Updated: Dec 22, 2019
“Ding Ding. The next stop is Wilshire/Western…”
Dammit. I had gotten on the wrong train. I was spent from my morning workout and wearily wandered onto the first train to arrive. The Red and Purple lines share a track and alternate arrivals every few minutes so if you’re not paying attention its an easy mistake to make. There weren’t very many people in the car but everyone else seemed to have made the same mistake.
One of the other riders began griping how the sign on the train said “Red Line”. He had caught my eye earlier as he seemed a bit fidgety. He approached some confused tourists — a middle aged Asian couple and three handsome men in their 20’s who I judged to be from southern Europe. They were all crowded around the wall map trying to find their way to Hollywood. He tried to help them, but he just seemed cause them more confusion.
The young men sat down opposite me with genuine concern in their eyes. They were young and fit, not at all the type to seem fearful of their surroundings, yet they had these sad puppy dog eyes I couldn’t resist.
“Ted Bundy was supposedly endearing too,” I thought.
But I allowed my instincts to override boogyman stories.
“Where are you going?” I asked despite already overhearing that they wanted to go to Hollywood and Vine. They repeated their destination to me.
“Its ok, just stay on this train, then follow me when I get off to transfer to go to Hollywood.”
They looked a little more relieved and began grilling me about how far away their destination was and how long it would take to get there. I reassured them it wasn’t far and it would take maybe 15 minutes. With that they sat back relaxing into their seats.
I understood their uneasiness — my favorite thing in the world to do is to explore and lose myself in a new city. But sometimes an overwhelming disorientation crashes in when your plans go awry and you find yourself a tiny speck in a large world. They had that look. I gave them a slight smile then sat back as I returned my face to stoney silence.
The fidgety man had left the Asian couple who were now sitting behind me. He approached me with his briefcase open showing me some cheap metal chains.
“Would you like…”
“But these are…”
He moved on to the the three men. They politely feigned interest in his jewelry, but their uneasiness returned.
I turned to the couple behind me.
“Are you going to Hollywood?”
“OK, get off the train when I get off and I’ll show you what train to get on”.
The train pulled into our transfer station and I stood up. The three men looked at me.
“This is it,” and gestured to them.
“This is it,” I said to myself, “that moment you tell three strange men to follow you off a train because you feel sorry for them.”
The Asian couple stood up to follow but were intercepted by the fidgety jewelry salesmen.
When the train stopped I got off with my three new companions and noticed that I had lost the couple via their own politeness to the Fidget.
As we walked to the new platform, my new friends began peppering me with questions.
“Is riding the train here dangerous?”
“It can be if you don’t pay attention, but you’re three young guys, you’ll be fine”.
“But you are a woman alone here, isn’t that dangerous?”
Hmmmmm…. Was that question genuine curiosity or was it a test of some sort?
“I have a mean streak under this smile, so I’m always fine” I promised them.
As we waited for the Red Line to take us to Hollywood I learned more about these three tall, dark, and handsome strangers with dreamy accents. I got close in my people watching game of “Where is That Tourist From?”. Two were from Rome (that likely explained their appeal — I’ve always had a soft spot for Italians) and one from Slovenia. They worked for an airline and had just under forty-eight hours to explore LA.
As we chatted on the platform I remained mindful of my physical position relative to them. I made sure the Slovenian, who started to wander a bit, never got my back. The most handsome of them seemed to be the most eager to talk. Not a fan of giving up information about myself to strangers, I mixed in a few half-truths with truths. I practiced another favorite game of turning questions back onto a stranger and making them the target of my own inquiry.
We talked about sports — one is a judo black belt and is now studying Brazilian jiu-jitsu. When I told him I had just started judo about a year ago, he told me I looked like a Krav person.
“Well, I do like to hit things”, I laughed while wondering what he meant.
As we flirted over our shared interest in violent sports, we discovered a common love for the Rocky movies. The Italians shared an appreciation for it that I never considered — they took pride in the Italian Stallion being a descendant of their immigrant relatives.
When our train arrived, their curiosity turned back to potential dangers. Their friends had warned them against taking the train and that LA was very dangerous.
“Are there any places we should avoid?”
“Well, where do you want to go?” I asked them.
“The Walk of Fame to see all the stars”.
I gave them directions on seeing the Walk of Fame, a few other sights and then how to get back downtown safely.
We compared notes on types of street crime we were each familiar with. For them it was mostly about gypsies — to which I chuckled recalling a time in Madrid when I naively let a gypsy get too close.
I gave them my quick rundown on staying out of trouble. The first three are universal, the last two specific to Hollywood Blvd.:
Keep your eyes up
Don’t walk down the street looking at your phone
Don’t get drunk and be an asshole
Don’t look homeless people in the eye
The CD Guy Scam: no matter what, don’t let one of those CD guys put a CD in your hand.
When I used the word “scam” the Slovenian looked confused.
“You know, like a trick”.
I took my hat in my hand and shoved it gently into his chest. When he reached up to grasp at it, I told him he owed me ten dollars for my hat. He now understood scam.
As we got off the train at Hollywood/Vine they invited me to join them when I recommended Musso and Frank for lunch. It was tempting — I don’t know what would have been more intoxicating, a Musso martini or those thick Italian accents.
But arriving at our destination, it was time to move on.
They thanked me and expressed their surprise by the kindness they received from a stranger. I left them at the bottom of the stairs when I told them I had to do my post work-out run up the stairs.
“Like Rocky!” the proud Italian exclaimed as we parted.
Those Italians, they sure know their way to a girl’s heart.