Friday, February 29, 2008

How a dog brightens up a BART ride

I've always believed that pets bring out the best in people. This morning, there was a seeing eye dog on the train: a sweet, smart, loving Golden Retriever. He was carefully sniffing everyone's pants, triggering conversations between those who have dogs and cats at home whose scents he may be picking up on. It's quite rare to see a circle of BART passengers chatting, laughing, introducing themselves, and enjoying each other's company. The sweet seeing eye dog broke the usually tough ice between passengers and brought out the more social, caring, and friendly side of people.

He was sniffing me up and down and I knew that the scent of my precious pug is all over me from our morning goodbye routine. It was a pleasant Friday ride.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No privacy, no problem!

I always think it's quite interesting how some people can carry on phone conversation during BART rides. On few occasions, I've had to take work calls and even fewer occasions, personal calls to quickly arrange pick-up at the BART station. I generally don't like people around me being forced to hear me talk, or simply just knowing anything about my life.

Last night, in a crowded train, a sharp and loud ringtone disrupts the humming of the running train. Everyone looks at the young, stylish woman who picked up.

Without any shyness, she shares some major news with about 30 people around it goes. (Some portions omitted for privacy)

Hi! Oh my god! I want to talk to you so bad!
I'm pregnant! Just found out 2 days ago! (everyone turns to look at her)
Yes, we're excited.
No, that's the funny thing, we didn't plan this at all. (everyone looks at her again)
I don't know, I guess (not sure what she was referring to here)
Yeah, let's do it! I need another girl's night out before I get big.
(Then she just goes on about other things)

I would not have been able to have that conversation in a crowded train. It's way to private for me! But no harm done, I am excited for her, although she has no idea.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The good still exists

Last Thursday, I was in a huge rush trying to catch my train. I was running towards the station, and at the same time, fishing through my bag for my ticket in one hand, and my Treo in the other.

In my haste, I must have dropped my very important work key chain/bracelet which basically is a velcro wrist wraparound that contains my badge, my office key, my valuable cabinet keys, laptop key, and the almighty VPN token. My company runs strict security and the procedure to get each of those replaced will pretty much render my completely unproductive at work for a couple of days.

I've never lost anything on my way to BART or on BART before. I knew I didn't lose it on the train because I had already noticed it was gone by the time I was sitting down. I thought I must have left it at home. Once I got home, I searched for it everywhere. Drawers, cabinets, underneath the tables, inside my dog's bed, and even in the sign of it! My husband suggested going to the BART station to see if anyone turned it in.

I was doubtful. First of all, I didn't think anyone would turn it in. Secondly, I wasn't fully convinced that I could have dropped it accidentally while running.

We went to the station. The agent was friendly and helpful. He pulled out a few badges to see if those were mine, and they weren't. I almost lost hope. But suddenly, he pulled out this big bulge of badge and keys. It had my horrendous photo on the badge! I was really happy-- he pretty much saved me from hours of paper work and processing to get everything replaced!!!

I thanked him for making my day! He said, "don't thank me, thank the nice person who took the time to pick it up and turn it in to us."

Not that anyone would want my badge and keys but I really didn't think that people still took the time to do the right thing anymore. It was one those good moments where I realized that there are still plenty of good left in society.

I'm really glad I found my work badge/keys and VPN token.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

BART needs to do a better job of wiping wet floors

When it's raining, some BART stations have floors that get floody, not to mention slippery, especially by the stairs where water accumulates from the dripping rain. I saw someone slip in a muddy wet puddle today inside the station! That isn't the first time I've seen someone fall flat on their butt. This woman needed help up--she was well over her 50s. I've even slipped a couple times in the past and had to balance myself before falling.

On occasions, there are caution signs..I guess that is the least they can do to keep people safe. Sometimes, not only are not no signs, the puddles are so large and the wetness has spread so far into the stations that it is truly a serious hazard.

Those of you who work for BART will probably say...we don't have the resources, we can't keep up with the cleaning, we'll need to raise fares to keep the station floors dry...etc. There are always reasons why BART can't be better.

Until you get someone who falls, breaks their bones, is hospitalized and sues you for reparations on top of exorbitant medical bills, I know nothing will change.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Can't help but feel sorry for this person

Saw a woman today as soon as I walked into the train. She was fidgeting the entire ride. She couldn't concentrate on her book, she couldn't keep her eyes shut, and she had to check her cellphone for time every minute.

As we are nearing the end of the Transbay tube, she started packing her cigarette pack. The slapping sound was hard to miss. She went on for about a minute and then takes out a cigarette and her lighter before we even approached Embarcadero. She must have been eager to get a puff. But she didn't even get off at Embarcadero, she got off at Civic Center, same as me. The entire time from Embarcadero to Civic Center, she was bouncing her legs nonstop, sighing every few seconds, putting her head down and then up, down and up, repeatedly.

I don't know if it was because she needed to smoke or she's got other problems on her mind but it definitely looked like she is very uneasy about something. As soon as she approached the last set of escalators, before we even got a peek at the cloudy skies, she's already taken a few puffs of her cigarette.

