Sunday, August 07, 2005

Security in the United States

The week after the second round of London bombings, I was riding public transportation, as usual. This included riding: The Metro Bus System all over Los Angeles County, The Red Line Subway from North Hollywood to Union Station in Downtown LA, The Gold Line above-ground light rail from Union Station to Pasadena, The Metrolink Train System, including The Ventura and San Bernardino County lines. I travel with a black backpack which is stuffed with a laptop, batteries, chargers, cords, cables, books, pliers, a flashlight and in general lots of other crap. Crap that could certainly look suspicious, and possibly be dangerous. On any average day, I am likely to cover 50 to 100 miles in public transportation. I can go up to 200 miles round trip on a big day. By bag has never been searched. My ticket has been checked once. The week following the second round of bombings, I rode the Red Line subway. I got on in the afternoon at the Universal City station, a popular stop right across from Universal Studios which also connects to a large bus depot. I got off at Hollywood and Vine. No cops. When I got back on at Hollywood and Highland, I saw 4-6 officers, all standing together near the stairs to the platform. At this stop, as with many on the line, there are two sets of stairs. The cops were all standing, facing each other and talking, at one set of stairs. The other stairs were open. There were no cops on the platform at all. None on the train. When I got off at Universal City, there were, again, no cops on the platform. No cops at the stairs, and there were none anywhere below ground. Finally, I saw patrol car parked at street level. The cops were parked semi-near the stairs down to the subway, which places them probably 100 feet from the elevator. Too far to really see what is going on over there. They both sat inside the car, and when I passed, they were chatting with a young (prostitute?) lady who was leaning into the window on the drivers side. As if this wasn't bad enough, I took the Metrolink that same week from Northridge to Union Station. I was running late do to the recent rescheduling that both the riders and the drivers hate, and had to run to catch the train. The train was pulling up as I ran to the station, so I had no time to stop and buy a ticket. I got on anyway, sue me. I always buy the stupid ticket, even though they had never checked it. As soon as I board the train, the conductor announces that the Los Angeles Sheriff Department is onboard for the safety of the riders. And they will be checking tickets. Way to put public employees to work, Metrolink. I, having no ticket, hide in the bathroom. I ride the entire trip to downtown LA in the bathroom, no knock, no cops. The bathrooms in each section have locking doors, flushing toilets, and running water. They also have a light outside the bathroom, indicating whether or not the door is locked. It should have been clear that someone was inside, and that they had been in the can for over an hour! I went in right in front of a train full of other riders, with my backpack, and never came out, why didn't any of them say anything? For God's Sake, I didn't want to be caught, but for my own peace of mind I wish that I had been! I should have taken pictures off all this. I didn't, but I still have the post 9/11 picture of me and the knife I forgot to take off my keychain, in-flight on a major airline.
Someone protect us!