Case File 023: Leotard Dude

Like anyone else who has ever owned a U-Pass, I’ve had some bizarre experiences on the light rail.

I frequently made trips between downtown and Tempe for class and to see friends, like a lot of other freshmen did. Once, I was heading back home at dusk with a few of my friends when we encountered one of the strangest performers I’d ever seen or heard. This could happen to you.

As the light rail doors slid open and we boarded the light rail, we were met with the neon sounds of ’80s-style synthesizers. Someone was blasting some smooth jazz, old-school R&B and epic, sultry slow jamz from an old boombox. That someone was a slender black dude, standing about 5 feet tall and dressed in a skintight black leotard.

Leotard Dude was out to upend the established order.

Leotard Dude was out to upend the established order. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

Now, most people are used to riding the light rail with a certain sedated bubble of detachment. You take your seat, you avoid eye contact, you try to keep away from any outright jumpy tweakers, you keep your head down in a book (or, more likely, phone, right?), and you tune out of the rattling, humming, beeping, computer-voiced trip that is the light rail from Veterans Way to Van Buren.

Leotard Dude was out to upend the established order. Stationed, but by no means fixed, to the bike rack hallways, Leotard Dude wasn’t just listening to the tunes on his boombox, he was dancing, singing (mostly improvised lyrics) and, occasionally, busting out a flurried flute solo.

Leotard Dude bellowed, cooed, emoted, gyrated, undulated. He grinded on the walls and the floor and made a lot of eye contact with whoever around dared to observe his debauched spectacle. The speakers crackled at their high volume, almost at the bursting point of a blowout, which distorted the otherwise serene music into a noisy soup that retained only the outline of the originally sensual R&B.

The lines that he sang, repeated again and again like a mantra, were fragments from a glossary of maudlin love-song cliches, directed at no one and everyone: “don’t leave me again,” “I can’t do without you,” bits like that. Sometimes he would direct his lovelorn attention to a particular passenger and serenade them for a minute or two — incidentally, the car we were in was occupied by only men, charging the performance with an intense homoerotic vibe that flustered whoever was up next in the hot seat.

After a while, Leotard Dude packed up his flute and got off the light rail — was this just a regular commute for him? None of us know who Leotard Dude is, nor have we seen him since. For all we know, that was the only night he did his thing on the light rail. As far as Google could show me, there’s no trace of his presence on the Internet until this post. Hopefully, this serves as a beacon to anyone else who might have witnessed the elusive Leotard Dude.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2014/04/10/case-file-023-leotard-dude/

Case File 022: What Would I Have Done Without the Light Rail

I was squished between a guy who felt his legroom included two chairs and a woman who kept squinting her eyes around as if someone was after her. I sighed in relief. This was my refuge.

40 MINUTES EARLIER…
I was working on my computer, waiting to take the ASU shuttle from Tempe back to downtown. Students commonly question the best mode of transit between campuses — the school-provided shuttle or the light rail. I had been a light rail girl last semester but thought I would try the shuttle life this time around.

A guy from my history class walked up and attempted to engage me in a conversation. I, however, was rushing to finish something on deadline and wasn’t paying him much heed. He didn’t seem to notice and continued to ramble about something or the other. I finished with my work, closed my laptop and began to give the conversation more of my conscious thought.

Pretty soon he asked, “So, are you seeing anyone?”

I was not into this guy. He really shouldn’t take it personally, though, because I’m also not romantically interested in the entire gender. Classic lesbian drama.

After a pause, I responded, “No, but I’m also a lesbian.”

“Oooh, that’s cool, that’s cool,” he said. “You do you. I respect that. The First Amendment gives you the right to do what you want to.”

Hmm. That’s not quite the First Amendment, I recall. Let’s just look that up:

First amendment

And if I’m correct — wait, let me check — yup, still can’t get married in this state. In fact, I think there was recently a bill (cough cough, SB 1062) that didn’t look too favorably on me and my peeps. But this guy meant no harm and clearly fell asleep during the Bill of Rights portion of history class, so I went along with it, thinking we would change topics.

guy says insulting comment

But no. We didn’t. Instead, the rest of the wait for the shuttle was him going on and on about the gays. I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s a typical response for straight people to become overly obsessed with my lesbianism the first time they find out I wave the rainbow flag. But I typically view it as a good-natured person trying to become comfortable with someone in a community they don’t know very well and let it slide.

