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!

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