Last Friday I ended up working for a client later then normal, staying until 10:30. Most of you know I take the subway and/or bus to work whenever I can. This particular client is right across the street from the Hollywood/Highland station on the Red Line (the subway). Late night on a Friday, and especially at a popular tourist stop on a warm summer evening, I expected to find the station crowded with the typical Europeans, Aussies, and American tourists. What I found instead were the workers; the hidden part of a modern city.
I thought I was heading home, but instead took a small detour into the hell of the working poor.
Waiting for the trains were all the security officers, janitors, and other people who come into the city late at night, and clean up after the rest of us have left. This is the shadow city, the other city. The part you normally do not see as their work happens after you and I go home. It was like I had wondered into a different town, one more Kafkaesque then the one I normally inhabit. Gone were all the suits, and the bright colored people. In their stead were tired mostly dark-skinned automatons. The late night, and harsh light giving them an almost zombie like appearance. Starring into space, the fatigue behind their eyes was palatable. I saw several bow their heads, and fall asleep on the short train ride to the last stop, their heads bouncing with the motion of the train, but their bodies too tired to wake up. The whole ride had this subdued air, with even the few teens on board unable to bring up enough energy to overcome the fatigue of their fellow passengers.
Getting off the train in “the Valley”, I was relieved to climb that last big set of stairs. The moonlit air above ground was warm and its comforting light invigorated the people as they left the station. We were back in the real world, the normal one. Kids hooted and hollered, riding their skateboards, or just running around to expelled the rest of the zombie energy from below.
As I boarded the Orange Line (and long articulated bus) I saw smiles all around. It was still late, and we were all still tired, but the dark pallor of the underground had lifted.