"I didn't believe in depression,” he said,” Not then. Not like this. I always told myself people could suck it up. Just get over it. But what I had? I didn't believe in anything like that." We were driving across town to get me from the beach to the train, almost an hour unless you had the carpool lane sticker, which he did. We had a lot of time to talk. He used to be a runner. In his thirties, decided to get fit, ran every day, lifted weights. “I was looking tight, you know. Real good." Then something happened to his knee. He didn’t want to talk about what. The next day he became a non-runner. And a non-exerciser.
The doctors told him that a surgery would have a 50% chance of fixing his knee, and a 50% chance of making it worse. So he decided that day to be done with all things exercise, and never looked back. Well that's a lie- he looked back- often. For a while he felt sorry for himself. Then he got depressed. He did drugs. He drank a lot. It was what he knew.
For the first 15 minutes I felt like I had met a different man. He was joyful. He loved his job. He loved meeting people. He couldn’t wait to see all parts of the city. Couldn’t wait to get up and start his day.
I asked him how he got from depression to where he was now. No therapy. No medication. Instead- appreciation. He "worked his way out of it." Found something he could do. Driving. Did it well. And removed his past from his memory.
When he was a teenager he stood outside in the LA riots. A drug dealer came across the street and threatened to kill his neighbor in front of him. He said he was frozen. Couldn’t move. Didn’t want to run. Didn’t want to make a sound.
When he was in his twenties, he drove aggressively around town, pissing people off and once, at a stoplight, a man pulled a long barreled gun on him and pointed it at him through the open window. He described it in detail. He turned his head the opposite way and prayed, and cried. Was pretty sure that was it. He pissed off the wrong guy on the wrong day, and that this was how it would go down. That the guy had just had enough that day, and what he did was the final straw. Then the light changed. He was still alive.
"And that's it," he said,” No more road rage. I gave up that a long time ago. Why risk it. There's so much in life to be grateful for."
I’m sitting in between a 19 year old art school student, who hates LA except for the tiny pocket that feels nothing like LA where she goes to school and a middle aged Latina retiree at the bus section of Union Station.
Her mom had never ridden on a bus before. Never traveled alone. But now, since her grandfather had passed away, she was coming to visit her daughter for the first time on a bus from Reno. “She was so sad, I told her, come here. Its finals, I don’t care, you can sleep on my sofa. I just want to take care of you.” Her husband pushed her to get on the bus, was sure she could do it.
Her parents met when they were kids. First baby at 15. Married at 17. Many more babies. Together for 29 years. “She’s texting me from the bus, telling me these kids are acting all crazy. I can’t wait till she gets here. She was so scared, you know, she had to transfer buses, and then she got on the wrong bus and got turned around. But now she’s on the right bus and she’s almost here!” Every bus that arrives, the girl gets up, paces, looks in the window, stands as the passengers come off the bus. Until, finally the right one comes.
When her mom arrives, looking like her slightly older sister, she cheers, leaps up, runs to her, and they move off swiftly, arm in arm. The woman next to me leans over and says, “I only wish my children were like her. One in in San Francisco and doesn’t ever visit. Doesn’t ever call. That girl though- such a good daughter.”