I've spent a good chunk of my life on BART. BART, if you don't live in the Bay Area, stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit, a commuter train that takes people living in the East Bay or the Peninsula to San Francisco or the airport. BART broke ground in 1964 and made its debut in 1972, the same year I made my debut. Therefore, BART and I have known each other for a long time.
One of the things I have always loved about BART is how you can always go to somewhere completely different. One moment you can be in beautiful downtown Lafayette, twenty minutes later you can be in Berkeley where there are Code Pinkers and Move America Forwarders debating about the Marines. In Oakland, you can walk from BART to Children's Fairyland or Lake Merritt. Different places, different worlds, all a BART stop away.
My dad didn't drive, so my mom would drive me to a BART station and he would meet me at BART. I became an expert at smoothing out the dollar bills so it can be fed in the ticket machine, then making sure I had enough money for a round trip. When my mom worked in the City, I would come meet her for lunch. Mostly I love BART for just sitting. I have my book, which is all I need. A good book, and now my iPod.
I ride BART for work everyday. If all goes well, I get a seat and just breathe for a while. However, of course, sometimes it doesn't go to plan. Like when it is a San Francisco Airport train, there's the People with the Big Ass Suitcases. The Big Ass Suitcases are always big, bigger than the person is. Big Ass Suitcases take up space. Some people put them right by the seat near them, so forget you getting that chair. Usually they put them on the wheelchair space. Oh, God forbid if someone on a wheelchair comes on. Then Big Ass Suitcase's owner has to sigh dramatically and move out of the way. I know it's a hassle, but there's no need for the drama class.
Then we have the people who sit right by the door in the seats that are designated for elderly people or people with disabilities. Many times, I've sat there, and there are times when I give my seat up for a person who needs it. What always surprises me (and sometimes angers me) is that some people do not give up their seats. Even though it says on the back Federal law requires the seat by the door is preferred for elderly people and people with disabilities, there are people who will not get up. Last week an elderly man came in holding a cane. A woman holding a hamster cage wouldn't give up her seat while her boyfriend was right next to her with his backpack on another seat. Before I could give up my seat, the gentleman nearly toppled over before the boyfriend moved his backpack.
However, the worst thing that can happen on a weekday is to have an interruption in service on BART. Because then, in plain English, you're screwed.
After I wrote my blog yesterday about everything being funky, I decided that I had to cheer up, I was going home, take a nap and a shower. I put my ticket in and walked downstairs.
Things went wrong right away. An announcement came on saying that there were train delays and there was a thirty-minute delay to get back to the East Bay. I groaned aloud. Then I breathed slowly, and sat down. The Richmond train came, and I hopped on it, so when my train arrived at the MacArthur station, I thought people would be getting off and I could get on, easy peasy.
Of course, when the Richmond train arrived at MacArthur, there were about one hundred people waiting there. I sat down again, irritated. Behind me someone was smoking. Yet another thing that bugs me; there are No Smoking signs all over the platform. It's a safety issue because we are near electric rails. Yet someone just has to have her cigarette. I breathed again.
My train came, but everyone was so packed in that there was no room. Of course, people ran in the train like there was room. I stood there for a moment, wondering if BART could just throw up their hands and give us all free rides today.
Seven minutes later, another train came. I hopped on and I was surprised to get a seat. I started to feel better. I would be home soon, after waiting for forty-five minutes at this point.
The train moved quickly. We arrived at the Orinda station, and then there was an announcement: "This train is out of service! Please exit this train! Another train will be here in ten minutes!"
Okay. That was it. I was pissed. Ticked off mad you name an angry adjective, I was it. I marched downstairs. I was ready to give the station agent a piece of my mind. I wanted a free BART ticket. I wanted BART to pay for a cab ride to Lafayette BART, maybe even home. I am my mother's daughter, don't mess with me, as Faye Dunaway's Joan Crawford once said, I've been at the rodeo for a long time. Years before when something went wrong with BART, a TV station interviewed my mother who went on such a rant that for years, they showed her as an example of a "Frustrated BART Rider." She wore this title like a badge of honor.
Anyway, I was mad. I was hot, tired, and crabby. And mad. Not even for me. I was tired we kept on being moved around like cattle, and no one was saying they were sorry, nothing was being offered to us. I couldn't find the agent. I found the janitor and I asked him where the agent was. "She's upstairs," he told me, "or hiding. I'm not sure which."
Finally, another train came, and we squeezed in like sardines. A gentleman was in the handicapped/Senior Citizen seats, and God forbid he move his backpack or his bike for us. Five minutes later, I was home at Lafayette BART. When I got home, I had a good ten-minute cry.
Of course, it wasn't just BART, it was a symbol that I hate it when things are out of my control, and that is how it felt at the time, and everything was out of control: work was crazy; my computer needs a NIC card to get the Internet started again but the NIC card is missing in action. It was hot. Cyd Charisse died. Bills hit up sooner than I thought and I was broke. I knew Eckhart Tolle would say that not feeling like I have control over things is part of my pain body, which is true. Trying to control is pure ego. However, I didn't feel very Eckhart Tollish. In fact, I wanted to tell him to shove it and get a shave; he's never ridden a hot train with people yelling on their phones "I don't know when I'll be home! The trains aren't working!"
However, what can you do? I do not drive so I know BART and I will make up. It won't take much. A window seat, no one talking by me on their cell phone. I counted the fact I got home in one piece lucky. That there are some people who are scared riding BART but I always know it's safe and I'll be okay. But there are days when I wish BART would be more apologetic, they would give free tickets, backrubs, to keep us happy. Alas, asking that from BART is like asking Backpack Guy to move. It just does not register.
Now if you do ever take a trip to San Francisco, say for commuting reasons, if you win the Red Room Homecoming contest, or just for fun, let me give you some tips:
- 1. If the train doors are closing, don't try to stop them with your hands. It just delays the train and it makes everyone on your car ticked off at you.
- 2. When a senior citizen or a person with a disability comes on and you're sitting on the seat by the car doors, just give up your seat. Don't do it dramatically, don't make a big fuss about it, just do it.
- 3. Don't have a long drawn out cell phone conversation. When people got the Bluetooth cell phone, I thought if I have to hear another long conversation about so and so doing her friend and her man on, I want to scream.
- 4. Big Ass Suitcase People: Yes, I'm taking to you. Just put our backpacks and Big Suitcases on the side so people won't get resentful of you.
- 5. If you like flashing your whatnot, don't do it on BART. It's just plain awkward and irritating.
- 6. We don't care about the business meeting you want to set up; we want to o home and eat.
- 7. Don't smoke on the platform.
So that's what I tell you while riding BART. In addition, just remember, if you see a tired woman with reddish blonde hair holding a book, just give her your seat. She'll be forever grateful to you.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries