Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Any day now!!!!

I love the holidays for so many reasons. The one reason related to BART is that during the holidays, especially starting this week, the trains begin to get emptier because more and more people go on vacation. It's now 12/20 and the passenger volume has not declined at all yet! Maybe since Xmas day is Sunday, people are not taking as many days off!

I haven't gotten a seat yet this week. I'm hoping tomorrow will be the day when empty seats are not as hard to come by.

Friday, December 16, 2005

seat fight

No, I didn't personally get into a seat fight, but I observed one yesterday. I was too tired to get in the middle of the argument, but I should have. Let me describe the situation to you first.

Lining up for the train back to East Bay from SF were (in this order): a woman in her 40s, a man in his 40s, and me. Before the train even stopped, I noticed from the line that there is only one more seat left. I think the man in front of me saw it too. However, the woman slowly walks into the train, and turns the opposite direction from the empty seat. The man sets his backpack on the empty seat, and positions himself to sit down.

Suddenly, the woman yells, "That is my seat!! I was in front of you in line, I am going to sit there, not you!"
The man says, "You can have the seat, but how is it your seat?"
Woman screams, "I was standing in front of you in line."
Man yells back, "But you walked the opposite direction, and I took the seat after."
Woman says, "it doesn't matter, I was in front of you in line outside, so that is supposed to be my seat."
Man concludes, "Hey, you can have the seat, but it doens't have your name on it."

I was listening to the entire altercation. I should have jumped in to tell the woman, no, it's NOT your seat, you walked the other way as you entered the train, and he saw the seat first! But alas, the work day completely drained me so I wasn't in an argumentative mood. That woman made NO sense whatsoever. She walked away from the seat! She never made eye contact with the empty chair until the man sat down! How could she have been so self-righteous? On BART, you lose your place in line once you enter the train and start wondering around for a seat or standing space.

See what happens to people when they depend on public transportation? Grouchy, self-righteous, petty...you name it! If that woman had told ME to get out of a seat that I was entitled to, I probably would have caused a little more of a scene than the man did.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Horrible delays today

Today is one of those days that I ask myself....is taking BART really a better option than braving the Bay Bridge traffic??

It was 43 degrees in Lafayette at 8:15am, and I was standing out there in the cold (and very windy conditions) waiting for the BART train to arrive. NO train came by for 25 minutes! And we got NO explanation why there's such a delay.

Then, a train zipped by..and the monitors said "TRAIN WON'T STOP" while ther are probably over 250 of us waiting to get to work (about 25 people waiting per cart line.) Finally, 25 minutes late, a completely packed train arrives. Only 3 of us could fit in there. I had to get to work, so I squeezed in despite other people's grumblings to fit another body in the train.

The entire ride, I stared right into another man's face. It was beyond crowded. I was practically holding hands with another passenger on the safety pole because there were too many hands that needed to hold on to the pole.

There is a happy ending, however. I happened to be standing in front of a seated passenger who got up at downtown Oakland. I sat down as soon as she got up and enjoyed reading my new US Weekly the rest of the way.

Monday, December 12, 2005

love is blind

wow, shocking observation today. first, to those of you who are quick to judge, i know this entry may sound bad, but believe me, i know and respect that appearance is not the reason why couples get together and live happily ever after!

now, on to my story. ever since my new job, i've been enjoying bart a little tiny bit more. the ride is 5 minutes shorter now each way, and i don't have to run up 4 flights of stairs to try to catch a connecting shuttle. this morning, i caught a peculiar sight while i was taking a break from my reading. i saw an above-avereage looking man, well-groomed, slender, tall, holding an expensive briefcase, and nicely dressed in a suit walk into the train. then, i saw a grungy, messy-haired, multi-layered sox over birkinstocks and hole-filled sweater wearing, not to mention below-average looking woman holding on to his back. my first thought was, whoa, poor man, who is that weird-looking stranger grasping on to him? what is he going to do to get rid of her?

then...i saw him holding on to her back, and letting her take the last seat! the whole time, he had one hand on her shoulder and they whispered to each other. cute couple interactions...i must say, but i certainly was surprised by the pairing. of course, being an observer, that is all i can go by. sure, they looked like an odd match (a very very odd one), but i am sure there is much more to their pairing than just looks.

