Crosstown Charm

Streetcar turning off the Echo Park Avenue line onto Sunset Boulevard, circa 1950’s

It’s easy to zone out on the bus.  In fact, most of the time it’s an essential tool for survival.  Pull down your sunglasses to shield you from unwanted glances, and blast your favorite post-work playlist to drown out the soundtrack of the commute.  That’s how you do it.

Every once in a while, depending on the route and time of day, you can catch a driver who announces every stop.  These men, announcing each stop in their articulate and booming baritone voice, seemed to actually care.  So you can imagine my surprise when it’s 8AM and I’m heading East on the 302 bus, and I hop on to listen to the man I’ll call “Charlie.”

Suddenly the romantic days of trains and trolley cars races into my mind.  You’re taking the California Zephyr through the Rockies, the conductor sounding like a community preacher.  You’re on the streets of San Francisco, sailing past the city, with the newsboy shouting the news of the day on the streetcorner.  Then I snap back to reality as I hear “Next stop, Alvarado.”

Riding with Charlie is a beautiful reprieve from the times when the bus is less than comfortable.  How about when it’s packed like sardines during rush hour, or when a group of teenage boys lets out a string of profanities, or when the homeless man or woman strikes up an unwanted conversation (a.k.a. a shouting match.)  Listening to the sounds of his voice in the morning erase the anxiety of those past rides.  It’s nice to catch the touch of care and positivity from him at the beginning of an otherwise regular day.  I always find that his good mood spreads like a smile, and things look a little more extraordinary.

Click here to listen to an audio clip of Charlie:

“Echo Park, next stop.  Cross line bus 200…Please watch your step as you exit the rear doors, please.  Thank you very much, and have a nice day. “

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One comment

  1. America fell in love with devices that eliminated human interaction – the lady who tells you not to linger at the curb in the airport, the self pump gas station, the ATM machine – and as a consequence we eliminated the pleasure of humanity as well. I wonder if the subway had a conductor going from car to car, stamping tickets, answering questions about routes, making sure people kept the place tidy (this is MY car!) would they be a pleasanter place to be in. Of course, there would be times when there was tyranny – like the Southwest attendant who made the kid apologize to the whole waiting room for cutting in line……But still, a whole workforce of Walmart greeters wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    I used to take the overnight bus from Ithace to Washington. It would stop at Binghamton at 12 pm and at Scranton PA at 4 am on the way. I remember once a bus driver pulled into the Scranton station, got on his PA and said, “Phoenix Ariszoooona.” And EVERYONE popped out of their seats and then started laughing.

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