Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stolen car parts in BART parking lots?

I received an email from a reader about his experience. Somehow, having a car part stolen during the day at a BART station DOES NOT SURPRISE ME AT ALL! It seems like the lots can go unmonitored for quite some time. I know people whose cars had been broken into under bright daylight! Also, I was once told that you weren't allowed to put flyers on parked cars in the BART lots. REALLY? Because a few times I find myself returning to not one, not two, but three flyers left on my car. One on the right side of my windshield, one on my left, and on stuffed in the side window. I'm trying to make a point here-- it is pretty easy to "do things" at the BART parking lots. You've all seen beer bottles left there. So, it doesn't shock me that this reader sent me the email below.

Take a look. Has this happen to you? Do you know if this happens?

Dear bartmusings,
Yesterday, I was walking to my truck at El Cerrito Plaza Station and happened to take a peak under it (was overcome by a funny feeling) and guess what? thieves stole my catalytic converter! I guess the thieves extract the valuable metals (Platinum and Palladium) and sell them. I Googled around for this topic and it says that 1 Catalytic Converter can fetch $50 - $100 on the scrap market.
Based on my Google research, reports of Catalytic Converters being stolen have occurred at Orinda, El Cerrito Plaza, North Berkeley, and El Cerrito Del Norte. This phenomenon seems to have started this year.
Thieves like the 1990's Toyota Trucks and any SUV with enough ground clearance. A Catalytic Converter can be stolen in a minute or so depending on if it is welded or bolted to the tail pipe. My truck, it was bolted, so it only cost me $150 to fix, I installed it myself.
I have not gone to BART Police yet, I figured since I have only seen them 5 times in my 10 years of riding BART, that they would have little interest in knowing about this. I have never seen BART Police doing foot or other patrols in the station parking lots.
I would like to know has anyone else had this happen to them? What has anyone heard from BART Police about this?

Monday, July 30, 2007

You don't think people know that you are wearing a toupee?

I think the title says it all. Saw a man today wearing a hair piece that looked like a car-smashed bird. This hair piece was larger and wider than the top of his head and the color of the fake hair strands was a several shades lighter than his sideburns. The toupee literally looked like it was taped on with double-stick. It was tilted side ways, with the part near the back of his head. Perhaps this man had a rough day because the toupee was nearly off, slipping, barely covering his bald spot! Strands were going all directions! Not to mention how dirty the toupee looked! The strands were oily and stuck together. Really, I can't allow myself to be any gentler. He looked like a FOOL!

It's sad really. I have nothing against baldness. I think if someone is bald, they should embrace it! If they don't want to accept baldness, then they should seek a real solution-- hair transplant, Propecia, Rogaine, or maybe a professionally designed and fitted wig if nothing else works? I think this man would look so much better if he just proudly walk around with whatever real hair he has on his head.

If you're a Seinfeld fan like me, you probably recall this episode where George had this ridiculous looking toupee on and suddenly had a ton of confidence. Later, Elaine tossed his toupee on to the ground, it was smashed by pedestrians, and some homeless man picked it up to wear it. Well, this man's hairpiece looked like that (the smashed piece) but worse!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good question: Ferry vs. BART

One anonymous commenter left a message in response to my blog about reading materials.

The comment was:
When I worked in SF I used to take the Vallejo Ferry to the office. Now, I work somewhere else and take BART. Please someone tell me this: Why are people more social and conversational on the ferry, but on BART no one talks to each other, if you do talk to a stranger, then people think you are a looney!

I've never taken the ferry before but I'd like to try one day although it would be a huge inconvenience to get to the ferry station, and then in SF, to find a way to get to my office. Yet, it just seems like a more pleasant experience all around with the extra space, the water, the view..etc.

This question is a good one because it made me think....I'm not an anti-social person. I talk to people at ballgames, grocery stores, restaurants, even sometimes on the plane! But why is it that on BART, I don't want anyone or anything to bug me. And it is true, the very few that attempt to make conversations with others on BART are considered weirdos. Silence is golden on BART. People really just want to get the ride over with, get to work and get out of the crowded trains.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I lean alone

When all the seats are taken, people tend to gravitate towards one of two places as the next best thing: 1) any of the side mounts to the handicapped seats near the train doors, or 2) to the connector doors that go between the cars. While a lot of people like to lean on the handicapped side mounts even though when they do, they are blocking the entrance and exits, I personally prefer to lean on the connector doors: it's roomy, I'm not blocking anyone, and when the trains are already crowded, few people go from car to car.

