People Talking in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert

During the stay in Phoenix I’ve had a chance to converse with probably over a hundred people.  I didn’t write down every single thing everyone said, but here are a few of the notes I’ve made from random conversations with random Phoenix Residents.  This list is only the transit related conversations.  I have another entry in the works for the “suburban suburbanite” conversations, which are a jolting reminder of the lifestyle differences.

Scenario #1:

Riding the light rail from Mesa into town.  A professional lady sat across from me, she was looking out the window so I figured she’d be a candidate for conversation.

Transit Sleuth:  Hey, you ride the light rail much?

Sally:  I’ve ridden over 50 times since it has opened.

Transit Sleuth:  What do you think of it so far?

Sally:  It is great.  Before they built this I just drove everywhere, but now I get to take this a lot since I go downtown and live in Mesa.

Transit Sleuth:  Do you work downtown or something?

Sally:  Yeah, [I didn’t understand this part, a bunch of people were boarding and a loud truck was driving by].  Oh, here’s were I get off.

Transit Sleuth:  [I jump up to get off also, since I was heading downtown] I’m just wandering around downtown today, any food suggestions?

Sally:  Yeah, check out the coney place or the sandwich factory.

Transit Sleuth:  Awesome, what’s your name?

Sally:  Sally.  [Shook hands]  Have a good day.

Transit Sleuth:  You too.

Scenario #2:

Walking around downtown near the sandwich shops just referred by Sally.  I saw someone carrying a pistol on their side.

Transit Sleuth:  Excuse me, I’m kind of a 2nd amendment advocate, and was wondering are you law enforcement?

Gun Toter #1:  Nope, it is legal to carry and I have a CCW.

Transit Sleuth:  That’s awesome.  Phoenix seems to be pretty safe downtown here?  Ever need to unlatch the side arm?

Gun Toter #1:  Fortunately no.  I go through some questionable areas outside of downtown though.  Sometimes at night it gets [racial epithet for Mexicans].  I’d rather be prepared than sorry.  Just a few months ago somebody got shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That aint gonna be me.

Transit Sleuth:  I can understand that.  Do you ever ride any of the transit in town?  I’m putting together information on the light rail and bus system here, and you’d be an interesting candidate to discuss this with.

Gun Toter #1:  I’ve ridden it a couple of times.  I don’t live anywhere near it though so I don’t have any use for it.  The buses are full of [Mexican racial epithet] & [Black person’s racial epithet].

Transit Sleuth:  You ever feel those words a bit prejudice?  Not that I want to talk about that issue?

Gun Toter #1:  If they would stop killing people and each other I wouldn’t feel this way.  You grow up here you might have a different attitude.

Transit Sleuth:  Alright, well, thanks for talking to me.

So after that little conversation I ate lunch, and wasn’t particularly inclined to speak with anyone else.  I didn’t really want to get into another edgy conversation with someone that would spurt out some dumb racial epithet every 10 seconds.  I was looking for cohesive and intelligible conversation on the topics of Phoenix and transit.

Scenario #3:

Leaving the Sandwich Factory, which I might add was awesome, I saw another armed citizen.  This was the 4th or 5th person I saw armed.  Just a side arm, appropriately holstered on their side, nothing crazy like a strapped rocket launcher or anything.  I walked toward the guy and with an inquisitive raised hand asked…

Transit Sleuth:  Quick question for ya.

Gun Toter #2:  Yeah, what can I help ya at?

Transit Sleuth:  I’m a 2nd amendment advocate, just visiting Phoenix and checking out the light rail, and was wondering if you’re a law officer.  I’ve found it intriguing the number of armed citizens downtown today.

Gun Toter #2:  Yeah, I’m bit into that sorta thing.  Why you checking out the light rail though?  What does it have to do with anything?

Transit Sleuth:  Oh, that is completely unrelated to the 2nd amendment for me, just an interest in the history, economics, and function of transit and general passenger transportation.  So what do you think of it?

Gun Toter #2:  I kind of dig it.  I’ve taken it to a few games and stuff.  I don’t ride it everyday though.

Transit Sleuth:  What about carry on the light rail?  Do you know the rules are for it on the light rail?  [Context:  I have zero idea here either, I’m just asking.]