it's really refreshing that there still are people in this world who can look beyond appearances and fall in love for what's inside.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

getting the last seat in a crowded train is like...

finding a $20 on the street! Yes, it feels that good!! When you are the 8th person out of 15 people lining up in front of one train car, and as the train approaches, you spot just a few empty seats so you assume that you won't be one of the lucky 3 or 4 who enter the train first. This was me today! There were at least 7 people lining up in front of me today to get in to the train car. Instantly, I thought, crap, another standing trip to SF for me with people breathing on me. However, 4 people inmy line just happened to turn to the side of the train without empty seats (they don't have the eagle eyes that I have when it comes to spotting empty seats), and another in front of me just happened to walk inside too slowly and lost his "place" in line. I saw the last seat there, and without making any eye contact with other passengers around me, I sat down! I felt so lucky and so grateful...like I won some kind of small jackpot.

Quickly, the train filled up! Every square foot was occupied! But there I was...SITTING, not standing, and reading a book.

I felt lucky, happy, relieved, and proud to get that last seat. Why proud you ask? Well, for me to get that last empty seat, it meant that I left the house at the right time, I parked fast enough, and jogged up the escalators quickly enough to be the 8th, not 9th person in line!

See the little things that make you foolishly happy when you ride BART?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I'm a good BART "citizen"...I think?

Since I spend so many entries writing about others and how they irk me, I figured it is only fair that I evaluate myself as a BART passenger.

1) Cleanliness

I definitely give myself a 10 out of 10 here. I shower 3 times a day, including mornings. I always wear clean clothes, and I never smell or sweat BART.

2) Size

Another 10 here I suppose. I weigh a little over 100 pounds. I take about 2/3 of a seat, so people always like to sit next to me when there are only 2 seats left because I make it a roomy and comfy ride for them.

3) Consideration

This is a tricky one. I am usually very considerate on BART, but I don't ever let others take advantage of me. I warrant a 7 out of 10 here. I get out of the way for people to enter/exit, I never let my belongings take more room than necessary, I don't take off my shoes, I don't eat on the train, I don't swing my umbrella in people's faces, and I ALWAYS cover my nose or mouth when I cough or sneeze...those are the good things.

On the other hand, if I get a good seat that is in the general seating area (non-handicapped), I stay in it. I don't want to give my seat up to any older person, unless they have a cane or look like they are limping. If it's just a gray-haired person who looks perfectly able to stand for 15 minutes, I am going to let my tired feet rest. I mentioned in one of the first blog entries that an older (not senior citizen) person can't just feel entitled to take anyone's seat- some have the guts to ask, but I don't think that makes it right.

Another slightly inconsiderate thing that I do is not give up my standing room next to a vertical pole because I need something to grab on without tiptoeing. There are bars on the top of the train that I cannot comfortably reach, so I am pretty stubborn about standing next to the vertical poles in the front. Hey, it's a matter of survival at this point. I don't want to fall on the ground when the train jerks!

4) Behavior

Again, I am 7 out of 10 here. I am a very normal person- I don't blabber to strangers, I don't read over people's reading materials, and I don't over-blast my iPod. However, I am guilty of looking at the "weirdos" a little too long and sometimes I even flash a look of disgust or annoyance when things get pretty bad (meaning when they specifically encroach on my comfort zone). But I am just a silent observer...I'm harmless.

Others who observe me, however, may think I'm a little anal. I have Purell to clean my hands as I exit the train. I also don't ever encircle the safety poles with my hands/palms. In fact, this is probably the weirdest thing about me, I hold the pole with 2 fingers: my index finger and my thumb, while the other 3 fingers flare out erectly to stay away from the germ-filled pole. Sometimes, when the pole is really sweaty and dirty (that you can see sweat left on there), my thumb takes the burden of balancing my entire weight during the ride. I press my thumb against the pole and swing my body back and forth to the motion of the train in a delicate manner...it's a tough balancing act that I've mastered. So yeah, I am a freak too....but I don't like the thought of transplanting someone's elses germs right into my palm.

