Monday, March 01, 2010

No Bozos On This Bus

There's a story that appeared in the LA Times over the weekend that struck a chord with me. It's about a young middle-class woman (a self-described "snob" in fact) who lives in L.A. and who, after a change in circumstances and some reluctance, ditches her car and starts taking the bus everywhere.

It's a reminder that adversity to using public transportation is a distinctly California thing. Make that a Southern California thing.

I grew up in Los Angeles where middle class people simply don't ride the bus. I changed my ways though when I moved to San Francisco to attend law school. Those gleaming BART trains had recently been put into service and I lived within walking distance of a BART station. From there I could catch a subway and be dropped off a mere one block from school. It was cool.

Moving to Santa Barbara put me back into the So Cal mentality. In other words I was a "No Bus Gus" and an infrequent rider of the MTD system here.

In recent years I've started traveling a lot more and have come to appreciate a good subway system. It didn't start out that way though. On my first visit to New York City in the early 1980's there was no way I was going to ride a subway. After all, there were rats down there! People got mugged down there! If I had to get to someplace that was too far to walk, I would take a cab.

That has all changed since I started visiting New York about twice a year. (My son lives on the east coast.) I now take the subway everywhere. I've even figured out how to take the subway from JFK into Grand Central station. At $8 the fare is half that of a shuttle bus. A cab from the airport into town will cost you about $45.

In New York, all sorts of people ride the subway. That inscription on the Statue of Liberty that says, "give me your tired, your poor, your hungry," etc. I figured out that's actually a reference to the people who ride the 7 train. But on that same train you also find the well-heeled, the affluent and the people who are headed to the latest trendy restaurants.

And yes, those subway trains can be packed. In the old Pavlako's restaurant on Milpas, there used to be a sign on the wall that read, "A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat."

Public transportation is a great equalizer and a sure cure for the snob in all of us. Maybe the next time the NLRB wants to dole out punishment to Wendy McCaw, they should make her ride the bus for 30 days.

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Santa Barbara writer Marcia Meier has an op-ed page piece in the L.A. Times about her brother who lives in a world of shifting realities, voices and paranoia.

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Actor Randy Quaid and his wife, who are scheduled to have a preliminary hearing today on allegations that they skipped out on their hotel bill at the San Ysidro Ranch, are already demanding an apology.

Anyone who, like Quaid, had a role in The Adventures of Pluto Nash, has no business asking anyone else to apologize for anything.

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While watching the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics last night, a promo for an upcoming TV show on NBC boasted that it was going to be sponsored by Nissan, "with limited commercial interruptions."

Well at least it wasn't going to be sponsored by Toyota, "with no brakes."

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