However, I've been noticing that people are beginning to think the connector door is a space for TWO! It's roomy, true, but it really can only comfortably allow one passenger to lean on, not two! You can squeeze two, but it is inevitable that the arms will be touching and I don't quite like that. I've been getting a lot of unwelcomed neighbors joining me in my favorite spot, and leaning on the connector doors with me! I think it's a space invasion issue-- I don't want my arm to be touching someone else's arm, I don't want to have to squeeze all the way to the corner just to make room for two. And I don't want someone's computer bag to be hitting me with every sudden train movement.

Am I out of line here? Do you know what I'm talking about...the connector doors between cars? It's a one-passenger standing area in my opinion!

I gave in to the "devil" today

This morning just seemed so gloomy with the heavy fog that it somehow affected my mood and willingness to take BART. I just didn't feel like putting up with BART and was trying to think of any reason to drive to SF instead. I know I should take BART for many reasons: my tickets are paid for by my employer, I already pay a hefty fee for reserved parking, it's better for the environment, I'll probably be sitting in traffic if I drive to work instead, I'll have to pay toll and parking...etc. It was a definite "fight" between the "angel" and "devil" in me as I approached the BART station. The BART parking lot entrance is just 50 yards from the freeway entrance...if I skip BART today, the path leads me to 24W towards the Bay Bridge.

I gave in to the "devil" in me, telling me to enjoy the privacy of being in my car, and urging me to take a chance with traffic today.

I just need a break from BART every so often. I get like this once in awhile for whatever reason and I just don't have the patience and will power to take BART to work. I like listening to talk radio in my car, I like being able to sing out loud (although I've seen some people in BART sing aloud too), and I like being able to let out a loud yawn and stretch to relief myself.

I ended up saving 10 minutes of time by driving, but ended up spending more money on toll and parking! And now, I'll have to deal with horrendous traffic driving home!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Keep your eyes on your own reading material

On BART, I am sometimes guilty of looking over someone's shoulder to check out today's headlines or quickly glance at the title of someone's book but I DO NOT start a conversation with them and make it known that I am sharing reading material with them.

This morning, the man sitting next to me was a bit too chatty for my morning mood. I knew he was reading my US Weekly (yes, guilty pleasure, helps me get through my BART rides) magazine but I forgave him for it, I mean, people do that every so often, and I understand that the trashy headlines attract second glances!

But he didn't stop at that! He pointed and touched the picture of Eva Longoria and Tony Parker in front of the Eiffel Tower and said, "Heck of a wedding site, isn't it?"

I didn't want to be rude, so I responded with "Yes, very nice," and hoped that he would just leave it at that. But he continued, "Have you been there? It is incredible. Can you imagine getting married there? Only some people can do that."

I said, "Yes, I've been, it's nice. Didn't get married there though." I flipped the page to end the conversation there. He then said, "Have you been to the top?" I sort of pretended I didn't hear him.

Then, after 2 minutes, he saw a photo of Britney Spears looking trashed and said to me, "These young celebs are so irresponsible." I just nodded and flipped the page again to a "beach wear". Finally, the final straw came. He said, "That's an interesting article isn't it?"

AHHHHHH!!!! Leave me and my magazine alone! I don't feel like discussion every article with you!!!!

I got up, pretended I had to get off at downtown Oakland and switched to another train. I don't mean to be anti-social but I just want to read my mindless magazine and get on with my day. I do talk to people sometimes when appropriate-- like when we all have a comment about a TO's whispering, or the depressing weather. But isn't it bad enough to have someone blatantly looking over my magazine but to also comment aloud on every page?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Slowpokes blocking the ticket turnstiles

This is a pet peeve. I absolutely cannot stand it when people are not readily armed with a BART ticket in hand BEFORE they approach the ticket turnstiles. I hate it when people stand in front of it, blocking it, while digging through their purse or computer case endlessly for a ticket. They search for 5 second, and then slowly realize that oh, they don't have one, causing a long line of people waiting behind them to get through. I also cannot stand it when people don't realize in advance that their tickets do not have enough $$ value to get through the gate. Instead, they try again and again AND AGAIN, while blocking a line of passengers behind.