Overall, I do think I'm a good BART "citizen"...10, 10, 7, 7 makes a nice 8.5 average.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

BART on rainy days

It's been raining hard the past couple of days, especially today! Rainy days are not pretty for BART commuters. BART is rarely able to keep up the schedule when it's pouring, and the train ride itself is much uglier when it's raining. For one, everyone is either carrying a dripping wet umbrella or a drenched raincoat, or just plain wet and stinky. Due to the delays, the trains are always over-packed! And due to the overcrowdedness, the windows fog up, the train gets uncomfortably warm with a layer of sweaty scent, since it is so hot inside the train. from too many bodies.

There is just nothing like walking into a completely foggy train....so foggy that you can't see through the windows at all. You will read all sorts of backwards writing (using a finger) from bored passengers inside the train. I can read "olleh", "em evas", or even "uoy kcuf". Occasionally, you'd see someone smart enough to write backwards so their immature message can be read by those of us lining up for the train.

Today was a miserably crowded ride with wet and grouchy people. Several people shook their excess umbrella water in the crowded train, and got my face all wet! After that, the person standing next to me kept his drenched raincoat on during the ride and invaded my space as the train got crowded and got my wool coat wet! Not to mention I was 5 minutes late to my new job due to the BART delays.

I sure hope it dries up soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New job, new BART stop.

I didn't mention this earlier since these entries are mainly about BART, but I did get a new job recently and I am starting tomorrow! This actually means a great deal for my roundtrip BART commute. I am now exiting at the Embarcadero station, which is 4 exits before the Civic Center station. Boy, the differences between the two stations are VAST! Embarcadero is by the water, with beautiful sweeping views of the Bay, in the heart of financial district, ideal location for shopping and dining, festive around holidays (outdoor Kristi Yamaguchi ice rink, beautifual Embarcadero Xmas lights, and red and green trimmings all over downtown), much cleaner all around, and with fewer homeless people near the station. I used to work near this station, so I know the benefits of working back in the Embarcadero area.

Getting off Embarcadero instead of Civic Center doesn't mean that I won't deal with delays, disgusting scents, strange stains, perverts, weirdos and other undesirable encounters, it does mean that I don't need to catch the company shuttle each day after getting off BART. NO MORE SHUTTLES! I will be able to walk out of the Embarcadero station, and walk right into my new building. Oh...how nice that will be. That cuts 10-15 minutes off my commute each way!!! Not to mention taxi expenses whenever I miss the darn shuttle.

There is one drawback, however, to my new BART commute. Embarcadero riders getting on the BART train back to the East Bay usually have no seats, if they can even find standing room at all!! I better get used to standing and smelling the person next to me, because by Embarcadero station pick-up, the train is usually jam packed. The advantage I have is that I'm relatively thin, so I don't need much space to stand.

Well, just wanted to share this news. I'm sure I'll have many "standing passenger" horror stories to write about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An unofficial disclaimer

I've noticed that BART Musings has been added to a public transportation site in the BART blogs section (greetings new readers, and welcome!!)

Although I've created this blog to serve as a means to vent, and all entries, though true, represent my personal experiences and opinions about BART, its passengers, occasional delays, and the surroundings of my SF stop, it is time to reiterate that despite my unpleasant experiences on the train, I do want people to know that taking BART is way better than being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic! Or else, why would an L.A. native (meaning someone who never takes public transport, and valet parks wherever I go) like me bear all the unpleasantries to still take BART to work everyday? That's saying a lot!!

Monday, November 21, 2005

What a good book can do for your BART ride

Yes, I know, I haven't written an entry in a quite awhile! You actually should be happy for me! I mentioned in my last posting that I've been reading a good book that has kept my attention away from the undesirable conditions on BART and around the Civic Center station. The book has kept me relatively BART complaint-free all last week (well, except for a 15 minute BART delay on Thursday which caused me to miss my shuttle...I had to spend an additional $10 on a taxi ride to the office! SUCKED!)

I've been reading Memoirs of a Geisha, and from the preface all the way to the last page of acknowledgements, I have just been completely captured by the story! It's so good that I actually don't even get the chance to lift up my head to check out the passengers around me. I still smell things, sure, but all I need to do is swing the book up and down to fan away the bad scents while keeping my focus on the book.

Unfortunately, I am now finished with the 400 page novel....now I'm in the hunt again for a good book that keeps me THAT enthralled or else my attention will be once again focused on my horrible surroundings on and off the train.