“But I mean, if there are two girls and they want me to be a part of it, well, I’m not going to say no,” he said.

He laughed. I didn’t.

Excuse me, sir. Exactly what part of me being interested in women tells you that I want you all up in my love-making? Additionally, my love is not something for you to sexualize and make your own.

In a deadpan voice, I shot back, “A typically straight man’s response.”

Side note: sorry to the straight men who don’t respond like that. But I panicked.

The shuttle arrived, and we got in line. I was beginning to realize that I would have to sit next to this guy for the whole ride back.

“Do you know the story about St. Valentine’s?” he asked.

“No.”

“He was a homosexual and created Valentine’s Day for his lover.”

Again, I don’t recall that bit from my Catholic high school, but I just wanted to get on this bus.

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, he was a f-ggot and–”

I missed the rest of the sentence.

“Okaaayyy, no need to use that word.”

“Hey, hey,” Now he was on the defensive. “It’s my First Amendment right to say that. I can say whatever I want.” (Back to the First Amendment again.)

At that time, I received a phone call from a source for a story and rejoiced. I hopped out of line, talked with her, finished, then waited for the bus to drive off before I lowered my phone.

So I went home on the light rail that day, and it was glorious. I also read gay news outlets to pump up my rainbow pride. Now, I realize none of that is a big deal but, frankly, I don’t want to sit next to someone who throws out slurs. So the debate is settled: I’m a light rail girl. And I pay tribute to the gods who created multiple modes of transportation every week.

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Case File 021: A Language of Our Own

I was sitting on a crowded light rail headed home from work one afternoon when a woman boarded along with a dozen other people. She was about 40 years old and was carrying several canvas tote bags filled with various odds and ends.

I had been sitting in the aisle seat because my stop was coming up, but I scooted over as she approached to let her sit too.

She settled her bags around her and then turned toward me. She said a few words, but I couldn’t understand what she had said. It sounded a bit like a greeting and an introduction, but her tone was questioning — I thought maybe she was asking for money or food.

I opened my mouth to apologize, shrugging my shoulders vaguely, but she stopped me with a shake of her head. She gestured from her ear to mine, waving toward my mouth, and I understood — she was deaf.

(Illustrated by Rachel Ganger/DD)

She turned the notebook toward me.
(Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

The woman held up one finger for me to wait and began digging through one of her bags. She pulled out a pretty notebook with a flower on the cover, flipped through until she found a blank page, then unclipped her pen and began writing. After a couple seconds, she turned the notebook toward me.

“Is there a Walmart on the rail?”

I reached for her pen. “Montebello and 19th Avenue stop.”

She craned her neck around to see the map of light rail stops posted above our heads.

I tapped her lightly on the shoulder, pointing in the direction opposite of where we were going. She mimicked my gesture, nodding in understanding. She reached to take the notebook back and looked up at the map again.

“Sycamore and Main?”

I shrugged apologetically. I only go to Tempe and Mesa for class, bookstores and concerts — I’m not familiar with the location of their superstores.

She spoke, and after a moment, I understood she had to go in that direction. She wrote down, “I’m going to a deaf center — 44,” which I took to mean the Virginia C. Piper Sports and Fitness Center, which is located a couple blocks from the 44th and Washington streets light rail stop.

I nodded in understanding, forgetting she couldn’t hear me and apologizing aloud.

She shook her head and muttered one word. “Deaf.”

(Illustrated by Rachel Ganger/DD)

I tapped her lightly on the shoulder, pointing in the direction opposite of where we were going. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

I nodded again quickly, feeling rude. We were getting close to my stop and I knew I didn’t have time to write down that I didn’t know where the closest Walmart was in that direction, so I waved my hands vaguely, looking confused and apologetic.

She nodded, somehow understanding, and then smiled at me. The woman thanked me for my help. I could understand her words this time. She turned away.

After a few seconds, a voice announced that we were approaching my stop. I tapped my fellow passenger’s arm, pointing at myself and the light rail door.

