi-convert, so I am safe. I see that someone has abandoned their copy on the 207. The booklet cover reads, "What does God expect of you?"

As we're waiting at a red light, I see a rather elderly-looking lady seriously hustle down the block to get to the stop. She makes it, of course, but especially since she wasn't out of breath or anything when she sat down, it was rather impressive.

When I get to Hollywood and Melrose, there are enough people waiting for the westbound 10 that I decide to wait for it. A woman at the stop keeps looking at me and smiling. I smile back, but I'm starting to get creeped out. She comes up to me and she says it looks like my hair is very fine, and that I could thicken it by using natural henna. I should put a raw egg in there to keep it from drying out my hair, though.

Regular bus riders quickly pick of the skill of identifying buses on the horizon. While you can't always know if it's your bus, particularly if a lot of lines stop in the same place, you can at least have hope. While all the Metro buses are about the same height and width, there are so many models of varying age that some are easier to mistake for trucks and so forth than others. The Rapids are mostly newer, and there are some particularly new ones which have nice, bright headsigns. I have mentioned before, though, that while Rapids are supposed to be red and the Locals are supposed to be orange, sometimes they get swapped.

What really annoy me are the UPS trucks. (Unless it's one parked outside my home and delivering a package for me.) They are about the same height and width from the front as a bus, and the orange running lights on the top are the same orange color. When the light outside is failing, it can be especially easy to think it's a bus. Then you realize it's brown and your hopes are dashed. That's what Brown can do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Metro Journal: May 20 National Convert-A-Heathen Month

Even though the stop kitty-corner from my closest 780 stop is still closed for the road construction, most drivers have been letting us off a little further down the block, before they close off the right lane, rather than make us ride a couple more blocks until the next stop. Those entire 2 blocks are also under construction, so it's not like the bus can just stop past the intersection. This morning's driver didn't, though. There was an elderly Armenian couple on the bus, and when the driver didn't open the doors when we were stopped at the light (so we could, what, walk through the pile of gravel to get to the sidewalk?), the woman started making plaintive noises at her husband which, because of their pitch and the way she was dragging out the vowels, reminded me for all the world of Beaker from the Muppets. The husband responded to her complaints by pulling the cord half a dozen more times. I have no idea how that was supposed to be effective. Anyway, we were forced to get off a couple blocks down the street.

The crosswalk sign was red for the light that was green, but the husband just immediately started crossing. More noises from the woman. He was the only one who crossed, so he had to wait an entire light cycle for each direction for his wife to join him.

On the 780, at one stop a woman poked her head in the door to ask the driver if the bus stopped at Hollywood & Highland. It did, so she herded a young woman on the bus, explaining to the driver that the woman needed to get off at Hollywood & Highland but didn't speak any English. Of course, that last fact didn't prevent the woman making travel arrangements for her from reminding her in English that when she came back she had to take the Rapid. Highland is the stop after Vine, so I have no idea if she did in fact get off at the right stop.

By the time the bus got to Hollywood and Western, I was cutting it pretty close for the DASH at Hollywood and Vine, but I just didn't feel like going down to Melrose and Western and then either walking half a mile or waiting for another bus, so I risked it. And cursed every red light between Western and Vine. I did make the DASH but literally with a minute to spare.

Oddly enough, I was the only person on the DASH when it left. The driver told me my eyes are the same color as his baby daughter's. I've ridden during his shift enough times that he knows I work at . He tells me he'd like to work there, maybe building stuff. I said I have no idea how that works, although I think it's a union thing. We also talked about how unreliable a paycheck that kind of thing is, as shown by the tons of crew people who didn't have work when the writer's strike shut down production.

I got out of work just before 7. Two co-workers and I had gone to an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ place for lunch, and I think we all ate more than all we could eat. It was also one of those places with the grill built into the table, and apparently our technique was lacking as one of the employees came to help us out moving meat around for a couple minutes. In the end it also took us a long time to eat more than all we could eat. At any rate, I got to the stop a few minutes before the eastbound 10 was supposed to be there, but I was almost 10 minutes and no sign of it. I wasn't sure if I had just missed it or what, but even though the sun was still visible, it was sinking fast. I got cranky and just start walking toward Western, poking my head out at each bus stop. 3 stops later, the 10 appeared.

The 207 showed at the Western stop before the 757, so everyone waiting walked up to the 207 stop. Just as it was about to open its doors, the 757 appears on the other side of the intersection. The 207 looks kind of full, so I go back to the 757 stop. Another motivation for doing that comes from the fact that most of the 757 buses are much newer than the old locals. I always thought my butt had adequate padding, but after sitting on several seats that were so old that the foam had been compressed into mush, I will opt for newer seats.

The 757 is a Rapid, so it only stops at major intersections. A woman somewhere behind me on the bus was having a loud conversation with someone else about how her stop was coming up... oh, we didn't stop. I'm not sure if she knew she was on a Rapid or what the difference was or maybe was just the type to get on whatever bus opened its doors in front of her. The woman had already come up to the door next to me and when we stopped at a light at Santa Monica and the driver didn't open the doors, she called out asking if he's going to stop. "What happens is, when we get to the stop, I will open the doors and then you can get out."