I can't wait until the Memoirs of a Geisha movie is out. I just hope they do justice to their beautifully written and emotionally stimulating book.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

R. Kelly you are not!

Some people take the whole "I don't care about what people think of me" mentality to a whole new level. I definitely think that it's good to not let other people's opinions dictate your life, but sometimes, I come across individuals who take that a bit too far....beyond the level of basic common sense.

On the ride home on BART today, one man stood out today...in a bad way. He had a beat-up looking Sony walkman in his hand, and headphone in his ears. The entire train ride, he was singing loudly to what was apparently a R. Kelly CD (judging from the songs.) He screamed the words, attempted to sing the high octaves, and even mimicked R. Kelly's deep-voiced monologues....all during the train ride with 100 people in the same train! If he sounded like R. Kelly, maybe the rest of us will end up clapping for him after each song. But he was horrible! It was noise to me! He was out of tune, his throat hiccuped and squeaked whenever he tried to sign high notes...and worst of all, he was unbelievably loud. He had his eyes closed, he was deep into the tunes, shaking his head and body to the melody....he really thought he was R. Kelly performing on BART!

He sounded awful! Everyone glanced at him for a second, and looked away while making not-so-kind judgments about him and his lack of talent inside our heads.

Then, in downtown Oakland, he left the train...still singing. Suddenly, the train bursted out in laughter, sighs of relief, and conversations about him. I was just glad that there is silence once again on BART so I can focus on my book (Memoirs of a Geisha, very good so far!)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sorry, one more scent-related entry

I hate to bore you guys with yet another smell-related entry, but something bad happened again today that I must share!

It didn't even happen on the train....it was on the escalators this time around. Someone let out a very ripe and rotten-smelling fart on his/her way up the escalators and the rest of us behind this person pretty much rode up the escalator through the mass of fart. That's a pretty evil thing to do- to let out gas knowing that the endless stream of people standing behind you on the escalator will pass it. Just awful....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Again, oxygen mask needed....

Another brush with bad-smelling passengers today. This time around, I wasn't seated next to someone smelly, but unfortunately, the train was so crowded that there were standing passengers all around. The woman standing next to me was extraordinarily greasy....her entire face was beyond shiny, it actually looked like she had been next to an oil grill all day. Quickly, it occurred to me that she actually HAD been standing next to a fryer all day. She had a hair net on, and had an apron in her bag. She smelled like a taqueria kitchen's trash can....the onions, the beans, the oils, the cheese, the salsa, stale tortillas....she really stunk next to me. I had to position my hand discretely next to my nose to try to mask the scent.

I know, it's not her fault. She probably just finished a hard day of work at Joe's Tacos or whatever, and is simply taking the train home, like I am. But, I wish she could have wiped her body with a wet towel. I mean, I would have done that if I had just finished a hard day in a kitchen. I wasn't the only one covering my nose either...I saw others around me doing the same hand over nose gesture.

Please let tomorrow be a better day on BART. I just want to ride home without having to endure 35 minutes of bad smells. After today's ride, I think I'm cool with not having Mexican food for at least a week!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wish I had an oxygen mask

I had a pretty miserable ride home today. The train was so crowded. It was raining outside so people came into the train all smelly and wet, and even worse, the train operator didn't turn on the AC so the air was dead and muggy, with fogged up windows.

There is a culinary academy near the Civic Center station, so around 5 to 6pm, there are always a mass of culinary students in their chef outfits and cutlery kit waiting for the train. Today, I happened to sit next to a student who seemed like he had a very bad day at school. He stunk of garlic and onions, he was sweating profusely, and his white chef uniform had yellow, green, red, and orange stains all over!

I had already grabbed my seat when I saw him entering the train. I remember thinking to myself....oh god, he must smell bad, look at how dirty his uniform is, please don't let him sit next to me, please! But of course, he takes a seat right next to me, and his cutlery case even hit my head! Ouch!

I had to endure his not-so-pleasant mixture of scents until MacArthur station which is 7 stations past Civic Center. I tried to cover the smell by chewing three pieces of gum, so the mintiness overwhelms my nose. Even after he left, the smell stayed with the seat. I was relieved to finally exit the train at my stop....to get a deep breath of fresh and cool air! Gosh...fresh air sure smells good.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Phone camera freak

There was a man on BART today testing out his new phone's camera features. Nothing wrong with testing phone cameras on BART, but please snap shots of the floor, lights, doors, seats, or your own shoes...or something like that. This man directly pointed his camera at me, and kept on taking pictures. I'm sure he has no bad intentions and merely wanted to test out his camera phone, but it was really awkward and made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I kept on lowering my head...pretending I was falling asleep, sinking lower and lower off my seat.