She stood up and moved into the aisle as we slowed down. As I stood to step over to the aisle as well, the train suddenly sped up again. The woman fell backward a step, pressing against a child in a stroller before latching on to the side of the seat to regain her balance.

I stumbled as well, turning around to make sure she was okay once I’d regained my footing. The startled child was crying a little and the woman attempted to apologize.

We finally coasted into the station, a little more smoothly this time. I turned back toward the woman as she tried to speak to the passengers behind her, hoping she would make it to her destination safely and find a store for whatever she needed.

I laid a hand on her arm as a goodbye, smiling when our eyes met as I stepped onto the station platform with a whirlwind of other passengers. My clumsy words weren’t enough to help her, but maybe the knowledge that someone cared would be better than nothing.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2014/02/11/case-file-021-a-language-of-our-own/

Case File 020: He Loved His Momma

(Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

He slapped the bajeebers out of Wyatt. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

We just wanted some chicken. That’s really all we wanted. Little did we know that we’d be getting dinner and a show.

I didn’t think anything of it when the first man — we’ll call him Wyatt — got on the light rail. Why would I? He was a larger man carrying two huge coolers filled with drinks. We’d seen him selling them in front of the ASU football game earlier that night.

Another man — we’ll call him Jamarcus — got on the light rail a little farther down and tried to walk past Wyatt. Wyatt stuck his butt right onto Jamarcus to prevent him from passing.

Like, gross. You don’t go sticking your butt on people. Who knows where that butt’s been? Nobody. Nobody knows, that’s who.

Jamarcus didn’t take kindly to this, at which point he leaned in and whispered something to Wyatt and then walked away. Wyatt screamed back, “yeah, well, bless your momma!”

*INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE HAS BEEN CHANGED TO BE SUITABLE FOR A GENERAL AUDIENCE*

Wait, what? What could Jamarcus have possibly said to warrant such a reaction? We didn’t know; all we knew was that Jamarcus really loved his momma, because he slapped the bajeebers out of Wyatt.

Wyatt was shocked but reacted quickly with a sharp slap to Jamarcus. I was secretly hoping for some punches, but alas. People quickly came to separate them, and Wyatt was taken off the light rail by bystanders. He made sure to throw in a few more “honor your momma”s and “hit me”s, all while trying to sneak back on.

I fear we’ll never know what Jamarcus whispered, but at least we know he loves his momma.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2014/01/27/case-file-020-he-loved-his-momma/

Case File 019: The Complexity of Human Relationships

(Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

She starts busting out racial slurs and yelling at him. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

I’m on the light rail trying to mellow out by listening to Azure Ray. My mood, however, will soon be interrupted by the strangest argument I’ve ever seen.

I see this woman approach a guy sitting in one of the front rows. All of the sudden, she starts busting out racial slurs and yelling at him.

“I can’t believe you did that. I can’t believe you did that.”

The woman keeps swearing at him. Eventually she throws her jacket at his feet and sits down across from him, armed only with her death glare.

The man, who hasn’t responded, picks up her jacket and proceeds to fold it on his lap. Once completed, he reaches over and places it on her lap, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her death glare remains constant.

Eventually the light rail stops, as it tends to do. The man exits and sits down at the station. Oddly enough, the woman follows him out and stands in front of him, her brooding eyes locked on his.

As the light rail pulls away, I see the man pull the woman into his lap and kiss her as passionately as anyone has ever been kissed. She reciprocates.

What a beautiful couple.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2014/01/20/case-file-019-the-complexity-of-human-relationships/

Case File 018: Of Buns and Chopsticks

I suppose I should begin this story with two things:

I am female, and I am Asian.

I had just finished a grueling final with my friend and we boarded the light rail, ready to head home. We pushed down the chairs and sat down, discussing the test and our plans for the future. While we were talking, I was re-tying my hair into a bun (I have a bad habit of messing with my hair, especially while testing).

Yes, this is relevant information.

There was an older white guy sitting a couple seats away. I heard him say something. It was almost under his breath at the volume he was speaking; however, he was sitting pretty close to me, and I heard every word of it. Knowing that it was directed toward me, and I didn’t like what I heard, I opted to ignore it and continued to talk to my friend.