The 757 stop is kitty-corner from the 780 stop. When I got to the other side of Western, someone tried to hand me yet another religious handout. I said no thank you, and he said, "Ok, God bless you then. Jesus loves you." Except there were more of them on the other side of Hollywood Blvd. I artfully dodged the one who was eying me, though. Seriously, is it National Convert-A-Heathen Month or something?

I only had to wait a couple minutes for the 780. While it was only an hour later than I usually ride, not only was it fairly close to empty, but after the Riverside stop there were only three passengers. Then after the stop at the Americana (this brand-new foofy don't-call-me-a-shopping-mall complex with foofy, higher-end stores, adjoining the Glendale Galleria) we were down to two. The other passenger got off at the next stop but someone took her place. When I got off at my stop, she was the only person left.

In the meantime, Transit TV had a blurb about how rapper DMX was accused of trying to dodge a hospital bill by using a fake name. Now, does that mean he did or did not give his name as "DMX?"

Metro Journal: May 19 The Tot Whisperer

Morning: 780 goes by across the street, etc, etc.

Evening: I get out of work after 6 and other than having to walk to Western, I don't have to wait long for a 207.

There's an "adult video" shop on Western just north of Santa Monica Blvd. The sign, the kind with the removeable letters, reads, "Got porn?" How very clever.

Three mothers with toddlers come and go. One of the kids has one of those I'm-sure-they-won't-realize-they're-on-a-leash-because-it's-disguised-as-a-stuffed-animal-backpacks on. He and his mother get off at Sunset and while we're sitting there waiting for the light to change, I see that the mother is the one getting led around, straight into the McDonalds at the corner. The Dog Whisperer would tell the mother not to let the dog, er, kid lead, but make him walk alongside.

The wait for the 780 is also short, and mercifully, the bus is less than half full the whole way.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Metro Journal: May 16 Where Will I Spend Eternity?

I had to be at work 2 hours early for a training course. I am just not a morning person. Then I realize, hey, around 7:30, there aren't as many cars on the road to annoy me. Then I realize I'd be driving home somewhere between 4-5. My father has a truism, and it's actually one of the few for which I have never seen evidence to the contrary: on Fridays, everyone drives two cars home from work. I take the bus.

The rundown: wave bye-bye to the 780 from across the street. Know I will miss DASH so get off at Western.

While I'm waiting at the corner of Hollywood and Western for a southbound bus, an elderly woman approaches me, sticking a pamphlet under me nose. She says something is Spanish, then says, "In English." The cover of the pamphlet says, "Where will you spend eternity?". I smile politely and shake my head.

What is it about me that makes people think my soul needs saving so badly? Or maybe they're just too afraid to approach the people whose souls clearly do need saving because they're so damned scary-looking.

That evening, the 780 takes forever to show. I'd been waiting about 25 minutes (I could tell because another Hollywood-Wilshire DASH passes) when a woman who'd been there when I got there said she'd been waiting 30 minutes. It finally shows up about 5 minutes later and is full-to-bursting. Plus it was such a hot day that a lot of people smell a little rank. I get a seat at the next stop, but the person next to me smells a little rank.

Anyway, I already know where I will be spending eternity: at a bus stop, waiting for a bus.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Metro Journal: May 15 Perfume: The Next Terrorist Threat?

This morning I got to the stop for my first bus 5 minutes early. That bus also got there 5 minutes early, or maybe 25 minutes late. And, as I saw another one go by 5 minutes later while I was waiting for a 780 (having once again waved bye-bye at one from across the street) I'm pretty sure it was the latter, which is extremely odd for a line that is very rarely running late.

There are 2 long slab benches at that stop. I sit on the only street-facing part wide enough to accommodate my not-unreasonably wide hips, which means I'm between a pile of leafy detritus on one side and on the other, a spot of... something.

Now, I have this thing about personal space. If situations are crowded and someone sits right next to me, that's fine and normal. If there are two 6' long slab benches and no one is sitting on the other one, please stay more than 4" away from me. Kthnxnbai!

But, no, a man who is probably nearing 60 sits down right next to me, on the leafy detritus. Then he pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and says he'd like to share something with me. I sense another Watchtower coming and start to consider my exit options. He opens the paper and I can see it's an email that has been forwarded a number of times.

Now, the only emails that get forwarded with headers intact more than 2 or 3 times are either links to YouTube videos of teenage boys practicing their lightsaber skills or they are dire warnings meant to inspire panic in the public, one forwarded email at a time.

The email in this man's hand was the latter. He insists on reading it aloud to me while he underlines the words with his finger. The email warns that so far 7 women have died after sniffing perfume samples. I knew they shouldn't have let Britney Spears make her own perfume! Anyway, all women are supposed to throw away any samples of perfume, lotion, make-up, etc., that they receive in the mail because they may be poisoned! The government knows, of course, what's going on and suspects it's a new terrorist attack, but the news doesn't cover it for fear that it will cause widespread panic. (Like that would stop the media.)

This thing reeks of "urban legend.". One of my former roommates knew every urban legend in the book, and after I got him an encyclopedia of urban legends, then he really did know every one in the book. But back on the bench I just smile and thank the man when he finishes. Saying anything else would have sparked a painful and prolonged conversation, and the naproxen I had taken earlier had only just started making a dent in my sore neck.

