Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Oh yes, it's Halloween!

I forgot it was Halloween today until I saw a man on BART putting on white paint on his face to finish his ghostly look. His hair was spiked with some red, blood-like streaks and he attached a fake ax on his head. He frightened me initially until I realized, oh yeah, it is Halloween!

You just don't see too many adults dressed in costumes at work anymore...although I did see a man dressed up in a large, full-on dinosaur or lizard costume at my work. A few people had shirts, wigs and buttons, but not a lot of costumes.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Update to "Parking Situation at Orinda"

Well, I got my answer to why all of a sudden the reserved lot was no longer "reserved". Apparently, they expanded the general parking area and downsized the reserved lot by 1/3. The agents have been passing out flyers the past 2 weeks but being in a rush as always, I never grabbed one. My fault, I suppose.

This is unfair! I pay a premium for a RESERVED space! Why do I now have to come in extremely early, a total inconvenience to my personal schedule, just so I have a space to park in? What is the point then of paying a premium for a reserved spot??? I have my own schedule, my own life. I don't want to have to adjust it just so I park at BART to get to work. That is why people have the option of paying for a reserved spot!

Parking situation at Orinda

I've been going to the same station and parking my car around the same vicinity of the parking lot for quite some time now and not sure what was happening today with the Orinda reserved parkingarea. Usually,at least 25-35% of spaces remain vacant when I get there. It takes me 10 seconds to pull into the lot, park and get out of my car.

Today, the entire reserved lot was full, in addition to the entire general lot! I arrived around the same time as usual! I didn't leave myself enough time to circle around the entire bart parking perimeter 3 times searching for a vacancy and as a result, I missed my train.

I ended up parking in the farthest corner of the reserved/fee area in a 3/4 space (where a SUV took 1/4 of my space). I hope this was just some one-day craze in the parking lot, otherwise, why did I bother paying $$ for a reserved permit??

Friday, October 27, 2006

Where is the CHP when you need them?

I drive down to San Jose for work meetings once a week or so and it is a break from BART despite the horrendous traffic and distance. These long drives down to San Jose make me appreciate BART and keep my insignificant complaints to a minimum!

One thing that always irritates me about driving is the lack of CHP presence when 75% of the cars in the carpool lanes aren't authorized to be in there! I've learned my lesson the hard way- over 8 years ago, I used to take the carpool lane on 880 south to skip through all the bumper to bumper traffic (this was before the dot-come bust). I knew the only way I'd stop is if I get caught. After 4 months of doing that, I got caught and paid the $270+ ticket. After that, I never did it again.

But every week, I see cars with single driver (and no hybrid carpool sticker) zipping past me at 70+ mph on 680 N in the evening, while I'm barely moving at 15mph at best (the really slow and bad stretch start around San Ramon all the way to the 24E on ramp) . Where is the CHP?? Why have I not seen anyone get pulled over yet? I'm sure CHP is around, but I want to see sirens go off in front of me...for my selfish reasons!

Sometimes I wish I had a device that makes the CHP siren sound and blast it whenever a single-driver car zips right by me in the carpool lane! It will make me feel better sitting in traffic if I can see their worried faces!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blind man aboard and no one gives up seat!

The way home was extremely packed today. A blind man walks into the train, and no one gave up their seat!! The two suited men in the immediate handicapped seats looked at the Treo and Blackberry, working away...purposely or not. Another young woman with a bunch of shopping bags just stared. Two other older passengers didn't get up either, maybe thinking they are entitled to the 'senior citizen' seats.

I was standing, waiting for someone to please just get up and not be so inconsiderate. The train started moving and the blind man was still standing..and wobbling. He grabbed a metal pole, tried to balance with his stick, and at that point, someone way in the back finally asked him to take his seat.

Yet another sighting of the lack of compassion and courtesy in our culture.

Luggage pieces taking up two seats!

