It was 20 minutes before noon when a Whittier police officer came to a stop, blue and scarlet lights flashing, in the middle of Calmada Ave. Three more officers, this time representing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department cruised down Mulberry alongside an egg shell-colored hearse.
The cop sat back on his motorcycle, right hand raised keeping traffic at bay. The 90-degree sun beat relentlessly on his helmet, absorbed by the cop's black uniform, but he didn't move. Car after car bore orange funeral tape across its windshield and followed its predecessor down the street for 15-minutes before the traffic light changed and the cop released the hounds.
After the first 20 cars I lost track of the count. The line must have stretched two miles. Who was the deceased? How were all these people related to him or her? What was him to them?
Even though I'm not one for traditional funerals -- dead bodies give me the creeps -- I couldn't help what kind of life the deceased lived. What stories would he tell? Who did she leave behind? How will the hundreds of people following in the procession remember him? If given an extra hour how would she spend it?
Ask anyone how they would spend extra time, and it's a safe bet that no one would say they'd rather be on a bus or waiting for a bus when it's 90-degrees out. But that's how a young mother spends her Wednesdays.
She had her daughter in tow as she headed home after a morning spent at Whittier Adult School. Her little girl, who was no taller than three-feet, kept hydrated by drinking water out of a miniature Sunny Delight bottle. She curled her legs up on the seat and lay her head on her mom's lap.
"I have to get her up at 6:30 to make my 8 o'clock class," the woman said. "We get home at 1:30 and she stays with her aunt."
After a brief respite, the woman finds herself back on the bus headed back to school. If I was on the bus longer, I would have asked her what classes she takes. What is it that makes her spend all day on a bus for two hours in a classroom?
All kinds of folks use public transportation in the Whittier area. Many, like the young mother, drag youngsters in one hand and cart a stroller in the other. Others are young, high school-age kids, whose taste in hair and clothing says a lot about their likes and dislikes.
Walk into a Starbucks and observe the clientele. It's easy to tell who the business people are -- they're usually in power suits with a blue tooth device attached to their head. But the teenagers outnumbered the adults. Many, mostly girls, wore huge sunglasses popular in the 80s. Boys and girls alike were comfortable with curtains of hair obstructing their eyes, nose and mouth.
It's not a new style, one of them said, it reflects what you're into, like music.
What music are you into?
Metal. Either I've been away from L.A. too long, or I'm really out of touch. Many have hoops hanging out of their mouths and Marilyn Manson t-shirts on, something popular when I was in high school, but what's the deal with the hair? It wouldn't surprise me if one of them choked on a strand of their own hair while sucking down their Frappuccinos.