Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bus Transfers, My Civic Duty, and Real Connections

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.


  1. transferring was frightful the first time i did it; before the metro cards; back when you gave a waitress a token for a tip and with was worth twice as much: "Oh, man, i was wondering how i was going to get home! Thanks!"; even here where you get a free pass from the subway.

    i read your article in the la paper. i'm a new york transplant; so the subway is my second home. great story, will follow.

    i blog on the sub: it has given me a record of my life that is invaluable :)

    take care

  2. Dear Fellow Hoosier, You are awesome. Your point is loud and clear and I wish that others would follow your lead. If we just unplug for a moment, the world seems to open up...

  3. Thanks for sharing your story in the LA Times today!

  4. Dear SOAB (Snob on a bus) - I love your blogs! . . . . and your description of what you're wearing. Fashion is always important.

    I live in NYC and have not owned a car since 1972. Love busses. But put down your crackberry!

    Activities to do on a bus: knit, read any book on LA history/architecture, quick draw images as you pass by, learn Spanish, continue to talk to your fellow passengers.

    If your're ever in NYC, take the M4 or M5 uptown. You'll see the world.

    - Charlie

  5. The story in today's L.A. Times led me to your blog.
    Great hearing about bus adventures in my home town. Looking forward to the ride!

  6. I never read blogs, but now, I will have to read this one. I used to ride buses as a teen to high school the to college as a young adult. I hated it! I always hoped that no one would see me. Your blog has changed my point of view. I need to get back on the bus. Let me know if you need any spanish lessons. Haha :)

  7. I just read about your adventures in the LA Times. I live in the SF Bay area and take a combination of the bus, my folding bike and Caltrain to get to work almost every day. Do you ever take the LA Metro Train I've heard about? Anyway, I have similar feelings about taking the bus. I think it can be a spiritual and enlightening experience, because you learn to be patient and let go of things you can't control. You also must accept all kinds of people. You seem to embody these qualities quite well -- better than I do. Thank you for your blog.

  8. Great article in the LA Times today. I love riding the bus for many of the reasons described in the article. I commuted from Santa Monica to Downtown for two years on the Santa Monica Big Blue #10, and also take the bus around town on weekends. Unfortunately, I am forced to commute in a car to my current job and miss the bus. True, the bus takes longer and is not as convenient, but you can plan around that, and the trip becomes an event in itself.

    I have one challenge for the bus-curious out there: replace one car trip a week with the bus. Something mellow and fun like a trip to the farmers market. Its all about baby steps.

  9. Hrmph. I think this blog isn't about public transit at all; it's about overcoming delayed social development and reclaiming your evolutionary birthright as a nomadic hunter/gatherer. Kudos on hacking your brain: life requires us to be adaptable. 2011: New York by bus/subway/train/ferry. 2012: Europe.

  10. I read the article today in the LA Times today and you seemed so interesting so I looked up your blog. You are such a good writer and you are so entertaining! Your outfits are awesome and your descriptions are fantastic! I am so pleased to know that someone as interesting as you live near me (I live in Burbank, 20 min away from Hollywood/LA)! Thank you!

  11. Loved reading your account of riding the bus in LA in the Times today! My friends think I am crazy for taking the Metro to downtown, but it is sometimes the most memorable part of the trip to Staples Center! A couple weeks ago as I rode it to see Globetrotters at Staples, an elderly Hispanic man whipped out a guitar and serenaded us with Mexican songs and Pretty Woman! Made my day! I love to watch the real people of LA on the public transportation, makes you feel alive and part of the real world!

  12. Read about you in the LA Times. I used to ride the bus right out of college and sometimes I'd take the 720 from your stop (I lived at Wilshire/Brockton, near that McDonalds) to Downtown. It's a really cool trip if you stay on after your stop. I think you go through MacArthur Park in Downtown and you can get off near the big public library. It's a big change of scenery compared to Brentwood/Beverly Hills. :oP :o) I work in Downtown now but live in Culver City and there's no simple route from here so I drive. :o( I miss the days of reading on the bus (I'm not gregarious so I rarely interact with other passengers, heh).

  13. Read the Times, met a girl, loved the feeling. You made me feel refreshed that a young person can connect with the world outside of their pda,phone,computer.

    You will definitely make someone a better companion due to your experiences. My wife and I wish you the best.

    You better have a Great Day!

  14. Like others, got intro'd to your blog via LA Times. I used to say to my friends in OC (I live in Eagle Rock) that they should ride the bus at least once to see a more diverse world. I've commuted via metro, gold line, red line and bus over the years. The hardest part is sweating the timing of the local buses when you have to catch the metrolink trains. Nice to see how you met other people. I'm more introverted so not so much conversation but maybe I will try that next time!