Gun Toter #2:  I didn’t think they can…  the company is a public company, they gotta follow as wrote down in the Constitution and State Law.

Transit Sleuth:  Just my own paranoia about states and transit authorities abrogating Federal Constitutional Rights, I’d check just to make sure.  If they had some dumb rule, would you still use transit?

Gun Toter #2:  If I got a use for it, I’ll use it, I don’t think they gonna mess with the laws.

Transit Sleuth:  That’s good to hear.  You keep riding, I gotta run and catch a light rail train.

Scenario #4:

While riding back toward the Mesa Station on the first day I rode the light rail, I came upon several short conversations.  This first one started when a young lady asked out loud,

Young Lady:  Where am I going?

Transit Sleuth:  Where have you been, maybe I can tell you where you are going.

Young Lady:  I was down there [pointing to the western end of the light rail].

Transit Sleuth:  And you’ve forgotten where you originally got on.

Young Lady:  Like, I got on to go not where I got on.

Transit Sleuth:  [Chuckling out loud, with a big grin on my face.]  Do.  You.  Realize.  What you just said?

Young Lady:  What?  Like, that didn’t make any well, like, sense huh?

Transit Sleuth:  Nope.  None at all, logic is nonexistent in that statement.  [I sat back down to let her figure out whe
re in the universe she was at.]

Young Lady:  Do you know where you are going?

Transit Sleuth:  Yup.

Young Lady:  Well, can I like get off where you get off and call someone to figure out where I am going?

Transit Sleuth:  [Realizing she didn’t think she could use a cell phone on the light rail]  You could call someone right now while we are moving.

Young Lady:  But it’s dangerous to like, use a cell phone, while moving.

Transit Sleuth:  [Realizing this chick was a slight bit dumber than stupid]  Yeah, you’re right, better not use the cell phone while we’re moving.  You might wreck into someone huh.

Young Lady:  Yeah.  So can I get off where you do?

Transit Sleuth:  You can get off anywhere you want to, even where I get off.

Eventually she got off, before I did.  No telling where she ended up.

Scenario #5:

While on the same trip back to Mesa.  An older grungy looking guy approached me.

Grungy Guy:  Hey you!

Transit Sleuth:  [I don’t pay any attention because I don’t always answer to “Hey you!”, maybe “Hey” or Hey you.” but not “Hey You!”  I continue looking out the window on the high floor part of the light rail vehicle observing the area we’re passing through.]

Grungy Guy:  Hey man, do you know where the stadium bar is?  Where people go after the game?

Transit Sleuth:  [Now that he’s fixed his tone I jovially retort to his question.]  That doesn’t narrow it down very much dude, you’re gonna have to try harder.

Grungy Guy:  Oh, the bar near the stadium.  Do you know where it is?

Transit Sleuth:  I know about 10 bars near the stadium and I’ve only been here for about 22 hours.  But I don’t know what you mean by “near the stadium”.  Besides, isn’t there one over by ASU and one downtown?

Grungy Guy:  Yeah, but I want to go to the one on Mill Avenue.

Transit Sleuth:  [Keep in mind, I’ve not been to Mill Avenue at this point, I only know it is near the stadium]  Why don’t you get off on Mill Avenue & 3rd and just walk a few blocks down the street.  The stadium is right close by.  Worse case scenario you have to walk 5-6 blocks around the area to find what you’re looking for.

Grungy Guy:  Dude, that’s a good idea.  It’s probably right by the stadium.

Transit Sleuth:  [If you’ve read scenario #4, this statement might sound familiar, and I wanted answers]  Do people in Phoenix commonly restate the exact fact they’ve just stated, after someone answers them?  You’re the second person that has said something like that to me.

Grungy Guy:  What do ya’ mean?

Transit Sleuth:  Well…   oh you better head out, here’s your stop.  [Saved by the bell.]

Grungy Guy:  Thanks dude!