Is it just me or is this a privacy infringement here? I've tested my camera once but took a shot of the floor! I don't just point it at someone on the train and start snapping! What a freak....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PLEASE wash your hair!

BART was on time today, and I got a seat next to a normal person. BUT (there always is a but with my BART experience) the man sitting directly in the seat in FRONT of me made my ride quite miserable.

This man had a head full of oily long curly hair and dandruff. He puts his head back on the seat to try to sleep during the ride, and as a result, I get the beautiful view of his greasy locks with large white flakes all over.

Each time he moves his head, I feel like the flakes are going to fall off. I was disgusted but yet, for some sick twisted reason, I couldn't help but continue to stare and examine the flakes and was actually trying to figure out why he had such flakes. I saw that he actually did not have a head full of hair! He was bald on the top, and probably grew out his long curly hair to cover the bald spot (did a good job too!) The oiliness and dandruff were probably caused by serious lack of washing...which was probably brought upon by his fear of losing more hair! He had at least 4 or 5 flakes intertwined in each strand of oily curly hair. Altogether, he probably had more than 100 flakes. So nasty. I was just begging to myself...please don't move your head to suddenly...please don't let any of those flakes fall on me.

As disgusting as my view was in front of me, the dandruff man kept me "entertained" throughout the ride. Before I realized, I was at my stop!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Civic Center Bart Station

I think it is about time that I describe the Civic Center station, the station that I get off at in SF to catch the company shuttle.

It is a nasty part of town with high homeless population. The homeless there are not your typical homeless folks- these are drug addicts, drunkards, and the mentally ill. OK, I know you might be thinking now how rude and sheltered I am, but trust me, I went to undergrad in Berkeley, I have co-existed with the homeless for 4 years. I appreciate the color they add to the campus.

Civic Center station dwellers are scary! They scream at you, spit at you, throw bottles at you..etc. Whenever I get off there, I have to hop over puddles on the ground. Not rain puddles...but PEE puddles. It smells like pee (sometimes worse) the moment you exit the train. Every so often, you see more than pee. You see puke.

These folks mumble racist/sexist remarks, yell with fury, and purposely walk towards you and scream profanities in your face. I've experienced it all...or so I thought.

Today was a bit crazy. One homeless man took out a gun from his pocket and pointed right at my head. After 3 seconds of looking at the gun, I realized that it was just a toy gun, but gosh, for 3 seconds threr I thought that was the end of my life (Note: All I had on my mind was I hope my husband knows that I was onlying thinking of how much I love him during this time. Then I had a millisecond flash of my family, my dog....then I noticed the gun was fake because the homeless man made the shooting sound himself!)

He took this plastic gun, and pointed at me, clicking it, re-pointed the gun towards me. He was about 3 steps away from me...and just kept on following me with the gun! I kept on walking away, but he would not leave me alone. Then after 15 seconds, I realized maybe it was my fear that is egging him on. I decided to yell at him. "What are you doing? What do you think you're doing?" I forced myself to chuckle and said, "Have a good weekend too!" Finally, he turned away.

I've seen people drink and smoke pot right outside the station. I've seen people pee, puke, and even poop once. But this was a bit too personal. What if the gun was actually real? What if this homeless man just wanted to take someone's life before he takes his own and I happened to cross his path?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The right to read in peace

I've been driving to work a couple times a week for the past 2 weeks since I seem to be running late everyday. Driving has been miserable. Took me over 1 hour yesterday to get to work.

I finally took BART today, and it wasn't too bad of a ride. It was raining, so I knew traffic would be miserable. The train, surprisingly, was not crowded nor foggy (which is usually the case on exceptionally cold days..and it's so gross to step into a fogged up train.) However, I do have one huge gripe...people who read over your shoulder!

There are always people who don't seem to bring their own reading material, and instead, they like to pry into other people's business. I've had a man once who stretched his head over to see what I was listening to on my IPOD. I had Usher's "Yeah!" on at the time, and he looked and nodded his head. I felt like my privacy was infringed upon! What is I was listening to something more personal like some self-help or self-discovery tape?

