Friday, January 23, 2009

Metro Journal: Jan 23 Uphill Both Ways In The Rain

It was raining this morning, for real. I had a dentist appointment about half a mile off from my regular route, so I walked (uphill) to my regular stop and got on the first bus that came, one of the Locals. It didn't matter; they all stopped about the same place, and the time difference waiting who-knows-how-long for a 780 would have gotten lost in the short distance. Actually, we did get passed by the 780 about two blocks from where I was going to get off, but we caught up to it waiting to make the left turn right before the stop. There's a Glendale Beeline that goes straight up to the dentist's office, but it doesn't run but every 20-25 minutes, and rain throws all bus schedules out the window, so I started walking, uphill, in the rain. (I did bring an umbrella, because, well, I plan ahead. And I need to keep my backpack overfull.)

After the dentist went scrape scrape, grind grind, vroom vroom, I went outside, didn't see a Beeline, and started walking back toward Broadway, still in the rain, still uphill. Well, maybe not. But as I had taken a Local this morning, I had to walk further to get to a 780 stop. Of course, a 780 went by when I was still 2 blocks from the stop.

A young man got to the stop a couple minutes after I did and asked if these buses would take him to Hollywood and Highland. I told him the 780 would. He said he was from New York, so he was used to the subway. I gave him a quick run-down of public transportation in the Los Angeles area, because, well, that's what I do. He hadn't known there was any kind of light rail. He asked how hard it would be to get back to LAX. "Um, well, it would be several buses." I told him to take a shuttle. Right before the 780 finally came, he asked where he should get off. "Oh, this one will take you right there," I assured him, and that as long as he left before 8PM, he could take the same bus straight back.

Once again, the bus was pretty full. I ended up taking a seat near the back and pulled out the book I had just started reading. The man I had sat down next to asked if it was fiction or non-fiction. I told him fiction, and he said he seemed to end up reading mostly non-fiction now, like Obama's book. I told him about the Gertrude Bell biography I had just finished, and we walked about Iraq, the election, the inauguration (he had almost gone but had to cancel at the last minute, with regrets). He's the editor of the on-line paper The Scoop LA, which covers mainly entertainment, although he had added a commentary page for current events.

We both got off on Western, but he went for the Red Line, and I went for the southbound buses. A 207 was already sitting at the corner... and sitting, and sitting... It was in one of the ancient buses which, instead of a ramp that just flips out for wheelchair access1, has an elevator-type contraption to carry the chair up the steps. This contraption appeared to be stuck in the "outside the door" position. No one was on the elevator, but it appeared that it could not retract completely. The bus was full of people, and they should have been able to get out the back door, but it was closed and no one was making a move for it. A 757 showed up about a minute after I got there, and I would have expected the driver to open the back door for people to switch buses, but that didn't happen. Oh, well.

I walked from the Melrose stop, in the rain, uphill. Well, ok, it's pretty level.

Although it rained pretty steadily most of the day, it had finally stopped when I left. I went out front to wait for the DASH. Another frequent rider was there and said he'd been waiting about 5 minutes, so I stopped to wait. A southbound-DASH went by about 10 minutes later. "That's not good." The other one2 apparently had just been going south right before I came out. I said, "Um, I think I'll just walk to Western."3

The northbound DASH got to the Western/Melrose corner right as I did, but I decided to take my chances waiting for a bus there. I ended up only having to wait about 2 minutes for a 757. It wasn't very crowded, but there was a man standing in front of the middle door and texting on his cell phone.4 After the one person behind me had gotten on, the driver closed the doors, but then reopened the exit. The man didn't look up from his phone until she had closed the doors again and started pulling away. "This was my stop."

Ok, if you want the driver to pay attention to you so you have any chance of getting them to get the door open and let you off before they've pulled away from the curb completely, you need to give it some volume, use some force, and keep it simple. I can bellow a pretty good "Back door!" myself. This guy needed serious practice.

He walked up to the driver, still looking at his cell phone screen, and said some things I couldn't totally make out. The driver had a much more commanding voice, and told him she had opened the door for him twice. I heard him say that she must have seen there were people still running for the bus and she should have stopped for them.5 She told him that she was 30 minutes off from Wilshire. Wilshire is about 1½ miles south on Western. Even if she had been exaggerating by 200%, that was still butt-slow, and I realized then that we were still moving really, really slowly. Traffic really was awful. She told him he had already wasted her time and everyone's on the bus. Yes, still fiddling with the cell phone, he apologized and sat down.6

For the second night this week, I tried to take a picture of St John's Urge. Technically, it's an urgent care center, but the lights for all the letters after the "Urge" part have been out since I can remember seeing it, over a year. Tonight's picture is a little better than the first one, but even that took a lot of amateur tinkering in the GIMP.

I had to wait a fair bit for the 780, which was semi-crowded, but I got on, got a seat near the back, and spaced out.

1 I'm not sure how it is managed construction-wise, but on the newer buses, the doors and at least the first section of seats are right about curb-level. The old, old Metro Locals have 3 actual steps to walk up, and I've been behind many a slow person who had difficulty maneuvering them for one reason or another.
2 They run in pairs, one going north and one south, in theory.
3 In the rain, uphill... ok, neither.
4 The 757 uses those accordion buses, which actually have 2 "rear" exit doors because they are so long.
5 Seriously, if every driver waited until every person running for their bus got on, most buses would never leave their first stop.
6 It's not entirely clear to me, but he seems to have annoyed her long before the stop where I got on.

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