Sunday, September 9, 2012

Go Metro

About four years ago, I sold my car. Since then, it's been all public transit, all the time. Well, except for those instances when you mooch a ride or treat yourself to a cab.
Unlike most other big cities in the world, LA is built on the assumption that you have a car, no, you need a car.
You don't see a lot of businessmen on the subway. You don't run into a lot of women in designer clothes on the bus.
For the most part, it's lower income or no income patrons.
Now, I don't care whether I share a bus ride with a trust fund philosopher or a blue collar high school drop out. I keep to myself regardless.
However, when push comes to shove, the state of our public transportation rests on who uses it and more importantly, who doesn't.

When New York's crime rate began to sink in the 1990's, a major catalyst was securing and cleaning up the subways. Locked turnstiles were put in, cops patrolled stations, new cars sans-graffiti and human excrement went into rotation.
If you've ever been to New York, you know everyone rides the subway. Armani suits on their way to Wall Street, Chanel bags on their way to SoHo, teachers, nannies, blue collar, white collar. If you have a car, you save it for the Hamptons. If you're moving around the city, you use public transit.
Here, if you have a car, you use it. If you can avoid public transit, you do.
It follows in a cyclical sense, that because there's not a staggering demand for it, public transit expands at a snail like pace, plodding along with superfluous time tables, short and inaccessible lines and little to no accountability for scheduling failures or security pitfalls.
And because of those shortcomings, the greater population clings to their cars like leaches on a bruise.
There was recently an article in LA-ist about a young woman's terrifying Metro experience. A man began yelling at her, threatening to kill her.
The article prompted a request for more stories like hers. I wrote in with a few but as is customary, I also added my personal spin to the issue at hand.
Fact one: Harassment on LA transit happens, verbally, physically and it is absolutely unacceptable.
Fact two: Due to the current state of LA transit, major changes are unlikely in the foreseeable future.

So, it follows from these two facts: be proactive and don't wait for change to happen.
This may sound like some kind of self help program, but really it's an honest approach to real life situations.
We should absolutely complain and make noise about the lack of safety on the Metro system.
However, we can not just point fingers and shout at scapegoats. We ourselves have to work at making ourselves and others safer.
I'm no caped crusader but if someone is getting harassed, I try to help.
If someone is harassing me, I try to deal with it in the most logical way possible. If that means getting off a couple of stops early and walking home, so be it.
If that means starting to sing to myself and talking to thin air so as to appear absolutely insane, I'm happy to try.
The woman in the article noted that she was reading a book and wearing a wedding ring, although she isn't married.
With all due respect, I've seen married women get hit on at fancy country clubs and upstanding networking events. No one gives a shit whether you're married or not.
In my experience, I have found that the best tools are the ones used in a balance.
Don't get on the train looking like a victim. Don't shy and shiver in a corner - it's too easy.
Don't fluff your feathers too much either. If you like like an arrogant little shit, someone is going to try to knock you down a few notches.
Be alert and confident but controlled and calm. Be reserved but strong. These aren't Confucian sayings - they're helpful suggestions.
Judge each situation by its surroundings and the elements at hand.
A crazy man once walked onto the train car and pushed me. I pushed back and stared him down, looking as crazy as I could.
Another time, a man came onto the train and told me to get the fuck off or he'd piss on me. You know what - I got off.

It's no person's fault if they are physically or verbally harassed on public transit. But that doesn't mean that you can't try to prepare and work against victimization.
Is it fucked up that this is how it is?
Will it change before you ride Metro again?
OK then, looks like we're just gonna have to work with what we've got right now while we work on legislatively pushing forwards.
The more we raise our voices on this issue, men and women, and the more proactive we are day-to-day, the greater chance we have of cutting these stories down.
Awareness up, harassment down. That, my friends, is a corny slogan. But, it works for me.

See you LA cats on the Metro.

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