This other time, I was reading US WEEKLY, and some woman decides to read along with me. I was in a seat, while she was standing up next to me. I didn't know for the longest time that she was looking until she mumbled.."oh my god, I didn't know that." I looked up at her...gave her an annoyed stare and folded my magazine up so she can't read it with me. If she wants to read it without my knowing, FINE, just don't volunteer the commentary!

Anyhow, today, I was reading my Treo and I felt someone's breath on me. I was seated while this man was standing. He was reading my emails and text messages!!!! I had to put the Treo away after I found. With my only form of "entertainment" today taken away, I had to endure a very boring ride to work of doing nothing except staring into space.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Drove the past couple of days

I've had to drive the past couple of days due to terrible BART delays. Like I mentioned before, I take BART to connect to a company shuttle that comes every 15 minutes. But there is a 30 minute gap around 9am, so if I miss that shuttle pick-up, I am stuck there for half an hour unless I taxi.

So, yesterday, I had a morning meeting, with an already late start, I decided to drive and not deal the gambles of a BART delay. I made the right choice- since I saw people on my usual 8:34 train standing out there past 8:38am as I zipped by the station on the freeway.

Today, I actually got to the station, saw that the next train is coming in 20 minutes!!!! I walked back to the parking lot and drove instead. As it turns out, a East Bay train caught on fire and caused massive delays all around. Thank goodness I made the decision to drive, although I had to pay for daily parking, bridge tolls, and gas :(

The traffic was horrible!!! Still, it was nice to get a break from BART. So relaxing to sit in my own car, listen to the radio, and not be fearful of germs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Talk about air "pollution"

Very bad ride home today. The train was overcrowded, the air ventilation was poor, the train was so warm....but to make things worse, some man was eating McDonald's on the train!!! No eating or drinking on train, that's the rule. 95% of riders abide by the rule, but there are always a few that sneak Chinese take-out in, pizza, or some form of fast food.

Normally, I love McDonald's too...especially the fries. But it is absolutely NASTY smelling on Bart. With the poor air ventilaton and mix of bad breath and body odors on the train already, this man's Quarter Pounder and fries with BBQ sauce, just stunk up the train even more. The air was unbearable. Fanning (my usual technique against bad odors) doesn't even help. I had to pop out my raspberry lotion and dab it all around my nose and neck to try to cover up the foul mixture of scents.

Awful. Why do people not abide by the rules? I feel like bringing in a coffee and sausage McMuffin too in the mornings, but I don't because I don't want to stink up the train, leave crumbs, or spill coffee all over the passenger next to me. I wish others would be more considerate.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Please don't woo on BART!

I had to endure a disgusting phone conversation on BART this morning. This man was talking to his girlfriend or new sweetheart on his cellphone, and was so stupidly infatuated that he did not care that the whole train was sickened by his converstation.

"I love you baby, you are so beautiful", "No, you are more sexy", "I miss you so much", "I miss your smell", "I love how your hair looks at night", "You are gorgeous..I can't stop thinking about you", "I can't wait to see you", "You are the most sexy thing"....on and on and on....

All of us are just rolling our eyes and waiting to barf. Have some discretion!!! Can't you save these conversations when you're in the office? or somewhere private? They didn't talk about anything meaningful- the whole 15 minutes before we went underground (where he lost reception, FINALLY!) consisted of his wooing.

Just not fun for the rest of us to listen to but I guess love makes you a fool.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

No "bless you's" on BART

I have a bad cold today. I was one of those passengers that I would normally hold my breath next to, fan my magazine in front of, or turn away from, to try to avoid contracting their cold.

I was sniffling, sneezing, coughing and dripping all over my nose today and I could tell people were really disgusted. I felt like shit. I didn't even have Kleenex with me, so I had to sniff in whatever was dripping out to avoid major flooding underneath my nose. People were staring at me with "the look" that I usually give other sick passengers. I deserve every dirty look. All of them will probably get sick by tonight just because they were next to me.

