Saturday, September 30, 2006

Passing on BART etiquette to the next generation

I saw something very cute today. I saw parents teaching their kids basic BART station etiquette. A man and a woman, brought 3 little ones with them to the BART station. After getting everyone's tickets, the kids immediately ran to the ticket entry, occupying 3 different entry gates. The parents told the kids they should line up one by one, in front of one entry gate, to let others use the others. The kids listened, formed a little line, and got through one by one through the right entry gate.

At the escalator, the parents told the kids that they should all line up on the right side and hold hands while letting other people pass on the left. It was very cute. The kids listened and held each other's hands, while scooting to the right to let others walk up the escalators.

It was very adorable. Also, it was great to see parents teaching the little ones to be considerate of others. I've seen many instances where kids clog up the entrance and escalators while the parents just let them. It's not a big deal at all, I mean, they are kids and don't know any better, but it's refreshing to see parents who care enough to teach the kids etiquette, even at such a young age.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Unique but dangerous talent

I drove today. It was a long miserable drive. Although, one interesting thing happened. I saw a man steering with his left foot. No, not his knees, but his foot. The left foot was raised up and grasping onto the steering wheel. His hands were occupied-- he was eating a burger or something.

That's quite a unique skill, although extremely irresponsible and dangerous. I wonder how often he does that and how a CHP officer would respond to that sight!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's a conversation between A and B...

I sat next to a friendly blind man today who really wanted to talk during the ride from SF to East Bay. We chatted sporadically about BART's accessibility for the blind (to that, he says BART is not bad but it is important for the station agents and the train operators to speak loudly, slowly and clearly), his desire to find a job, and how he became independent as a blind. I found his independence and self-sufficiency very impressive. During our chat, the train operator announced, "We have been asked to be on a holding pattern. We will be moving in just a moment." Everyone sighed and whined.

The blind man said half sarcastically, "Oh great, just what we need, another delay. Always happens to me." At this moment, the train air system shuts down. The man said, "Great, now the engine shuts down. We are going to be stuck here for some time." He chuckled and shook his head. I didn't think anything of it and just responded, "Gosh, I hope not."

At this time, a random woman sitting across from us yells at him impatiently, "It's not the engine. There is no engine on BART. There is no motor on BART! We are not going to be stuck here. There is not need to panic and exaggerate and make everyone miserable!!!"

What the heck is her problem? No one asked her for opinion. No one asked her to listen or butt in our conversation! There are at least 50 others within a distance that could hear what we are saying but no one else complained. What is her issue? I didn't say anything back to her. The blind man didn't do anything either. I just looked at her with one raised eyebrow.

The train started moving after 3 minutes on hold. Still, who asked for her opinion? We can say whatever we's not like his statement was that far from the truth!

Monday, September 25, 2006

First time ever that I could not squeeze myself onto a crowded train

There was a bad delay this morning getting into the city. I haven't researched why exactly yet but it must have been a seriously long delay because I have never experienced overcrowdedness like this before on BART. And that is a pretty bold statement.

Usually, in ordinary 15+ min delay situations, when there is an overly packed train (so packed that there is no standing room left and any standing passengers squeezing in are barely inside the train), I have no problems sneaking myself in there. I'm fairly thin, average height, and very considerate with my computer bag placement, so I don't take up much room. People aren't happy to accommodate me in the crowded train, but after realizing that I don't really take that much space up from them, they 'welcome' me in.

TODAY, HOWEVER, was a totally different story!! Whatever caused the delay really made quite a lasting negative impact. I was unable to get on three consecutive trains that passed my station!!! I looked for an angle to try to position myself in there but there really was no room left for me to set foot in there!! Every single train that arrived at Orinda was already so packed that once the door opens, passengers inside the trains are falling out. No one could get on! There just isn't room left to even put HALF a body in there!!!

I even ran all the way down to the first cart to see if there was standing room there, but even in the first car, it was packed to maximum maximum capacity. I don't think you can even fit a dog or a carry-on bag in there. It was that bad!

After waiting for three trains and still could not get on, I was fed up! I had missed my company shuttle pick-ups and still, I don't even know how the heck I was going into SF. I certainly did not want to pay for taxi again just to bring me to work from Civic Center.

So, I made the decision to drive. It was pretty miserable, but it probably saved me from a even more miserable BART ride into the city.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Criteria for choosing an open seat on BART

Blogger/Commenter Concord Commuter made a VERY INTERESTING point in the comment section. The comment says...