Such desperation that I can't comprehend. I do have acquaintances that smoke and none of them ever appear as anxious and desperate as she did for a puff. It's sad.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day leftovers

Noticed something different about the BART train floors today. There are more candy wrappers than usual. On top of that, I saw fallen quite a few heart message candies and used lollipop sticks decorating the already blemished carpet! Coincidence? I don't think so. I can't speak for men, but women definitely increase their sugar intake around Valentine's day. There's just more candy lying around in offices, in schools, in the house for the kids and their classmates! Heck, there are even people selling boxed chocolates around BART stations!

I saw a college student today opening up a bag of red foil wrapped heart chocolates on BART today. She tried to collect all the wrappers but some still fell on the floor. Even I succumbed to the sugar rush this morning by popping a jolly rancher in my mouth.

I'm curious to see what the trains look like at the end of the day! I just remember last year, it was quite funny to see many men carrying a nice bouquet of flowers on BART on their way home. Good thing there are many florist stands around the Downtown SF stations!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Brightens the morning, at least just a little tiny bit

I can't say that I've frequented most of the BART stations. But I do appreciate Orinda BART's effort in getting into the holiday spirit whether that's Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Easter, Martin Luther King's birthday, or Valentine's Day. Seeing the string of hearts and blinking lights these couple of weeks around the ticket agent booth does bring a little smile on my face because at least someone out there is trying to make an effort to brighten up BART riders' days.

Some might say that these agents should just do their jobs, some might even call it cheesy, but I think it is a nice gesture and it probably made many positive impressions first time BART riders such as kids. I look forward to seeing the leprechauns cut-outs and strings of shamrocks in a few weeks!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Just what I was hoping for

There definitely has been a cold or flu bug going around. I started feeling sick last Thursday night and was feeling full symptoms on Friday (stayed at home). I had hoped for the weekend to recover completely but a busy schedule on both Saturday and Sunday made that nearly impossible.

So, going to work today, I felt better, stronger, but still slowed and dulled by some lingering effects of the cold. I really did not want to go to work but there is just too much going on that I cannot let things sit one more day.

While feeling miserable waiting for the BART train on the platform, I was pleased to see that the train is perfectly on time. As the train arrived, I was very relieved and happy to find an empty seat to rest of aching body on!!!! Wow, can this be? Something I wished for on BART actually happened before my eyes. I can't even tell you how ecstatic I was to have a seat throughout the ride.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wet seat = tainted seat

There was an empty seat today amidst a crowded train. When situations like that happen, you just know there must be something wrong with the seat before seeing it. This one had a wet circle with a wet napkin on top of it. Throughout the entire ride, the seat was left unoccupied. People walked in, gravitated towards the one empty seats, saw the wetness, and remained standing.

Just when I thought no one in their right minds would sit down on this wet seat and risk sporting a wet stain right in the middle of their rear, a young man in light blue denim looks at it, shrugs, and plants himself on top of it.

I never got to see whether he had a stain or not. But knowing the color of the denim, and that denim is very absorbent, I am willing to bet that the back of his jeans certainly sported a lovely wet spot for at least 1 hour.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Elections observation and an answer about homeless riding BART

I noticed throughout my journey to work today that something is clearly absent! While I see loads of "Obama" signs and "Obama" volunteers on streets, stations, and exits, I have not seen ANY "Hillary" supporters. I've even seen some "Mitt Romney" and "McCain" signs and supporters along the way but what happened to Hillary Clinton's crew? I was really surprised by the lack of presence of Hillary supporters. Interesting to see what will happen at the end of the day.

Now, the answer about homeless. While I sometimes see homeless on BART, I rarely get to see how they actually get through the turnstiles. I once saw a homeless man sneak through the handicapped entrance without being noticed. Today, there was a homeless man sleeping in my train. I didn't notice him until he exited the train at the same time I did and was walking in front of me up the escalators (side note: it was a painful walk up being right in back of him. His scent was powerful to say the least.) I was wondering if he had a ticket with him and how he was going to exit the turnstiles as the ticket agent was right in front of him.

Apparently, it didn't matter that the ticket agent was in front. The homeless man walked nonchalantly in back of a line of people waiting to place their ticket in the turnstiles. In a blink, he effortlessly slipped his body through as someone in front of him was exiting. The person didn't even notice that another body was about 1.5 inches in back of him and shadowed his footsteps through the turnstiles. Very slick move. I guess that is one way to find a warm shelter.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Another reason for adding plexi-glass blockades

I've just returned to the Bay Area from a trip in Asia. I left a rainy Hong Kong to come back to a hailing Orinda. It is great to be home, however. If you read my previous post about the Hong Kong MTR, you'll know that one of the listed reasons was that there are glass doors that protect passengers from the trains and tracks. The glass doors release only once the train doors open.

Don't think we need it on BART? Whether it's accidental or intentional, here is one good reason why. Of course I know the negative implications of making BART more safe. To do something like that, BART will likely hike fees (again), say they'd rather put resources into security and train improvements (yes, much needed), and of course, passengers should have the sense to not get too close to the tracks and if they don't they should suffer the consequences.

I've seen groups of kids, joking around with each other, getting way too close to falling into the tracks. I've seen people slip in the train, falling dangerously close to the tracks. Furthermore, the open tracks are treated like trash cans by others. Why leave them open?

I'm not saying BART must have plexi-glass doors. I definitely do not want to see fare raised by $1 per leg just to get this done. Besides, there are too many things that BART needs to improve on.

It's just that after my recent trip and transit experiences abroad, I need to ask why not us?