Friday, June 30, 2006

Hanging dry cleaning on BART

Reader Rafael emailed me about this and yes, I definitely have seen people who hang their dry-cleaning stack on BART train's overhead safety railing. People with dry-cleaned suits, coats and sweaters, just letting them all hang on the bars, swinging back and forth to the jerking of the train.

They don't care that their dry-cleaning is sweeping the heads of seated passengers, or that the squeeching of the metal hangers against the metal safety railing drives some of us insane! Even worse, when I'm already in a bad mood and standing in a very crowded (and sometimes warm) train, I cannot tolerate the feeling of dry-cleaning plastic covering sticking to my face and arms. The longer the dry-cleaning hangs up there, the farther apart they spread....before you realize, the suit is 3 feet from the shirts. And yet, they do nothing!

How hard is it to just hold the dry-cleaning? Or fold it in half and hold it under your arm? It's heavy, sure, and I understand the metal hangers can hurt your fingers after awhile. In that case, just do your dry-cleaning near home and pick up on weekends! Don't let the rest of us suffer!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Slammed by a MUNI door...

I'm not a regular MUNI rider, so maybe some of you out there who are can help explain this "malfunction". Does MUNI give riders a warning or a quick alarm signal, or a "Doors are closing" announcement like they do on BART, before suddenly slamming the door shut? I was walking out of a MUNI train last night (N Judah, going to the ballpark) and suddenly, without warning, the door slams on my shoulder and shoves me to the edge. The door had JUST opened for us to exit, and within 3 secondds, it slams shut on me?? It was a huge shock and since I'm not a big person, it actually hurt for a few minutes. The worst part was that the platform agent (to stop people from hopping on trains that say "DO NOT BOARD") who saw this incident, just looked at me with no remorse or concern and turned away.

Is this normal? Does the door just slam shut without any beep or announcement? That is dangerous!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Another parking lot brawl

OK, it wasn't exactly a brawl, but I wished I had the time to confront him. There was one last space left in the closest reserved parking lot. The problem is, to get to that space and row of parking, you have to enter the one-way entrance, go up another one-way row of spaces, make a left u-turn to go down to the row that this space was in. While I was approaching the space (after making my U turn), some pompous looking man just entered the lot, went against the parking lane direction, and made a sharp and awkward turn into MY space! I was pissed off beyond belief. I honked, I yelled, I parked my car in back of his on purpose to make sure he sees my angered expressions as he made his exit, but he pretended he didn't hear or see me, and just stayed inside his car. BASTARD!

If I wasn't running late, I would have gotten out of my car and tapped his window to give him a piece of my mind. What a jerk! But alas, I was already late to a conference, and still needed to peruse the more distant parking lots for a space.

I made my train, but boy, I was still pissed off for at least half an hour!! URGHHH!! The worst part is I didn't get a chance to get the last word!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bringing in furniture on BART

Since BART doesn't allow bikes during commute hours (a policy I'm grateful for whenever I'm in a crowded train, but can't help but feel bad for the bikers since they are 'sparing the air' everyday), shouldn't they enforce a similar policy for people who want to bring on large pieces of furniture on BART during peak time?

A coworker of mine shared with me a bizarre experience she had on BART. A weird experience, but it sure doesn't surprise me considering it happened on BART.

She was on a crowded train heading home when a man, who appeared to be mentally disturbed to say it politely, carried a large dining table onto the train. Everyone had to readjust their already uncomfortable standing positions to accommodate this man and his large table.

A few stops into the ride, the man suddenly yells, "WHO THE **CK BROUGHT IN A DINING TABLE?" and walks out of the train, leaving the table in there!

How weird and scary is that? Did he just act that way to dispose of an unwanted table? I doubt it.....why bother carrying the table all the way to do this when there are many other free and easier ways to dispose old furniture? In this case, I'm sure he was mentally disturbed, since he clearly appeared that way. I'm not quite sure what it is about public transportation that attracts the weird and scary, but it does. I've seen people who walk into the train, scream obscenities, and walk out of the train.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Does anything excuse a bad parking job?

As I walked back to my car in the BART lot this afternoon, I noticed a piece of paper on my windshield. It didn't look like a parking ticket, and since I pay a fee for a reserved spot, it doesn't make sense for them to ticket me anyways. As I got closer, I saw that it was a torn piece of notebook paper. I pulled the note off my wipers, and it read, "YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!! LEARN HOW TO PARK!"

Hmm..did I park poorly and piss someone off today? I walked around my car to see my position, and noticed that I was parked a bit too far to the right, and was touching the right side of the parking line. I guess I was running late today and just pulled into a space sloppily and dashed towards the station. It sure beats repositioning, missing the train, and waiting 10 additional minutes for the next train.

The car to my right is a huge Mountaineer (huge under my standards). I can see how he/she could have had a tough time getting in the space and squeezing out of the driver door, since the car was humongous. But hey, he/she should have just taken another space! It's Friday...the lot is emptier, there should have been plenty of additional spaces for a big SUV.

I touched the right side of the parking line, but I didn't go OVER it. Technically, I was still within my space. If a Corolla, Civic, Pontiac, or Altima parked next to me instead of the Mountaineer, this would not be an issue!

Someone must have had a lot of time to actually get out of the car, take out a piece of notebook paper, write a note and leave it on my window. That, or he/she was quite pissed off. Come on now, I saw the room remaining between our cars, I would have been able to get out of the car effortlessly.

I generally excuse people who park crookedly in the BART parking lot. I understand that they must have been in a rush to catch the train. What I can't excuse are those who take up TWO spaces! That is deliberate and inexcusable. Especially when it's a brand new Porsche- small enough to fit within one space easily, but the driver insists on taking two spaces because he thinks he's entitled and more special than the rest of us!

But me? I'm was an innocent carelessness, so I claim. Did I deserve the note? Maybe a little...

BART Blogs a trend?

Just wanted to thank Mike Adamick of Contra Costa Times for including in his article about BART bloggers.

I do enjoy peoplewatching on BART and writing about the unique, the inspiring, the annoying, and the frightening things I observe daily as I commute to SF.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Spare the Air Days!

BART passengers generally love Spare the Air Days! To us, it's really like a "passenger appreciation day" when we get free fare for a day or two to make up for all the inconveniences we've experienced for the year. For me, two Spare the Air days save $16 total! These special passenger appreciatoin days put us all in a great mood for a change.

On Spare the Air days, we tend to more easily forgive BART for any delays, over-crowdedness or other mishaps. You just can't complain a whole lot when you're riding for free.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BART train floors and the varying degrees of germ threshold

I saw a woman who let her 3 kids play on the train floors today. The two toddlers, in shorts, were sitting, the baby, in diapers, was lying around, on the worn out and stain-ridden carpet. If you don't know already, the carpeting on the BART trains is extremely filthy. You can find gum, dirt, spit, coffee stains, pen marks, trash, and food stains embedded on the carpeting, not to mention the microbial germs brought onboard by the hundreds of thousands of shoes that occupy these floors!

I know it's not a big deal for kids to immerse themselves in dirt. I mean, they play in sandboxes that are often hidden with old candies and plastic wrappings. But as a BART passenger who hardly even allow two of my fingers to touch the safety poles or the escalator handrail, it was difficult seeing these kids roll around the train floors, stamping their cute little palms on the carpet, and moving their toy trucks across the floors and onto their bodies! I felt the urge to hand them my bottle of Purell, but I held back, fearing the mom will think I am a freak.

Britney Spears recently got scolded by the public for changing her baby's diapers on the floors of a Victoria's Secret. Those floors, although dirty I'm sure, are mopped and polished daily (especially a store in Beverly Hills.) The BART floors might get a vacuum every so often if not a few times a week (gosh, I sure hope so) but it's not like the floors are ever steam cleaned or chemically treated.

I cringe when I see passengers sitting on the floors of BART, yet these kids are treating the train floors like a play den, rolling around and lying their little heads on it. Actually, once I felt so ill that I couldn't stand up during the ride anymore. But even at that point, I didn't sit on the floor, I merely squatted. I don't even let my purse or computer bag touch the floors, although once I allowed the computer bag to rest on my shoes since I was so tired from the long work day.

I've seen a few trains with plastic floors and plastic seats. I think that's probably the better way to go for future BART trains. It's much easier to mop and clean up stains on plastic and the trains will just last longer and look more appealing!

Baking in another delayed BART ride

My usual 30 minute-ride today took over 60 minutes! Apparently there was an "incident" at Balboa Park causing delays between East Bay and SF both ways. I knew something was going on as soon as I approached the Orinda platform. The line was significantly longer than usual. Luckily, I got the last seat on the train and had a new issue of US Weekly in hand to help me deal with the long ride that was about to take place. It was stop and go all the way. By 12th Street Oakland stop, there was barely any standing room left on the train. Standing passengers' computer bags kept on hitting me on the head. They were so close to my seat that I could see the pages of my magazine blowing up and down to their breathing patterns. Very gross.

I would really like to know how BART train temperature is controlled. Does the train operator have a personal fan up in the controller room or something because he/she has no idea when train temperature becomes unbearable? Why is the AC not on full force in a situation like today when the train is likely over maximum capacity, the sun is heating up, people are sweating inside, and body odors are brewing? The air coming from the BART fan felt warm and stale. Passengers were getting grumpy, shaking their heads constantly, rolling their eyes and making "tsk" sounds every time the train comes to yet another sudden stop.

The ride was long and unpleasant, to say the least. Meanwhile, the length of delay was increased with each announcement. By the time I finally got to Civic Center, I had been on the train for 65 minutes.

Luckily, I had a seat and my reading indulgence, US Weekly, to get me through the long ride. In addition to being totally engrossed in the useless celebrity gossips, the perfume samples in the magazine helped mask the sweat scents all around me.

Here's some info about today's BART incident:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Inflation affects everyone, even the homeless!

As you know, Civic Center BART station is a popular camp ground for the homeless. It's tough sometimes seeing them there in the rain. Long ago, I used to give change daily, which eventually turned into a weekly amount but in a bigger sum. After awhile, I started seeing the same folks there, and on occasions with a beer bottle in hand. I became a bit disheartened after that observation and stopped giving money away on a regular basis, and instead only when someone appears to be truly in need of a meal.

After a restful weekend, I was in a positive and giving mood, and decided on the train that I would give whatever quarters I had in my wallet to the homeless man who always stands next to the 8th Street side of the station exit. I had 3 quarters, not much, but I figured he could probably use it to buy something at the Burger King across the street. I dropped the quarters in his cup, and he said, "Come on, you got more than that?" I was caught by surprise. I said, "no, that's the change I have." He responded, "Man, how am I supposed to live with this?" I said, "Sorry, that's all I have" and dashed across the street.

When did the homeless population become so picky with the amount you give? I would think any amount has the potential to help someone. I understand that 75 cents can't get you much these days, but it's only a quarter away from a cheeseburger at McDonald's.

But who can blame him? Inflation certainly has hurt us all! 75 cents can't even get you over 8 miles by car anymore with today's gas prices.

Wouldn't it be nice if we knew when the next train is coming as we are pulling into the parking lot?

If I get $1 for everytime I run like an Olympic sprinter from the parking lot into the station and up the escalator to the platform, only to find out my train has been delayed, I would have enough money for a nice pair of shoes (think Via Spiga not quite yet Jimmy Choos) every two months!

I really wish that someday, BART stations would catch up to 21st century technology and have a scrolling monitor at the parking lot entrace, or even better, if they could offer riders up-to-the-minute BART daily schedules and delays via text message, it would really save many passengers an unnecessary sprint to the platform.

Yes, I know that we have monitors on the platform, but what good do they do if we are already lining up there, waiting for a delayed train to arrive?

Friday, June 16, 2006

The "Handicapped" Pecking Order

I saw an elderly, fragile-looking woman standing on BART today, and gave up my seat (I was seated in one of the seats by the door that are designated for handicapped or elderly anyways) for her use. At that moment, a man in his 30s, fully healthy, except he had a big cast on his foot, swooped in for my seat before the woman could.

The old woman got upset and said, "This is for the elderly", and gestures for him to get off. While he said, "Oh no you don't, see my cast on my ankle? I am handicapped rignt now." He wouldn't get up, and she wouldn't quit with her comments about how she is entitled to this seat. Finally, someone else got up to give the elderly woman his seat.

