Traffic, an ever present topic for every one living in or around the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. Never knowing if your commute will take you the 10 minutes it should only take or turn into a 3 hour ordeal, is simply everyday reality for anybody living in L.A. with a car. It makes planning your day rather challenging at times. What time do you get up? What time do you leave your house for appointments? What happens if you do get stuck in that 3 hour traffic hell? And it only gets worse, year after year!
After my first car broke down on me and was beyond saving, I decided to go car-less for about 6 months. I was living in Hollywood at the time and was two blocks away not only from a Metro station (yes, that is the L.A. subway), but also from two major bus routes, one going east- west, the other south-north. It was perfect! I worked in Inglewood at the time. With a car this meant about two hours in traffic on a good day, one hour there, one hour back. On the bus it meant an hour each way no matter what! Public transit in Los Angeles was a very different experience than sitting in traffic.
After a couple of weeks I started talking to some of my “co-riders”, a middle aged guy and his nephew, they hopped on the bus three stops after me and rode the bus to the end like me, working two blocks away from the office I went to. We started coordinating our buses. They knew what time I would go on the bus, there were two buses within three minutes taking off from my stop. If I wasn’t on the first one, they would wait for the second bus. I started reserving seats for them. We would bring snacks to share and had a grand old time for the hour ride down to Inglewood.
The part of Inglewood we worked in was not one of the safest and it wasn’t unusual to hear gun shots here and there. Sirens and police cars were a constant presence. When the days started getting shorter, at least one of the two would wait for me at the bus stop so that I didn’t have to wait for the bus alone in the dark. They spoke very broken English, I spoke very broken Spanish, but we always had so much fun. I started bringing a notebook and if we didn’t understand what the other was trying to say we would play our own version of “pictionary”. It was the perfect arrangement.
Then the time came where I needed to get another car, too many other things in my life simply called for a car. I remember their faces when I broke the news that I would no longer be riding the bus with them after the current bus pass would expire (we would get the monthly passes). While Jose kept his composure, Luis was so upset, that he started sitting at the front of the bus by himself for the rest of the ride. I had mixed feelings. I looked forward to having a car (even though it meant sitting in endless traffic again) and I was immensely sad not to have the company of my bus friends anymore.
I proposed to Jose and Luis that I could give them a ride every day, after all we were going the same way. But they both declined my offer. The last ride was an emotional one. I felt like I was breaking up with someone when Jose and Luis got off the bus at their stop. We had gotten to know each other so well, they almost felt like family. I knew I would miss the morning snacks and the conversations and laughter.
I would see them at the bus stop every once in a while after I started driving to work. I changed my schedule slightly to be at the office a little later to train new workers. Three months later my job in Inglewood ended and I never saw Luis and Jose again. I still think of them every once in a while and I wonder if they still live in Hollywood and still work in Inglewood. I wonder if Jose got his ailing Mom to move to L.A. and if Luis had managed to go back to school. I wish them all the best, they were so good to me. And I realize that I would have never had this experience if my car never broke down.