  15. I read your article in the LA times and nearly cried! I just moved from LA because I was tired of taking the bus! You put such an amazing positive spin on it! I totally relate to every word you write! I used to work on Rodeo drive and commute from Santa Monica/West hollywood. (via 720 or BIG blue bus) I'm 21 and couldn't afford the gas and car payments etc. instead of getting a dirt wagon i decided to tell people i was going eco-friendly too! Your blog makes me so happy to have had those experiences.
    The best bus ride I ever took was to griffith observatory. It's free admission and gorgeous! the stop is at vermont/sunset and a trolley takes you up a beautiful hill with cute LA homes. (perfect sunday afternoon bus-date)
    it's satisfying when its actually EASIER to get somewhere by bus then car!

    I used to post this on my friends facebook walls LOL

  16. I enjoy you article in the LA Times, and I congratulate you for been so brave riding the bus every day, sometimes is not easy, you have to be so patient and organized you time with the bus schedule...but I think you doing great, keep going, good luck, take care!

  17. I read about you in the L A Times and want to say you are so cool!
    I'm going to give the bus a shot just because of you.


  18. Awesome blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences; they're wonderful. Driving cars really separates us from each other and reduces opportunities to meet new people. I took all three of my children grocery shopping and thought of your bus adventures as one of my daugthers got her fingers stuck in a shopping cart. So many people offered to help. It's truly amazing what can happen when chances bring strangers together. You have so much to offer in terms of thoughts and ideas. Each new experience enriches you, and it really shows in your blog how you've had evolved to accept people and life, and that there is so much good around. Taking the bus has really made your life significantly richer. Thanks again for sharing your observations and stories most of us isolated car drivers never get to experience.

  19. I'm a retired Superior Court Judge who was called back last year to fill in for a Justice of the Court of Appeals who was not at work due to a long term illness. I live near 26th & wilshire in Santa Monica. We have an RV and use it extensively to travel. I always feel guilty using so much fuel (especially when it's $4 a gal!). So, when I was assigned to the State Bldg at 4th & Spring, I decided to take the 720 to Western and transfer to the subway Purple Line to Pershing Square, 2 blocks from the State Bldg. It was great, I learned a lot about all types of people in our great city. I was a little worried about personal safety (I was a Deputy DA for 14 years before being appointed to the bench, and I sat in a felony criminal courtroom for 12 years). In the 3 months I rode the bus and subway I saw only one gang member He was Hispanic and only 17 or 18 yrs old.. I was standing and he appeared to be staring at me. I hadn't worked Criminal forover 11 years. He was probably in kindergarten when I last sat in a criminal court, so I'm sure he didn't recognize me. Guess wht happened? He offered me his seat! I thanked him and declined...I asked him if I looked like I needed the seat (I'm an avid long distance Mt biker), he said saw my "senior" monthly bus pass hanging from my neck and thought I may need the seat! I told him his parents did a good job teaching him good manners. Try the monthly bus pass it's a real good deal. My senior pass was only $14 per month.

  20. Nice article in the Times! My 14-year-old son (born in South Bend) transferred for the first time on Friday -- onto your 720 -- for a mother's helper job he has. He loved the article, too.

  21. Through both the LA times article and your insightful blog, i feel the bond. My high school and early community college years were spent interacting with LA bus drivers and interesting to cool to frightening human beings. A few things I remember from those bus rides. Me and a girl exchanging amorous glances for about a month that led to neither of us talking to each other. And a man urinating in his seat where he got up and left the bus three stops later all cool like nothing happened.

    My two younger bros have been riding the buses the past couple years and surely will pass along this gem of a blog you have. Thanks 4 sharing Jacquelyn! Cheers!

  22. Saw your piece in the Times. FYI Petula Clark ain't singin' about LA; Downtown is about NYC. Keep riding; keep writing!

  23. Wait -- you don't get transfers when you get on the bus so you can complete your ride on the original ticket? In Seattle, we get at least two hours of travel in any direction for our $2 - $2.25 ticket.
    And I'm with you on loving the bus: it's where travelers ride in luxury, as opposed to the poor folks who have no driver!
    Sixty and Single in Seattle

  24. Hello! I am enjoying reading all of your blogs since I discovered it yesterday thanks to the L.A. Times.

    I have one question. Why don't you buy a monthly bus pass so you don't have to worry about having change?