I sneezed about 10 times during the ride and it's funny that everywhere else you are (in the office, home, stores, restaurants) people go out of their way to say "bless you." But, not on BART! I've never said bless you once to anyone sneezing on the train, and I don't expect anyone to say that to me. People just want to be left alone on BART- don't speak to me, don't touch me, and don't annoy me!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Consideration is appreciated

Smooth roundtrip rides today except one little incident. A woman decides to take off her loafers-- she lifts her feet up again and again, and stretches her toes! She left her shoes off the entire ride. Completely disgusting to all of us sitting around her. Why did she have to take off her shoes to stretch? Not to mention her feet needed some serious beauty treatment. All of us, men and women, have aching feet at the end of the day! It's sick what she was doing. Thank goodness I was not sitting that close to her.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When should one give up a seat?

The morning ride was great today. Got a seat in a corner, sat next to a young professional female who looked clean, sharply dressed, and normal. Train did get pretty crowded but didn't affect me since I had a corner inside seat. Train even got in 1 minute early!

The only noteworthy observation was an older woman (looked to be in her 50s) who appeared pretty healthy and fit who got on the train and asked a man (looked to be in his 40s) to give up his seat for her. He reluctantly did so.

I don't ever really expect a man to give up his seat for me on BART, especially since everyone is so miserable already in the morning. But what makes her feel hat she's entitled? Is it her age? She's not technically a senior citizen and she looked pretty physically fit to me! Is it gender roles? I don't think men should always give up their seats to women on the train, unless someone actually looks like they are very weak and must be seated. (Although I do believe a man should always open the door for a woman or allow her to exit/enter first.)

I already have an answer in mind if a healthy-looking but older (under 65) man or woman asks me to give up my seat-- I will say, I don't feel very well at all today and need to sit down, sorry.

I've given up my seat for children, expectant mothers, families (so they can sit together), senior citizens, and people who look like they are feeling ill at the moment. But, I don't think I should feel like I MUST give up a seat to someone just because they appear to be an "older" person? Does younger necessarily mean healthier and more physically able? I don't think so.

No one undeserving has asked me to give up my seat yet. But when one does, I won't be afraid to tell them no.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The fight for safety pole space!

The ride home is always a bit rougher. The trains are a lot more crowded, the smells are stronger, floors and seats are dirtier, people are sweatier and generally grumpier after a day of work.

Today's ride home was bad- probably a 7 out of 10 on my bad BART ride scale. Forget about empty seats, this ride was a battle for standing room and safety bar space! The train was packed! As soon as the door opened, people jammed in from all angles! I had to hurriedly block this side-stepper who tried to cut in front of me! I know his type; side-steppers linger by the long lines. They pretend to be reading the train schedules, but as soon as the train comes, they swoop in. I block their path usually with continuous and sudden body sways from the left to right. It works 90% of the time. It really derails them!

The train got uncomfortably full before we crossed the Bay. The train temperature got very warm. At 5'5", I ended up fitting right in the middle of a tall old man, and a shorter woman. We each had an inch of space between us. I could smell his tobacco breath on my forehead, and her oily hair underneath my nose. Pretty nasty combination. We were crowded in a corner next to a vertical safety pole that runs from a seat to the train's ceiling. In a crowded train like this, handle bar and pole space is very important. The last thing you want to do is fall over into a sea of grouchy passengers.

The train takes off. The tall old man grips part of the pole with one hand. The short woman grabs another part of the same pole with both her hands. A few more hands nearby stretched over and grabbed the pole as the train started moving faster. There was no pole room left for me but a small 3-inch gap of space between two hands. I wasn't about to fit my hand in there with all these others, but I had to do something!!! My body was starting to tip over from the train movement.

Why can't the tall old man hold the bar near the top of the train? Aren't those meant for taller people? Oh wait, scratch that, if he did, I would be smelling his armpit. I was losing my balance at this time...I need something to hold! I finally decided to hold the pole with my thumb and index finger to minimize human contact. Sure, I got stares, but this 2-finger technique got me through the Downtown Oakland stations where 25% of the passengers exited for transfers.

My palm never touched the pole! I made it!

Is half a seat better than none?

