Ron Kaye: Depending on the kindness of strangers

In the cynicism of our “Hollywood” mentality, we see all too often that what matters most is who you know, not what you know and who you are.

But in the moment-to-moment engagements of our daily lives, it sometimes matters more how we treat the people we don’t know, or hardly know, and how they treat us. It’s what gives a sense of intimacy, of community, of being part of something greater than ourselves in a vast, sprawling metropolis where so much that goes on seems cold and impersonal — heartless, even.

Those thoughts came into focus last Wednesday with the drama that unfolded when my wife left her purse on the Route 222 bus that dropped her off outside the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, where she works.

You have to be pretty distracted to leave your purse on a bus, and she was.

Her car was in the shop. She was running late, worried about missing the Media District bus at the end of the Orange Line Busway in North Hollywood, thinking about all she had to do to get ready to leave town Thursday morning for a family event back East.

As she stood on the curb at Lankershim waiting for the interminably long light to change, she saw the Media District bus pulling away and fumed about how a key point of bus-subway connection for thousands of public-transit users could be designed in a way that maximized traffic flow for cars and penalized pedestrians.

So she waited and waited for the next Media District bus, shared her breakfast of strawberries and apples with a homeless man, and found out from others at the bus stop that the Media District bus she saw departing, the 9:17 a.m., was the last one until evening rush hour. She would have to take the airport bus and transfer to the Route 222 bus to get to work.

That threw her into a tizzy. It was well past 10 a.m. when she ran across Hollywood Way and barely caught the 222 that in due time dropped her off at Warner Bros.

As the bus pulled away, she reached for her purse to show her driver’s license to the security guard and realized there was no purse. No credit cards, no cash, no cell phone, no driver’s license.

“Oh, my God,” she thought, “no I.D. I’ll never be able to get on the plane tomorrow.”

That’s when I became a hero in my wife’s eyes.

“Catch the bus,” I said without a moment’s hesitation when she called in a panic to tell me she was cancelling all her credit cards and needed to get to the DMV since her passport was out of date.

“Catch the bus. You’ve got to catch the bus.”

It was like a slap across her face. How could she catch the bus? It was gone, off on its route. Her best friend at work didn’t have his car either.

It took some convincing, but another co-worker agreed to chase the bus wherever it was. So they ran out to her car and started down Barham in pursuit of the 222 bus while I checked the route it takes at

“The terminus for 222 is Hollywood and Highland,” I tell them when they call on her friend’s cell. “No, there’s another stop at Hawthorn, wherever that is.…”

They are weaving through traffic, driving madly in pursuit of Bus 222 when suddenly they see the street sign “Hawthorne” — and there’s the 222. They zip around the corner and swing in front of the bus so it can’t move.

The driver opens the door and says, “You’re the lady from Warner Bros. I thought I’d see you again.”

Some women on the bus found the purse and turned it over to the driver.

“Can I give you a big hug, I love you,” my wife gushes to her.

The hysteria of panic had become the hysteria of joy.

“I got it,” she tells me over the phone. “You won’t believe it, but I got my purse.”

Her story was a hit in her office. This is Hollywood and everybody loves a good story, especially one with a happy ending.

It’s a small incident that could happen to anyone. But there are a few points worthy of note, starting with the dysfunctional public transit system that keeps us driving alone in cars because service is so infrequent and connections so poor.

And there is the kindness shown to a homeless man, the kindness of passengers to a bewildered rider, the kindness of the women who turned in the purse and the kindness of the driver who knew the woman from Warner Bros. would come chasing her down.

It’s funny when you think about it — when so much is broken in our society these days that we are more than ever dependent on the kindness of strangers just to get through the day.

RON KAYE can be reached at Share your thoughts and stories with him.

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