  25. Read the piece in the Times; read today's blog; read one from 2009. Brief critique: Your youthful enthusiasm is fabulous - open to new adventures, wind-in-your-face, fabulous. Less is more. You could say the same in half the words. Find the meaning; descriptions of people and events are great, but what do they mean to you ... to me? Your blog is public - spelling and grammar count. Otherwise, a fun blog that could, with a little work, turn into a fun book. Good luck.

  26. I've always been a fan of taking the Gold Line downtown instead of driving from Pasadena. For the past 3 weeks, though, I've been adding buses to the mix not just to get to Criminal Court for my jury duty, but also to explore lunch options in the neighborhood.

    I bring all of this up to point out that when you start up with your jury duty again, make sure to go the 5th floor and get yourself a TAP card -- in effect, an LA Metro pass. You'll not have to deal with coins or transfers as long as you have one. And they are free for jurors.

  27. I just wanted to let you know that your blog is great. I have been reading, and my husband just asked what I was smiling at, and I didn't even realize that I was! You just seem like a genuinely nice person, and it's great to spread that around. Keep up the great work!

  28. Like most people here, I had the pleasure of stumbling across your blog via the L.A Times article that was recently published.

    I ride transit everyday between Pasadena and downtown L.A and wouldn't have it any other way. Me and my partner make it a point to explore L.A regularly by transit as well. It's great to see people from all walks of life interact in ways that they normally wouldn't. Transit not only links destinations, but it also bridges communities.

    I enjoyed your blog so much that I read most of your back entries and found myself laughing and smiling throughout. I hope you always maintain your positive outlook and I look forward to reading more about your adventures on the bus. Keep up the great work!

  29. if you need to take 4 or more rides in one day in future, you can get a day pass for $5 (won't need as many quarters that way). you load the day pass onto a TAP (transit access pass), a plastic card that is reusable, on the bus where you would put in your $1.25. there used to be transfers but they stopped offering them a few years ago.

    if you start really taking the bus a lot, more than three buses a day or taking the bus every day, it's worth it to get a monthly pass ($62), which you can also load on the TAP.

    parts of downtown are way more happening! just not near the civic center - next time if you want to wander around you might try near flower and 6th, or a bit east of there at 6th/main area.

  30. two more tips: a bike can really make the bus more pleasurable - much faster to go between home and stop, or stop and destination. you can put your bike on the front of the bus (but warning, there are only two slots so it's possible they could already be full).

    and while it's kind of dorky looking, you can get little pushcarts (you've probably seen little old ladies or Latina moms with them) that you can load your groceries into so you don't have to carry them!

  31. Congratulations on your discovery of public transit, and welcome to the SoCal transit blogosphere.

    I second the recommendation of tigrejones above, and suggest that you grab a TAP card, at least to load day passes on. If you are actually committed to travelling about by bus/rail, having a monthly bus pass makes a *big* difference- you don't have to worry about how many quarters you're carrying, or how many you have to drop into the farebox for a short ride. There are, I'm sure, many local retailers who can get one for you, but the Metro Customer Service Centre at Wilshire/La Brea (off your beloved 720) can most definitely take care of it.

    Also, think about asking your employer about transit pass benefits. Like health care, there's substantial savings in paying for your monthly transit passes pre-tax, and your employer gets a tax break, too.

    Congrats on breaking through the trappings of car culture, and may you find freedom and happiness.

  32. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    I live in Brentwood and go to Lululemon Run Club in BH. I take the beloved 720 too (I'm a little further down on Wilshire/Bundy). I've been riding LA public transit since I moved here in 2003. It's definitely an eye-opening experience. I've seen crazy things but I've also seen really amazing things happen on the bus.

    If you don't want to worry about transfers, you may want to look into getting an EZ Pass at the Metro Customer Service Center on Wilshire/La Brea or the Big Blue Bus store on 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica. It's $70 (only $8 more than the Monthly MTA pass) and you can transfer to/from municipal bus lines really easily. I switch between the Big Blue Bus and MTA all the time.

    If you see me, say hi. There is at least a 50% chance I'm wearing Lulu too. :)

  33. Hi,

    What a great article! I like your blog. I like how you share your experiences of riding the bus.

    I put your blog on my blogroll. I'll be posting your blog entries on my blog from time to time.

    My blog's address is

  34. I read the L.A. Times article. Not impressed. Are Westside transplants really so lame ? I grew up here, but obviously not on the Westside, and started riding the bus to the beach in junior high. Lot's of us did. No big deal. And we don't write blogs about it either. Spare me. Oh and by the way, transferring to the subway at Wilshire/Western is a lot faster. There's a stop at Civic Center, right near the Court House. Anyone from L.A. knows that.