In the 4-seat area today, I walked toward to what seemed like an empty seat, but realized soon that it had a piece of luggage on top of it with another piece leaning against it. And right across, the same situation: a luggage on top of it with two smaller bags leaning against the seat. In the other two seats of this quad area were two senior citizens obsiouvly going on vacation, judging by their visors and matching sweats. I wanted to ask them to remove the luggage but didn't because they were older, and there were A LOT of pieces of luggage altogether and I didn't feel like doing any heavylifting for them! I found a seat somewhere else.

Later, the train got more and more crowded, and people were eyeing those seats. Then, finally, someone spoke up. A female passenger asked the old couple to move their luggage. To my surprise, the husband said, "No, we can't move the luggage. We have fragile things in there." I think the female passenger was taken aback by his response and just rolled her eyes and left. That was one of the most selfish and irrational things (from the old couple) I've heard on BART.

I don't care how old they are- they can't justify putting their luggage over two seats! Fragile items??? Who cares? What makes their fragile items more special than someone else's?? If they were that worried about the fragile things inside the luggage, just stand then, and hold the luggage pieces upright! And how could fragile items break anyways when it is packed in such a LARGE-sized suitcase! They really do think they are more special than everyone else- and that makes me regret not saying anything to them just because I wanted to be respectful since they were old.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A compliment

Bear with me on this one. It's going to be hard describing what was going through my head. The ride home today was very crowded, more packed than usual. I'm guessing it partially had to do with the Oracle OpenWorld currently taking place in Downtown SF.

After going east in the Transbay Tube, no one got off at West Oakland. Then at the Oakland City Center station, quite a few people squeezed themsleves onto the trian, including an older man, appearing a little bit crippled and using a cane.

I didn't sit in one of the designated senior citizen or disabled seats, but I was just a row away from the train doors. I got up, asked the man if he would like to sit down, he kindly declined, I asked him again, and he explained that he had been sitting all day and that he'll be alright. I decided to respect his decision and sat back down (He later sat down in a senior seat after a passenger left at the next station).

A few moments later, a man dressed in a suit came up to me to tell me, "That was a really nice thing that you did, giving up your seat. You just don't see people doing that type of thing anymore." Since it was a crowded train, quite a few people heard. And whether true or not, it felt like there were people glancing at me for some sort of response. His compliment caught me by surprise- I didn't know how to respond. I studdered a bit, "oh, um, yeah, I felt it was something I should do." Let me tell you, however, what was going through my head at the point and after.

1) I don't always give up to everyone with gray hair. I've explained this in one of my first posts- I've had people (with gray hair) get mad at me for asking them if they need to sit down since they are not senior citizen age. However, I do give up my seat always (no matter where I am seated, like today, in a "regular" seat) for anyone who appears to be handicapped, pregnant, or a "true" senior citizen. So, his comment made me a little sheepish since I am not always so "noble".

2) I also felt weird that so many people were around while he said that. I didn't do it to get "attention". The worst part was, after that, at every stop, I felt obligated to give up my seat for anyone who looks like that might be around the 60+ age. I am not imagining this, but each time someone older walked in, I saw a couple people look at me to see if I will do something. Anyhow, I ended up just getting up and stood the rest of the ride. I rather not feel like I am "expected" to do the "right" thing.

Weird thought process, I know. You just have to be there to understand I guess. It's sad that giving up a seat to someone who is more in need has become such a rarity that it needs to draw attention. If you refer back to all the comments going back and forth in my previous posts about giving up your seat to the handicapped, seniors or pregnant women, you'll realize how selfish our society has become.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Smooth and on-time

This was the first week in a LONG time that my morning BART train was on time every single day! I didn't need to dash to beat the shuttle pick-up once this week!

What a rarity but I'll take it! I've forgotten what it felt like to not feel the constant stress of getting to Civic Center within a certain time so I don't miss the company shuttle. Usually, out of 5 days, BART is late once or twice, causing me to run like crazy up the two flights of excalators, then across the street, in time to wave down the shuttle as it departs. 50% of the time, I don't make it on!