I have often wondered what criteria people choose when selecting which row of seats to share, as often I will see people zero in on a particular spot. I don't really have a criteria, I just go to the first available seat that is not immediately near the doors.

This comment got me thinking a little bit about just how people choose seats. To me, it's an intricate thought process that must take place within 3 seconds or less!! Call me weird but choosing the best BART seat takes experience: one gets better at picking the best seat faster after years of riding BART!

This is how I do it. I take my first glance at the "seat situation" as the train arrives. I look closely through the window as the train slows down at the station to see if there are any empty spaces between heads. Then I keep track of which side of my particular cart has more empty spaces and position my body to walk into the train that way. As I approach the emtpy seats, I try to quickly evaluate the "quality" of the passenger I would be seated next to. By quality, I purely mean cleanliness, size and general physical and mental health. The next evaluation is aisle seat availability- I prefer these seats over window seats- I need my space, what can I say? Then, if there is time and choice left, I pick the available aisle seat that have cleaner upholstery.

I do all that within 3 seconds of walking into the train. It's become second nature. This usually only happens if I leave work around 4pm and get on the train from Civic Center (where the train isn't as packed yet.) In other occasions, I am lucky if I get a seat. But sometimes, standing is much better than sitting next to someone with undesirable qualities.

Cold germs all over me

I sat in the window seat this morning, next to a middle-aged woman who appeared very ill. Her nose was red and she even carried a box of Kleenex. I was already a little concerned at this point that I will catch whatever she has since I haven't been feeling 100% this week already. The ride ended up being a long and dangerous ride....she was coughing nonstop, not the light cough but the thick, deep, painful coughs where you can hear the phlegm shifting inside her throat and lung. She was also sniffling, sucking in her nasal fluids and sneezing. She blew her nose constantly and compiled the used germ-filled tissues on her lap.

I was extremely intense during the ride. I tried to "protect" myself with my BusinessWeek copy covering my face. But I realized that it was inevitable that I was breathing in her germs since I could feel the air from her cough and blowing.

With a busy day and weekend ahead, I am determined to not get sick. I took out my bottle of Purell and wiped it all over my hands. But then I realized.....wait, her germs are all over my body...from my face to arms. I can't be wiping Purell on my neck and face too. I decided at that point there is nothing I can really do but to take lots of Vitamin-C supplements to fight off the cold bug.

Sometimes I hope that people who are that ill should really take it easy and not force themselves to come to work, or opt to work from home. However, I know that is easier said than done. Needless to say, today's ride was high-risk. I hope I do not get sick!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Found another inconsiderate behavior on BART

The list of inconsiderate behavior seems endless! There is a new 'first' every week! Today, for the first time, I saw a woman brushing her long, mid-back lengthed fuzzy hair, combing through the hair knots, pulling out the loose hairs and putting them on the floor, and picking out the hairs stuck between her brush and dumping the hairballs on the train floors. Because of the static electricity on the train, her loose hairs somehow stuck onto the pants of the man sitting next to her. He had the newspaper opened and did not realize that his black pants are now accessorized with light brown hairballs and loose long hairs. I wonder what his wife will say??

Quickly combing through hair is OK in my opinion, but not picking through the hair knots and cleaning your brush! People should really keep self-grooming to a minimum on BART and wake up earlier to do your makeup, hair, nails at home!!!

On a totally separate note, I saw the office janitor (who does a superb job keeping everything spotless and smelling like Mr. Clean) today spraying Lysol bathroom cleaning spray on the drinking fountains!! Not that people use drinking fountains much these days, but that sort of shocked me a bit. Are people drinking in Lysol chemicals and not knowing it? Yikes!

Friday, September 15, 2006

When did speaking up for yourself become a bad thing?

I witnessed something on BART today that reinforced my belief that there are more BART passengers without manners than those who have manners.

This altercation took place between 2 passengers both seated within the quad-seats (the four seats that face each other) area. An older woman was reading the newspaper on one side. Right across from her was a college-age woman placing her feet and stretching legs on the seat directly across from her. Her feet ended up being right next to the older woman.

The older woman said: Can you not put your feet on these seats?

Younger woman took her feet off and gave her a dirty look.
10 seconds later, her feet were back on.

The older woman said: Don't you realize people sit on these seats? Not to mention they are right next to me.

Younger woman said: I am aware of that. (But did nothing).

Older woman got up for her exit and said to her: At least put your feet on these newspaper for the next person's sake. (She shook her head and left).

After the older woman got up, all the surrounding passengers were making dirty looks at her, snickering, saying that she's a bitch and is having a bad day..and taking the young woman's side!

