My friend, Carolyn, dropped me at the Metro Link in South Pasadena so I would wend my way to Union Station and then to LAX on the fly away bus. There had been a conversation about how her husband, Jose, always insisted she carry cash, just in case. I don’t carry cash. Ever. I carry my little blue credit card. As I repeatedly tried inserting this card over and over with the error message flashing at me, it occured that perhaps he had a point. I was feeling a bit panicked. Carolyn had a work meeting and I didn’t know a soul in LA. Next to me was an older lady who was glancing at my repeated efforts. “Hi, could you help me? I’m trying to get back to Denver and don’t have any idea what I’m doing”. I realized how hard it is to trust a complete stranger, and I am talking about her, not me. When I am approached for help on the street I assume a possible malicious motive. You have to be wary of people asking for help. But I really had no choice. I tried to appear non threatening and gave my most charming, I am not trying to rob or manipulate you in any way, I’m a country bumpkin from the small western city of Denver. She came over and began punching buttons. It was clear she didn’t have much more of a clue than I did on how to operate the thing. She already had a metro link card and didn’t have to actually purchase them. Somehow it spit out a card after several attempts. In between, she said “you just come with me and I will show my card and tell them you are from Denver and need to get home”. Thank goodness, that was not necessary. A man in passing mentioned that the metrolink sometimes didn’t take credit cards, it was finicky, and really one should have a little cash in case. Yes, Jose, I can hear the wisdom, I thought. In the meantime, this lady had missed a train for helping me. “Can you tell me how I know where the Union Station stop is?” I asked her. She explained that they would announce it. “Where are you going?” I asked. Chinatown, she replied. We got on the light rail and as we did so she said ” I am not going to Chinatown now, I am going to Union Station with you and will make sure you get the right bus”. I had a flashback of a story Jose told the night before, at dinner, about a gentleman in Portugal who had done much the same thing on a cable car when he was a tourist. It was dejavu. She told me a summarized version of her life on the way to Union Station. She was from Chile and had moved to LA when she was 26. She goes back to Chile every year. She showed me her purse that had a lovely Chilean scene. She told me how the houses in the city she is from cling to the cliffs and there are views for miles. She was now in her early 70’s and had grown kids and a few grandchildren. She was not happy they didn’t visit much. She talked about the culture in Chile being much more embracing of the older generation. She told me a story of an American couple in LA who had neglected their Father and expressed sadness at his death which she found hypocritical. I was feeling a few guilt pangs. My mother and I have never seen eye to eye and I had an unhappy childhood home. I stuggle with navigating a relationship with my parents. They are older, just a little older than Rosa. We arrived in Union Station and she guided me to the other end of it, up an escalator, through to the buses, told the fly away bus driver to wait, put me in line, watched me buy the ticket (we were both a bit nervous about the blue credit cards’ ability to work), escorted me back to the bus and said “I am Rosa Mahoney, like the Irish. I work in XXX (in an attempt at privacy I will leave her employer out). Rosa Mahoney, don’t forget me. I am your angel today.” I reached out and hugged her and said “Rosa Mahoney, I won’t forget you, my friend”.
I called my mom the next day:)
*the LA tar pits*