Thursday, August 30, 2007

I miss BART

This week has been quite hectic at work and I've been asked to go to our HQ in San Jose 2 days in a row. Generally, I drive down to SJ once a week or every other week, so 2 days in a row is really testing my sanity with the miserable 680 traffic.

Yesterday, I spent about 4 hours total driving (yes, bad bartmusings, i missed spare the air day!), and today, it took me almost 2 hours (one way) to get here and I can only imagine how bad the way home will be on a Thursday evening.

I may complain about little things on BART here and there but all I need is a 58-mile drive down to San Jose to realize how lucky I have it on all the other days by taking BART to SF!

And with the triple digit heat, sitting in 5mph traffic even with AC, only makes the drive worse.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taking music enjoyment to the extreme

I've written a couple times before about people who sing along to their iPods. It's not a big deal- I generally don't mind it, especially if it's just a phrase or two. One time, I encountered a man who sang along song after song-- he sounded terrible but it was more entertaining than annoying since he was SO into it.

Well, this morning was a little different. This woman did not have an iPod or any listening device. She was not shy in anyway as she belted out warm-up scales, and then eventually, songs! She must have been taking some type of voice lessons because she didn't sound bad at all. It was just really bizarre that someone, sitting in the middle of a crowded train, not panhandling, not homeless, who looks like she's going to school or work, would just randomly close her eyes, clutch her hands in front of her stomach, and belt out Ave Maria, Carmen, to other classical favorites.

She was LOUD to say the least. Everyone just kept turning around to look at her, but she was undeterred. Her eyes were closed most of the time, her head moving along to the music with emotions, and she just went on and on for several minutes until we reached the Transbay tube.

She didn't ask for money after she stopped- she just sat there and walked out at Powell. I didn't really mind it- it was fairly enjoyable and as someone who enjoys playing classical music on the piano, I could tell she loved the songs. It was just a little strange, but enviously daring, that she had the boldness to do that on BART!

I am far too shy to do that....although I do love karaoke!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not in the mood to deal with line-cutters

Monday mornings are just the worst. I'm tired, my mind is filled with to-do items to take care of once I get into the office, and the idea of waiting 5 more days until the weekend is simply miserable. This morning was no different except that I am even more tired than usual from a poor night's sleep.

I arrive at the platform and find myself a position where I would be the first to stand in line. As the train arrived, I noticed 3 people, same party, previously seated in one of those covered benches, started to approach me. I moved a few steps forward to "signal" to them to stand behind me since I was already in line.

But to my surprise, they started squeezing in front of me, trying to push me back. It's like I was invisible...the three of them just started encroaching my space in the front of the line.

I cannot deal with this at all, esp. not on a Monday morning. The etiquette is those who stand first in line should remain first. It doesn't matter that they might have arrived before me on the platform-- they CHOSE to SIT, and not stand, therefore, they need to get in the back of the line!

I had to tell them as politely as I could, "There's a line here," and pointed to the line behind me. By this time, there were 3 people in line, and none of us would have been happy if they cut in front of us.

They not only didn't get in back of the line-- they actually remain right next to me, crowding me even more. One of them gave me a dirty look. I knew this would be a fight for position. **ck this, I thought to way you are getting in front of me.

As soon as the train door opened, I dashed in before them while using my computer bag to block their entry...and so did the guy standing in line behind me who straight out walked in front of them. We got on in time to take the two last seats.

They need to learn the rules.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

3 lovely sights in one ride

Before I go into the "interesting" things I ran into this morning, I want to clarify that most of the time, I try to write objectively, from the standpoint of a passenger who would like to know more about how BART works or how other see the system. If I wrote that I've yet to see something happen, 99% of the time, that is followed by a statement indicating that it doesn't mean it hasn't happened. I don't write this to bash anyone, but if you take it that way, please know that 99% of the time, the entries are not meant to be accusatory. BART staff has a high profile job and it is inevitable that they will be subjected to the opinions of passengers in some way. We all recognized that there are stellar employees and as with any other profession, there are always some bad ones.

OK, the 3 very lovely things I witnessed today. Of course, I am being sarcastic about them being lovely.

1) Saw a woman in a short skirt sit directly on the train floors today with her bare legs lined against the ground. Not only was the carpet filthy, what was more inappropriate was her exposure. When she squatted to search for her book, her underwear was showing. When she sat "Indian-style", her underwear was showing. When she finally got up, her skirt was flipped up for 3 seconds, exposing her behinds, before she realized she needed to flip it down.

