Friday, February 24, 2006

My first brush with claustrophobic anxiety

Never in my life have I felt claustrophobic. I am usually very tolerant of crowded spaces, whether I'm in an elevator, ballpark, BART, or airplane lavatories. I may be intolerant of my surroundings but the minimal or nonexistent personal space never really affect me psychologically.

After a week's on-time BART rides this week, it was about time that we experienced a significant delay. This morning's train was delayed by 10 minutes, causing a huge backlog of passengers. It was already crowded from my station, and as we made stops towards SF, passengers kept on squeezing themselves onto the train even though there really is no room left for any of us to stand, move, or breath. I can't blame these impatient passengers for doing what they can to squeen onto the train- we all have to get to work, and we all were already late! But there really is a tipping point when the train just becomes way too crowded.

I was standing next to the exit door....plastered to the side of a seat. I didn't have anything to hold on to, but I was able to lean against the seat to stay standing. But people kept on coming in. While my position didn't change, the number of people immediately next to be grew from 1 to 5 to 8, in the same small corner. I was smelling all sorts of bodily odors and breaths, people's purses and computer bags were hitting my knees, hips, and arms as the train moved. Coughing and yawning were magnified. I just became so anxious to get out of the train for some fresh air that every little scent, sound, and touch, became overwhelming.

My heart started beating really fast, and I started feeling butterflies in my stomach. It was bizarre!!! I've never felt this way before. It was so crowded around me that I couldn't see the door, the lights, the handle bars, or any free space around me. I tried to look down to calm down, but it kind of made me feel worse because there were too many pairs of shoes for that small cubic feet of space. It only made me more anxious.

I ended up just staring at my shirt and followed the up and down movement of my own breathing. Finally...we got to SF! It was a struggle to even get out of the train. I was relieved to finally see the sun and soak in some fresh air.

This ride was by far the most crowded BART ride I've endured.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Scented pages in Newsweek?

Saw a man reading Newsweek today on BART-- normal. But I also saw him smelling each page from the magazine-- NOT normal.

When he did that once, I didn't think anything of it. Maybe there was a perfume or cologne sample in Newsweek-- not likely in Newsweek, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. However, he started flipping each page, and smelling it. He did that throughout the rest of his ride.

I shouldn't jump to conclusion that it's weird for him to sniff a Newsweek issue page by page, but what could possibly be so irresistible or intoxicating, or even repulsive, to cause a man to sniff out each thin piece of paper?? Guessing his reason preoccupied my mind throughout the ride home- which was cool because it made my ride seem shorter.

Quite puzzling, isn't it?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

walking too fast?

Strangely, today marked the 3rd time someone has told me that I walk fast in 2 weeks. First time, the building security guard said to me, "you're always in a rush, aren't you?" Second time, a coworker said, "you walk fast, don't you? I've noticed that." And today, a complete stranger said, "are you late for something? you sure walk like it."

What is the big deal? I like being efficient. I don't like relaxing strolls during my work day. I like to go from lunch to my building or the station to my building, as fast as possible. I like getting to the BART station after i leave work as quickly as possible. I walk fast because I like moving in a fast-pace! I always zip through slow people, I never ride the escalators- I walk up/down instead, and I have little tolerance for people who lack that level of efficiency. For example, people who do not have their BART tickets ready when they approach the ticket machine. Instead, they hold up the line, fumble through their wallet, purse, or backpack, and make everyone else wait for them to get their act together.

I'm the same way when I go on vacation actually. I know where I'm going and I move right along until I get there! What's wrong with that?? It has nothing to do with being relaxed, because I am always relaxed during vacations. I just tend to do things at a faster pace than others, which makes escorted or group tours an undesirable option for me!

I think my fast walking has kept me in shape! I am not particularly a healthy eater but I'm thinner than most people my height....probably because I move fast!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's day

So funny to see men, young and old, lining up at the BART station flower stand, buying flowers last minute for their significant other! This really is the only time of the year you see men carrying balloons, chocolates, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works bags (both stores are near the BART station) and bundles of flowers, along with their suitecase and laptop cases, in public.

I think it's sweet. But the men look at each other with embarrassment, coupled with understanding. They know exactly why they have to do it, and they know that what they did was a very last minute effort...but at least they tried!

The BART train is filled with flowers today. Nice to see that some men do understand what flowers mean to women! And even when you're married....some flowers are great!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

You CAN do wrong by giving up your seat

I discovered today that you actually CAN do wrong by giving up your seat to someone who might need it more than you.

I got up instantly today when I saw an older woman, slightly on the heavy side, walked into the train. I said, here, you can have my seat. Just before I got around to feeling like a good citizen, she snapped, "No, you sit down, I'm not at the age yet. I may look like it but I'm not, not even close."

Oops....I thought to myself. I would have thought she wanted a seat- even if she isn't over 60, like I thought she was, especially being slightly heavy.

Then, suddenly, the man next to me got up and told her, "Here, you can take my seat. It's not a matter of age. I am doing what a man should do."

CHEESY...but it got her to sit down. Made me feel lame since my chivalrous act was chopped off while he got all the credit. Oh well, at least I had good intentions!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Vacation Envy

The last thing I needed to see on a Monday morning BART ride to work! A middle-aged couple with large suitcases wearing comfortable vacation clothes on a train filled with miserable and grouchy commuters in suits, khahis, and tucked in shirts! The man was wearing a Hawaiian shirt with sunglasses on his head, while the woman was wearing a Hawaiian-print sundress, with a light cardigan, and holding a straw-beach bag. It was evident that they were going on vacation!! They were smiling, laughing, and not at all bothered by the crowded train. It didn't matter that they had a long ride to the airport (since SFO is the last stop on the route), they were in an unbelievable good mood and nothing could change that.

I was so jealous. I was looking at them with extreme envy. They just looked so smug and glee with their suitcases! There I was, barely awake and dreading the start of another busy week, not knowing when my next extended vacation will be while these folks in front of me were rubbing it in my face with their vacation gear. Oh well....that's just life when you're working for the man.

On a side note, if you haven't tried taking BART to the San Francisco Airport or Oakland Airport, you should! The SFO route takes you directly to the terminal where you board a tram that takes you around the terminals. For Oakland Airport, you have to board a AirBart, to take you to the airport, which is located in a very sketchy neighborhood. If you're female and traveling alone, be sure to carry your pepper spray with you or avoid it altogether. Otherwise, it beats parking for an extended period of time in one of those paid lots.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

a man searching for his leftovers

What I saw on the BART train today made me lose my appetite. A man was picking his teeth with his finger. If it were just that, I would be able to overlook it. But no. He was digging, scraping, and picking...his hand was half way in his mouth. The nastiest part of this observation was what he did each time after he picked out something in between his teeth. He would look at it closely, observe it from left to right, and then wipe it on the seat.

I guess I can add plague and food particles to the list of germs found on a BART seat. This just validates why I drench my palms with Purell the minute I walk off, and wash my hands as soon as I get to the office or home.