Thanks for being ontime all week this week, BART. I hope this continues next week and beyond.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Human repellent

Somehow a homeless man got on the train and whoa, he carried a very pungent smell. The scent instantly permeated through the train and one by one, everyone seated near him quietly got up and walked to the other side of the train or to another car altogether. I was seated two rows from him. I tried to be brave about it and not let the scent get to me, but I couldn't do it after 2 minutes. I got up and slipped into a seat on the opposite of the trian. Many other passengers followed. Those who couldn't find a seat ended up standing on the other side of the train! Anything to get away from the smell.

After 3 stops, there were a bunch of empty seats around this homeless man. He didn't mind or notice. He was sound asleep with his feel hanging off the edge of the seat.

I'm not bashing on the homeless by any means! If they are paying to ride BART to go somewhere, then I think they definitely belong there, whether they smell or not. But if they are sleeping in a warm train, I think someone (train operator perhaps? or BART police?) needs to do something about it!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Should the homeless keep dogs?

I've seen this around the Civic Center BART station several times but today's observation triggered me to write this post. I've seen this at least 5 or 6 times now while waiting for the company shuttle at Market/8th a few homeless folks who have dog(s). These dogs are in horrible conditions. I saw one pit bull who have open cuts and sores on his body. In the past year, I've seen this other German shepherd that is so darn skinny that I can see his rib cage and rib definitions clearly. I've also seen a pair of dogs owned by a homeless man who not only have very dirty fur in poor condition but are muzzled everytime I see them (I know that doesn't mean they are always muzzled but the muzzle looks home-made and is way too tight!)

I am certain they love their dogs and really appreciate their companionship while everything else seems to go against them. I definitely understand the bond between humans and dogs-- I can't imagine life without mine.

However, if it is already so difficult for the homeless to feed themselves, wash themselves, keep themselves warm and healthy, I think it would be much better for both if they give up their pets to animal shelters or SPCA so the animals can receive regular meals, shots, flea control, baths, vet checkups and just a warm loving home.

I'm not sure if homeless shelters allow pets, my guess is no. I just feel that in this case, it would be better for the homeless to seek help in shelters or programs, and let the dogs heal in animal shelters and adoptive homes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Smart train operator!

I thought the train operator this morning was pretty darn clever!! At every single stop, she announces, (not in exact words) "The designated seats by the doors are reserved for the elderly and disabled. If you are seated, please give your seats up to the any elderly and disabled passengers around you."

Because she so loudly broadcasted this message, everyone immediately looked at the people who were seated in the area. Any non-elderly and non-disabled passengers seated there, due to the attention focused on them, reluctantly got up and ask anyone who appeared to be a senior citizen to take their seats instead. It was quite funny. No one wanted to sit there anymore except for the elderly (there were no handicapped passengers around). Once an elderly person exits the train, the seat remains empty until someone new comes in and unknowingly sits down. They immediately get up again, however, once they hear the train operator's message.

The train was fairly full, with people standing. But still, because of this loud and clear message, passengers, for the first time I've seen, have been overly considerate about giving up the reserved seats to elderly and disabled.

Good going, train operator!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Putting small amount tickets to good use!

I may be the last BART commuter to learn about this, but better late than never! For quite some time, I've seen the scrolling screens on the platforms mentioning organizations that take unused small amount tickets as donation, but have not remembered to look into it further. I've been saving my small amount tickets for a long time in an envelope and I would guess, by now, they add up to over $50. BART stores don't take these small amount tickets (under a certain amount, I forgot exactly how much) and I just didn't take the time find out what else I needed to do to turn that change into a larger amount ticket. Thus, the tickets have just been sitting there in my drawer.

Today, I was reminded again by the scrolling bulletin about donating small amount tickets to organizations. I researched on the Internet and learned that there are actually quite a few places that take small amount tickets as donation. For example, Project Second Chance, Homeless Prenatal Program, Genard AIDS Foundation to name a few.

I'm sure many of you already knew about this and have been donating for years, but I'm glad that I finally learned of it and can put the huge stack of unused small amount tickets to good use.