(I checked when I got home, and sure enough: or )

He says, "God bless you," and mercifully moves on to save the next hapless woman. When the next bus, a 181 comes, he gets on, ensuring my short-term safety from the gullible do-gooders.

You have to admit, though, that that email makes a pretty good rationalization tool for men who want to approach and save all of us defenseless females from our vanity.

Anyway, I ended up waiting at least 15 minutes for the next 780.

I get out of work at 6 and as no one else is waiting for the DASH, I start walking to Western. A 207 shows up, so we all walk up to that. While both the 207 and 757 stop at the northwest block of Melrose and Western, the 757 stops just past the intersection but the 207 stops halfway up the block, so you'll see this swarm of people moving between the two depending which line is coming. The 207 shows first, so we all hike halfway up the block, but it's really full and then just as the 207 is opening its doors, we see a 757 stopped across the intersection at the light, so a bunch of us hike down there. We only get there a minute ahead of the 207 (a Local, so more stops) but there was more room, and the 757s are much newer buses so the foam on the seats still has some padding qualities left.

The 757 stops kitty corner from my 780 stop. The light to cross Western is green when we get there, but while waiting for the light to change so I can cross Hollywood Blvd, I notice that the orange Local bus at the stop isn't really an orange Local bus. It's a Stealth 780! The Metro Rapid buses are usually red, but occasionally a Rapid will end up on an orange bus or a Local on a red one. It can be very confusing when you've become trained to expect a specific color and then stop paying attention when it's the wrong one.

But, of course, the Stealth 780 pulls away just as the light changes so we can cross the street. And it takes awhile for the next one to come.

Metro Journal: May 14 What You Borrow You Must Repay

This morning I was just in sync with bus time. Except for my first bus, which is usually on time so I was deliberately early, I did not have to wait more than about 2 minutes for a bus. I ended up taking 4 because I wouldn't make the DASH and I was too lazy, er, concerned that the bright sun would burn my arms as I had forgotten to put on sunblock. Door-to-door, less than 50 minutes.

Apparently that good timing thing works on the debit system as I had to wait about 15-20 for both the evening DASH and the 780.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Metro Journal: May 13 Uh, could you back up a half-mile? Please?

I had one of those mornings where I got to wave at a couple buses from across the street while waiting for the cross walk. (See yesterday's post concerning Bus Car Person rules.) I finally get on the southbound 207 and then promptly space out. Two people behind me are talking loudly about electric foot massagers, so I don't hear the announcement for the Melrose stop. Next thing I know I look out the window, don't recognize anything, and the voice announces the next stop is Beverly. Crap. I get off, watching for the Hollywood/Wilshire DASH which comes this way going north, and start walking back to Melrose. Crap. I'm tired and cranky and already running late. Someone tries to hand me a copy of the Watchtower. Double crap. I should also mention that this walk is up a slight incline. My shins are the first to notice. I get to Western and Melrose, and enough people are waiting for the westbound 10 that I decide I'm waiting for it, too. And it comes in a couple minutes.

I don't leave work until 6:30, but which time the DASH has "officially" stopped running. The last stop in front of work is supposedly 6:26, but, um, this is the DASH we're talking about here. I see the eastbound 10 I thought I got out just in time for drive by, so I start walking. My head is apparently still in low Earth orbit, so it actually goes quickly. The 207 comes a couple minutes later.

While I'm waiting at Hollywood and Western for the 780, I start to try to apply Einstein's General Relativity to buses. The 780 is technically supposed to come every 15 minutes at that time of day, but it can not only seem longer, but according to my watch be longer. It's like, the farther they get from their starting point, the more time stretches and the distance between the buses expands until... ok, that's just not working. And to deliver the death blow to my theory, the 780 shows and then two cars behind it, another one. I get on the first one, because the second one gets stopped at the light and a bird in the hand... I've seen them leapfrog stops sometimes when they're in tandem, and this bus still has a couple seats open anyway.

Oddly, this bus opens its doors at random places when it's stopped at a light, nowhere near a regular stop. Someone actually gets out at one. And I'm not even talking about what would be stops for a 180 Local on this route. Just... odd.

Metro Journal: May 12 Once Burned

I heard 5 distinct languages on the 780 this morning: Armenian, Spanish, some form of Chinese, Japanese, and English. Although I think the only English I heard was the automating voice announcing, "Next stop, blah," and, "Stop Requested. Please use rear exit."

Now, about that rear exit thing. I can sort of understand the elderly people who sit near the front using it, but I've seen perfectly able-bodied people walk from behind the rear door up to the front door. Then you have people waiting to get on, and if they're really obnoxious and short-sighted, they won't even get out of the way of the people trying to get off. You get gridlock. Morons.

Anyway, a man with a gig bag for an electric guitar strapped to his back got on at my stop. He also got off at Hollywood and Vine. *Every* person I've seen on the bus with a guitar strapped to their back gets off at Hollywood and Vine. The difference is that, while these people are usually dressed like heavy metal wannabes and in their early 20s, this man was probably late 30s and wearing a tweed-y suit. And instead of long, unkempt, black hair, he had a receding hairline.

