Monday, October 29, 2012

Living Car-Free in L.A.: Strangers on the Street

Black & White Los Angeles, originally uploaded by olasis.
Working from home these days, I'm feeling a little lost. I need to be out and about, talking to strangers, observing them on the bus, to see the stories that constantly surround us. Los Angeles can be such a sprawl; community seems hard to create and the unknown is overwhelming, but walking and taking the bus, I'm constantly surprised at the level of care people give each other.

This morning, I jog-walked my usual route around the neighborhood, getting dirt and stones in my shoes from the rocky path up Sunset. I paused as usual, just past a bus stop, to shake the debris out of my shoe. A teeny-tiny woman with dark, curly hair approached me. She looked in her late 50s, and was clutching a crumpled piece of notebook paper.

Gesturing to the bus sign, she spoke a string of Spanish, from which I heard "El dos," the number two bus. She asked me how to get to a street I didn't recognize, via the siete sesenta y uno.

I was so excited to recognize numbers from high school Spanish (Gracias, Señor Leavell), I forgot where the 761 stops. The woman and I exchanged a few minutes of that brain-beating conversation where neither one understands the other, so you keep repeating the same facts, when an angel of the Metro pulled up in her big Orange bus.

I popped my head in and, in the middle of explaining the three things I knew about the woman and where she needed to go, the driver waved me aside and told the woman to get on board. "I'll take her to the 761," she assured me.

As I started jogging downhill, the bus pulled away and passed me, the little older lady standing directly behind the driver, clutching the rail with one hand and her written directions in the other.  I feel like I left her in good hands, but wish I could have done more. Like learned Spanish.

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