(Illustration

Then he repeats himself a little louder: “You should put a stick in it. You know, like, a chopstick.” (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

A few seconds later, the man scooted one seat closer to me. Then he repeated himself a little louder: “You should put a stick in it. You know, like, a chopstick.”

Get it?

‘Cause I’m Asian.

This time, my friend heard it. She raised an eyebrow, I rolled my eyes, and we continued our conversation. By this time, I had finished tying my hair up and we had moved on to more blasé topics of weather and the holidays. When I heard his seat shift, I thought that my rudeness had dissuaded him from trying to talk to me anymore.

Nope. He had moved even closer — and he started breathing in my space.

Look, I understand that breathing is completely necessary in order to function as a human being. So let me rephrase that.

He was inhaling my scent. Because how else do you describe someone who is breathing in a little too heavily and exhaling a little too shallowly?

This time, leaning way too close into my space, inhaling and looking at me with a strange sort of half-grin, he repeated himself loudly one final time: “You should put a chopstick in your bun. You know. Heh. Heheh.”

Was that innuendo? Was he implying something sexual? I’m not sure.

I don’t know if I was simply fed up with the long day of finals or if this was just the last straw on the pile of creepy guys that broke the camel’s back (“You know, I used to have a Chinese wife.” “I always loved your kind of exotic black hair.” “Ni hao! Ni hao? No? Konnichiwa! Right? Uh … Korean?” “Hey, you know I find that a lot of your people’s women really like ________, am I right?”), but I think my disgust and irritation translated well into my expression. I have been told before that my glares could freeze fire. I might have even curled my lip and sneered a bit. My friend couldn’t even muster a nervous smile at the guy because she saw my face before I turned around.

He backed off quickly and got off at the next stop quietly.

Here are a few things to remember about me — and everyone else on this wonderful earth that looks like me (because, remember, we all look exactly the same with our youthful faces and exotic hair):

I am not a china doll, least of all yours.

I am not a commodity.

I will not stand to be fetishized.

So long as you can respect these things, I think we’ll be off to a good start.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2014/01/14/case-file-018-of-buns-and-chopsticks/

Case File 017: Hugo From Honduras

I’m hovering awkwardly at the light rail stop.

I’m not even there to ride the light rail. I’m trying to do a man-on-the-street interview for my journalism class. The light rail just passed, and I’m waiting for more people to come in to the station so I can corner them for a good ten or fifteen minutes if I need to.

I wait for two light rails to go by before I talk to anyone, because of Hugo.

He’s walking through the station; a man hands him a bag of chips. He has a dog on a leash, a beautiful golden midsized dog with wide, loving eyes.

He walks past me.

He turns back.

He says, “Hello.”

“Hi,” I say.

“My name is Hugo. I’m from Honduras.”

I smile.

“I’m here for two months now. I was here before, but they deported me. I came back, but I’m only here for two months. I’m trying to make my way here, but it’s hard, because I don’t have no money, you know?”

I nod.

“I don’t have nowhere to sleep. And I have to feed myself and her too.” He gestures to his dog.

He’s got eyes like his dog’s, deep and chocolate and honest. A smile just as sincere. I’m nodding and smiling and looking down and apologizing because I don’t know what else to do. “I wish I could do something to help. I don’t even know anywhere I could tell you to go.”

(Illustrated by Rachel Ganger)

He has a beautiful golden midsized dog with wide, loving eyes. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger)

“It’s okay,” he says. “I just have to talk about it. Because otherwise it all stays in my head. And you know, it’s hard. I don’t have anywhere to stay. And I don’t want to go to the shelter.”

“Why not?”

“Too many drugs. Too much drugs outside it, on the street, in that area. I don’t want to be around that.”

“Mmmm.” Nod.

“I’m trying to get a job, but always the first thing they ask is for ID. So even then, I can’t get a job. I don’t know what to do. And I’m trying to feed her, too.”

“I’m sorry.”

I am sorry, but I feel so insincere. How do you answer this? I’m sorry, I’m a white girl spending extortionary amounts of money on college. Oh, I’m sorry you’re struggling. As if I can even understand it. I feel so much. My heart hurts so much. I want to help him so much. He has those eyes that say, “I feel this world so deeply.”

