The Life of a Words with Friends/LA Public Transportation Master

Life is rather short, and I'd like to take a acknowledge one of my co-workers who passed away.  He was a great user of the public spaces in LA, heavily relying on Metro buses and Metrolink to get to the many places required in our line of work from all the way in Orange County to places in Santa Barbara.
According to updates on his Facebook profile, Jim died on December 19th, 2014 at the Greyhound Station in LA. He attended Hollywood High and apparently graduated Hollywood High in 1980.  I believe that he stayed somewhere around Boyle Heights or Atwater Village.

At work, he was kind of known by other co-workers for his "rough" external appearance.  He looked like a homeless guy.  He appeared to wear the same brown hoodie most of the time with dark pants.   Quite frankly, the smell he gave off was not pleasant.

First time I saw him we were at the office and he was talking about public transportation.  He could be loud and expressive, but not in an excessive or boorish manner.

First time I was formally introduced to him was at a job in Boyle Heights with 3 other veteran employees, himself, and me.  Our job was to survey a large parking structure.  During one of our breaks when we were parked outside on a sidewalk outside a big parking structure;  one was smoking a cigar in the car, one had pulled back his seat and was passed out, one was in the backseat with the door pulled out.  Jim and I were on the Sidewalk;  I was reading the book Traffic, incidentally, he was laying out.  LA County Sheriff getting a glace at the spectacle of the five of us lounging around this busy parking structure gave us a thorough questioning, which forced us to call our boss, and ended up in a 2-hour delay.

Definitely a hassle at the time, but hilarious to look back on.  One of the employees, the guy who had pulled back his seat, blamed Jim in part for the grief the cops gave us that day for "looking as crazy as he did."

We worked near schools --- people would come up to me and ask me if that "homeless-looking" man was part of our operations.  We worked in residential neighborhoods --- people would get angry and usually call some type of law enforcement, and I'd hear about how the company got yet another call about Jim.  It was almost part of the deal for every project for him to be harassed, though he wasn't really the type to be incensed to the point of rage.

We all wondered behind Jim's back about his living situation;  he carried a duffel bag with him at all times --- he had a laptop, which got stolen at one point, a Samsung phone, which he lost, and another replacement phone.  His eating habits apparently consisted of constant stops to Jack in the Box.

Maybe his appearance was all a ruse to filter out unnecessary people in his life.

Many times while out in the field, people would question him and his presence --- most of us veteran employees had come to expect that someone would mention him in a police call.  I could see that he tried to groom and take some care of his appearance occasionally getting haircuts, but his smell was still there.

For as much as most co-workers nor I wanted to be near his physical presence, he was someone who could be quite entertaining to converse with.  I've known him for about 3 years now --- sarcastic, rather sharp wit.  He would often joke about other employees, in another character who liked to puff.

He knew a bit about places in LA;  he definitely wasn't a fan of the LA Central Public Library because he's lost stuff there, he teased me about living in Compton.  I would occasionally see him on the Blue Line or Red Line.

He was one of the longest tenured workers at the job.  While on the job, he would launch into dialogues about all kinds of hypothetical surrealistic fantasies about our job. Occasionally our job requires counting cars.  For a while our conversations centered around hypothetical fictitious stupidities like "the Counting championships" or "Making the front cover of Counter Magazine".  It was all in good fun, and definitely kept us occupied for our more mundane tasks.

I worked with him on numerous projects, whether it was counting cars, walkie talkie-ing with him, surveying parking lots.

When he really opened up was when I challenged him on the game Words With Friends. I challenged him and he eventually started calling me by my user name. He was always my toughest opponent, but I wondered why his average was always so low. I went 1-4 against him. The one win I got I was so proud, I interrupted his 46-game winning streak.  In fact my second to last text to him was talking about that time I beat him;  we both scored 400 points, which to us was a lot.
He was a good sport about it. In the meanwhile, we would always be talking about opponents he was beating.  Last I heard he had 96 wins and 6 losses, a record I could not even come close to equaling percentage wise.  He was an absolute master at that game.

I think his mastering of the game spoke to the hidden genius he had inside which betrayed his outside, external appearance, which always led people to discredit, disrespect, or become suspicious of him.

Last time I saw him in the flesh was around November during a project at Boeing. It was almost expected that he would be harassed while at site.  I walked with him to give him an extra vest that I had.  Sure enough, I heard security guards describe a man who fit his description.

There's a lot about him I don't know and won't ever know.  I know that he had a daughter, currently in her 20s, and he was hopeful that he could be a grandfather some day. 

I just hope that he can play Words with Friends from wherever he is.

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