Commuting adventures between Tacoma and Seattle.

Category: Commuter Profile

Commuter Profile: The Painted Lady

So, Janis Joplin’s granddaughter is riding the train these days.  She’s got a bunch of “doodle-quality” tattoos all over her, mostly of birds, flowers, and that kind of thing.  She wears big round, dark sunglasses every day–rain or shine–jeans, very long dark hair, and usually has her feet exposed in some manner (sandals, flip-flops, etc…).

When we’re waiting for the train on the platform, she’s vigorously sucking on some kind of miniature water-vapor hooka.  Not quite as big as a recorder (that flutey thing you played in 5th grade music class), but close…probably trying to quit cigarettes since she works at a hospital.  I’m not sure that puffing 10x as hard on the substitute is going to teach you to quit smoking, but what do I know.  She also is a voracious eater of nicotine gum.  You’d think she was a heroin addict the way she’s always fussing around with these things.

Mostly, she keeps to herself.  I’d bet my house that she’s got a bag of weed in her purse.  Given her outward appearance, it’s kind of surprising that she gets up and hits the train at 5:35am every day with me.  Someone’s gotta bring home the bacon, I guess.  I imagine that she has an unemployed boyfriend who sleeps 16 hours each day interleaved with Budweiser and weed.  When she’s trying to get some sleep so she can get up in the morning, he’s partying with his unemployed friends out in the next room.  She and her boyfriend probably have a pit-bull together, tied to a tree out in the yard who sleeps on a patch of dirt between the broken lawn mower and barbecue…no kids, though.

She seems kind of smart, and kind of dumb at the same time–you know what I mean–like she could have done more with her life, but she’s doing better than everyone she knows.  She took the tough road, and is spending her 20’s figuring out how to turn it around .


I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll…Just Need to Sit Down Here a Moment

Remember the old codger who plopped down between me and The Fonz and ended up knocking The Fonz onto the floor?  Well, he found himself a seat this morning without forcibly displacing any other riders; Lebeau won’t like it, though.  Getting to this seat was a bit of an adventure for the guy; I remember it as if it were a meal ago…


Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here.

I’m standing there playing Words With Friends while waiting for the train, The Scarecrow wandering feverishly and randomly around the train platform, when I hear some labored breathing approaching.  I didn’t look up, assuming it was probably just The Scarecrow doing his morning calisthenics, or masturbating, or both.  As the breathing gets closer, it really sounds like the “breather” is in distress.  I look up and see that same old codger from before, wobbling down the platform, bent over about 30 degrees struggling to make it over to where I’m standing.


Poor-Man’s John Wayne

He’s hugging the wall of the Freighthouse, hobbling along like William Boyd in Hopalong Cassidy, reaches out for a railing, then leans on it casually while trying to catch his breath as if to say, “What? I’m just standing here leaning on this rail like a goddamn boss.”  It was all he could do to get from the door to this spot on the platform–about 30 yards–and he sounded like he had just run the sprint of his life.  Standing there leaning on the railing was too much for him, so he ended up sitting down on a curb.  Was he going to pass out?  Man, who could tell?

At about this time the train pulls up, and this guy works for Sound Transit counting passengers, so he’s got to get his ass up and over the the doors.  I instinctively step aboard when the doors open, sit down, and pull out my laptop.  I look up: oh my god he made it!  The old codger covered the 15 yards between his seat on the curb and the doors of the train, but it sounded like it nearly killed him to do so.

He dumps himself into Lebeau’s seat and spreads himself out across the two seats in that space–he really needs a rest.  If anyone needs the extra room, it’s this guy, but he comes off completely oblivious to the people around him who have nowhere to sit, just like last time when he was sitting where the bikes go, and when his ass shoved The Fonz out of his spot.  This old dude should probably have a handicap parking sticker on the back of his Sound Transit ID badge to let people know how lucky they are not to be performing CPR on him right now.

If I Only Had a Brain


A battle of wits between THE Scarecrow and My Scarecrow would end in mutual surrender.

Today one of The Weebles is sitting in LeBeau’s spot with the Loogie Hocking Zombie.  I glanced over just now and see that he’s wearing cloth gardening gloves to keep his hands warm.  The gloves are a little too big, so the ends of his fingers look all floppy and broken.  Looking at his face, he is napping (or pretending), then it strikes me…he looks and acts exactly like Ray Bolger, THE SCARECROW (aka. Chang Wang Woe) from The Wizard of Oz.

It’s positively uncanny the resemblance, behavior, everything!  MY Scarecrow is more of a “Scareperson” though, if we’re being totally honest.

From here on out, LHZ is The Scarecrow.  It fits perfectly!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Señor Botas?

The guy with the fancy new hazmat booties is back, but without the booties; makes me a little sad.  He’s clearly Hispanic.  Today he is standing right in front of me, facing me, talking loudly on the phone with someone who can’t hear very well.  He’s literally–literally–shouting into his phone trying to spell something for the person on the other end.  It’s like he’s yelling at me.


This photo must have made Robert Downey, Sr. so proud.

“Eme!  Eme!  No!!  Eme!  Say!  No!  Eme!!!  Say!  Day!  Day!!!  Hey.  No!  Jesus Christ!  EME!!!  Ok.  Say, day, airrrrrrrrrrray.  Punto.  SAY!!”