I was appalled. I got up and said to the older woman, "I'm glad you said something. Someone needed to tell her!" and got off with her at the Civic Center Station.

I'm sure people were saying things about me too afterwards but geez, when did it become a bad thing to ask someone else to be considerate and not put their feet up!?!?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Smile, you're on the newspaper....

I saw a photographer inside my BART train today (with a press badge, or at least something official looking around his neck). He was just snapping away nonstop. He took photos from all angles imaginable with passengers in them.

I made an effort to cover my face with a magazine. Why you ask? For one, I do not even know what type of article this is for...what if it is an article that talks about BART passenger satisfaction rating at a decade-high? I don't want to be the face associated with being a satisfied customer. You get my point? Secondly, I am tired and slightly grumpy in the mornings. The last thing I am looking forward to is a snappy photographer taking close-ups of me and the passengers around me. I do not want to be surprised with a photo of me in tomorrow's paper. Especially if it's a bad photo of me, I do not want it to be circulating without my permission.

Some people may really want to be in these random BART photos, but not me. They should ask willing passengers to do a casual pose instead of just snapping away at everyone! I know that is too complicated and they'll never take that approach, so I'll just continue to hold my magazine or book up high when I see a press photographer snapping away.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Feet among many other sources of germs on BART

I know that there are many other sources of germs on BART, but there is just something about seeing someone taking their shoes off, exposing their feet and toes, stretching the toes, folding their barefeet up on the seat, resting their barefeet against the seat in front and hanging their nasty feet off the edge and blocking 50% of the aisle. But the worst, the worst feet offense of all is when they accidentally touch you with their toes or their feet is pressed against your thigh because it's up on the seat. Luckily, I've yet to experience that. But oh my lord, if anyone ever did that to me, I will cause a scene.

Is it so hard to keep your shoes on while on BART? If you must take your shoes off, why can't you just leave your feet down where they should be?

Isn't BART dirty enough? Must passenger now have to deal with the sight of feet within their view too??

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering September 11th

I did not ride BART on the morning of 9-11-01. I was in Los Angeles that morning and happened to sleep in late. My mother called me around 8am screaming, "the world is coming to an end." My mom tends to be overly emotional and dramatic, so I asked her to calm down and tell me what is going on. After I turned on the TV, I realized that the way we live is going to change forever from that day on. I didn't know anyone who was killed by the terrorist plots, but I too feel their sadness, disbelief and frustration.

Can someone tell me what happened on BART that day? Was service halted?

On this 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, BART announces plans to hire an anti-terror chief. As long as the use resources allocated to us by the state and federal governments from the Homeland Security funds (instead of raising our fares), I think it is smart to be proactive. It is naive for us to think that we, Bay Area residents, are not in danger and are not terrorist targets. Of course we should not live in fear, but there are numerous things BART can still do to make the system safer and more secure.

I give my thoughts to the families of the innocent victims of the 9-11 attacks, and my appreciation and respect to the heroes of 9-11 and after.

It's about time!

BART is finally making a big effort to lessen the ear-pinching screeching on the tracks. I often see senior citizens with hearing aids, covering their ears in agony, or kids screaming to express their misery from the high-pitched and rough grinding of the train tracks. Residences along BART tracks will greatly appreciate this too.

Funny that right after this article was written, I experienced my worst track screeching to date. This morning, the screeching in the transbay tube was bad enough that I felt a vibrating pulse from my eardrum which felt like it shot up to my brain. Time for an improvement for sure!

Take a look at this article written by Rachel Gordon of SF Chronicle

Friday, September 08, 2006

Onboard entertainment - Part II

Just a quick update- the same train operator sang the exact same songs today at each of the SF downtown stops. I wasn't as annoyed today, maybe because it's Friday and we're all generally in a better mood, or because I had a chance to vent about it today, or perhaps I'm used to the songs now that they just didn't affect me anymore.

She should change around her songs eventually however, if she's going to keep up with the onboard entertainment :)

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Mad for fuschia

Fashion sense is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not judging anyone...just sharing an observation. I never thought I would see so much fuschia on a person. Now, picture this in your mind.

A woman in her late-40s immediately drew my attention as she walked onto the train. She was very brightly colored and probably made most passengers look twice.

She had a fuschia tank top and a fushia skirt with white stripes. She wore fushia colored nail polish with fuschia sandals. She also had a fuschia scrunchy tying up her poofy layered hair. She accessorized with fuschia bracelets and fuschia earrings. Her lipstick and blush color? You got it, fuschia and fuschia. Eye shadow? Ha, gotcha, that was actually light blue. Needless to say, her purse was fuschia too.

