Updated: Jan 15, 2020
She was already in mid-bellow as the train doors opened.
“B I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I TCH!!!!”
It was unclear if she was yelling at anyone in particular.
She planted her two-hundred-plus pound frame by the closing doors. We were now sealed in as the train began to move.
Safe from my seat several rows back, I was able to conceal my watchfulness under my hat.
After her dramatic entrance she settled down a bit. The Bitch she had been booming at turned out to be imaginary. Moments of quiet on the train were punctuated by random outbursts.
From my seat I observed the commuters crowded in around her. Having nowhere else to go, those in her immediate vicinity took on a vigilant aloofness: without direct eye contact they kept her in their sites, avoided sudden movements and gave her as much space as possible.
As the train slowed to pull into the next station, we eased past a man in a bright purple hoodie on the platform. He was very tall and painfully thin. His face was covered with a white mask from nose down. The rest of his face was hidden by large, dark sunglasses. He brought to mind the Dementors who tormented Harry Potter.
“Of course he’s going to get on this car,” I thought to myself. “He could get on ANY OTHER CAR, but he’s going to get on this one cause shit just ain’t crazy enough this morning.”
He got onto my car.
He walked past Bellowing Betty and leaned against the opposite doors. The set was complete.
I got off the crazy-train a few stops later without incident. As I made my way to the exit past the other commuters, it dawned on me…
You know who are some of the most brilliant mental health experts in the world?
Commuters on LA’s Metro Red Line, that’s who.
They may not have the professional training, but they sure have the most practical experience. Because when they’re stuck in a train car regularly with folks in the throes of a a mental health crisis — off their medication and quite often in survival mode hunting for their next meal—they figure this shit out fast.
So shout out to all you LA Red Line riders for expertly navigating the daily unknowns.