2) Saw another woman (or man, not sure) in thigh-high boots and extremely short and tight shorts that don't cover up the entire behind. She looked extremely masculine but that's not the point. She seemed to be struggling with the thigh-high boots (4 inch heels) and fell off the escalator as soon as she stepped on. She wasn't hurt but continued to struggle to walk with the boots.

3) Urine puddle in the car. Entire section smelled like very acidic pee. Called the TO to notify a cleaning crew and was told that previous passengers have already reported it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Assisting the blind around BART

I'm always amazed when I see blind passengers master BART, sometimes with a seeing-eye dog, sometimes without. On the most part, I'd say passengers are pretty good about giving up their seats for the blind, as they should be. I've once talked to a blind passenger who informed me that there are great programs out there that trains the blind and the disabled to master public transit systems. I was quite impressed.

However, there are times when I see blind passengers who aren't so good yet at navigating within the stations or on the trains, and I can't help but wonder whether BART owns the responsibility to escort the blind when they need assistance? These blind passengers often go towards the down escalators when they want to go up, bump into the train when they are trying to enter, or worse, walk way too close to the tracks.

Fortunately, there are always some good people around who are willing to escort a blind passenger to the platform, into the right train, and to a safe seat. Some even go as far as forgoing his ow her own train just to assist the blind. I've witnessed that and it's comforting to see there are still decent people left in this world. I've assisted the blind around stations and on the platforms whenever I see one in need but I've never actually let my own train pass just so I can wait with him/her to see him/her through safely.

But what happens when there are no good samaritans around? What happens when a blind passenger seeks assistance from people who are in the mood for a practical joke? I've witnessed that once where a bunch of high school aged kids directed the blind to face a wall. Luckily, a bunch of us re-directed him to the line and scolded these idiotic kids.

Can these blind passengers look to BART for assistance? Will station agents actually escort the blind if requested? Or can they not leave their square ticket window? I've not yet seen a BART employee escort a blind passenger in need of assistance BUT that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

Thanks to a reader who voiced his concerns for the blind BART passengers in an email. We've all seen blind passengers around BART and when one is in need, I know that most of us do jump to offer assistance, at least I'd like to believe that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Airport frustrations

Just returned from a 3-day weekend trip and the plane ride home was horrendous. I won't go into the 90 minute delay or the fact that the ground crew took more than 10 minutes to connect the gangway to the plane so passengers can de-plane, no, I won't talk about that.

I will only gripe about idiotic passengers who STILL DON'T KNOW that you need to have your boarding pass and ID in hand when you approach the security point. Despite TSA officers yelling "Please have your boarding pass and ID ready" every 3-5 minutes, and multiple signs and TV monitors that tell you to have those handy. there are still people who cluelessly tread along the endless lines for 30-45 minutes not knowing that they are about to hold up the line even more.

Finally, they reach the ID checkpoint, the TSA officer asks, "I need your passport and ID". These idiots say, "oh, really? already? now? Oh, I didn't know that", while they hopelessly search through their purses, bags, pockets, and luggage. Finally, they pull out the ticket or boarding pass only. The TSA officer says, "I also need your ID." Again, these clueless fools act surprised, "oh? you need that too?" while they take way too long to pull it out.

Meanwhile, the rest of us waits, with our boarding passes and IDs in hand, like we're supposed to. These same imbeciles are the same ones who don't know to take off their boots, even while TSA yells in front of them, "take off all shoes, including tennis shoes."

These are probably the same idiots who block the BART ticket turnstiles while searching through their bags and purses, and the same people who block the leftside of the escalators and not noticing that everyone is walking around them!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Picture of the day

Someone posted this under comments in one of my previous entries. Look at how clean this train looks! Sure, there's wear and tear on the floors but it is meticulous. I've been to Singapore and the entire city is clean. In fact, there are cameras on every major intersection monitoring citizens and you get fined (sometimes jailed) for littering, sleeping or even spitting on the streets. Not saying that's the model that we should follow but boy, that sure would make one clean country if we had to live under those strict regulations.

It can be the end of the day and this train will still look that clean because it's in Singapore. I've seen it firsthand.

Here's the picture:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Strollers on escalators-- a little too dangerous!

Now, I'm not sure about this but I thought that baby strollers are not allowed on the BART escalators? Is that the case?