I then noticed that her bra strap was also fuschia. Talk about color coordinated!! I wonder if this color coordination is only for fuschia, or if she had a blue outfit on, everything will be in blue instead?

More power to her for dressing the way she pleases!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Obsessive or just plain inconsiderate?

Last night, on a very crowded train back to the East Bay, I sat next to a woman with two Chinese take-out boxes wrapped in a plastic bag. The smell instantly permeated through the train. As you know, the smell of food in train, no matter what it is, mixed in with the dirty and musty scent of the train, just stinks. Because I was sitting right next to this woman and her food, the scent was overpowering. The odor was on me, my clothes, my hair, my bag and in the air I breath in.

But that is not it! People bringing food onto trains is very common (not worthy of an online rant). But what made this woman worse was the fact that every 2-3 minutes, and after every stop, she unwraps her white plastic bag, opens up the take-out boxes, looks quickly at the food for a second, and closes it back up, and re-wraps the plastic bag. Every few minutes, she repeats this the bag, open th boxes, look at the food and close it back up.

What does she think is going to happen to the food? Was she checking the temperature? What is going to change in 2-3 minutes? Does she think there's someone invisible eating her Chinese food away?? Was she considering taking a piece out because she couldn't wait? What is her deal???

Whatever her reason was, I didn't care! Everyone had to smell the food again and again just because of her freakishly obsessive habit or her extreme hunger. You can see people cringe each time she opened up the boxes! The more I smelled the food, the sicker I felt. I decided to give up my seat so someone else can deal with the woman and her take-out. I then stood next to the train door so that at the next stop, I can sneak in a quick breath of fresh air finally.

It's bad enough that people do not follow the "NO FOOD OR DRINKS" sign (separate topic but it says no food or drink, not no eating or drinking, so to me, that means you shouldn't even bring food onto the train, although in a past blog, people have disagreed with me), but to open up the food and let the smell leak through the entire train is really inconsiderate.

Which part of "get in line" do you not understand?

This morning, one woman was so blatantly cutting in front of me that I just had to say something. Usually, cutters like to swoop in from the side as the door opens...I generally just sense where they're swooping in from and block their way by swaying my body and work bag from left to right.

However, this woman was ridiculously rude. I was the first in line at this particular boarding zone (the black paint area along the yellow strip on the boarding platform), and standing behind the yellow paint like we are supposed to do. I was no more than two inches behind the yellow zone and this woman walks up the stairs, looks around and stands IN FRONT of me right ON TOP of the black paint boarding area. Aside from the fact that is dangerously close to the train tracks, she pretty much shoved herself in front of me in such an uncomfortably close distance as if she's doing that just to push me back.

I stood next to her to see what she would do. She just pretended she didn't see me and moved forward a couple steps more....she was 3 inches from the train tracks!

I had to say something-- she was being ridiculous! By then, there were other people lining up behind me. I decided to say, "Excuse me, can you get in line?"

She gave me a very dirty look and grabbed her bags and went to the back of the line. But the story does not end here!!! When the train came, the door opened, she cut across everyone else in line and walked in front of me. I just could not let this go- what the hell did she think she was doing? She had to get a seat that bad??? I walked even faster into the train and cut her off. There were two seats left- I took one, and another woman took the other as this rude cutting woman was too late in her effort to grab the other empty seat after I took "hers".

Ridiculous and petty little story...I know...but people are so petty and rude sometimes that you just have to fight back and let them get a taste of their own medicine.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

BART's tendency to under-estimate delay time

There were delays this morning for all trains heading to SF. Official BART announcements repeated said to expect a 10-15 minute delay, but I knew that is too good to be true. As it turns out, the delay was more like 20-25 minutes for my train. I was too tired to care...besides, by being just over 5 minutes late, I was already going to miss my company shuttle anyways.

By the time my train arrived at Civic Center, 23 minutes later, I had only 1.5 minute to catch the next arriving shuttle. I didn't have flats on today, and instead wore these slight heels that weren't the easiest for running up the stairs. I knew to make it up to the shuttle pick-up in time would be a near-impossible task. I turned up the volume on my iPod, tuned into a song with a very ast dance beat as motivational, and dashed as quickly as I could. Luckily, I pulled up right before the shuttle driver closed the doors.

Why does BART always tend to under-estimate the delay time? I've come to expect it...but why do they do it? To give us a false sense of hope and impression of near on-time arrival?