With BART, every second counts. If I'm delayed for 15 seconds let's say, it could cause me to miss a train. Instead of running through the doors before closing, I'd be watching the train just leaving the station.

Yes, I am impatient. I move fast through the parking lot, through the ticket turnstiles, up the stairs and into the train. I do not allow myself any step of inefficiency and expect others to do the same. 90% of daily commuters are like me. But the other 10% somehow find themselves hovering around the ticket turnstiles, ticket machines and escalators like they've never taken BART before. If they are first timers, they can be excused, but some of these folks I see daily.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

In your face insult to SFPD and BART Police

This is not new. I've written about this before but it was worse and more in your face today than I've ever witnessed. A disheveled looking man was leaning against one of the BART escalators on Market Street and 8th. He was smoking a joint, no doubt about it. Puff after puff, with no anxiety, no apprehension, whatsoever. Two SFPD officers on bikes were about 10 feet away. The officers were looking around, checking the area, they even looked in this man's direction. I don't know if they saw him smoking the joint or not, but they didn't care if they did.

I understand that they have bigger crime to worry about and that smoking weed is a lesser offense, but it's almost like they allow it by not doing anything about it!

When a man is not afraid to smoke marijuana in front of the cops (within smelling distance), that tells you that law enforcement is not working in the area.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good or lame idea? BART credit card.

I don't have a well thought-out impression of this BART credit card idea just yet. I'm still thinking about it. My initial impression is...how much did it cost to launch this program and why couldn't we just spend that on something else? My second impression was...if you only gain points by buying BART tickets with the BART credit card, it will take forever to get free BART tickets.

Take a look at Contra Costa Times' article about this new BART credit card program.

Based on Linton Johnson's statements, I believe part of BART's intention is good, but I don't know if I'd risk my credit score opening yet another credit card. Also, watch out for the interest rates!

Some people can really save from this, especially those who spend $10 a day, 5 times a week. I guess I'm lucky since my employer gives me commuter checks. I probably won't need to apply for this credit card because the money I spend from my own pocket on tickets is a small amount.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

BART Bathrooms

Rachel Gordon of SF Chronicle wrote an article on cleanliness of BART station bathrooms today. I've written a few times over the past couple of years on BART bathrooms (see one example here.)

BART bathrooms are worse than public park restrooms. I've used restrooms at park facilities thinking that I'd pass out from the filthiness and stench, but most of them have been cleaner than BART bathrooms. Heck, some BART bathrooms are worse than facilities I've used while traveling in more impoverished regions of the world.

I used to think the cleanliness of the BART station bathrooms has a lot to do with the demographics of the city the station is located in. But I have since learned that's not the case.

I used to live in Lafayette and being the clean freak that I am, I actually can brave going in there. The worst thing you see are a trail of water to the paper towels. You don't smell urine, you don't see graffitis, most people do flush the toilet and do their business within the bowl, there is always soap and paper towels and the trash rarely overflows. I used it twice- both times were necessities (fixing contact lenses). I'd rate it a B+.

However, now that I live in Orinda, the demographics although identical to Lafayette, I was in shock to see the bathroom to be closer to a D- than a B+. The bathroom stunk, urine poured all over the place, bowl was lined with stains and residues, sink was full of scum and leak stains, trash everywhere.....I had to hold my breath the entire time and jetted out there as fast as I could. This was a year ago, and I've never walked in there since. My only explanation to that is Orinda BART station is used by many passengers from cities off 80 freeway, accessible by San Pablo Dam Road. It's just a guess-- please don't over-analyze it and get offended.

BART commented that they clean the facilities 5 or 6 times a day? If that's the case, I don't think any of can tell. If it is so evident that 5 or 6 times a day is not enough to keep it to a C or above sanitary condition, shouldn't they have increased the cleaning schedule? I think even airport bathrooms are cleaned once an hour in some places...I've peeked a couple times at the cleaning schedule. And what exactly does BART constitute as cleaning? A thorough scrub down? Or just simply refilling the toilet paper and dumping the trash?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"You are guilty" - Part II

So based on my earlier post about the handicapped seats, I've been asked to say a little more about the 8 passengers seated in the handicapped seats. How old are they? What did they look like? Were they kids? Business professionals? Troubled youths?