Hugo tells me that he rode on the tops of trains to get here. It’s dangerous, he says; people die, the trains stop and they tumble like water splashing from an overfilled cup.

“But now I’m just struggling to find something to eat. Somewhere to sleep.”

“Why did you come here?”

“For a better life. In my country, I work for just five dollars every day.”

He smiles at me a lot. While he keeps saying he’s just getting by, with nowhere to sleep and nowhere to work, he never asks me for anything. He just keeps telling his story.

The dog’s name is Nadia. She found him, at a light rail stop like this one, and just followed him as he was walking away.

“I called the number on the tag, but no one comes to pick her up. I called and I called. But no one comes to get her.

“I think her owner must ride a bicycle or something, because every time one goes by she wants to chase it.”

As he says this a bicyclist pedals by and he’s right, Nadia yanks against her leash, wildly alert for a moment.

He asks me how old I am; I tell him. “I am so old,” he says. “I have forty now.” He looks younger to me. He says he hopes the light rail security doesn’t get on the train; he doesn’t have enough to pay for a bus ticket.

And then the light rail pulls in, with that unsettling braking sound like screaming, and Hugo smiles at me.

“Thank you for listening to me. Maybe I’ll see you again,” he says.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more,” I tell him helplessly. He smiles at me, and, dog trotting loyally along beside him, disappears on the train.

I smile and I’m also sad. I felt so much love for him. But I have interviews to get and a story to write about Valley Metro increasing security on the light rail so fewer and fewer people can hitch a ride for free.

I see him again on the light rail a week later.

My heart jumps when I see him. I don’t look like I did that day when he talked to me, in costume tonight for a Halloween party. I’m in the upper tier of seats and he gets on below with his beautiful dog.

And when he meets my eyes, I smile at him and wave, and he smiles too. I wonder if he recognizes me.

“I think he probably does,” my friend tells me. An empty reassurance.

And he meets my eyes again, and I smile again, and this happens two or three times and there is something that connects me so strongly to this man, poor broken hopeful Hugo from Honduras.

Then he gets off, and in my heart I feel that something of me is going with him, lost irretrievably, some unknown chance I did not take that will echo inside me for a very, very long time.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2013/11/25/case-file-016-hugo-from-honduras/

Case File 016: Fights

I don’t like to fight. Like, I really don’t like to fight. Mainly because I’ve never fought before. I’ve always felt like if I were to ever get into a fight and the person had angered me enough, I would find the strength to punch them square in the jaw and send them flying.

But it’s one of those situations no one actually wants to be in to find out, just like the situation where you find out if the backup parachute really works or not.

One day on the light rail, however, I almost had to brush the cobwebs off the ol’ backup parachute and take the jump. Basically, I almost got into a fight.

It started off like any other light rail trip. I scanned my U-Pass and waited at the station with a friend. We were on our way to “A” mountain for a nighttime hike. We joked about looking thuggish with our hats on backwards and loose clothing. My friend left her pepper spray in her room, and I teased that I would have to be her pepper spray. Point is, don’t joke around before you go on the light rail. It tends to be a bad omen.

(Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

This guy was, no pun intended, a basket case. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

We entered the compartment and headed for two seats on the raised portion near the rear of the car. To our left, there was an overweight middle-aged man with a mischievous smile on his face. In front of us, there was an older man with two backpacks slung around his shoulders and a plastic basket on top of his head.

The basket should have been a tipoff that something was not right with this guy. But, after all, you run into a lot of interesting characters on the light rail. There’s soda-can-opener guy, trombone guy, suitcase guy… But this guy was, no pun intended, a basket case.

I lied. The pun was definitely intended.

He took the basket off his head, turned around and proceeded to give me the dirtiest look I have ever received. He held this cruel glint in his eyes for a good minute or so before turning back around. Needless to say, I was thoroughly creeped out but figured it was in my best interest to stay quiet. The chubby man to my left had other ideas.

He leaned over to my female friend, pointed to a group of girls wearing very tight-fitting clothing, and said, “When I get off the train, I’m going to yell ‘Barbie!’ at those girls.”

