Undeniable Truths of Taking Public Transportation

View of the sky over Culver City from the platform at Culver City Station, Los Angeles. (Photo by Tory Hoffman, 2015)

It’s no secret that most people who use public transit have a massive love/hate relationship with it. On one hand, it’s wildly affordable and it relieves all the pressures of driving/parking/remembering where you parked/paying for parking/hoping your car doesn’t get broken into while parked/setting alarms for the meters because it’s only 1 hour parking/hoping you didn’t get a ticket for anything else/counting sprinting to your freshly expired meter as daily cardio/you’re noticing a theme with the stresses of parking (does that mean I’m a true Angeleno?). But on the other hand, it’s public transit. I could really stop writing the article right there. Love. Hate.

penguin meme

Perfectly acceptable and also expected.

I take one of the LA Metro train lines to and from work, 30 minutes each way, twice a day, 5 days a week, and otherwise occasionally for recreational purposes when it’s convenient. 99% of the time, I have my headphones in, and I sit and stare out the window blaring my Sound Cloud and ignoring everyone around me. 99% of the time, 99% of the people on the train are doing the same. If you’re not listening to music, you’re reading a book, or your nose is buried so deeply in your phone screen you probably missed your stop already.

All this is perfectly valid on most days. However, everyone on the train has a special understanding of the shared experience that is ‘utilizing public transit’ and there are certain undeniable truths about the whole ordeal. This is a profile of “Everyone Normal Who Takes the Trains in Los Angeles.”

The best part of the commute is sitting on the train, watching people sprint and violently hit the side of the train, trying to pry the doors open, as it pulls away. The train is not going to stop for you. While I am a little bit sorry you missed this particular train that seemed so important to you, another one will come in 10 minutes and you won’t have to flatten your face trying to get on it. If you need a positive from the whole situation, think about how much cardio you just did, and how much more food you can eat later because of it (because that’s the only reason anyone does cardio, right? RIGHT!?).

Everyone might pretend to ignore your bike falling down at every start and stop, but on the inside we’re giggling like maniacs. Watching things fall down on the train is a favorite pastime of mine. For some reason, there are some bikers who still believe that simply leaning their bike on the front end of the train is sufficient. Guess what? First screeching stop at a red light and that bike hits the ground. *snort laugh*

It’s actually not cute how loud and scream-y your kids are on the train, and it’s even more not cute how loudly they cry when they fall over. I think this really goes for children in about any public setting, but it’s really not entertaining to the rest of us for your kid to run up and down the isles and pull on our sleeves and yank on our headphones and poke at our legs. And we’re not going to feel any remorse when your poorly supervised child topples over at a sudden stop and starts crying. Put your kid in a seat. If there are none, one of us able bodied adult-children will stand up and give your inferior bodied baby-children a seat. We’re just keeping to ourselves, we’re not assholes.

sitting on bus meme

Trust me, you got time for $2.50

We are definitely judging you if the Metro Officers come through and you don’t have a valid proof of fare. It’s $1.75 or less to ride the train. Just pay for it like the rest of us schmucks. Your excuses never work. “I was in a hurry.” Yeah, guess what, none of us are exactly taking our sweet time in this raging metal circus either. It takes a second to tap your card. Probably faster than climbing over whatever turnstile you had to obstacle through to get in here anyway. “I lost my TAP card on the train.” No. No you did not. I promise. “Oh sorry I forgot.” Probably the most honest excuse I’ve heard, but how. How could you just forget? There are literally signs everywhere and unless this is your first time riding the train, tapping your card is basically second nature in train mode. I’ve seen officers react on a range from ‘please remember to tap your card when you exit the train’ to ‘come with me and handcuffs and $250 fine.’ Just, don’t. (Also, yes we see you, people who see officers and casually “walk” in the other direction, off the train, we see you, and yes, we’re judging you just as hard).

People who have loud voices are the worst. People who have loud voices and have a train-ride long phone call on speaker are the absolute worst. We don’t want to hear about your day at work (no offense). We don’t want to hear about your roommate’s boyfriend’s secret side-chick (no offense). We  don’t want to hear about your last trip to the doctor (no offense). And we definitely don’t want to hear your offensive and vile description of your new “insert obscenities here” neighbors. Please. Inside voices. For everyone’s sake. Inside voices.

If you leave something on the train you will create a silent panicky train car and everyone will stare at forgotten object and hope someone else does something about it. Please remember to take all your belongings with you as you exit the train. Otherwise, we’re all going to sit there and stare at it. What do you do if someone forgets something? See, we don’t know either. No one wants to be that person who picks it up, because everyone else will think you’re stealing it, because no one knows what one would normally do with it. So we’ll just watch it and hope someone important notices, because important people always know what to do.

If we have the happenstance of sitting next to a stranger on the train, it will be weird for everyone when one of us has to leave. If you’re sitting on the inside, and someone sits on the outside of you, your first thought is: “maybe they’ll get off in just a stop or two.” And then as your stop nears, you realize your deepest fears. You’re going to have to ask them to get up. So before your stop you start fidgeting, hoping they get the clue, and if they don’t you kind of clear your throat and turn your body a little toward the isle, and if worst comes to worst, you tap them ever so gently on the shoulder and point ambiguously toward the middle. And if you’re on the outside, you’re being so overly attentive about every movement the people on the inside is making that you’re basically jumping out of your seat every time they move, so you don’t inconvenience them by making them ask you to get up.

Non-public transit commuters get really weird when you tell them you take the train. Is it because I’m poor? No. (Ok, yes, but not that poor). Did I get my license revoked for some reason? No. Is there some omnipotent force that is making me take the train? No. Oh, so how is that? It’s fine, thank you, sometimes it’s weird, but most of the time, it’s fine. Oh my gosh, I’ve heard about the train! Wow, welcome to the 21st century! In other cities in the US trains are common, normal, but nooooo, in Los Angeles it’s weird.

If you have food that smells good, we’re all jealous and secretly hope the Metro Officer comes around. Yeah, just go ahead and eat that greasy, fatty, delicious smelling In-n-Out burger on the train, why don’t you. We’re not jealous at all.

There is a deep satisfaction in hearing that train horn blow and then blazing past cars in gridlock on the road. Because for all the trouble we go through on a daily basis, sitting on a train and (legally) texting, tweeting, blogging, reading, and talking on the phone while you blow past cars full of frustrated people who can’t do anything about their situation is totally worth it. Later suckaaaaaaassssssssss!


Probably not the intended use of this, but I think it works.


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