It is a Sunday morning and I am on a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) on my way to SF. Two of my dear friends have started their own business and are partnering today for a party. I’m one that stays away from the city as much as possible but sometimes you have to go a long way to support your friends. And it is a long ride so figured make this time productive by sharing on my blog and giving my Netflix novela a break.
If you’re not from the area, you are not familiar with all the challenges BART has faced especially in the last weeks. This service is by no means cheap but when on time, it’s the fastest way into the city during commute hours. I worked in SF for eight years and except during the graveyard shifts, I mainly took BART into the city. The problem comes with the increasing fares that are not commensurate with the service and most importantly the security both on trains and at stations. To complicate things even more, there has been a large problem with homeless people not just sleeping on the trains but leaving behind crazy amounts of drug paraphernalia it is no joke.
This won’t be pretty but picture a train car that smells so bad because the stench is so outrageous even after they leave the train, the floors are full of garbage, old newspapers and oh yes a bunch of needles left behind after their high needs… it is not pretty nor safe. Just earlier this week I was watching the news and this woman was taking the train from the East Bay into the city for work when she sat on a broken needle! No, it is not just the “ouch”, it’s the fact that she got poked with a freaking needle that could possibly carry an outrageous number of diseases! She will be in meds for the next 18 months because it is too soon to tell if she contracted HIV. That sucks! My heart aches for her… nice decent lady hustling the right way might now be infected with a terrible disease for life.
So you can imagine me today getting on the train. It was probably the first ride for this train given service starts much later on Sundays. It was clean from garbage and spills both on the floor and seats. I carefully walked to find a seat that I triple checked was clean from anything before seating. As the train got fuller through the stations, other smells appeared. I need to take a break now because is paramount that use my hands to cover my nose. I am wearing a scarf but I need to keep it in place to stay away from that nasty smell… brb.
It is Monday. Over one week after I started this post because I got busy. Last week was distracting, very distracting with the situation in Guatemala. Back to sharing my BART thoughts. You never know what you will get on BART, especially during off-peak hours. Why? because that is the time that “random” people ride. During peak hours, the trains are so crowded with commuters that there is just not much room for the crazies on the trains, or at least a very small amount of them make it. I was paying attention to other passengers… I am not sure that I like what I see but it is a clear depiction of where our society is now.
I recall when I started taking BART the passengers were “busy” with different things: reading a book, listening to music, taking a nap, staring out the window, and the crazies. These days it seems like they are all staying “busy” with the same thing: cellphones… and the crazies of course. Everyone, or nearly everyone, had their heads down on their phones. Older, younger, middle age people. It doesn’t matter. It is the same for everyone. And I think that is kinda sad. Don’t get me wrong back in 2012 when I was able to get unlimited data and I could watch Netflix on my phone during the 40 mins train ride from Hayward to SF I was in heaven! There is a very thin line between staying connected and overusing connectivity and I think that the line has gone so thin with time is almost non existent now… sad! I guess that is a whole different topic but it sure crossed my mind while I was on the train.
When you take BART on a regular basis, you pile up some crazy stories. I think a few that stuck with me even after years since it happened are:
- Blackout at the Embarcadero Station. That was scary. It was also around the time when people were protesting over something (can’t recall what the actual protest was about right now) but they would block doors so the trains wouldn’t move. I get off work hoping the protesters wouldn’t be there because I needed to get home, and I am at the platform waiting for my train. Suddenly all the station lights go off… all of them! I just stood there until the lights came back on cuz other than a few cellphone screens that were on, the whole station was pitch black. Not fun!
- Crazy lady with Michael Jackson life size poster. Yup, you read that correct. She would board at San Leandro Station almost every morning carrying a large bag and a life size poster of Michael Jackson. She would catch a seat, right by the door which is designated for handicapped people. Even if someone was seating there, they would move because she would walk straight to that seat and plant herself there so people would just move away. Not sure where they were heading. Never got a chance to follow her just for curiosity but I guess that was a good thing.
- Rude old lady. I won’t forget her! I catch a train back home and it was full so I am standing somewhere by the door. At the first station in Oakland, someone gets off the train leaving the seat next to where I was standing. Here I go with my good manners and tell an older woman who was also standing right by it to have the seat. She was pissed! Livid! How did I dare to offer her a seat?! She started yelling at me. At this point I take my headphones off because I had just kinda signaled her with my hands about the seat. She is yelling me that she is tired of people offering her seats. She is not old and she does’t need a seat… Are you kidding me?! Ask anyone who takes BART and they will tell you that more often than not people are pretending to be sleeping or too distracted to give their seat to an older person or a pregnant one, so if people are offering her a seat that is awesome! She totally got to me. I am not proud but I did yelled back: “I am just telling you the seat is available. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want it!”… yup. I yelled at her. Lost my cool. Why was she yelling at me for having good manners yeee! Put my headphones back on, higher the volume and did a 180 degree turn on her. Rude!
These are just some moments that are stuck in my mind. Over the years I witnessed a lot of crazy stuff on those trains. It’s the price you pay for taking public transportation. I can just wish for the sake of my friends who still take the train on a regular basis, that BART officials get their sh*t together and figure out how to keep the trains clean, safe & overall that BART police is available.
That is all.