My friend didn’t really know what to say other than to give an amused look back at him and nod. The man in front of us decided that now was a good time to give a dirty look to our chubby friend. The chubby man looked back and said, “What are you looking at?”

The man responded, “The hell are you looking at. You want to screw with me?”

The chubby man said, “I ain’t afraid of you. Come at me.”

The conversation proceed in a much more explicit fashion for the next thirty seconds as they continued to threaten each other. Their words became so profane that a woman behind us leaned forward and said, “There are ladies on this train, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t use that kind of language.”

“Thank you,” our chubby friend said.

The angry man in front of us kept screaming profanities at the chubby man. Eventually he turned around and I exchanged a look of relief with my friend.

That’s when I was suddenly roped into this conflict. The man turned around and started to yell at me!

“And you,” he said as he pointed at me. “If you even touch my stuff again, I will beat the crap out of you. I’m not screwing around. I will take you out. They’re going to lock me up. I ain’t playing.”

“Calm down,” I said trying to maintain my composure. “I won’t touch your stuff anymore.”

Funny thing is, I never touched his stuff. But he thought I did, and that was all that mattered.

“I ain’t playing,” he said. “I will mess you up. Got it. I will mess you up. I don’t care.”

I kept trying to pacify him. It didn’t help that my chubby friend decided his two cents needed to be interjected into the conversation.

“Don’t be scared, man,” he said. “He’s just trying to make trouble. Ain’t nobody scared of him.”

I looked over at him and tried to tell him to politely cease his assistance, but apparently he didn’t get the message because he continued to talk. The angry man turned his attention back to the chubby man and they continued to yell back and forth.

The light rail came to the next stop and I whispered the exit strategy to my companion. We were going to wait a couple seconds after the train stopped to make sure the angry man wouldn’t follow us then bolt off and wait for the next train.

So we waited for a couple of seconds and sprinted off the train. Thankfully, the man didn’t follow us. I tried to console my friend while we waited for the next train. Eventually, both our heart rates slowed down and we boarded again.

Take Two

We were both grateful that our ordeal was over. We even began to laugh about what just happened. I joked about how I was ready to take on the angry man and how I would have taught him a lesson. It’s like I didn’t even learn from the first time.

Naturally, we saw the man at the next stop.

At first, I was paralyzed. Then my body sprung into action as my friend and I sprinted once again toward the door.

That’s the last I ever saw of the angry man. I hope he found happiness. Regardless, one thing became clear after that incident. I’m about as ready to fight someone as I am to jump out of an airplane.

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Permanent link to this article: http://lightrail.downtowndevil.com/2013/11/18/case-file-016-fights/

Case File 015: Missed Opportunities

(Illustration by Rachel Ganger)

While walking through Taylor Mall on the downtown campus, we saw the light rail streaking by. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger)

We were late.

I mean, very late. As in, the event was starting as we were hurrying to the light rail to get to Tempe. Four friends and I were going to the inaugural Dance Marathon last year in order to support the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. But really because we wanted to dance.

While walking through Taylor Mall on the downtown campus, we saw the light rail streaking by.

“Oh my!” we shouted.

*Editor’s note: certain language has been changed to be more appropriate for the general audience.

We took off chasing the light rail. Huffing and puffing, one of my friends reached the train before us. She placed her body in the way of the closing doors, despite a frustrated driver announcing that passengers are not allowed to block the doorway, and we all got on. One little problem, though — we didn’t validate our passes.

Four of us didn’t care. We were finally on the light rail and would be able to get there somewhat soon. The other, bless him, greatly disliked our lack of validation.

“I don’t know about this,” he said.

Gosh, Jarvis. It doesn’t matter. We still paid for the passes. We just didn’t validate,” one of my friends said.

“You know, we could always just get off on the next stop and validate them…” Jarvis said.

Jarvis continued to nag us. The light rail reached the next stop and opened its doors. I looked at Jarvis.

Bless it,” I said.

I sprinted off the light rail toward the validation machine thing. I heard my friends shriek and gasp behind me, but they followed me anyway. I reached the thing and thrust my pass against it.

Error noise.

My goodness.”

I put my pass up against it again. Same thing. My friend shoved past me and tried hers.

