So today on the bus....
visual: Bright green avocado-colored lululemon jacket over a pair of gray, uncomfortable dress slacks, my purple backpack and my neon Vans rush down the block in the early morning hours. Jury Duty called and it is my civic duty to answer...for the bus I wait, to make the hour trek downtown.
My blackberry google application reads 1 hour and 12 minutes for my bus trip from Brentwood to the Criminal Justice Center in Downtown LA. I get to take my bus, the 720 and then transfer to a number of options listed.
If you will recall, I do not transfer. I never have transferred. And, today is the big day!
I trek to the bus before the sun is up. I wait at my normal stop in front of my 711 Convenient Store. The bus arrives right on time and I take a deep breathe for the long route ahead of me. I jump on, pay my toll and wish my bus rider a good morning. He has slicked back hair, a black jacket and a black and white herringbone scarf around his neck. He looked great and so suave. I let him know he has some great style.
The bus is quite empty, so I pull out the phone to see what my next stop is and what bus I should transfer to. I have no idea, so I approach my fancy bus driver for guidance.
He is the most helpful man in the World. He informs me that I will get off at Broadway and which bus to take thereafter. He even goes as far to say, "Don't worry, I will let you know which stop".
Sigh. I go back to my seat up front to sit comfortably and ride easy.
Not too much commotion on this bus this morning. Before 7am, not many people are out for a great conversation, much less awake. It is interesting going through the different neighborhoods. Observing Brentwood to Westwood, from Beverly Hills to Hollywood into Downtown; LA is full of such different pockets of life.
As we dive deeper into Downtown, my classy bus driver shouts that this is my stop and that I should head to the local bus 45. I thank him and exit his bus.
I google how far it is to actually walk to my final destination and it read 1 mile - I figure I have the time and I will save some change. The neon Vans start walking.
Alas, those neon Vans walked the wrong way. I have zero sense of direction. ZERO! Even with the Blackberry GPS, a flaw I have acknowledged fully and accepted. Another perk to riding the bus, I am not driving. It is really a perk for the World and everyone on the road.
So, I make the executive decision to wait the 2 minutes for this local bus number 45. I wonder if this bus is only .75 cents? I peek around downtown as I wait, which is rather disheartening. Our downtown in the city of Angels needs some real work. I love the streets with the tall buildings, rushing traffic on one way streets, and the somewhat older architecture. However, it definitely does not live up to the Petula Clark song, "The lights are much brighter there, You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go, Downtown, things'll be great when you're Downtown, no finer place for sure, Downtown, everything's waiting for you". Come one LA, pick up your game!
The number 45 arrives and I jump on. I ask, "how much?" and my driver responds, "$1.25".
Shucks, to go one mile!? I let go of another five quarters and jump on my transfer. A step of triumph as I step into the smaller bus - I find my seat up front. After a couple stops, it is one of those buses that stops EVERY other block, I ponder if I really could have walked faster. Then again, I am in no rush whatsoever to play the waiting game at Jury Duty, so I just ride.
An older and very obese woman with a walker flags down the bus. She is groaning and moaning with every single step. She almost goes in to a full on wail as she sits down in the seats across from me. I stand up to help her with her walker and she gives me an acknowledgement moan. The entire ride she is grasping her shirt at her heart and just reeks of pain. I literally fear she is going to have a heart attack on this bus. I smile at her and ask if she is alright? She starts speaking to me about something I definitely cannot understand and then looks forward to our approaching stop.
She pulls the tab with the utmost of effort - my same stop, as I was just wondering if I should call the hospital for her. She walkers off the bus groaning and moaning and moves slowly on her way.
I rush off to Jury Duty after my one hour and 17 minutes of bus travels, including one transfer. I feel accomplished and rather impressed with myself and the bus system. I am on time and it was somewhat easy to transfer with the help of my drivers!
....Jury Duty. Civic Duty Served. Lengthy Case. Rescheduled. Back to Bus....
On the way home, I am ready this time, bring on the two buses, 1 transfer, and over an hour of public transit travel. An LA Police Office points me in the right direction to my first bus. I wait at the stop and upon bus arrival, I inform the driver where I need to go. She is a larger woman full of knowledge. There are detours, different bus routes, and options for transfers - and she goes into a full on explanation about what each will entail. Impressive, but not answering my question. I finally ask her in the nicest of ways, "will this get me to the 720 stop on 5th and Grand?".
She says yes and helps me the entire way. Another amazing bus driver getting me home. I do appreciate it and I thank her when I exit to my transfer. Really, these bus drivers rocked the house today. Kudos to Metro HR, kudos!
I cross the crosswalk to the recognizable sign for the Rapid 720 bus stop. I wait for the hour ride home in 5pm traffic, feeling okay about having just rescheduled my Jury Duty to April. The bus arrives, is packed and I jump on. There are men in seats with buckets of flowers to sell, a guy closer to the back with a basket of umbrellas for sale as there is the smell of rain in the air, and some loud iPods blaring out of people's ears as I pass through to the back of the bus.
I find an open seat next to a young woman and sit with my backpack in my lap. I am so far from my normal route that as we are trucking along , I do not recognize anything at all. I lean over and ask the young girl if she knows what cross street we are on and she says nothing and stares out the window. Oh, okay.
So, we sit in silence until her departure. As she exits, a wonderful old man with a large hat, crunched shoulders and hearing aids leans down and sits next to me.
I am in the midst of powering through a couple work emails, as I have been out of commission for the past couple of hours and my previous bus friend was in no talking mood. I finally put the phone down and look up to the older gentleman. I greet him and ask him how he is doing.
He looks over slowly and responds that he is great. He points to my Blackberry and says, "I don't know how to even work one of those things".
I tell him he is lucky! I some times forget that these should NOT be attached to one's bodies and I had to put it down so I could even focus and speak with him. He smiles and explains that he does not even own a cell phone. I return his smile and ask him how he knows where to meet people or how he connects with his friends daily?
He smirks and points to us both and says, "we are connecting right now. Just like this".
A rush of warmth rushes through me and I tell him, "You are very right, sir".
He chuckles, pointing to his hearing aids and says, "I can't hear a damn thing anyways. Cell phone would be a waste on me".
I laugh with him and we connect. We truly connect.
I come to my stop and wish him well. We shake hands and I rush off into Beverly Hills towards my work.
A long day of bus travel, I look back on past events. My amazing bus drivers that got me exactly where I needed to be. My first experience transferring and it not being bad, at all (minus the added fare cost). The obese woman with the almost-heart attack to my non-talkative bus-mate, followed directly by the lovely old man with no cell phone and hearing aids. My civic duty that I half served and will have to do my adventure bus trek back and forth again in the near future.
And finally, how if we just put the Blackberry away, remove the iPod and quit the emails for a moment, then and only then can we really truly connect.
What a day. On the bus. What a day.