A train with a view

by Janice Nigro

I went to a work interview by metro rail this week. In most big cities around the world, even in the USA, no one would bother to make such a statement. Maybe you wouldn’t want anyone to know! More likely, everyone, or most everyone, uses public transportation there.

In Los Angeles, not so much. Anyone who can afford any kind of contraption with wheels fueled by gas, electricity, or basic manpower, is unlikely to step onto a bus in the Los Angeles area.

I am one of the oddballs who does. I proudly carry around a Transit Access Pass-the TAP card-to easily slip on and off public transportation in Los Angeles. You do not have to have a TAP card to get on the bus. You can use cash. All coins are accepted so the bus is one place you can unload your pennies, if you get a thrill out of that. But you do need a TAP card to use the metro rail. And the metro rail is your true ticket to escape from the fringes (the cocoon) of the Los Angeles area without a car.

I don’t know how the fact that I am transportation challenged came up in my phone interview with this company-because no one asks if you have a car-but that fact was revealed at some point. My interviewer lives way up in Pasadena but commutes to Santa Ana every day. She jumped at the chance to conduct the interview near her home if it was possible. It was, and I took it.

I started out extra early because I did not want to be late. My thinking probably would not have been different though had I decided to rent a car and drive up to South Pasadena. One thing about the metro rail is, I always believe I will make it to my destination more or less within a certain time frame.

A car is a different story. There is no guarantee in your arrival time. Traffic is not only heavy, but chaotic as well. By the time you reach your destination, the game already seems over. On a first date, is it over before you even reach your dinner destination? I thought about this when I saw the cars parked on the freeway on the way up.

I packed a bunch of goodies (water and chocolate) and my camera. Going to my interview by metro rail was an adventure of a sort, one worthy of some documentation. Maybe because this time it was for an actual interview for some work.

The first thing I found remarkable about the idea for this interview was that I could even get up to South Pasadena using only public transportation. Even more remarkable was that I could travel to South Pasadena nearly completely by metro rail. The exception was the short bus ride to reach my first metro rail stop, the green line.

The metro rail is the tour to take if you want to see the real Los Angeles. Life is extraordinarily diverse passing from one station to the next. You leave from the cocoon, pass by the airport, head onto some of the equally famous, but less lucrative areas of the city, and can end up in Hollywood. The ride is colorful, and the people I saw on the train or viewed through the window distracted me from my own nervousness.

At one stop, two young men waited on the platform in their motorized wheelchairs. You can’t avoid wondering what kind of tragedy might have sent them to their chairs. Yes, life is different outside of the cocoon.

A preacher was on board, reminding us all about the life of Jesus and sinning. A group of women were conversing in another language, as if to be blatantly ignoring him while the rest of us simply pretended to listen, much to his disappointment. The desired response though was unclear.

My early morning plan included three lines to reach South Pasadena. I forgot that I needed one more to make a connection in downtown LA. But at that point, there are two trains to take to Union Station. There isn’t much waiting for the next train then. The plan was all by colors-green line to blue line to red or purple line to gold (not yellow) line.

At Union Station, I caught the gold line to the north and east. I was now out in the sunshine and passing by green fields outside of urban areas. It was as if I went into Union Station and crossed over the border into another country.

I totally overestimated the time I needed to arrive at my interview, so I wandered around the small square snapping a few shots. The train rolls seemingly with a bit of bravado right through Mission Street because cars have to stop for it. I don’t know how drivers in cars feel about this, but the metro rail leads to stress free arrivals for its passengers.

My interviewer was also early. So my wandering around the town square was cut short. I was a little embarrassed because she had to wait for me even though I was 40 minutes early. The interview went well, and I learned a lot. I wonder if it was because we were in the sun and neither of us had to go through traffic to get there. Novel idea…to create a relaxing situation for an interview.

After the interview, I immediately jumped on the next train heading south to make the reverse trip. I was tempted to go further north and to the east, but that adventure perhaps requires a dedicated trip.

It was all that simple. I thought it could be a big minus that I didn’t have a car for the interview. Like what kind of person is not on Facebook kind of person. I might be fooling myself, but I believe that using the metro rail went into the plus column for me. It was my first test-how much fun was I really-and it was less stressful for both of us.

The metro rail always shows gratitude for its passengers. “Thank you for using the metro rail” it says politely as you exit. Maybe it should be the other way around-“Thank you metro rail!”

One tap on the metro rail gives you two hours of travel for 1.75 USD, including transfers.

©Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com

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