Error noise.

Gosh darn it!”

Let bygones be bygones, and let’s just get back on the rail,” someone said.

We ran back to the rail and reached the doors just as they shut and locked us out. We then stood there with open mouths and watched as the light rail traveled to Tempe without us.

Gee willikers, Jarvis. Look what you did!”

“What I did! I didn’t run off the light rail.”

“Hey! It’s not my fault. I only ran off because you were guilt-tripping me. And you guys didn’t have to follow.”

“We’re not going to leave you!”

Anywho, about five minutes later (and after Jarvis apologized, because it was clearly his fault), we stopped playing the blame game and accepted our fate.

Bee’s knees. Now we are going to be even more late.”

“It’s okay, we’ll just catch the next one.”

After 15 minutes of waiting and occasionally bickering…

We saw the train approaching.

“Thank God,” we all said.

The light rail stopped. We stood up from the seats and walked toward the doors.

One little problem, though — the doors weren’t opening. One friend pressed the yellow button that should open the doors. Nothing happened.

“Uh…”

“Look, it says it’s out of service.”

Bless all that is good and right in this world.

“JARVIS!”

And 15 minutes later…

A working light rail arrived. We took it. We were even more late to the thing we were already late for.

God bless America.

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Case File 014: Mind-Numbing Conversations

Friday night light rail rides to Tempe are always filled with intriguing — if not mind-numbingly shallow — conversations. Some are just a bit more mind-numbing.

I’ll admit at the outset: I was headed to Tempe for some activities of the adult variety. With a gaggle of sorority sisters. I’m not the least shallow of guys.

(Photo illustrated by Rachel Ganger/DD)

But, when blondie in a tight dress and her friend entered the train and parked themselves next to me, I had to take out an earbud and listen in on the conversation. (Illustration by Rachel Ganger/DD)

But, when blondie in a tight dress and her friend entered the train and parked themselves next to me, I had to take out an earbud and listen in on the conversation.

“So, I met him through Match.com, and he was a definite 10,” the blonde said to her friend, who was sporting short, dark hair with red highlights. She nodded, but her expression seemed blank. (Hint: That never changed.)

“We had like a bunch of shared interests,” she continued. It seemed like this guy was doing all right. “He played piano, knew how to dance tango, even liked The Notebook.”

Another blank nod.

“So, we decided to go on a date. And he told me the location. Like I’m supposed to drive myself.”

That seems fair. The blank nods are getting more vigorous. A vacant ‘preach it, sister.’

“Am I just not going to have a good time?” (Hint: She means getting too drunk to drive home.) “So I called a cab.”

I chuckled a bit, not loud enough to clue them in to my eavesdropping.

“So, we’re like there, and he orders a water. And I’m like, ‘Screw that,’ and I ordered an appletini.” Still blank. But still nodding. “And so begins the small talk.”

Maybe the guy was thirsty. It is the desert, after all. Or maybe he didn’t want to nudge her subconsciously toward drinking on their date.

“And he’s a total snooze. Works some uptight six-figure job.” What a jerk. “Takes care of his sick mother.

“And he has six siblings.”

Deal breaker. The nods are almost violent now, despite the vapid facial expression.

“And I’m like, ‘Hold on. Are you, like, a Mormon?’”

A gasp! It was subtle, but I swore the friend breathed in slightly irregularly to the degree that it might be considered a gasp.

“And he says, ‘Yes, I am.’”

Well, that doesn’t sound too overbearing. No conversion spiel. No sinners or hell or fire or brimstone.

“And I said, ‘Does that mean you can’t have sex?’”

I did a double take, which I calmly masked by checking the station map located above their heads. Center Parkway and Washington was the next stop.

“He said, ‘No, my religion doesn’t allow that.’”

The blank expression showed the slightest hint of amusement. In an ‘OMG-I-can’t-even-no-way’ kind of way.

“I just got up right then and left. Walked to the bar across the street, and ended up doing shots by myself.”

The station announcer interrupted: “Approaching Mill Avenue and Third Street.”

The two looked at each other and prepared for disembarking. I looked at both and shook my head.

“What a dick,” said the friend, as they made their way off the train and into the night.

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