Friday, July 8, 2011

A Train full of Crazies....

We'd taken the Gold Line downtown on Saturday night, an uneventful ride, but on the way back, a few hours later, it was a whole other trip. Among the late night wanderers with nowhere to go, we sat with a train full of crazies. 
I'd first noticed the couple on the platform at Union Station, the dog rolling on the ground, with red sunglasses on his head, and his master, a hipster in a gray porkpie hat. 

The dog, a beautiful velvety tan pit bull, was a service dog, wearing the official blue vest, but his master treated him like a clown. The dog was the man's therapy, I heard the hipster say, to keep him entertained, to keep him laughing. The dog attracted attention like crazy, and so did the mutterings of his master. As they walked through the car, the dog dragged his muzzle across the sweaty laps of passengers who reached out to pet him. All eyes were on that laughing dog; once seated, the dog fell asleep under his master's feet, his day job as a clown done. 

At the other end of the train, a middle-aged woman in a makeshift hijab talked in tongues. She sat with her arms across her body spewing nonsense syllables, religious incantations of her own making.

When some kids made fun of her, she pulled her scarf over her head, covering her face entirely, and repeated those sounds even louder—she wasn't going to be intimidated. She carried on as though her prayers would really protect her. Between her incantations and watching the laughing dog, my head pingponged back and forth from one end of the train to the other. 
I know it's rude to stare but on this train wherever you looked got you in trouble. Seated directly across from us was a Dodger's fan with severe OCD. The  kid wore a Dodger's ball cap, a Dodger's jacket and underneath, a Dodgers T-shirt. 

He looked kind of normal, except for his repetitious counting, his fingers striking the palm of his hand, adding and subtracting, accompanied by him mouthing random numbers, as he too might find an answer. From Union Station to his destination in Chinatown, he never stopped counting.

One sees the deep divide more clearly on the Gold Line at night. On one side of the cliff, there are those of us who have cars, riding the metro to "take" public transportation; it's an effort but at least we do our civic duty once in awhile. 

On the other side is the "public," a wide swath of humanity who use the metro as their only form of transportation. Call me naive, but there seem to be more riders these days. Among the normal and hard working who pay the high fees to get to a job, there are those—and at night you realize just how many there are in this city of widening gap between rich and poor—who ride the metro because they have nowhere else to go....and no place to sleep...and nothing they own....and no one to stop them from going crazy. 

Update: On July 18, the LA Times published a complete guide to service dogs in their Health & Wellness section. What caught my attention was the mention that anyone could order a service vest online, making it easy for some to get creative and anoint their own pets—cats, rats, parrots, llamas! iguanas and one known snake—for therapy. Makes me wonder if laughing dog wasn't such a dog...

1 comment:

  1. "Between her incantations and watching the laughing dog, my head pingponged back and forth from one end of the train to the other..." -- mine, too.
    Charlotte, this is wonderful -- the narrative, the DRAWINGS, and your profound conclusion to a comic tale... Congratulations, and do NOT stop yr bloggin' x0x0x Alice