There's a woman who stands at the corner of Hollywood and Vine passing out leaflets for a tour bus. She is there almost every morning. I have been getting off at that corner for most mornings for almost a year, and she still asks me if I'm a tourist and would I like to take a tour.

In the evening, I'm standing at the DASH stop when another employee comes out. I tell her about my DASH disaster Friday night. We decide not to waste time waiting and start walking down to Western together, on the lookout for the bus. Once bitten, twice shy. We get to Van Ness and see an eastbound 10 coming, so we cross. At the crosswalk with the light.

Now, I've seen more than one idiot jaywalk in front of a city bus. I've come up with my own variation of Rock Paper Scissors. I call it Bus Car Person. Only rule: Bus Always Wins. Plus, if you get hit by a bus when you're running across the street to catch your bus, you're probably going to miss your bus. And probably many, many buses after that, unless you're referring to the slang term for an ambulance.

The 10 is really, really crowded, so we're forced to stand near the front and still have to fight our way out to get off at Western. We don't have to wait too long for the 207. We talk about the, um, excitement of being a bus-rider, and I mention that I'm blogging my experiences this month. She asks if she can read it, so I give her the URL. So, if you're reading this, hi, Shirley!

She gets on the Red Line at Western and I wait for the 780. I think the rest of the evening must have been uneventful, because I can't remember a thing and had forgotten my notebook at home.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Metro Journal: May 9 St John's Urge

This morning Richard asks me where I've been since I hadn't taken the bus all week. I explain that I ended up taking different buses because I was running about 5 minutes late every morning. He asks if I'm going to do anything with my mother for Mother's Day. I say, no, she lives in Florida. "Oooooh! Florida! You're from Florida!" I explain that we moved there from Iowa. "Ooooh, I grew up in Des Moines! Where in Iowa?" "Sioux City." "Ooooooh, we played them in football once when I was in high school!" He almost misses two stops. People have to remind him to stop.

When I got on the 780 and start walking back, I see a golden retriever's head sticking out from under a woman's seat at the front. I'm going, what the hell is a dog doing on the bus, and then realize the woman is holding the hand of the woman next to her, speaking sign language into it. The other woman is also carrying one of those visually-impaired white walking sticks.

When I left work, there were two people waiting for the DASH (they didn't get on the 10 when it passed by) so I figured it was safe to wait, too, as I was a few minutes past the scheduled arrival, but it was probably just running a couple minutes late, too. Another westbound 10 goes by. Two eastbound 10s go by. Two southbound DASHes go by. Still no northbound DASHes. I stand there well over 25 minutes, more than enough time for one to come, then give up and start walking to Western. I stop at each DASH stop and poke my head out to see if one is coming. At one point I see a bus's headsign that looks like it could be a DASH, but no, it's another westbound 10. Oh, wait, there's another headsign right behind it. No, another 10. Oh, wait, there's another headsign right behind the second one. No, yet another 10. Scores:

Westbound 10s: 5 Eastbound 10s: 2 Southbound DASH: 2 Northbound DASH: 0

When I get to Western, waiting for a northbound Metro (two lines run it), I keep an eye out. Still no DASH. By the time my bus comes, it's been 40 minutes since I left work and not a single one.

I'd love to say this is an anomaly, but the evening DASHes are notoriously unreliable. And unless you're watching and start flailing your arms when one goes by, it will just go by. I am not joking. This is a favorite topic when a couple of us are out waiting for one. I'm almost considering getting a flare gun to see if that's what it takes.

Anyway, when I sit down on the 207, the guy in the seat behind me is rifling through a plastic grocery bag. I realize he's making a peanut butter sandwich, because I can smell the peanut butter even without turning around.

There's an urgent care center on Western that, for as long as I can remember, has had the lights in the last half of the sign out. So instead of reading, "St John's Urgent Care Center," it just says, "St John's Urge." I like it. It would make a cool band name. It makes me wonder exactly what St John's urge would have been.

Some teenager gets on the bus and apparently just start shoving money into the machine, apparently without paying attention. The driver asks him what he's doing. "You can't just stuff money in there. Be careful! Be careful!" The teenager sits near the front, trash-talking with his buddy. There's a kid with his mother right across the aisle. Even with the string of four-letter words that occasionally pops out of my mouth, it always bugs me when people do that on the bus. At least have a little respect before you start talking shit around a kid, you fucking asshole. When the dumbass gets off, the driver tells him, "Be careful! Be careful! You gotta be careful!"

When we get to Sunset, the driver announces, "LAST (2 second pause) STOP (2 second pause) HOLLYWOOD (2 second pause) WESTERN (2 second pause)." Even though the bus is half-full, strongly implying that he's clearly going to stop there no matter what and shove our butts off ths bus if necessary, this announcement still prompts one woman to pull the stop request rope. Now a dumbass teenager doing something like that I could understand...

He makes the same announcement, the pauses getting a little longer each time, a couple more times. I don't think he had to shove anyone off physically when we got to the last stop.

The 780 is predictably full. I end up sitting in the first empty seat, which was near the back, where 3 or 4 teenagers are sitting, talking about what ethnicity of restaurant has the hottest women. I just don't feel like trying to ignore this conversation at that point, so at the next stop when someone getting off frees a seat a couple rows ahead of me, I move to it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Metro Journal: May 8 Where's New Cork?