Scenario #6:

[…and yes, if you read this scenario all the way through, there IS a transit related point.] As I approached the end and pulled into Mesa two college girls and I suspect a frat boy of some sort stood with them by the door waiting to get off.  The train came to a stop and the girls stepped off first.  As the two girls exchanged some conversation, that I couldn’t understand, the guy looked at them and interjected something.  One of the girls looked at him with a sullen face.  The girl not looking at the frat boy all of a sudden dropped all of her books and papers.  The slight wind started to blow them and I immediately grabbed a few and stopped some with my foot.  The frat boy just walked off and I realized that he was just going to leave the young lady in this fix.  Her friend reached down to help and a slight gust of wind blew her papers off, she instinctually reached out to grab the papers.  Well since she was holding the books and reached out by reflex, she then threw her books forward all over the exit ramp of the platform.  I leaned down and started helping them…

Sullen Girl:  Oh thank you thank you thank thank you.

Transit Sleuth:  Yeah, no problem.  I see your comrade took the asshole route and just left you two.

Sullen Girl:  He’s a prick.  We were dating, but like, he sucks, so like, I dumped him.

Other Girly:  He is a prick, but she’s just like, upset, cuz like, it wasn’t…

Transit Sleuth:  Here’s your books.  [Handing the “Other Girly” her books she had dropped.]

Other Girly:  Thank you so much.  [Looked up with a great smile, thus I couldn’t help but smile.]

Sullen Girl:  [Stops gathering her books]  F#$% IT!  [Just sits down, she is apparently very upset, and she starts to tear up while sniffling.]  I don’t want to do this, can you just take my books [speaking “Other Girly”]?

Other Girly:  Well yeah, what are you doing?

Sullen Girl:  I just, I need time to think.  I don’t want to go home.  I can’t think at home, I hate it I want to just get away for, like, some time or something.  Please just take my stuff.

Other Girly:  Ok [She takes the rest of her books and I hand her the papers I retrieved for “Sullen Girl”]

Transit Sleuth:  [Looking somewhat befuddled, because I do NOT deal with emotional situations like this well, even when I have zero investment in the situation]  Are you ok?

Sullen Girl:  I’ll be fine, I just need to think and not be around anyone.

Transit Sleuth:  [Yes, this is what I said next, I am a transit nerd and it is my “2nd Place” where I go to think]  You ought to just get back on the light rail, find yourself a seat, and ride the line.  That’s what I always do when I’m down and out – not that I know ya or anything.

Sullen Girl:  No, no you, that, it’s.  [Tears up a bit]  Thanks, that’s a good idea.  I’m going to… [tears up a bit again]  Yeah, I’m going to do that.  Thank you.  Thanks, I.  I’m such a mess.  Thanks.

Transit Sleuth:  Yeah, hope you feel better.  Just get that seat and get lost in the ride.

At this point she walked off and got back on the train about to depart.  Crying herself into a tizzy.  I almost felt bad, because with how choked up she was, she might get a lot of concern from people on the train.  Well, did what I could.

Scenario #7:

After the wedding Jo and I had moved to the downtown San Carlos Hotel.  The first day I left the hotel to take photos I ran into some kids skateboarding downtown.  They where hitting the Chase Building grounds and hitting the surfaces for grinds and such.  Overall, they wher
e top notch skaters.  I was impressed.

Skater #1:  Wanna take some pictures?

Transit Sleuth:  Sure.  [I wasn’t sure I’d keep em’, but what the heck.  I dig skating big time, and if I caught some good images that would rock.  Usually though, this is Jo’s domain and I usually can’t get good action photos to save my life.]

Skater #2:  I’m going to grind left.  [pointing to his direction.]

Security Guard:  [Guard appears from inside the building.]  You kids can’t do that skating around here.  You’ll need to move on.

Skater #3:  God D@#$!@ uuugggghhh.  [Fussing loudly]

Skater #1:  Let’s go jump on the light rail.

Skater #2, #3 & #4.  Alright, [yeah, etc., etc…]

Transit Sleuth:  I’m gonna walk over with you guys.  Do you take the light rail much?

Skater #1: Yeah, all the time.  Usually a couple of times per day.  It is way easier to go hit spots [places to skate] taking light rail than trying to drive around and worrying about parking and shit.

Skater #2: Even though the skate parks are hard to get to.  But we don’t go to those too much cuz they’re way out.