If this is the first time you've heard of it, better late than never!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Not about BART, but equally worthy of a rant

Usually, when you call to activate a credit card, you are punching in numbers from your home phone in response to an automated system. Short, simple and hassle-free. However, today, I had to activate a renewed Citi card and to my dismay, I got a LIVE operator after punching in my 16 digit number. I had to experience this once with another card activation and I knew what I was about to face.

This live operator confirmed my ID and began selling me services. The first sell was the credit protection program. I got suckered into this free trial 2 years ago with that other live activation, and ended paying for it for a month before I had the chance to cancel by phone (which by the way, was a very un-userfriendly procedure by design). Before this operator started to read off the information, I said, no, I'm not interested. He then said, but this is free for 2 weeks with no obligation. I said no, I've tried it before, I do not want it. He pushed further by telling me that this is very beneficial and even if I do not like it, I can cancel but keep the free credit report. I said, I know my credit report and have access to it easily. He ignored me and read of the entire 45 seconds worth of description and concluded, "Would you like to enroll in this free trial?" I said for the 4th time, NO! Gosh...is this a timeshare presentation??? Goodness!

It's not over!! Then he started to sell me the theft protection program. Before he even started with his mandatory language, I interrupted forcefully with "No, thank you. I am not interested in anything today." He then said, "I respect your decision" and moved on to say good-bye.

CitiCards really shouldn't be forcing us to talk with a live person like this! Activation is supposed to just be simple and take 10 seconds. This is trapping us! If it weren't for the nice point system I've already established with this program, I would have cut the card up just for putting me through this.

I needed to rant! Thanks for reading :)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Litterbugs on BART

Here's another reason why I don't like sitting by the window, if I had the choice to not. This morning, in a crowded train, I sat in the window seat. I noticed some gum wrappers on the floor, but no big deal, I sat down on the seat. Then, as I settled in, I noticed the sliver of space between the seat and window had a large medley of trash stuffed in there. I was grossed out, but for some reason, I felt the urge to look what people were stuffing in there. I saw individual-sized Doritos bag, straw wrapper, Saran wrap, portions of a mini-donuts plastic wrapper, and a Peet's napkin. Impressive amount of trash for a small space.

Of course it doesn't surprise me that there are inconsiderate passengers on BART. Personally, I don't EAT or DRINK on BART, since that's the rule anyways. But if you choose to sneak a few bites of breakfast or snack, please have the courtesy to pick up after yourself and not leave trash on the seats, or even STUPIDLY trying to hide the trash by stuffing it in between empty spaces.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'll read what you read

A fairly relaxing ride to SF today.....except the man next to me was reading my Frontgate catelog along with me today during the entire ride.

I didn't have magazines left to read since it's Friday and I've finished my weekly issues. I grabbed the Frontgate catelog last minute to research Xmas decorations and Xmas gift ideas! Frontgate is cool! There are always tons of neat things in there. Maybe that is why the man seated next to me couldn't resist stretching his neck over to my side to check out the gadgets on each page. His head was about 6 inches next to mine, at a 45 degree angle towards the catalog.

I just pretended I didn't notice that we were sharing reading materials. But then, he commented, "My father in law has this watch and he likes it a lot." I answered, "Oh, cool."

I guess he didn't want to keep it a secret that he was looking at the catalog too and preferred to have a conversation over the products. I wasn't in a talking mood. So I nicely asked if he wanted to look at it while I took a nap before "a long day of work". He declined and I spent the rest of the ride (just a few more minutes left at this point) with my eyes closed.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Example of a BART rule breaker

I saw a woman today who had broken most of the BART rules and etiquettes that I am aware of in the short 30 minutes that I had observed her from afar.

First, she stood on the left side of the escalator while blocking the right side with her bags. Then, she sat in the handicapped reserved seats as several elderly passengers were walking in. Later, she took her boots off and stretched her legs out while blocking substantial standing room. After that, she took out a croissant with egg and cheese from her bag and a jug of beverage and enjoyed her breakfast during the ride. Finally, she almost blocked a door from closing because she was still putting her boots back on as people were exiting.

I guess when someone has total disregard for rules and etiquette, they really just don't care.

But at least she paid a ticket to get in instead of walking through the side doors! That's something!