Someone else must have noticed they had too many Disney trivia questions on Transit TV. Occasionally they're in Spanish, like one this morning which I didn't get a chance to transcribe. I can't actually read Spanish, but between words that are similar to their French and English counterparts, and the rest from context, I can figure most of it out. This morning's was roughly "What fusion musical group appeared on the record "Unplugged in New Cork" by Nirvana?"

Their typo, not mine. And I think I know enough that "New York" translated into Spanish would NOT be "New Cork."

Oh, the answer, of course, was the Meat Puppets. Seriously, how are these things ending up on Transit TV?

This evening was mostly uneventful, except for the old man sitting near me in the back who was talking the whole time. A young man near him was nodding and smiling at him, but he was also wearing headphones. I doubt the old man noticed or cared. At one point, we stop behind another bus (a 181) and the old man gets up and moves to the door shouting, "Tell them to wait for me!" He gets off just as the 181 bus moves away, incredibly despite the fact that he's waving his cane and yelling for it to stop. So, he shrugs, turns around, and gets back on the bus.

And I also made it door-to-door, including the .25 mile walk from my last stop home, in 1.25 hours. A little longer than normal for mornings, but a rarity in the evening.

Metro Journal: May 7 Get On the Bus or In Front of the Bus?

Yesterday (Wednesday the 7th) was just not a good day. I woke up achy and thus somewhat distracted, and somewhere between getting on my first bus and my second bus, I lost the plastic badge holder in which I keep both my employee ID and my bus pass. I didn't find this out until I was reaching for it in the pocket of my bag I keep it in while getting on the second bus, and it wasn't there.

Fortunately I had correct change. I sit down and go through every single pocket in my backpack at least 3 times. It did not magically appear at any point. I went through the normal stages of grieving, except maybe not in order. Disbelief, acceptance, then I went back to denial and went through the bag again.


Having had one prior experience with the Metro lost and found, I know that my chances of every seeing it again (dude, free pass bus!) are overshadowed by the likelihood of my winning the lottery on the same day I get struck by lightning.

So, I got to work and got a new ID (they charge you; the woman asked if I wanted a new picture, and as crappy and stressed as I felt, I told her I didn't think I really looked any better this time than for the first picture). The RideShare coordinator was out, though, so I'm not sure what to do about the pass. I'll just buy a day pass today. I won't even begin to tell you how crappy the work day itself was. I also left my laptop on my desk when I left (why is my bag so light? Oh...) I totally lost my patience at some point, and I'm not sure I didn't also lose my mind.

In the evening, while waiting for the DASH, a co-commuting co-employee told me that he also had an experience with damaged Metro property the night before. He takes the Metro Red Line (light rail), and apparently one of the two tracks was damaged, so they could only run trains in one direction at a time. They sat for 25 minutes on an overfull train at the Hollywood and Highland station waiting for the southbound trains to pass. Fun.

While I was waiting for the 780, I saw someone stick a current day pass in the scaffolding that covers the sidewalk at the stop and walk off. (They're building enormous luxury apartments over the Hollywood & Vine Metro Red Line station. They've been digging at least a year, and the only structure so far is of some steel girders.) He was apparently done with it but nice enough to leave it for someone else. I had my $1.25 in my pocket so I left it for someone else, I read my book a little, looked up, and it was gone.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Metro Journal: May 6 (PM) For Safety Reasons...

By the time the 780 got to Atwater Village, I was thinking it was going to be a totally uneventful evening commute. Around that time I heard a bang in the back of the bus, but it sort of sounded like someone slamming a window closed and so I ignored it since I was close to finishing my book. At the Los Feliz/San Fernando stop, the bus actually stops, and the driver walks to the back. He then has everyone in the back couple rows move up "for safety reasons." Fortunately the bus wasn't too crowded by then so there were enough seats. I still couldn't see from where I was sitting, and there was someone in the aisle seat so I couldn't really get up and twist around, but I'm too cool for that anyway. And I was trying to finish my book.

Well, the bus stayed stopped and the driver was radioing in and everything. I thought I heard something about someone throwing a rock and some broken glass. Anyway, the next bus shows up and so we all get off -- it was only a 181 but I was close enough to home that I didn't really care -- and as I walked by the window I got a close up view. Turns out on these newer buses at least, the side windows are two panes of glass, with about 1 or 2 inches between them. Well, the outer pane was a total cobweb with a baseball-sized hole near the bottom. But whatever they had thrown had hit so hard that the inner window also had a small chunk taken out of it.

No one was hurt, but on the 181, some guy was asking the woman from my bus who had sat next to him (the 181 buses are several rows smaller than the 780 buses) why everyone had moved to that bus. She explained, and he said that must have been very traumatic for her! I don't think she was sitting anywhere near the back of the bus at the time and the most traumatic part for me was that I was stuck next to the window below the steps and I couldn't rubberneck.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Metro Project: May 6 (AM) Detour Fun!

On Los Feliz in Atwater Village, this woman is standing at a 180/181 stop wildly waving at the bus driver and yelling.

