Of course, now that I typed the title I’m thinking to myself could RedLining be something like main-lining or worse. Whatever, I mean it strictly in the LA Metro Red Line way.
My friend Deirdre told me that I needed to adopt a “way of being” that showed that I was not interested in talking to the crazies. She wasn’t strictly speaking of the same kind of crazies that I usually attract; she just meant any person who thinks its okay to talk to a stranger. You know who you are, and I’m not worried about you. I’m worried about the tweaker this morning who couldn’t sit still and was playing all sorts of instruments in his head (I could tell cause they were coming out through his body language). He kept looking at me, talking to me, and trying to get me to sing along to whatever the f* he was “playing.”
Let me go back to the beginning. I used to have a car. A sweet vibrant blue elantra touring. She was awesome, but expensive in a city where you mostly sit in traffic anyway. AND I am inherently lazy. So in order to force myself to be more environmentally and economically responsible, I sold her. (I hope she found a good home.) Since then I’ve been walking a hell of a lot more (thanks for not letting me lose any weight though world, even just to balance out the joy of walking, i totally appreciate it) and been taking public transportation when I can. All great things.
The very first day of taking the Red Line to and from work a crazy found me. Okay, he wasn’t too bad. Just a sweet young latino man who wanted to practice his English, by telling me his whole life story and that of his family, his twin sisters . . . for the whole time we were waiting for the train to arrive and the 15 minutes of the ride till his stop. It wasn’t bad, or scary, or even weird. The next day, a real crazy found me. Apparently I was wearing a “go ahead, talk to me, I’ll listen” sign. This guy was in his 60s, homeless (the kind of homeless who is homeless as a result of all the mental facility closings, not the I’m a druggy or a lost my job or got kicked out cause i’m not like my family kind of homeless), and really really smelly and really really really crazy. Like Zod Wallop kinda crazy. Like I think you might be the main character in the drama that is playing in my head right now kinda crazy. Do you get the point yet? (and no, I’m not planning on editing this– this is my crazy).
So, this homeless man with really long, dirty nails was talking to me, at me, in some sort of weird patois that only he could understand. I could tell that he wanted me to answer his questions but how could I? He followed me onto the train, so I purposely took a seat next to a big guy. The homeless man stood next to me until he got off, just one mere stop before mine.
Back to Deirdre. She says, earbuds – even if you aren’t listening to any music. They work all the time. So I adopted the “don’t talk to me” sign and avoided all eye contact when possible. And it worked.
For about two months.
Then I adopted the I’m listening to music and reading a novel “don’t talk to me” sign. That worked for another two months.
But now, now . . . I realize that while I’ve covered up my natural sign with others – the crazies can actually see through it. They know what my real sign is. I’m giggling to myself too about all this sign stuff, because the crazy from yesterday started off with this sentence “Just so you know, I’m a Libra.”
Yes, I had my earbuds on. Yes, I had music playing. Yes, I had my book out. Yes, yes, yes. But when a person talks to you, the polite thing to do as long as they aren’t brandishing a weapon (and probably even then), is to take at least one out and listen to what they are trying to say. So I did. He went on to tell me about how he sold vacuum cleaners for a living, then did construction, is trying to be a comedian (always something in LA), and . . . so on and so on. He was even kind of nice, I wasn’t scared. But. Really?
I read Wil Wheaton talking about how odd it is for people to talk to him on the bus (okay, the bus is a totally different animal from the subway . . . but people talk to me on the bus too) and I’m thinking to myself, is the grass always greener on the other side? Would Wil actually want perfect strangers to be nice to him and tell them their life stores?
Maybe I need to write down the stories I collect. Maybe this is how the Brothers Grimm started. Random people in the village pub would tell them all about their family history and it became hard not to write them down. Maybe I’ll even take my camera, and get photos of all the people who talk to me on the train and the bus.
Some people run into people they know wherever they go. I run into strangers who want me to know and understand them. We all want that, but for some reason I’m the one that is wearing the “I’m listening” sign. So, if you see me on the RedLine, even if I have my earbuds in. I will likely listen to your story.
Unless your cologne or perfume is too strong, cause then my eyes will water and I’ll be too focused on my own misery.