Anyhow, I saw a potentially life threatening accident involving a baby stroller yesterday where the mother propped back the stroller on the rear set of wheels, with the stroller balancing on one escalator step. I've seen people do this and in most cases, the baby and parents arrive safely to the top or bottom of the escalators.

This time, however, the baby stroller lost its balance and jerked hard frontwards and skipped two steps downwards before the mom caught up to the stroller and grabbed onto it with one hand while maintaining her own balance. Luckily, the baby was fine and didn't even cry!

It's scary to imagine what could have happened if the stroller just kept on skipping downwards. I'm sure strollers are safe, hefty and will envelope the baby from the fall but still....pretty dangerous!

Just as a side note, the stroller was blocking the passing lane on the escalator too-- I was on the leftside, about 6 behind the stroller.

Are strollers allowed on BART escalators? I don't think they are, but if they are allowed, they shouldn't be for many reasons!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Turn those ringtones down please!

I am behind the latest trends. I must be because I just can't seem to get into the ringtone rage. I prefer to use a traditional "ring ring" to indicate a call and in my "younger" days, for about a year, I had a mellow electronic version of "Take me out to the ballgame". Even before ringtones took off, I've never really used the "Samba", "Bach Partita", "Marriage of Figaro", or whatever generic ringtones came with the phone. Yes, I know, I'm behind times, but call me old-fashioned, boring, or whatever, I prefer a normal ring.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love music! Anything from classical, 80s, 90s, to whatever is in these days that has a good beat. But I just don't like hearing these songs blasting on BART. My phones are either on silent/vibrate or a soft ring. I generally try to pick up immediately or just send straight to voicemail for the sake of all the passengers around me.

Ringtones are part of self-expression, so I've been told. That's fine, but hearing them blasting from left and right on a train isn't exactly pleasant. But since people paid for them, they want them world to hear the ringtones...thus, it tends to always be on the loudest volume the phone can get.

Just yesterday evening, I heard over and over:

smack that, all on the floor,
smack that, give me some more.....

The guy just won't pick it up! Not sure what was holding him back. Whoever was calling him also won't quit....Akon was blasting 3 times in a row.

It has nothing to do with the type of music. It's the volume and the inconsideration of the phone owner to let it go on and on.

This morning, the train was silent and sleepy. Suddenly, Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl woke everyone up like a loud alarm clock. The only person that DIDN'T wake up was the person who owned the phone.

Anyways, my point is, please be considerate and turn it down or at the very least, pick it up immediately. If I have to hear the whole chorus at least once, you've let it rang too long.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Idiot I am

I've never done this before in my years of taking BART, but between reading my book, feeling too tired, suffering from allergies, and having a half-functioning brain this morning, I got off at Powell station instead of Civic Center station.

In my head, I miscounted the stops since the train crossed the tube, and then with my ears plugged up and my eyes watery (from allergies), I thought I saw "Civic Center" sign at the Powell stop, and even imagined hearing "Civic Center/UN Plaza". I hurriedly shut my book and shoved it in my bag as if I am almost going to miss getting off the train. I run out as fast as I could past the train door before it closes.

Right as I turned my body towards the escalators, I realized, wait, this doesn't look like the Civic Center station. At that moment, the train departs. I then realized, WHAT AN IDIOT I AM, I GOT OFF ONE STATION TOO EARLY!

I've never done this before and can't believe I got off at Powell after getting off the same exit for many years! It ended up not being a huge deal since there are plenty of trains heading towards Daly City. I hopped on the next train, which was 2 minutes later, and had enough time to run after my connecting shuttle.

Boy, if this is a sign on how the week is going to turn out, I better drink extra coffee in the morning!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Food violator makes a mess on BART

A female passenger walks into the train today with a computer bag, backpack and a closed container of yogurt in hand. She stands up next to the safety pole, puts down her bags, grabs on to the pole with one hand, and opens up the yogurt container.

She tries to balance herself while eating the yogurt but between holding a spoon, holding the yogurt, and grabbing on to the pole, she loses her balance and tips over the yogurt. The yogurt spills on the ground and makes a thick white mess on the carpet.

I was thoroughly annoyed. I had to just say to her, "You know you're not allowed to eat in here right?" She said, "Oh really? I had no clue. I eat in here all the time." Then, I said, "No food signs are all over the train. See that sign over there?" Someone else chimed in, "Now who's going to clean up your mess?"

The woman pulls out notebook paper (guess she had nothing else) and tries to wipe up the yogurt with it. She smears it all over, but eventually does wipe it clean. She had a large rumpled mess of notebook paper drenched in yogurt in her hands as she finally walked out of the train.

