“You guys wanna go on the love train?” a Metro employee called out.
As soon as Sam Oglesby stepped onto the Red Line car with roommate Jack Meighan, they introduced themselves to a nearby woman and began talking over the din – the roar of the train and the unusual chatter of nearly two dozen strangers.
Two Metro cupids in red and white costumes, wings and all, made rounds with passengers who rode from Union Station to Hollywood and back on designated cars adorned with hearts, garland-wrapped poles and cupid window stickers.
It’s not quite speed dating, but it’s easier than going up to a random person on the train, said Ben Batorsky, 28, of Metro’s inaugural Valentine’s Day event.
Inspired by transit love stories, the event sought to bring passengers together or at least get them to “fall in love” with Metro, said spokeswoman Anna Chen.
Enthusiastic Metro employees welcomed ladies to trains that lacked them or pointed out men to mingling women. A man in a neon vest blew his whistle to signal a switch every two minutes with a rhythmic shoulder shake.
Media and Metro employees swarmed some of the emptier cars, but the energy was high on many trains, with daters standing in the aisles or chatting in groups.
“Come talk to this guy!” someone shouted when Vincente Jimenez, 19, boarded the train, three roses in hand.
He bought them from a vendor after a Metro employee asked if he wanted to try speed dating. He stowed one away in his backpack, for his mom, and reached across the aisle to give another to Javier Ramirez, 32, to help him out “so he could find someone to give it to.”
Ramirez hasn’t had a Valentine in nine years. Would today be the day?
“That’s up to God, if you want to give me one,” he said, holding the rose and looking toward the chatting crowd. Someone will get this rose today, he said.
Sometimes he’ll try and talk to people on trains, but girls act conceited, he said, adding that he was hoping to meet someone special.
Tamara Ellis, 36, hopped on in North Hollywood because she wanted to try something new. It was a little odd, being encouraged to talk with strangers, she said. Usually everyone on the train is in their own bubble with headphones in.
She’s a little shy and started off watching others work the crowd, she said – especially the slick girl who walked on and found a match right away.
Todd Hanson, 40, often chats with people on the bus in Santa Monica. Maybe people are just intimidated on trains, he mused about the awkwardness many felt in walking up to strangers in such a normal space.
He’s speed dated before, but never in such a unique location – it made it more fun, people seemed nervous but maybe a bit more open.
After four great conversations, including one with a comic whose show he might attend, Hanson, spotted another person across the car he wanted to meet.
“Single on Valentine’s Day? I gotta get to work, I only have eight hours left!” he joked.