Monday, June 23, 2008

Metro Journal: June 23 The El Segundo Special

I get to go down to El Segundo all week for a technical training course, and because I'm taking public transportation, you get to read all about it! Well, the trip itself, anyway.

(For clarification during the following, you can consult the Metro Rail Map. Note that this map bears little semblance to geographical reality, but it sure looks pretty!)

Probably 90% of the time you can plug your start and end points into and get "the right answer," but this wasn't one of those times. I knew the training course site was 2 blocks away from a Metro Green Line Station, but Metro's Trip Planner wasn't putting me on the Green Line and was telling me it would take me at least 2 hours to get there in the morning, so I worked backward, and came up with a possible time of 90 minutes.

Which would have been possible if (a) I wasn't always running late and (b) I triple-checked all my stop names.

The first official leg of the trip is a Commuter Express from the Glendale Park & Ride to Downtown Los Angeles. The Park and Ride is about a half a mile from my home, although not as the bee flies. I sort of knew there was a Glendale Beeline that stops a couple blocks from my home that would get me near the stop, but I think I missed it by 2 minutes. So I walked. It's not the distance. It's the fact that we're coming off a 100+F weekend and even at 6:45AM it's still almost warm. But I'm fine. I just didn't know which corner the bus stopped on, but I asked someone and she told me. Told me I was kitty corner from it. But I got on the right bus.

This Commuter Express is run by the LADOT (the City of Los Angeles's DOT) and is basically one of those coach tour buses. Nice and comfy. And full. The woman next to me was talking to the man across the aisle about all those boring things people who don't really know each other talk about, like gas prices. I crocheted, and tried to stay away from her peeling bare shoulder.

There's nothing to announce stop names, but I was watching the street signs. When I see that we've hit Flower, I get off. Except I didn't realize there were two stops on Flower St., one at 3rd and the other at 7th. I wanted the one at 7th. Guess which one I got off at?

Ok, it's just 4 blocks away. Actually, it's 5, because some dumbass stuck Wilshire between 6th and 7th, although apparently without adding a regular city block's distance. Anyway, I had a Marilyn moment when I was walking over a subway exhaust and my skirt went flying. Oops. And it didn't seem like a Marilyn skirt, but I kept it under control, and the only woman who seemed to notice gave me a sympathetic smile.

I found the 7th St Metro Blue Line station and got in a minute before my train left. I didn't really need to panic, because this is the terminus station so it wasn't like I could get on in the wrong direction, but still.

The Blue Line runs at ground level down to Long Beach. I got off at the Imperial Highway station, which is where the Blue Line intersects with the Green Line. The Green Line runs above ground level, alongside freeways most of the way that I was on. And while I did have the choice of two directions that time, I picked the right one: Redondo Beach. Which made me think immediately of the Patti Smith song about the suicidal lover.

When I got off the Green Line and walked down to street level, I wasn't sure which direction I needed to go in, so I asked a woman. She pointed me in the right direction, then started going in the other. A young man told me he was going that way. He said it was brave for me to take the train someplace I wasn't familiar with. I'm not sure if that's an insult. I said I was just taking this route for a week, and I had researched everything, but nothing had said which side of the street the Green Line station was on. Turns out he takes the train from Baldwin Park. That's one of those places which I can never place mentally on a map. It actually is way-the-hell east, though, farther than Glendale. I said I wished I could take the train more often, because the bus is at the mercy of traffic. He pointed out that because the Blue Line runs on ground level, it can cause problems, like car accidents on the tracks. At least buses can take detours.

At any rate, I got the place with plenty of time.

We get out right at 5. The last Commuter Express for the line I need leaves 7th & Flower at 5:50, though, so it was unlikely I would make it. I didn't.

The Green Line was really crowded. I ended up having to wait about 10 minutes for the Blue Line. A young man somewhere behind me in the connected car was visiting from Italy. He was telling a man who had the laugh of someone who has been smoking for decades that he wanted to be a breakdancer. They talked about rap music, how everyone everywhere wants to be a rapper, in India, in Saudi Arabia. The young Italian said he knows that you go to his home, Italy, for the best pasta, but for the best rap, you go to America. The gravel-throated man asked if he knew who the first rappers were. "Run-DMC?" "No, James Brown. Ella Fitzgerald. Scat. It's all about the flow."

I missed the Commuter Express by over 15 minutes. I had already researched a backup plan. The 91 and 394, which go through Glendale, stop at 7th and Hill, about half a dozen blocks away. When I got out to the street, I asked a man for the direction to Hill. He asked the man next to him who pointed the way, then explained that he had just gotten here from Brooklyn so he didn't know where anything was yet.

I got to Hill and started waiting. Next to a totally rank trash can. (I mentioned that it's been freakin' hot, yes?) Nothing. Nothing. Wrong bus. Wrong bus. A 90. The head sign said "Olive View Hospital." (Don't ask me about Olive View Hospital.) Hmmm.... I was pretty sure the 90 stops on Glendale Blvd, but I can't remember. I asked the driver if this bus goes to Glendale. He said some stuff I couldn't hear very well (this is a busy intersection in downtown Los Angeles during rush hour, after all) and then he said something like, "Where do you need to go?" "Just anywhere in Glendale." I can't remember exactly what I was thinking, but I got on. If this bus was going to Butt-Fucking Sylmar from downtown L.A., odds were it went through Glendale. And I really wanted to get away from that trash can.

After I got on, I realized I was one of Those People. Those People Who Have No Idea What Bus They Want To Be On Or Where The Hell They're Going.

After I sat down, I checked my Blackberry. Yes, it looked like this line did, in fact, go up Glendale Blvd. I could get off at Broadway and take whatever 180/181/780 came by first to my regular evening stop.

We drove up through Chinatown. I noticed that the standard Metro "How to wait at the bus stop without getting hit by a bus" rules came in a Chinese version at one stop. I had only seen English and Spanish.... neat. We got on the 110 North... good sign, that meant Pasadena or Highland Park... Off at Avenue 26. I got a tour of the Highland Park area of the City of Los Angeles. So far so good. Then I saw we were on San Fernando Road, then I see... the corner of Forest Lawn Cemetery. Or I guess it's a Memorial Park. We took a right onto Glendale Blvd. Yay! I got off one stop further south than I needed to, but walked up to Broadway, got on a 180, and I was golden.

Door-to-door: 2:15. Ouch. It didn't feel that bad, though. I got a lot of crocheting and a lot of mind-wandering done. Maybe tomorrow if I know I won't make the evening Commuter Express, instead of going to street-level to catch a bus at the 7th St station, I'll get on the Red Line, go to Union Station, take the Gold Line to Pasadena, get off at Lake, and then take the 180 or 780 west... 4 colors, one trip! In theory, I could take the Red Line in the opposite direction, get off at Hollywood/Western, then take the 780 east as usual, but ew... Plus then I'd still be missing a primary color.

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