Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Moving Class Divides: Either Way You Divide It, You Wait

My car has been in the shop for the past few days. I have substituted my car for the bus while negotiating the gridlock. A massive fault line exists between those who take public transportation and those who drive.

Public transport can be an equalizer in New York City. The upper middle class sit alongside the city's dispossessed. New York's compact bundle has spilled out over several thousands of square miles in Los Angeles. Cars become status beacons. Bentleys and Ferraris are a daily sight, and seemingly every third car is a Mercedes or a BMW. The moving masses shut themselves in the roving castles, bluetooth headsets ensuring no awareness of other people or other even fellow traffic.

Below the lowliest of vehicles is the bus. A majority of riders belong to ethnic minorities (though I am not sure if you can call Latinos a minority in a city where they make up 52%). Blank, anxious ridden stares cover the faces of most riders. If you don't have a car in LA, you are not necessarily making ends meet.

Los Angeles's massive transient population use the bus. Last night our bus was stopped after a blacked out homeless man began screaming to the bus driver that she did not know where she was going and that we were all fucked. We filed out of the bus, and waited next to the 405's roar for a police officer to cart him away. A look of crushed humiliation filled him as he used his little remaining effort to remove himself from the bus. A fellow homeless man made a ruckus about how he was homeless, but did not treat others that way. His play for sympathy and stories of how he had been cheated out of a fortune playing with Ray Charles brought some attention: an recovered homeless women gave him 8 dollars which he promised not to use for booze.

Some buses are clean, but others are cramped graffiti ridden roving dungeons.

However, riding the bus gives you an outsiders look at the rush hour traffic sludge. At least I can read a book and not worry about slamming into that person either chatting to etheric voices or into their blue tooth.

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