I think she learned a good lesson as everyone was watching her struggle to clean up her yogurt stains for 15 minutes. I doubt she'll eat on BART again. Someone offered her some tissue paper to help absorb the mess a bit better. I have to say she did a pretty good job, possibly quicker and better than waiting for BART cleaning staff to take care of it. In the end, the carpet just looked like any other portions of the BART train floors- dry but stained. You can't even tell anything had happened.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Germs? No problem!

Most daily BART commuters are like me- you try not to touch too many things on BART: the poles, the seat handles, the escalator handles...etc. If you have to touch it, most of us wash our hands immediately once we get into the office, or if you're like me, you carry a bottle of Purell to quickly destroy the germs, and then you follow-up with a thorough rinse once you get to the office.

It always amazes me that there are some people on BART who could care less about germs. Last night, I saw a man (not homeless) lie down on the BART train floors. That wasn't the first time I've seen someone sleep on the train floors. I've also seen people flatten their bodies against the dirty carpet and use their computer bag as a pillow. This morning, I saw a group of passengers come in and just sat down on the ground in a circle. Other times, I've seen people sit down against the door, and start eating their breakfast. I've also watched people play cards while sitting on the stain-filled train carpet.

It makes me cringe to see them pasting their clothes and skin on the floors. But hey, if they're fine with it, why should I worry?

The closest I've ever come to sitting on the train floors is this one time when I was sick with a flu, nauseous, and I literally could not keep myself standing. I didn't sit on the floor but I did bend my knees so I'm squatting. I kept my head down so I wouldn't puke on anyone. I squatted for about 10 was a pretty low point in my years of BART riding. But even then, sitting down on the floor is NOT an option.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Leaning on someone's shoulders

I saw a woman sound asleep on BART today. She was in the window seat while there was a man in the aisle seat. Her head was swinging from left to right, front and back, and finally it comfortably found a resting place-- on the man's shoulder!

The woman was still asleep and looked to be quite comfortable resting her head on the man's shoulder. The man looked at her but didn't make any attempt to shake her head off, or move his shoulder a bit.

I thought maybe they were together, so it's not a big deal. Well, until the man got off at one of the downtown Oakland stations without saying goodbye. The woman woke up, didn't have a clue what she's been leaning on, and just leaned her head towards the window and continued sleeping.

I thought it was interesting because I don't think I would let a stranger lean on me. I did let a baby grab my clothes and hair once but that's because she's a baby.

I wonder what this man was thinking. It's a bit weird for him to allow a stranger to rest on his shoulder. Granted, the woman is attractive and well-dressed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why I think there needs to be more BART police presence at Civic Center station?

I first wrote this in the comment section but decided to expand on it. BART police officers are probably very hard at work, and it's easy for the rest of us to complain their lack of presence since we don't exactly see everything they do. Even if that is true, several readers and I have mentioned multiple times that there are many things that BART police can do to help make BART a more pleasant experience. Someone asks me, "Like what?"

Thought I should cut and paste my response as a new entry. Of course, I'm speaking from my own experiences, and I just happen to go to the lovely Civic Center station daily.

I can think of different examples everyday on why we need BART police presence even for "minor"things but the one that pops out at me most is what happened to me today and many other times in the past. Right outside the Market/8th exit off Civic Center station, there are homeless people coming up to passengers exiting up the stairs or escalators, asking for money, for food, for cigarettes, or whatever. I don't mind solicitations, but it's when they are hostile that I feel unsafe. If you ignore them, they yell obscenities at you. If you say sorry, I don't have anything, they curse hell at you too. Occasionally, they spit at you. Once I've even had one point a plastic toy gun at my head closely (I wrote about this back in 2005).

I've written the BART comment site about this several times. I never saw a visible difference or noticed an increase in BART police presence around there.

A coworker and I once told a ticket agent that there's blood on the stairs and all she said was it happens all the time, what do you want me to do about it. I said, well, maybe it should be cleaned up, and I don't know, maybe someone's hurt? If anything, I was stunned by her attitude.

On my way home, I've seen a disheveled woman inviting men to 'check out' her g-string. I can go on with other examples but hopefully you get the point.

For anyone who will likely blame me and other passengers for these mishaps, please hold back your criticisms and really think about why there isn't more BART police presence at a known to be troublesome station like Civic Center/UN Plaza?