Everyone envisions these 8 people differently in their minds. Well, it may surprise some of you that most of these 8 people were well dressed professionals in nice, pressed suits. The oldest one is probably about 50, a man, dressed in a fancy suit, shirt and expensive looking tie. He had his Blackberry up to his face, blocking the view immediately in front of him. He was seated closest to the standing elderly woman.

2 of the 8 looked like college or grad students, one was studying, the other was sleeping apparently. The others were all well-dressed and downtown SF bound, buried in magazines and work.

If forced to stereotype, I'd say they all appeared to be well-educated, fairly well-off people. Not that financial and educational background should have anything to do with whether someone has basic courtesy or not. It's just common sense.

I mean, seriously, we all sit at work all day, it really isn't THAT BAD to stand for a 15-30 minutes, or however long your ride is.

You know who you are, and yes, you're guilty

The handicapped seats really stir-up a lot of controversy especially in crowded trains such as this morning's. Every single one of the handicapped seats were taken by able-bodied people today. Then, a frail, elderly woman with a cane walked in. appeared to be in her 80s and was visibly having difficulty walking. I was standing in the middle of the train aisle, sandwiched between passengers, and far from the entrance where she entered. But the 8 able-bodied passengers seated in the handicapped seats by the door (2 were from the flip-down seats) did not bother to get up for her.

I started observing their behavior because I found their (lack of) action ridiculous. The elderly woman was shaking from left to right- she CANNOT stand! There were 5 females and 3 males in the 8 handicapped seats (men, I'm not picking on you guys ok?) 6 of them at one point saw the old woman from the corner of their eyes but continued to read their books, magazines, or Blackberries. They even held their reading materials over their eyes as if that justified them not seeing the poor woman. The other 2 were "sleeping" but conveniently woke up at their stop 10 minutes later.

The poor old woman didn't ask for the seats. She just stood there, holding on to dear life, swinging miserably from left to right. Standing passengers around here didn't say anything on her behalf but then again, the 8 passengers seats in the handicapped seats really should have already gotten off for her.

Finally, a man seated 3 rows away got up and helped her to his seat. The behavior of those 8 people was just insanely irresponsible. I don't know how they can live with themselves.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back to the grind, oh, and can we be a little friendlier to visitors?

Well, I'm back from my vacation and it sucks. It's tough to readjust to the work routine after a week of waking up tto only white sand beaches. It was almost depressing as I stared blankly from the train today into the unpicturesque sceneries along the stretch from 12th Street to West Oakland station, lost in the sight, with no reaction to the pushing and shoving around me. I've passed the route hundreds if not thousands of time by now, but never had it looked so depressing and run-down.

Anyway, that was this morning, and I think I've snapped out of it now. I saw a few tourists wearing Mets, Braves, and Yankees jerseys around the Civic Center BART station today. Obviously, they were visiting SF for the All Star game. They looked lost. First of all, why were they even staying near Civic Center?? Out of all the better tourist friendly places to stay in SF, why there?

These guys looked very lost and made the HUGE mistake of asking a homeless person for direction. The homeless man could not offer any advice that is understandable and frankly, the tourists were appalled by the smell around him. I could tell because I pass by him every single day. The tourists then asked a man dressed in a suit for directions, and he simply said, "Sorry, can't help you." Whenever they tried to approach someone for help, the person would purposely walk the opposite direction. This went on for about 2 minutes. No one wanted to help them.

I was waiting for the company shuttle and decided to offer my assistance. They seemed grateful to see a friendly face but unfortunately, being TERRIBLE at directions, I didn't know how to get to Fisherman's Wharf by MUNI. Gosh...I felt bad. All I could say was....oh, maybe you can go ask the concierge in the hotel right there, I'm sure they can give you a MUNI map.

I was not helpful at all but at least I was friendly. I wished them a good time at the game and enjoy SF. Though I didn't to a thing to steer them the right way, they kept on saying thank you. I cant believe people were so unwilling to help them out! We're not an unfriendly city, if anything, I think SF has the reputation of being hospitable to everyone! Come on, people, it doensn't hurt to spend 15-30 seconds to help out first-timers to our city!