Today’s Commute: a Momento

“Next is a special announcement from BART Operations,” the train operator told eight extremely crowded cars. We had been sitting catty wampus at the station for 15 minutes–the first car extending past the platform and locked so that morons wouldn’t disembark into the air two stories above the Pleasant Hill Station.  Doors on the other 7 cars remained open and commuters streamed in like salmon swimming upstream, needing to get somewhere, anywhere – oblivious to the bears at the top of the falls waiting for lunch.   I was underwhelmed at the announcement.  The train ahead of us had a break lock problem and the operator was going car by car to find and alleviate the issue.  I was overjoyed to hear it was only a 10-12 minute delay.  I had it at 16 minutes on my watch at that point.

Meanwhile, people kept loading on to my car, a disproportionate amount of women that Lambchop might call “Battleaxes” with suitcases, glaring at other passengers to relinquish their seats to their age battered weariness.  Being a row back and next to the window, they weren’t getting through the crowd to intimidate me.  Especially the two with canes.

I got to the platform early to make an 8:30 meeting.  The BART ride to my stop is 31 minutes.  It’s a 4 minute walk from disembarking to my office.  I always ride at the back of the train to maximize my walk.  A little exercise each day adds up and waist trends down. We all know I can use all the exercise I can get. I was 3 minutes early for the 7:29 and I waited for the train.  There was one woman in front of me and another behind.  The line for the front of the car had about 15 people.  BART cars have roughly 88 seats (some newer models are 78-80).  The train pulled up and stopped right in front of us.  I looked through the window to see the car was crowded, but not full. I was confident there were more than 3 seats, but not more than 10.

The woman in front of me stepped forward and I followed suit.  The doors mocked us, closed tight.  We waited till the unthinkable happened.  The train pulled forward, leaving us stranded.  I watched as my two line mates and the herd in the line 25 yards away raced to the back of the train.  Knowing it was already crowded, I stood my ground to wait for the next train.  The 7:35 would still get me to my meeting on time.  I would still have time for the 8 minute detour to Peet’s.  A man’s got to have a code.  Mine includes quality coffee.

The sign above flashed a message that the next train would be 8 cars, so I knew I had to move forward on the platform.  I didn’t stress as the platform was still mostly empty and the train would be empty.  I knew this train started at my station.   I shared this information with the woman walking past me, why let her linger in a line that was dysfunctional.  The train came, I took my seat.  By the time it departed the car was a bit less than half full.

By the time we left the Pleasant Hill Station, we were overcrowded.  As the people in the aisle stood shoulder to shoulder, my seat mate seemed to expand. He traded his Blackberry for office memos and internet printouts, shoulders expanding, invading my space.  My sides hurt as I tried to avoid his inconsequential invasions in my space.  I really don’t like that type of contact on the train.  It seems I have specific spaces issues.

For some reason there were few people on the platform at Walnut Creek.  They pushed on and we continued on our grand adventure.  1 minute later we stopped again.  Both the train operator and BART Operations explained to us the Train ahead of us was stopped and  track switching was about to occur and trains would be routed around the train ahead of us.  What was a surprise to many, but not to me was that the passengers on now disabled train would be getting off.  I was thrilled to my core as I realized all those people were going to try and pack on this train.  Crowded was about to become sardine city.  Of course we were also told that BART was very sorry for this 10-15 minute delay.  We were passed 20 on my watch.  I had already written off my Peet’s run;   being on time was turning into a dream.

Years ago, there used to be these great recordings at the Las Vegas airport.  Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others reminded us to stand on the right and walk to the left on the moving walkways.  This is the de facto standard for using escalators on BART.  I’m realizing non commuters have never been to Las Vegas, they don’t know the rules.  Maybe I expect too much from people.

As I approached the escalator this morning, a woman boarded with her suitcase.  She stood to the left and had her medium sized suitcase on the right.  It was still too big for her.  I and the 3 people in front of me decided it wasn’t worth trying to move her, so we stood on the left, grumbling, but deferring to the older woman.   Half way up, younger patrons pushed their way up on the right, knocking her luggage out of the way so they could get past for some imagined crisis.  Perhaps they needed to get to Storm’s End to warn Renly, not knowing they were already too late.  The trains are on a schedule. Rushing doesn’t make them come faster and there was plenty of time until the next one.

When we got to the platform, the woman with the suitcase couldn’t understand the line and blocked the entire escalator for several second, fraught with indecision.  I never understand why people don’t exit to the right and find a line.  There isn’t nearly enough room to go left, especially with luggage. The woman behind me shouldered me aside as I tried not to run down the woman in her 70s.  I knew this would be a bad commute.  I believe in signs and karma.

I was 10 minutes late for my meeting today.

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