Riding the Suicide Line

Or: My nine years on public transportation

By Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: July 24, 2012

Riding the Suicide Line

I read the article the other day about Metrolink and the unfortunate incident that had people sitting for hours. (Editor's Note: See Train Fatality Highlights Metrolink Fail. I used to ride, as well, for about nine years. During those years, I learned a few things about public transportation. First, one would rather have a Town Car squire you about town. Once your husband or significant other stops rolling on the floor, laughing, you go meekly into that crummy station.

Some are nicer than others, with more amenities, such as real benches and coverage from the rain or the searing sun. Mine did not. We were supposed to be happy if the train pulled out with all of us inside. Personally, I think the engineer took special snickering pride with the conductor when they saw me (their supposed friend) or some other familiar person, running toward the train, worldly possessions flying hither and thither, a tontas y locas, only to zip off. Everyone in the car would go, "OOOOOOooohhhh...."

For some reason, the line I took, which shall remain unnamed, had the most "unfortunate incidents" of all the lines. I think the train made everyone in the general area depressed. When I sat in the first car, near a priest, just in case I needed the Last Rites, whenever we hit a car on the tracks, all we would see was flying debris. A fender, tires, hubcaps, pieces of ever tinier stuff. Then the train would come to a stop about a mile away.

Because, you see, those trains are ton after ton of metal and me. They cannot stop on a dime. They cannot even stop on Fort Knox. I had a "system". It all depended which way I was headed. If I was on my way to work, I could count on the fact that other colleagues were on the train, or were blocked by my train, so I would call in to the office. I would then call my parents and tell them what had happened and I was okay. Then, I would go to the bathroom and use the facilities, because, all too soon, EVERYBODY'S bladder would be fit to burst. I would drink water, but only sparingly. Then, I would settle back and read my latest book. It was all gravy now. (And I do NOT mean the train.)

Eventually, the helicopters would appear, the reporters would report, taking film of us as if we were trapped gerbils (which we were, we just did not know it yet), and people would begin to grumble. Like it was going to help us get out. There was no way we were getting out, this was like a Jean Paul Satre novella -- we were considered potential witnesses. Even though nobody ever saw anything. And then the firemen had to come through, asking, "Anybody hurt?" Yeah, I hurt because I am not in the office getting bossed around by some nincompoop with less seniority than I. I'm hurtin' bad.

In actuality, hitting a car with a train feels like getting a gnat on your windshield. Nothing. Nada. Just a whole lotta sadness outside.

If we were on the way home, and an "unfortunate incident" happened, THAT was different. We were on my dime now! I would call my husband and tell him I was trapped because someone threw themselves under the train. I would call my parents and tell them I was okay. The helicopters would come, reporters would report and this time we looked like REAL trapped gerbils. The bathroom/water drill was all the same. Only I wanted to pull at the emergency rubber around the window and make a run for it. But I knew I would not make it because I'd break both legs jumping.

What really irked me about this means of transportation was this: They were so locked into "departure stats" that if someone had thrown a hand grenade in the doors as they were closing, that darn train still would have pulled out of the station. One day, a dude got on with a humongous duffel bag. Muttering something like, "I'm gonna have a smoke..." to no one in particular. Then he left.

Well, you guessed it. He did not get back on the train. And as we were pulling out of the station, the very stupid conductor radio'd back: "Tell that idiot he is going to have to pick up his duffel bag later." I thought, "If we make it anywhere..." This was after 9/11. What should have happened was that the conductor should have united the man and his duffel bag, the reunion occurring with Sheriffs present, and only then should we have left the station. I pointed this out to a few people in the know and soon announcements were being made about suspicious packages and sitting next to your own stuff.

Me? When that dummy radio'd back, I got my stuff, went to the farthest car and got off at the first opportunity. I did not want to get blown up to smithereens because of some guy who did badly on his SAT's.

Generally, though, it was a good way to travel. I did not rear end anyone because I was bobiando. I could listen to my cd's (I kept asking people with tiny technology what "those things" were. They'd roll their eyes and say, "MP3's." "Ooooohhhh", I'd say, like I knew what an MP3 was.) I would ignore a particularly vile woman who looked like she should have been on a broom.

And I'd stick close to the priest just in case...

Guadalupe Gonzalez (c)

About Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Writer, Rider and Los Angeles Attorney

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