Ok, it’s too late to turn back now. Welcome to my first Leap of Faith Friday post. Who’s crazy idea is this? My good friend Christine from Chicken Fried Therapy. Read about it. I know her blog rocks, but please don’t forget to come back to read this post!
This first Leap of Faith entry is merely a story about a leap of faith I took. Actual leaps will take place in subsequent weeks. I promise. Gotta warm up first.
I’m an LA Metro rider -- the few, the proud, the miserable. Los Angeles’ Metro system is nothing like that of cities like Boston, my hometown. The “T” in Boston is something that everyone rides – parents bringing their kids to the Children’s Museum, college students going to class, executives commuting to work, couples traveling downtown to enjoy a night out. LA’s Metro system is a completely different animal. The majority of the lines traverse the worst parts of town. You don’t take the Metro because you want to “go green” - you take the Metro because you want to go. Period. It also serves as convenient housing for the homeless, as the Metro runs on an honor system – no gates, no ticket booths. I know, I thought the same thing: how often do you see the words LA and honor in the same sentence?? Last year, I decided to brave the Metro to commute to work. My truck gets six miles a gallon. Saving $40 a day in gas was well worth touring South Central on a daily basis.
Riding the Metro is actually not as bad as most people make it out to be. If you don’t make eye contact, and can habituate yourself to the smell of homeless people confined within a sealed steel container, you’ll do ok. And while commuting on the LA Metro is in itself a leap of faith, this is not the leap of faith I’d like to share today. This leap of faith story took place on one such Metro ride a couple weeks ago.
I had just settled into my seat after my second transfer of the morning commute. The train was still underground, but as customary, I had my laptop and wireless PC card set up and ready to catch a signal once we hit street level. Laptop, iPod, window seat, solitude. My own slice of heaven.
As the door shut, I noticed 3 guys jump on board at the last second. Nothing unusual, it happens all the time. But I also noticed that they were going from passenger to passenger rather than taking a seat. Down the aisle they went. And thuggy they did look. Kinda like this guy if he were real:
Because I had my iPod on, all I had to go on were visual cues. And from the looks on my fellow passengers’ faces, I could rule out that these gentlemen were offering complimentary dinner mints. They eventually made it to me. They didn’t try to talk to me. They simply took the 3 seats immediately to the front and left me. A more paranoid man would have used the term surround. They also seemed to be glancing in my general direction. All at the same time.
“Ok,” I thought , “this I’m-so-absorbed-in-my-music-I-don’t-notice-you charade isn’t working.”
I looked up. He signaled me to remove the earbuds.
Alright! He called me homes! He saw the gangsta in me despite my Toshiba Satellite series laptop and the fact that I was reppin Banana Republic beige.
Armed with newfound confidence, I gave him a nonchalant “whassup” nod.
He continued, “I just got outta jail and I need to call my homies. You got a phone on you?”
Now this is the point at which smart people (i.e. the rest of the train) would have just said no and hoped for the best. But no, I’d rather get stomped by a roving gang of ex-cons than be labeled a wuss. It’s the alpha male wanna-be in me. And how obvious a wuss move would saying no be? I had a laptop, Video iPod and a wireless PC card in plain sight. I couldn’t pull off the clueless no cell-phone-having immigrant train riding guy. At least not with a clear man-conscience.
But I had an out. We were underground. No signal.
Trying to keep from looking intimidated, I replied “Oh, yeah… no problem at all. Here you go. OOPS, look at that. No signal! Aw, that sucks.”
“That’s cool. We’ll just wait.”
“Um… Ok. I’ll let you know when I get a signal.”
I began assessing the situation. Ok, if they really wanted to steal my phone, why would they put me on the defensive by mentioning jail? Wouldn’t he just say he wanted to call his grandma? And if they did happen to run off with my phone, it’s insured anyway. A $50 deductible is worth my intact man-pride, isn’t it? Aw man, but all my contact phone numbers are on it! What a hassle! Should I run after them if they grab it? Are they armed?
As I was playing Choose Your Own Adventure in my head, homie #1 busted out a 7-Eleven brownie, opened it and took a bite (there are signs clearly indicating no eating allowed on the train – have they no regard for the law?). He passed it to phone-less homie, who broke off a chunk.
“You got signal yet?” he asked.
Resigned to the fact that I could lose my phone, I just played it cool so I could at least savor this non-wuss moment.
“Yup. I’ve got signal. Here you go.”
What I saw next gave me newfound faith in my fellow man and the Los Angeles County penal system. Phone-less homie took my phone and held it like so:
Re-enacted by me in the safety of my own home.
WHAT A NICE GUY! My own kid doesn’t even do that! Phoneless homie cradled my phone so as to keep from getting sticky brownie residue on it. I was truly touched. My phone was safe. He didn’t even want to get it sticky, much less run off with it. Homie proceeded to call his other homies and arrange to “smoke summa dat crraaazy sh*t” once he made it home in a few minutes (isn’t it so true -- home is where the bomb ass weed is at). I was happy I was able to facilitate that reunion.
I got my phone back, clean as when I entrusted it to him.
“Yo, I really appreciate you letting me use your phone, homes,” he said with a smile. “Even other Mexicans were ignoring me and sh*t, what’s up with that?”
“Man, that’s straight f*ed up!” I replied, newfound camaraderie proudly beaming. I shut my computer to conversate.
And we conversated. About traffic and weather. Yeah, in case you didn’t know, those are topics of small talk even amongst the most hardcore of us gangstas.
A few stops later, it was time to part.
“Yo, thanks again, man.”
“Hey, welcome home, kid. And listen: you boys stay out of trouble, now.”
I may be gangsta, but I’m still a dad.