Part 3 — excerpts from my former commute

Jan 2019: incredibly crowded train out of San Francisco. It’s one of those new ones that feels like a downgrade, like I took Muni by mistake. This large brick-shaped man boards at 19th in Oakland, and doesn’t remove his backpack. His really big backpack in which he appears to be transporting a collection of hardback books, all sharp edges. It’s jamming so tight into me, I want to ask it to at least buy me a drink first.

***

February 2019: I’m feeling that feeling when you get on a crowded bart train at Embarcadero station after a quick self-care trip to Sephora in which you tried on and purchased a new lipstick to improve your sagging spirits, and right away a woman on the train says really loudly “Ma’am? Where did you purchase your lipstick?” and you get to whip it out of your bag and show her your new find and everyone around you agrees it looks real good. Spirits lifted.

***

Sep 2018: passing through Rockridge, listening to a woman escorting 5 boys on the train who look to be about 12. They’re having a blast hanging onto the straps and swinging. She’s giving them life lessons along the way. Offers mints all around and when some refuse her offer, she says “Listen. When someone offers you a mint, do not refuse. It’s usually a message that your breath smells like poo.”

I think these are good lessons, so I’m paying close attention and will share any further nuggets of wisdom with you, dear reader.

(also thankful she did not offer me one)

***

Sep 2019: we are currently stopped. The announcer says we’re holding with our doors closed because there is someone on the platform at MacArthur with an axe. This has brought out the chatty side of all the passengers. Some recent transplants from Ohio are chatting with a retired couple who are returning from their volunteer work in San Francisco. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses who stand by the brochure booths all day. The wife asked if she could practice “that phrase you taught me to call people from Ohio”. I brace inwardly but the Ohio’ans are game. “Darn you Buckeyes!” she says. Everyone smiles. We feel safe from the axe-wielder in our sealed up train with these gentle missionaries.

***

May 2018: packed train, I got a coveted seat and this woman wearing a dinosaur print dress stood next to me. The woman next to her commented on the dress, and that started a delightful conversation about how toddlers shouldn’t be the only ones to enjoy a good dino print.

I learned there are two times in one’s life when your dinosaur knowledge peaks: when you’re a four year old and when you have a four year old. Unless, of course, you’re a paleontologist. I hadn’t realized Bart could be so educational and I kinda want the dress now. FYI it’s from ModCloth.

***

July 2019: entering SF through the Transbay tube. There’s a guy in all black leaning against the bike storage area. He has headphones on and is really into his tunes. He’s … playing air guitar. I think. He has a rather unorthodox technique as he’s stroking rather aggressively in the general region of his crotch. At least I think it’s air guitar. He’s shredding really. Luckily I only have two more stops before Montgomery.

***

April 2018: caught the Richmond train out of Montgomery. I don’t like transferring (because I sometimes forget to switch trains) but if I can get a seat I’ll take the risk. One half of the car is almost empty so I grab a seat. Then I look around. The two guys behind me have their jackets pulled up over their noses. The guy across the aisle is breathing through his sleeve. The rest of the seats are empty but the train is otherwise crowded. And … what is that smell? Oh god. Suddenly it’s all clear. That guy over there has, er, soiled himself. I’m now standing at the far end of the train. Couldn’t deal with the Bart Shart.

***

June 2019: train pulls into Embarcadero station. As always, there is a slow moving scrum toward the doors. The announcement “The doors are closing. Please stand clear of the doors” comes on. As usual, no one reacts because we all know the doors aren’t closing until everyone is out and all the people standing on the platform are able to get on.

Except what is this? A small young woman in the back of the train starts shrieking. “EXCUSE ME!” Oh wow. We have a newbie. She’s in full panic mode, pushing people aside in her desperation to exit. People who are also planning to exit. She worms her way through and bursts out the doors. All the regular commuters who were pushed out of the way break out into laughter together.

Oh how cute. And we start our day smiling.

***

April 2016: I really need to get better at saying “no”. Can anyone give me lessons? Heading into SF and this older Asian woman sits next to me. She’s wearing all leopard print with red leather accents — my kinda broad. She compliments my jacket. I try to appear immersed in my phone but it’s not working. She asks where I’m going which turns into a discussion about what I do. When she learns I’m in marketing, her eyes get really wide. Can I have your card?? This is where the lessons in “no” would really come in handy. I give it to her, I then start hearing about this fountain of youth potion which she proceeds to swig in front of me (smelled awful! But damn she looked young). It’s … of course … a multi level marketing scheme. She follows me off the train and keeps telling me in her fractured English how much money I’m going to make because “white people are very successful”. Anyone want to buy some?

***

August 2017: Riding the SF-bound train through the Caldecott tunnel. Standing room only. Couple is standing not far from me. He keeps leaning over and kissing her and wrapping his arms around her. Aw, I think. The couple that commutes together stays together, or something like that. Then I overhear him ask her: “So, do you have kids?”

***

April 2017: SF-bound train through Caldecott tunnel. In a grumpy mood from trekking through wet train floor in sandals. Sweet young thing, rather rough around the edges, leans over and says “I hope that’s water”. He looks a lot like a blonde member of the Frog Brothers. He asks me where he should change stations to get to the Coliseum, so I give him directions. Says he’s working there all day grilling chicken, then has 1.5 hours to get back to Walnut Creek on Bart where he’ll start a 10pm-6am shift moving office furniture. Shows me a mobile app he uses to sign up for shift work. He asks if I have kids. Yes. Says I should show them the app, they can use it to find work. BURN. He’s thinking I’m his mother’s age. Wait, I AM his mother’s age. Damn. He shakes my hand, gives me his name so my kids can use it to give him referral credit in the app, changes trains. I roll on toward SF thinking fondly of the days when I was broke and working the night shift. I snap out of it by the time we hit West Oakland.

***

March 2018: that feeling when you’re standing on a crowded train on a rainy day, with your backpack on the wet floor at your feet (because you’re not a jerk like those other people who take up 3 extra feet of humpback space) and you’re cold and wet and cranky but then the guy you’re standing next to GETS UP FROM HIS SEAT and hallelujah you get to sit down so you do and then you discover that the seat is hot, I mean it’s smoking hot, it’s on fire and oh god.

***

These posts originally appeared on Facebook during years of commuting into San Francisco.

Tech marketer, storyteller, mobile pioneer. Used to be really cool, but then I had kids. Funny when stressed.

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