Friday, April 10, 2009

Tales from the LA Subway – Martha the MPS and John the Sheriff

So I’ve decided that the LA subway has a lot to offer in the way of blog posts, so each week I’ll recount stories of things I’ve seen, people I’ve talked to (yes talk to, I know, no one talks on the subway), etc.  This probably won’t interest most people but maybe some of you will find it entertaining.

Martha the MPS
I first noticed Martha / Edward a couple of weeks ago on the Red Line.  I’ve seen her quite a few times, usually on Wednesdays.  Martha has Multiple Personality Syndrome (MPS), now you understand the two names above.  I know this because this week I decided to turn off my iPod and actually talk to her – taboo on most subways, ok, taboo in almost all public settings.  She is in her 50’s and lives alone, is on disability and has to take public transportation to see her doctor every week (I’m thinking therapist but we haven’t gotten that far yet). 

I wouldn’t have known she was an MPS if ‘Edward’  hadn’t made an appearance this week while we were talking.  On occasion the subway gets stuck.  I’m not sure why this occurs but it happens to me about once a month.  The first time it happened I did freak out a little.  It sat for about 5 minutes then started back up again.  This Wednesday we got stuck and Martha, I think, slightly ‘freaked out’.  The change in Martha wasn’t really significant.  I didn’t notice any facial changes but I did notice a change in her voice, it had a more male tone.  When the subway started to move she seemed to come back.

When she came back she seemed shaken, that isn’t really the right word but I’m not sure how to describe it, out of sorts maybe?  I asked her if she was ok and that’s when she told me that she had MPS.  I thought that took a lot of courage and I thanked her for sharing that with me.  Her stop was next and she got off and waved goodbye to me.

I’ve never met anyone with MPS before so I’ve been spending some time researching the disorder online.  From what I’ve found people usually develop MPS due to a traumatic event in childhood that causes their psyche to ‘split’ – abuse, molestation, loss of a parent, etc.  This can create one or more personalities that protect the primary personality from what is happening to them.  I’m trying to find a good book on this, there seem to be hundreds out there.  If anyone knows of one please post it in the comments for me.

I don’t know what happened to Martha, it would have been rude to ask, but maybe if we continue to talk she’ll tell me. 

John the Sheriff
The LA subway system is clean, beautiful and well, fairly new.  I remember the first time I went into its depths.  I must have looked like a subway ‘newbie’ because every sheriff in the terminal found their way to me.  “Do you know where you’re going?”  “Do you know what train you need?”  “Are you married?”

I’m not a newbie anymore but one sheriff still watches my back – John.  John became a sheriff because his older brother was killed in a drive-by shooting in Echo Park when he was 8.  John grew up in one of many bad locations in the greater LA area.  He learned to sleep with gunshots being fired around him, never being allowed to go out at night and always conscious of his surroundings.

When things are quiet John rides with me from one station to the next.  We haven’t spent much time talking about him but I know that he is married, no kids and loves being and LA sheriff.   I actually do feel safer knowing he’s around.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My 2 Hours With Douglas Adams

While commuting this week I decided that my partner in rush-hour-traffic crime needed to be indoctrinated into the H2G2 fraternity so I decided to start with The Salmon of Doubt audio book.  For those that don’t know the Salmon of Doubt is Douglas’ final tome.  It contains several articles he’d written over the years and previously unpublished works culled from his many computers.  The audio book has commentary about him from Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry and Simon Jones, who are also the narrators.

I’ve listened to it probably a dozen times and I still laugh and hear things I hadn’t heard before.  Yesterday morning however something very strange happened, I started to cry while it was on.  You see I met Douglas many, many years ago (almost 20) completely on accident.  I hadn’t read Hitchhiker’s and had no idea who Douglas Adams was.  I was in London with my boyfriend, who decided to dump me.  So there I was in a foreign country, I knew no one, had no money and was not an experienced traveler.  I was scared, crying, sitting on a street corner.  A man came up to me and said “Nothing could be that bad.”

He sat down next to me and asked if there was anything he could do.  I of course told him the whole sorry story, I was young and naive.  He told me to get up, dry my eyes and blow my nose.  He asked if I had my ticket home and I told him yes, but no way to get to the airport.  He hailed a cab, told the driver to take me to Heathrow and gave him some money.  I asked for his name and address so I could repay him.  He told me his name but said it wasn’t necessary to pay him back the money, just be a better judge of character with the next one.  It would still be a few more years until I read the Hitchhiker trilogy.  Once I discovered them I sent a thank you letter to his publisher for the kindness he showed me, I have no idea if he got it, but I like to think that he did.

I think I started crying because I just realized what the world lost when he died, not just Douglas the writer, the atheist, the computer programmer, but most of all, we lost Douglas the human.
If you saw someone  sitting on a street corner crying, would you stop and ask them what was wrong, or what you could do to help them?  Would you pay for their cab ride to the airport?  Would you take the time to just listen?

I decided today while riding home on the subway to do just that, more on that Friday.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hey You, the Atheist With the Chip On Your Shoulder…

Just because I am also an atheist does not mean I will condone your bad behavior, have your back when you’re acting like a complete moron or apologize for not doing either of these things.

To the people at last nights debate that had to endure some of the unnecessary comments, huffs, snickering, etc from a group of atheists…..I’m not with them.

More on the debate later, both sides were interesting to listen to, but I’m still an atheist.