I think he’s trying to give someone an e-mail address.  That “someone” is on a T-Mobile phone, in Ecuador, standing in the middle of a busy market, a mariachi band is playing, a 727 is flying overhead, a car bomb has just exploded, and that person is holding their phone upside-down.  There’s a time and place for everything.  Here and now is literally–literally–screaming for the phonetic alphabet (or a txt message).

Señor Botas is the spitting image of an unshaven, nicely tanned, Mexican Robert Downey Jr. wearing a bike helmet and backpack.  Dude is LOUD, but smells OK.

Commuter Profile: Evil Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark


Vee have vays of making you talk.

Oh my sweet baby jesus, IT’S HIM!  I swear I saw his face melt back in 1984 when I finally got to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, at home on VHS, and only after all of my friends had told me everything about the movie.  But there he is!  Black leather hat, round eyeglasses, long black leather jacket, black pants, black shoes, and a sporty red tote (something new for 2013).

I can tell he’s up to something by the way he’s looking around without moving his head–just his eyeballs, head tilted slightly back, gaunt complexion…dude it’s totally him!

What is he after?  Is Dr. Jones in danger?  Is there a band of well dressed men in fezzes running across the top of the train RIGHT NOW?  Is the train going to just blow through the station and dive down into an abandoned mine with crazy roller-coaster-like tracks?  Is that a red-hot poker in his hand?

Oh, good, it’s just an umbrella.

Commuter Profile: Momma Lovell


My boy Jimmy isn’t going to be on TV? They said he was…

Momma Lovell is an old fashioned girl.  She expects a man to give up his seat for a lady like herself, and she’ll have you know her son could land a washing machine if NASA could figure out how to make one fly.

Sounds like Jim Lovell has really let himself go after limping Apollo 13 back to earth in 1970.  Apparently he works at Boeing now and rides a tricycle to work.  Proud Momma Lovell reports her son as weighing about 450lbs (an ounce or two more than herself).


Rollin’ on 22’s.

The Loogie Hocking Zombie knows of Momma Lovell’s boy, too!  If you think about it for a moment, a 450lb grown man riding a tricycle to work would probably be difficult to forget if you ever happened to see it.  It seems like Momma Lovell uses this as her conversation starter if she learns that someone works at Boeing.  “Oh, you work at Boeing?  Do you know my son?  He rides a tricycle to work and weighs 450lbs.  Yep, that’s right.  That’s my boy!”  Maybe I’ll get to see him on the train on Bring-Your-Kid-To-Work Day.

Commuter Profile: The Ewoks

So, there are these three or four Filipino ladies who get on the train in Auburn, just outside of Endor, and they’re bundled up like they’re heading out to shovel snow in Barrow, Alaska.  They are really short–no more than 4’8″, all about the same size, and they kind of look like what you’d get if the Michelan Man found a wife in Fargo and they had babies: big puffy coats, fluffy fur-lined hoods, fuzzy hats, furry-trimmed boots, and knit gloves.


I think the train is late.

They are really cute and a bit of a crack-up.  When they get on the train, the first thing they do is scurry around looking for open seats, then signal to the others when one is found.  Next comes the oh-you-take-this-seat-no-you-take-the-seat dance.  When two of them find a seat, it’s usually nowhere near the other, which precipitates the is-this-seat-better-no-I-think-your-seat-is-better dance.  Eventually someone gives up so the group can stay together.  Sometimes there is no seat to be had, so they all stand in a tight little circle talking to each other in a language that I don’t recognize.  French?  Spanish?  Hard to tell.


Found a good seat today.

They sort of remind me of a nest full of baby birds, especially when The Marionette is towering over them–a full 20″ taller.  Their Ewok impression is uncanny, whether that is their intention or not.  Maybe some day they’ll come onboard and make me their king.  They’ll carry me on a a bamboo throne high above their heads–maybe 5′ off the ground–and plan to roast The Old Bitty over an open flame in my honor.

Commuter Profile: Louis Lebeau


One man united against the Nazis and people who sit in his spot.

Stalag 13’s vertically challenged French chef and proud dog lover, “The Cockroach” commutes between Sumner and Seattle in his preferred seat next to the door; back to the wall, clutching one of his two black bags in the same instinctive manner as a paratrooper who really would have preferred an assignment cooking meals for Charles de Gaulle.   Lebeau never really got comfortable with the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, and he copes with his flashbacks by closing his eyes, face tilted toward the sky, and imagining he is instead whipping up a delicate crepe suzette for his mother.

A creature of habit, Lebeau is a fish out of water when, say, some thoughtless Nazi is in his seat.  And though his charms with the ladies may have faded slightly over the years, Lebeau is a proud man with the strength to persevere through the toughest of times, sitting somewhere suboptimal when he must, or even standing for part of the ride.  This man is a French martyr and hero, not unlike Jerry Lewis, who’s life of suffering at the hands of the Nazis is but a distant but vivid memory.

Having retired the red beret and wool military uniform, Lebeau is consistently inconspicuous in his attire: polished black shoes, dress slacks, at least two large cases/bags + umbrella, and a trench coat that only serves to accentuate his diminutive stature.  It’s arguable whether his mom had to hem his trench coat for length.  In some ways he looks like a little kid wearing his dad’s clothes, but for the graying hair, 5 o’clock shadow, and battle weary expression.