Now, the 780 is a "Metro Rapid" bus, which means it doesn't stop every two blocks like "Metro Locals" like the 180 and 181. The 780 overlaps the 180 and 181 routes from about Eagle Rock (further into Pasadena for the 180) until Hollywood and Vine, where the Locals stop, but the 780 keeps going. The Rapids tend to stop only at intersections with other major lines. Consequently the ride is much faster and also smoother when you don't have to stop every two blocks. From my stop, I can watch a 180 go by and wait 10 extra minutes for a 780, and still get to my Hollywood stop before the 180 does.

Anyway, the woman is most definitely not at a 780 stop. Then I realize we're about to make a left turn where we don't make a left turn. (I consider later. Perhaps the 180 and 181 actually went past this stop because they have to make a left turn at the intersection... In that case the smart thing to do is walk the two blocks back to the last stop and wait there, where it can still stop on the right side of the road and get over the two lanes for the left turn. This was a young-ish woman and consider how vigorously she was waving, it's not like she would have been physically incapable.) Anyway, I look to see why we're turning. The police have the westbound Los Feliz lanes blocked off with cars and yellow tape.

Anyway, the last left turn before that goes down a residential street, and since everyone is on the same detour, it's slow. We make it to Glendale Blvd, but Glendale diverges from running parallel to Los Feliz at this point, and because of the layout of the Los Angeles Drainage Ditch, er, River, I can't think of an easy way to get back up to Los Feliz. Actually, Interstate 5 would have worked, but anyway.

Oh, wait, Riverside actually intersects Glendale, so we make a right. Cars are totally backed up. We actually pass a 181 and another 780 on their right sides. I realize there's no way that the bus could make its normal Riverside/Los Feliz stop. If they haven't marked the detour, some people are going to be very unhappy. Actually, at this point I'm pretty unhappy, too, as there's no way we're going to make the DASH now.

As we're waiting to turn left back onto Los Feliz, a passenger walks past me (I'm sitting about in the middle) and goes up to the driver, asking if this is the bus to Fairfax and why we're not on the right route.

Driver: "If you'd been paying attention, you would have seen the police were blocking off Los Feliz." (Cranky!) Passenger: "Well, I wasn't paying attention."

There's some stuff I can't make out, then the passenger starts walking back to his seat, saying, "Just pay attention and drive, bitch." (The driver was male.) Driver: "Shut the f*ck up." The guy keeps up his posturing and bitching (who's the bitch?) all the way to the back. Another logic breakdown on his part: telling the bus driver to pay attention when the driver was the one who had noticed the road was closed in the first place.

Ok, even though we're going to miss my bus, this makes up for it in sheer entertainment value.

It's still not clear to me if this was a planned street outage or not. I'm too lazy to check the Metro site for scheduled detours, because it's not accurate most of the time anyway. I think the last time I checked, it listed about 3 stop closures due to construction for all its lines. Um, that's about half the number closed in Glendale alone on any given day.

I get off at Western right as the southbound 207 starts coming down for the stop. A timely red light and I make it exactly. I get off at Melrose and start walking the half mile to work. It's kind of a seedy area, but I don't mind during the day because there's plenty of traffic. I would never walk it alone at night, though.

When I'm still a couple blocks from work, a DASH stops next to me, even though the next DASH stop is a block away. I guess the driver recognized me, knew where I got off even though this isn't the direction I usually come from, and was nice enough to stop for me. I was fine walking, but since she was being so considerate, I got on, and actually made it to work the same time I would have if I'd gotten my regular DASH.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Metro Journal: May 5 Nice Bus Driver! Niiiiice Bus Driver!

I missed my "short cut" bus, so I took the line that meets the 780 at the post office. Except that corner was completely cut off because they had literally closed half the road. They hadn't posted a "This stop will be closed on these dates to due this, that or the other" signs like usual. Even the bus driver seemed surprised. So, because they had about a block of street closed in either direction from that intersection, we went to the next regular stop, 2 blocks past the one I wanted. Which would have been fine, except I was almost a block away when I saw the 780 go by. I would have made it fine if it hadn't been for the construction. Bastards.

The 780 is supposed to run every 15 minutes, a little more often during rush hour, so if the next bus was running in time with the one I missed, I shouldn't have to wait too long. And the next one was actually there only 5 minutes later.

Traffic on Los Feliz was kind of bad so we lost time, but I was pretty sure I would get to the DASH with a few minutes to spare, so I didn't get off at Western. Of course, 3 blocks later traffic gets really, really bad on Hollywood Blvd. The 780 stops just over one block, but 3 intersections away from the DASH stop. I knew I was going to miss the damned DASH, because we were stopped at a red light at Vine... so I go to the front and ask Mr Bus Driver very nicely if he'll let me out here so I don't miss my DASH. He doesn't say anything, waits a second... then opens the door! Yay! I got to my DASH literally a minute before it left. I would definitely have missed it if I had waited for the 780 to get to its stop.

On the way home, I was across the street waiting for the light when that 780 came. I just knew I was going to miss the thing again. The light changed and I rushed across... and the bus hadn't left. Some guy was standing at the door talking to the driver. She had just closed the door and started rolling when I got there... and she stopped and let me in! Yay!

Oh, the raw power of the city bus driver...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Metro Journal: May 2 Is This Vine?

