THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Those who gripe about our city characterize Angelenos as firmly sequestered in our bubbles or in our Priuses or SUVs, listening to Sirius during our freeway commutes. Walkable neighborhoods aside, our experience isn’t typically like cities like New York where crowds pile onto the subway or streets. We tend to circulate in homogeneous groups, by age, culture, income levels; by marital status or lifestyle.
There’s a certain danger in the apathy and lack of empathy that may ensue when you share space only with those who resemble you. We might assume that Angelenos don’t tend to harbor intolerance. After all, we live in a city where many enjoy exploring different cultures, at least on our plates or through our dining habits. But I would bet we’ve all been surprised to hear a friend, neighbor, colleague express some sort of prejudice against a particular group.
This past month, I’ve chosen to ride the Redline downtown on several occasions. As the doors opened, students would enter beside young mothers or fathers with toddlers in strollers. Young people gave up their seats for senior citizens, arms filled with bags. During two of my trips, a young pregnant woman approached passengers for whatever change they could give her. The train truly represents a microcosm of LA life.
I’ve been disappointed and saddened since the election by the rise of intolerance or perhaps the nodding acceptance of what may always have been present. Sharing a Metro ride and a smile, a brief conversation or even a knowing nod with other travelers has been a comfort to me and a gift.
No matter what our age, income level, our background or language, we all share this city. Riding the Metro is a keen reminder that we are all in this together and an experience of which I wish we’d all avail ourselves when we can.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)