Transit Sleuth:  So there aren’t any skate parks near the light rail?

Skater #2:  Naw, not really.  They’re all out where it is nearly impossible to get without a car.  It’s usually cooler to go hunt down good skate spots than driving all the way out to the parks though.

Skater #1:  Yeah.

Transit Sleuth:  So you guys don’t take the buses out there or anything?  Don’t they go out there?

Skater #1:  Yeah, they…

Skater #2:  No they don’t.

Skater #1:  Yeah they do, it just takes forever.

Skater #2:  Bullshit.

Skater #3:  Yeah they do, but they do take like a billion hours.  It’s way too much trouble to take the buses.

Skater #1:  The drivers usually look at you funny after you been skating hard too when you’re all sweaty.  Even if the bus is empty they didn’t let me on once.

Skater #2:  Yeah, the drivers are kind of weird.

Skater #3:  True.

Skater #1:  The trains are wicked though.  You can just camp out and people don’t freak on us, there is no driver staring at us, and we can just chill after we go riding.  [Yeah, he said riding, instead of skating – often means the same thing]

Transit Sleuth:  That’s cool.  At least you guys have this option now.

Skater #4:  Yeah, it’s sweet.

Skater #1, #2 & #3:  [Various sentiments thrown about in regards to the light rail being awesome]

Transit Sleuth:  Well, I’m going to head out, you guys keep shredding, and watch out for the troublemakers and cops.

Scenario #8:

I decided to take a trip to Mill Avenue.  The light rail bridge & is near the railroad bridge, and two nice road bridges that I wanted to photograph.  While en route to this I came upon another interesting chat about skateboarding.  It appears, that the light rail is a boon to kids heading out to go skate boarding or in general, to the parks and other features available in the city for recreation.  This group of people consisted of two guys and a gal, who I’ll call skater kid, the skater boyfriend and the skater girlfriend – being that the boyfriend and girlfriend were girl & boy-friend of each other.

Transit Sleuth:  Do ya’ll mind if I take a picture of your boards?

Skater Kid:  Yes [Meaning in reality, no, no problem at all.]

Skater Boyfriend:  Sure.

Skater Girlfriend:  Cool.  [With a smile]

Transit Sleuth:  Thanks [Click]  Where are ya’ll headed to skate.

Skater Boyfriend:  Not sure what the name is, but I know what the stop looks like.

Transit Sleuth:  That’s cool.  [A couple minutes go by without me talking with them, as we’re all just looking out the windows seeing where exactly where we’re traveling.]  So what do ya’ll think of the light rail?

Skater Boyfriend:  It’s really cool & easy to ride.

Skater Kid:  We can get to places that used to take hours to get to now, it’s really sweet.

Skater Boyfriend:  Yeah, we never got to go where we’re heading today unless we got someone with a car to drive us over here.

Skater Girlfriend:  I like it.  I like to be able to easily go places with other people when there are more than would fit in a car.  We go hang out after school which would usually take two or three people driving, but we usually couldn’t find that many drivers so we would end up stuck somewhere that was boring.

Transit Sleuth:  That’s interesting.  Good to know ya’ll like it.  I’m heading over to ASU to take pictures right now.

Skater Boyfriend:  Oh yeah, ASU has good games too, I went to one of those.

Skater Girlfriend:  That was fun.

Skater Kid:  Yeah, we didn’t get to go before, because we usually couldn’t get anyone together that could take us, but with the light rail its super easy.

For now, that’s it.  I might put together another entry with some more of the entries because this is truly just the tip of the iceberg.  I do want to make a point to get the suburban chats that I had because it really shows some of the contrasts.  Until then though, this is it for today.


  1. Do you mean the Hero Factory? I don’t know a restaurant called the Sandwich Factory. Regardless, I’ve never noticed armed people (other than uniformed law enforcement) around there. Maybe I just don’t look for that sort of thing. In any case, I’ve enjoyed your posts about transit in PHX. I’m usually too reserved to approach strangers, so your conversation transcripts fill me in on some of what I’ve been missing.


  2. I like the Hotel San Carlos Web site, as it shows several pictures of light rail running in front of the hotel.

    I am stunned by Phoenix taking to the train so quickly.


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