Saturday, November 15, 2008

Commuter Zen

My evening commute avoids the freeway traffic jams. Instead I risk the surface streets as I pass through Huntington Park, south-central Los Angeles and Inglewood. These are not high rent neighborhoods. Some would call them undesirable. Though, as an aside, Saturday night coming back from an LA Kings hockey game we traveled through downtown neighborhoods that lent themselves to nervous joking. I told Jake not to stop for the signs or the red lights. Just roll on through. Camille offered up further advice telling Jake that if someone was standing in the middle of the street and did not start to move then run them down like you were in a Baghdad slum. Crossing Los Angeles on Florence Avenue, in comparison, is a cakewalk.

Anyway, the point of this little note is that I see interesting things on my nightly commute. For instance, there was a guy standing on the sidewalk with his pants around his ankles. He was doing some manly adjustments under his boxer shorts, then pulled up his pants and went on his way. Alone, this was disturbing to see, but there was more. He was not alone. There were people passing him on all sides. They never even took a second glance. It's like he wasn't there. Only in LA, I though to myself.

Last night, I saw a glimmer of humanity, though in an urban variation. I was on a little side street I use to avoid the clogged intersection at Soto and Slauson when the dented, faded minivan in front of me started slowing down for the traffic light - a green traffic light. God, how I hate that. Then I noticed the situation. A passing truck had lost a case of some indistinguishable and possibly exotic root vegetable. The guy in the minivan was angling to grab himself some tubers while the light was red. Before he could get his door open another man came running across the intersection to gather up the case. I sensed trouble.

Happily, the scruffy looking pedestrian picked up the vegetables from the street, loaded them into the case and then started handing over a half dozen to the guy in the minivan. I was touched. Sharing really is caring.

As I drove off I wondered whether kindness really did exist or whether threats were exchanged before the food. Either way, it was preferable to the other "business" transactions I sometimes see.

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