MY WORLD JUST GOT BIGGER!!
“You’ll be fine. Really easy when you get use to it.” Those were the words said by the Amtrak station attendant at the beginning of my trip. And at the end of the weekend adventure, the closing words were spoken by a teen boy who was on his seventh train ride, “It gets more exciting with each trip.” “How so?” I ask. He replies, “Once you get to know how this works, reading the maps and signs and directions, you can sit back and enjoy the scenery and people.”
Adventure #1: Taking The Metrolink train from San Juan Capistrano to Culver City and home again.
Friday, I’m leaving to spend the weekend with my sister to attend a day retreat on Saturday. I am a novice train traveler, traveling alone, and this trip involves changing trains three times: the Orange Line to the Red Line to the Expo Line. Technically, the Red and Expo lines are subways, I think. I’m still trying to figure all that out.
But back to Friday, my adrenaline is pumping from excitement and fear. Blunder. I board the wrong train and knew it as soon as the door closed. A passenger helps by looking at the schedule. Luckily, my trying to stop the door from closing brought the train attendant to the rescue and all I needed to do was get off at the next station and wait 10 minutes for the right train to Los Angeles. Luckily, I have a hat and sunscreen because the sun is blazing and there is no shade.
Settling into my window seat, I watch the world move by. Ten station stops later, I arrive at Destination No. 1, Union Station, Los Angeles. We’re late! Attendant says to go downstairs and turn right, but I turn left.
Luckily, the Red Line commuter leaves every 12 minutes but where to go? The station is crowded, there are passageways in all directions, I’m struggling to read signs with my glasses; fumbling to carry hat, itinerary, schedule, purse, and duffel bag. I remember the words Look for the bright yellow vests if you need help. I ask , only vaguely hearing what the security man says but he points to the right and I retrace my steps and continue….Iask another security man at the end of that walk “Down the stairs and follow the signs to the Red Line.” I made it! But, there are two tracks and a Purple Line. I’m sure I have a look of confusion on my face.
Stranger Five to the rescue. A bald man, or partly bald, or was he wearing a hat….not sure…forty-ish, I think…carrying a back pack…must see the flush red of my face because he begins to explain the train system. “Yes, you’re at the Red Line. Yes, you’ll go three stops to catch the Expo Line.” We both board the train or subway or underground. We continue talking. He explains how to read the color-coded diagram on the wall. “Here we are, stay by the door, be careful because the Blue Line (dark blue) and the Expo Line (light blue) look almost the same and they share the same tracks but go in opposite directions. You need to read the signs on the walls, on the trains, above the door….the signs all tell you where you are or where you are going.” Thank-you Stranger Five.
There was a woman sitting on the Red Line who stands up. “I’m going to the Blue Line, you can follow me and I’ll show you the Expo Line. Keep up…crowds…lost.” That woman got me on my train. Thank-you Stranger Six.
I’m heading to La Cienega/Jefferson station on the Expo Line which starts underground but then comes above ground and I finally get back a sense of direction. I call my sister on my cell phone “Don’t worry. I’ll be waiting for you at the station!” she says. Looking out the window, South-Central Los Angeles moves by. Now, this area of town has a rough reputation, you don’t want to be walking in this part of town at night. There’s a sign on the wall with a sheriff department emergency help line.
Stranger Seven, a young man who rides the train daily, explains the Expo Line/Blue Line system to me. Again there is color-coded diagram on the wall. “Got to listen to the overhead announcements, got to see the sign at each station stop. Got to be ready to depart.” His last words to me were “the police are busy in this area.” I sat and wondered if that was a warning or a comfort and I wrote the hotline number in my journal.
Three trains, seven strangers, twenty-five stops for a $12.45 fare and 2 1/2 hours time, I arrive at the upstairs platform of La Cienega/Jefferson station. But, where’s my sister? Luckily, I have my cell phone. I’m upstairs and she’s downstairs.
We embrace. I MADE IT!! More posts to follow…..