This brings up an interesting debate! Hypothetically, who should get the seat? An elderly person who has "shaky" legs? Or an injured, otherwise capable person who is balancing on two crutches with no free hands? (which was NOT the case with this man...he should have given her the seat since he could have easily balanced off one foot while leaning against the wall!) The elderly person may have tired legs, but he/she has the free hands to hold on to a bar while standing. The injured person with crutches may be naturally healthier and younger, he/she does not have the use of the legs or arms. Is there an order that we must follow when giving up seats? Is the order determined by age and general state of health, or by who fits more into the definition of "handicapped" at the very moment?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Watch out for the recycled newspaper bin!

I don't know why it took me this long to write about the recycled newspaper bins situated in every BART station. Basically, these bins are located right next to an escalator, so passengers who've already read the papers can toss it in the bin to recycle. This way, the BART trains won't be piled with hundreds of sets of newspapers. What these bins have also become is really quite interesting. New passengers throughout the day know to look into these bins to grab a used (but normally in good condition) copy of today's paper. Why not? It's free and it's eco-friendly to use recycled products.

The problem is, a lot of BART passengers are inconsiderate. They toss leftover coffee (first of all, coffee is actually not allowed on BART), food (neither is food), ticket receipts, gum, and anything else they'd like to get rid of, into these bins. The only time I've ever looked into the bin for newspaper became my last because I found a piece of gum stuck on the top pile of paper. Today, I saw a man hurl out a significant and weighty piece of phlegm and spit it into the bin. Luckily I didn't have to see the output closely, but judging by the long and deep hurl up the throat, I already know that whoever looks into the newspaper bin will find an unpleasant surprise.

Why can't people just follow the rules?

when a bad day turns into a very bad day

I got up earlier this mornig to catch an earlier train because I have an important meeting at 9am where my boss and other important folks will be attending. As soon as I got on the train, I heard the announcement that there are significant delays en route to SF. It's ok, I thought to myself, I got on early so there is plenty of time to spare. But of course, late becomes very late, and by the time I got to Civic Center station, I had 30 seconds until the shuttle pick up time, in order to make it to the office BEFORE 9am. I ran like mad! I purposely wore flats today for this purpose. I sprinted up 3 flihgts of stairs only to see the shuttle over 200 yards away from the pick-up area. I missed it!

By this time, I realized that I will have to be a few minutes late to the meeting. I stop by Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. Well, of course, I spill the coffee on my sleeves, and drop contents of my purse all over the cafe while wiping myself. Finally, 15 minutes passed, and I get on the 9am shuttle. I figured, I might just be 5 minutes late to the meeting, but since people start meeting late all the time, this just might be my lucky day. To my dismay, the lights, at every single block, turns red right when the shuttle approached. A usual 5 minute ride turned into 10.

Once I got to the office, I had my badge prepared to open the door. badge no longer works. So there I was, standing at the door, with my bag in one hand, coffee in the other helplessly hoping for another employee to let me in.

Finally, I get in, joined the meeting late while catching my breath. While no one else seemed to care that I was a few minutes late, I felt miserable! I did everything I could to try to offset delays- I got up early, I hopped an early train, I wore "running" shoes on purpose in case I needed to dash for the shuttle, and still.....I arrived 11 minutes late. Not to mention I now am wearing a huge brown stain on my pink sweater.

Hope the day gets better from here on.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Back from vacation

Just returned from a 8-day vacation in Eastern Europe. The trip absolutely met my expectations. One particular experience actually made me appreciate BART. We rode the train in between cities and somehow mistakenly got ticketed to sit in a smoking cart! At first, we thought, well, maybe these passengers won't actually be smoking during the 4-hour ride, but we quickly realized that smoking train means all passengers in the cart WILL chainsmoke, packs after packs. The space was so confined that quickly, I lost my sense of smell. I see lit cigarettes all around me. The heavy smoke filled up the cart.

I take it for granted that California enforces a non-smoking environment in transportation, restuarants, and common areas. Everytime I leave the country, I realize how lucky I am that I don't need to deal with second-hand smoke much in the SF Bay Area. Smokers are like pariahs in the Bay Area, while non-smokers are such in Europe.