The bus I try to take to connect with the 780 was running about 10 minutes late, but so was I. This is near the very end of a very long route for it, so the standard deviation for "on-time" varies a fair bit.

The same driver is always there. He asked me where I'd been the last two days. (I'd just missed the bus Wednesday, waving bye-bye as it went down the block.) I explained how I took the Metrolink to Anaheim, and we started talking about public transportation and ride share problems. That ride is usually less than 10 minutes. The rest of the morning commute was fairly uneventful.

When I get on the DASH to go home, there's this large guy in a black motorcycle jacket who asks, "Is this Vine?" The driver says, "Not yet. I'll tell you when it's Vine." He starts laughing for a long stretch at... nothing apparent. It sounds something like the laugh of someone on nitrous. Maybe he just came from the dentist. He asks, "Is this Vine?" at almost every stop, and every time the driver tells him not yet, but she'll let him know.

Metro Journal: May 1 Travelall! Travelall!

Today was a little out of the ordinary, since instead of work I was going to Anaheim for a software vendor's sales pitch, er, "forum." But I still took public transportation (what, and spend 2 hours on the 5 each way?) so here's the story.

I missed the bus that goes straight to the Glendale train station because I Suck. But I had allowed enough time so I took a different bus to the closest 780 stop, which also stops a few blocks from the station. There was a female security guard on that bus eating yogurt and talking a storm about the stupid things people do at the hospital where she works. Note to self: don't get sick.

Walking down to the train station from the bus stop, I only had to ask once to make sure I was going in the right direction! Actually, I had to ask twice, because the first person didn't know. Close to the station, I passed what turned out to be a collision repair shop. I noticed it because there was what looked suspiciously like, no, really was an International Harvester Travelall parked along the fence!

My father worked for International Harvester headquarters in Chicago when I was born. We had one of these when I was really young, and I can remember when we would take road trips, my parents would put some blankets in the back cargo area and it was big enough and I was small enough that I could just stretch out back there. I always look out for them now, but I hadn't seen one in about 5 years. I didn't have time to stop, but I did make the last Metrolink train I needed to make which would still let me catch the Metrolink to Anaheim at Union Station. I only had to ask once to make sure I was on the right side to catch the train to Union Station! (I was and was pretty sure I was, but I didn't really have time to be wrong.)

One of the little warehouse fronts along the tracks going toward Union Station was for "Hot Fat Fashion, Inc."

At Union Station, I only had to ask once to make sure the Metrolink to Oceanside was the one that stopped in Anaheim! I got on with about 10 minutes to spare. A person who got on after I did had black hair with a thin mohawk ridge about 12" high and dyed bright red. He was dressed, well, professionally by some standards, with a red dress shirt, black pants, and black-and-white striped vest. He went upstairs to the second level of the train.

I guess I should explain Metrolink trains. They use Amtrak tracks and routes to connect neighboring counties and the outlying suburbs in Los Angeles County and most converge on Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. They are for commuters and generally run only during rush hours. They are nice, clean trains, a little expensive especially compared to buses, but for people with ridiculous commutes they make perfect sense. Round trip from Glendale to Anaheim was $13.75. 10-trip passes are cheaper and monthly passes are even cheaper. But considering the gas even a fuel-efficient vehicle would waste parked on Interstate 5 at that hour, it's a very good deal.

Riding the train, I guess "Travelall" stuck in my head somehow mashed to the tune of They Might Be Giants' "Triangle Man." I haven't been getitng enough sleep and the deprivation is starting to fry my brain.

From my door to Anaheim station: 1 hour 45 minutes. From Anaheim station to the Disneyland Hotel, about 2 miles away, where they are holding the forum: 30 minutes.

There's an Orange County bus that stops at Disneyland from the Anaheim station, but it was stopped in the middle of the parking lot. Someone else waiting for the bus said the driver had hit a pedestrian walking out from between cars (the parking lot there is laid out stupidly, really) and although no one was hurt, it was going to take at least 15-20 minutes to get a replacement driver out. I had figured on probably taking a cab anyway, and one pulled up and as the person was getting in, I snuck my nose in and asked if they were going to Disneyland. I'm psychic, and the guy had some software geeky logo on his bag, so I was right.

It took maybe 5-10 minutes to get to the Disneyland entrance. The remaining 20 minutes was spent waiting to get anywhere within the complex. Meanwhile, our Bangladeshi driver is telling us how not only gas prices are hurting taxi drivers, but also the chain restaurants popping up everywhere around Disneyland, so tourists will just walk to dinner or take a much shorter cab ride. He then goes on to talk about political corruption in the Middle East, how democracy there is a joke because the population is for the most part undereducated and easily controlled by strong-arm tactics and other corruption. He makes some comment about politics here, mentioning how some politicians will use anti-homosexual rhetoric to get power (he didn't seem homophobic the way this was phrased), but when he moved on to the topic about how the prices at Disneyland are absurd and that the park takes advantage of people that way, he adds, "But you know it's owned by Jews." Okaaaaaay..... My co-passenger was doing much like I was, just occasionally nodding and occasionally trying to change the subject as quickly as possible.

The ride back: My co-worker who was also at the forum gave me a ride to the Anaheim station. The train rides back were not at all exciting, but I did stop to take pictures of the Travelall. Turns out they had two, both clearly non-operational as they had extremely expired license plates.

On the bus from the Glendale station home, the driver was hitting on a clearly regular passenger. "When are you going to take me vacation with you?" They somehow get on the topic of family, and he tells her how he would be afraid to go to his own mother's funeral, because he's sure that a hand would pop out of the coffin, pointing at him and shaking her finger. He describes the woman as "vicious."

Most MTA buses have flat panel TV screens and show "Transit TV," a combination of local news, occasional shorts, commercials, and occasional static-screen factoids and trivia. I'd say about 75% of the trivia questions are about Disney characters. This leaves me rather shocked when the following comes up:

Q: "51.84 Mbps is the transfer rate of which broadband communications technology?"

Uh, what?

A: "OC-1"

I'm still trying to write down that question when the next one comes up:

Q: "What kind of tails did a gang of aborigines freeze, use to beat police, then eat?"

Hello? I mean, I know I'm really tired, but, what?

A: "Kangaroo tails."

I'm starting to think someone has hacked Transit TV. But then it goes back to normal, with some pithy quote from some dead person, and then the next trivia question is totally de rigueur.

Q: "What was the name of the candlestick in Beauty and the Beast?"


Metro Journal: April 30 Where's the Fire?

Ok, I started a day early, but on the evening ride from work to Hollywood & Vine, there was this total dumbass on the DASH talking to a friend of his on the phone, and I couldn't resist recording the experience for posterity.

He was probably in his early 20s, and one of those people who use the word "like" every third word. And he was name-dropping. Apparently, he, like, saw Jeremy Piven, but he was, like, shooting a commercial, like, for muscular dystrophy or, like, something. you know.

In the wee hours of the morning of April, the oh-so-swanky (I've been told -- like I'd know) nightclub The Basque, on the northwest corner of Hollywood and Vine, caught fire. I usually take the Metro 780 all the way to Hollywood & Vine in the morning and catch the DASH to work, but that morning I knew I was just going to miss it, so I got off the 780 at the stop before, at Hollywood & Western, and hadn't seen the damage. The facade over the second story didn't look so bad, but there was still a fire engine parked in front over 12 hours later, and of course you had people with cameras and tourists and so forth gathered around, so when I finally got a glimpse of the ground floor, the doors and so forth, yes, it was rather charred.

The aforementioned passenger went totally spastic when he saw the thing. I guess he doesn't read the news. (Ok, I hadn't heard either until a co-worker told me that day, but even I'd forgotten about it until the guy started flipping out.) He gets up and runs to the back window of the bus like his own butt was on fire, and he's practically yelling into the phone. Paraphrasing here: "Like, dude! I don't know if they were like filming something or like what but there was like, it like exploded!"

Like, what a moron.

Intro to the May Metro Experiment

I've been taking public transportation to work most days for the past 10 months, the time I've worked at my current job. Most days are relatively uneventful, but sometimes even the little things are entertaining. Or perhaps I'm just easily entertained. At any rate, I decided to document my experiences for a month, and April was so weird I was sad I missed it but figured it was time.

If I could figure out a way to keep specific places more anonymous, I would, but it would end up being too hard to do, making the language too awkward. I live in Glendale and work at a motion picture studio in Hollywood. There, I said it.

Note: I tend to read while I'm on the bus, although I sometimes knit if I have a seat to myself and the book is boring me. Both activities are liberally salted with just spacing out. I also rarely put on headphones unless I'm knitting or someone near me is having a particular obnoxious conversation. (I'll try to skip the headphones altogether this month, as that's sort of what I'm after, unless I'm too cranky and the conversation is in a language I don't understand anyway.) I have had maybe 3 cell phone conversations on the bus in the past year, but I do use my BlackBerry occasionally. I plan on otherwise mostly continuing my regular bus activities, but I have a small notebook I use to jot notes and try to document the best quotes before they exit my brain. I tend to a small amount of paranoia, so I try to be surreptitious about it without being overtly sneaky-looking.

On most days, I can be door-to-door in an hour in the mornings. Driving would usually be at least half that and leave me cranky, to boot. Evenings, though, it tends to be closer to 90 minutes. I've had nightmare evenings where it was even worse, but because none of the Los Angeles MTA light rail lines go near my home, I am stuck on buses and they are at the mercy of street traffic.

Another note: I called this the "Metro Journal," but the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (aka, "Metro") is only one of the bus lines I use. It goes between the major incorporated cities in the area around the city of Los Angeles, while most of those cities also have their own smaller lines for travel within their city. I usually take a DASH bus, a line run by and within Los Angeles proper, from Hollywood Blvd to my actual place of employ. (Hollywood is an "administrative district" of the city of Los Angeles, the occasional separatist movement aside.)

Disclaimer: While I may make occasional, potentially negative remarks about some of the providers of public transportation in Los Angeles County, my opinion overall is mostly positive. I own a car so I have the option of not riding the bus. The vast majority of passengers are reasonable people who are just trying to get from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss. I also know that everyone, passengers and bus operators, have their bad days and I try to take that into account. Of course, if all the buses always ran like clockwork and all the passengers were always quiet and normal, there wouldn't be much to write about, would there?