On Monday, I got a text from a friend that simply said, “Maybe you should take an Uber to work”.
This was in response to a post I’d made on the Facebook that morning. I’d been on MAX heading into work at about 5:30 am. The train was largely empty, just me and another airport worker, a guy that was dressed for construction work and a bloke with a suitcase. We were all keeping to ourselves.
As you can usually depend, a crazy guy got on at the stop after mine. There’s always a crazy person on MAX. It’s like the toy surprise in a box of cereal.
Sometimes they stink.
Sometimes they sleep.
Sometimes they dance.
Occasionally, they vomit.
On the very rare occasion, they go on a murder spree.
That’s what had happened the prior Friday during the evening rush hour. The crazy person in question was – in an especially heinous bonus – also a radical racist. As the very brave are wont to do, he started picking on a young woman wearing a hijab.
He was verbally abusing her and causing a scene. Several standers-by intervened, only to learn our bully wasn’t only a crazed racist.
He was one of those knife carrying crazed racists.
Two of these good samaritans ended up dead for their trouble and a third was sent to the hospital in grave condition.
So, the few of us this Monday morning were a bit on edge…unified in our discomfort with the shambly, smelling toothpick of a human in Hammer-style pants that were shredded up one side.
The key is not making eye-contact, I reminded myself as the train pulled into the Hollywood stop – the site of Friday’s misfortunes – and our shaky friend made his way past me and presumably got off the train.
He hadn’t gotten off.
I know this because he shambled back to the front of the train and sat right in front of me, deep in conversation with himself. I leaned back in my seat, contemplating a quiet move to anywhere else on the train. Once he turned sideways and put his feet up on the seat, my opportunity for a stealth move was gone. Not wanting to draw attention to myself, I sat tight while he finished his argument.
I was relieved when he got up to move.
I was horrified when thumped the back of my head after passing out of my peripheral. I turned to see what was happening and he was standing there, body canted toward me aggressively and his hand held in the shape of a pistol.
I said. I think I scared the construction worker guy with the impressive display of eye-whites I was sporting. Seriously, visible sclera all around my irises, I’m sure!
Obviously, the situation warranted this display of crazy eyes.
Not a great start to my day.
Just for fun…the return commute wasn’t any less maddening.
I was sitting alone most of the way, there was once again just a handful of folks in my part of the train. Ironically, at the Hollywood stop – the scene of Friday’s tragedy – a group of five kids got on. A couple sat behind me. A young man in front of me. A young lady beside me and her friend across the aisle from her.
Plus, they brought with them the pungent odor of cheap weed.
I was also about to learn she was far from lady like.
They were as oblivious to social skills as you’d expect of a group of kids in their late teens or early 20s. Icing that cake, my neighbor decided it was completely acceptable to blast music from the portable speaker she was holding. Sixty percent of this pack being black, you can imagine where the musical tastes lay.
Of all the words in the English language…why so many rap songs have to include such a limited range of words is beyond me. But I had had enough. I popped out an earbud and asked if I should be able to hear her music over my headphones.
“What?”, followed by nervous laughter.
The guy in front of us turned around and suggested that maybe my music wasn’t loud enough.
“Turn it down. I don’t want to hear that word yelled out.” Not my most eloquent phrasing.
“TURN OFF YOUR MUSIC. NOW!”, yelled our driver, who had stepped out of his cab to put a stop to this stoner madness.
You’d think we would have ridden in silence. At least for a bit.
These kids had to be all disgruntled and mumble objections for a few stops.
Shortly thereafter, the kid behind me flicked my ear.
What the hell, people…are we not even teaching kids boundaries any longer?
For the second time in a day a stranger had put hands on me. Still trapped by these five kids, I refused to take their shithead shenanigans silently. I turned and told the kid to keep his hands to himself.
He tried playing innocent, but his girlfriend’s giggles betrayed him.
“I’m not kidding, you’re already on the driver’s shit list.”
“What about her, can’t I touch her?” he asked doing a palms up with both hands, one of which was draped over his girlfriend’s shoulders.
“What people with questionable judgment allow you to do is their business. Don’t touch me again.”
Of course he did…before bravely slipping out of his seat and out the train doors at the Rose Quarter stop.
Friggin’ punk ass kids.
The most disturbing thing about the day of commuter hell was that it highlighted how vulnerable we are. Sure, my ordeal was nowhere near the magnitude of the previous Friday…but there wasn’t much separating the two events, aside from weaponry.
It was unnerving.
I vented about it to The Silver Fox and thought that was the end of it. I anticipated a return to my assumed safety in short order.
Yesterday we went out to the Big Legrowlski for a beer and on the way home I saw something that made me doubt that restoration of my peace of mind.
We were walking back toward our homes through the North Park Blocks and out in the park in the block behind us there were a few homeless peeps sunbathing.
Two of them were chasing each other and yelling. One of them was brandishing a knife. Seriously, who hasn’t learned not to run with sharp objects?
“Should we call the cops?” I asked, realizing after I said it that my phone was already in my hand.
“Nah…how are the cops gonna find a homeless guy?” was the The Fox’s paraphrased reply.
That’s when I realized that Crazy Town isn’t the next stop…culturally, we’re already there. Some of us just enjoy it.