Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Riding the Bus in Los Angeles

I've made it perfectly clear here that being a VISTA doesn't exactly "get the bills paid," and as such, I sometimes find myself riding the bus to work when I don't have enough cash.

Let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, the metro system I have praised many a time is only one arm in LA's public transportation system, and it's the well-manicured and waxed arm, at that. The bus system? Well, that's like the Hills Have Eyes-arm--it's freaky, it can be intimidating (especially to first-time riders), and to be perfectly frank, if you're white, you're going to be getting some looks.

The first time I rode the bus, I was dressed in a floaty dress, lugging my heavy VISTA bag. I didn't know how much fare was, so I brought a handful of change (since buses only accept exact change) and holding onto it was making my palms sweat and smell like decaying copper. A homeless man waiting near me was fighting an invisible person. When it arrived, throwing dust and particles of street scum, I got on like it was supposed to be a refuge, hurling my body at the closest seat I saw--which happened to be for handicapped people only, I soon found out. I watched the LED sign at the front the entire time as it announced our upcoming cross-streets, for fear I would miss my stop and be left to wander the streets. I ran for my connection, only to find out the bus driver was scheduled for a 10-minute break.

I'm not that scared white girl anymore. I learned to bring headphones and a book and to keep my arms in. I learned to avoid eye contact. I learned to decrease my "bubble."

Although I sometimes ride out of necessity, I sometimes ride for the pure enjoyment of riding, if you can believe it. Despite the stares, the assumptions that people make, my time riding the bus is a very unique chance for me to read, to see the city, the detach myself from the stress of driving. Although riding the bus can be time-consuming, it's also been very influential as I shape my opinion of this city. Riding the bus will give you a version of the world that no one else can access, and that's actually really important.


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