Today's BART ride was relatively smooth....well, by that I mean, it was on-time. I managed to get the last seat on the train today-- which is always VERY gratifying! It's a good feeling when my speed-walking pays off. Imagine if I had NOT done that...I would not have been the first passenger in front of the door, and would not have gotten that one seat left! Actually, I should say half a seat. I ended up seating in the half seat next to a woman who took up 1.5 seats. Not to be mean, but this poor woman was trying her darn hardest to stay within 1.5 seats instead of taking up 1.75. I fit fine in the half a seat, but I could see her struggling, pulling herself away from me. I was stuck in a predicament! If I get up and let her have the seat, she will think that her size is inconveniencing me. If I don't, I will be glued (literally) arm by arm with her. I felt the sweat, the body heat permeating from her. My legs were crossed, my body pushing as far to the left as possible, but like a gel, her body started to form against mine. We were both very awkwardly positioned. We were in this predicament for about 10 minutes. This was getting bad....I was about to think of a polite way to get out that half seat.

Suddenly, she got up, and said, "this is my stop." I smiled to her, and felt a huge sense of relief inside. I was glad that I stuck through the 10 minutes of discomfort. I'm glad I didn't make her feel worse by making a scene to pull myself out of there.

My Secret Weapons

There are a few secret weapons that I have to help me get through my BART rides.

1) Purell - Whenever I smell something funny on my hands after touching the handle bars, I drench my palms with Purell! When I touch someone sweaty, I then take out the Purell wipes after I get off the train and wipe all affected areas.

2) US Weekly - It's my guilty pleasure. It will last me about 1 day worth of BART rides (so roundtrip) but I am completely tuned out from the distractions around the train and fully tuned into the gossip columns. I've tried reading WSJ, SF Chronicle (sports section actually works too, but I can only read it when my teams won the night before, so that's rare these days), or books, but my BART rides have gotten so intolerable that US Weekly seems to be the only thing that protects me against all the smells and sights around me.

3) Treo - When I'm truly desparate, I will turn on my work Treo and begin my work day early. But this tends to give me anxiety attacks! When something is wrong at work, there's only so much I can do on my Treo. And with BART being late more often than not, I get too anxious about getting into the office and one minute of delay seems like an eternity. I start looking at my watch 3 times a minute. Keep in mind that I have a shuttle that only runs every 15 minutes to connect to once I get into SF...so every second counts!

4) Text Messages - I just got into this (I know, I'm a late boomer) and it does help to pass time on BART. However, very few friends of mine actually text back fast enough to keep me entertained (special shoutouts to Maria K and Kate H who are kind enough to text me back during my bad BART rids). And with BART going in and out of tubes and tunnels, reception is too sketchy to keep a conversation going. So text is last resort.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What is BART musings?

I've never been a fan of public transportation. Let me get that fact out first. However, driving is not for everyone living in the SF Bay Area, unless you have no problems wasting at least 2 hours of your life going 23 miles roundtrip.

If you're from here, you know what I'm talking about. The 8 bridges make it pretty darn inefficient, especially during traffic hours, to get from point A to B. I used to drive from Albany to SF...a mere 11 miles apart. But sometimes, that could take longer than an hour. Believe me, I've lost many hairs each day doing that drive. I cussed, I screamed, I flicked people off, and I've bumped into bumpers.... just to get ahead by one car's length. Road rage + expensive gas + outrageous cellphone bills + bald spots (which have grown back now, I must add for my own pride) = miserable self + unhappy spouse.

Anyhow, reluctantly, I became a public transportation user. Growing up in Los Angeles, I've never taken a bus in my life. Watching those buses pass by from my car really made me feel quite grateful that I wasn't in there. The buses looked steamy and dirty...I can only imagine what it smelled like inside. I've never seen someone writing a public transport smile. But now....I've become one of them.

BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transport, for those of you not from the area. I've heard from many that it is one of the cleaner subway rides that exist in the U.S. I think it even won best public transportation in the country this year...although, that makes me wonder just how bad the other systems are since BART fails to deliver me on-time 1 out of every 3 days....which then causes me to miss the connecting shuttle that actually takes me to work.

I've been a BART rider for a couple years now, and it never ceases to amaze me the many forms of "entertainment" I get from my 35-minute each-way ride from Lafayette to SF. The musings are wearing on me. From people watching, eavesdropping, reluctant scent explorations and human contact, I need some form of therapy to get these thoughts, experiences, and smells out of my mind!

BART musings is how I intend on doing it. This blog will keep me getting on that train each morning since I can't afford to pay 4-5 gallons of gas, $3 of bridge toll, plus parking at work, on a daily basis. Whether you agree or not, this is one person's observation of SF Bay Area's subway system, BART. So read on...