Don’t Make Eye Contact. Don’t Touch Anything.
With a new year, new changes and a new job now comes a new commute.
This is me, I am now a commuter.
To be honest, I tried driving the thirty-five miles each way for two whole days, then I tapped out. It was two days too many.
Driving that many hours in that kind of traffic is not good for the already tenuous grasp I have on my sanity.
So I escaped the confines of my car and leapt into the tired, dingy but quite serviceable arms of the Bay Area Rapid Transit, also known as BART, our local subway system.
In the past when I commuted regularly, I rode the CalTrain (commuter rail as opposed to a subway), and I always really enjoyed it. Up until last week, I had only been on BART for a few random trips here and there, but now I’m doing the everyday BART trip and then catching a shuttle to the office.
I have to say, it works really well. BART is nowhere near as elegant as London’s Tube or as clean as Singapore’s MRT or as wide reaching as the subway in New York, but it does the job (assuming it goes where you need it) and mostly does it well.
I’m always amused when riding public transit because there is this whole attitude that you have to adopt. We all wear a game face that is a cross between casual nonchalance and aggressive apathy, with enough of a snarl so people will leave you alone.
You aren’t supposed to look around. You aren’t supposed to lollygag. You aren’t supposed to look people in the eye and goodness knows you don’t start up a conversation.
Even if you are a flat out rookie, you gotta look like you have done this so many times you don’t give a rip. I don’t know why this is, but it just is. This goes for all subways not just BART.
Also, public transit is always the best way to find any city’s collection of lost, offbeat and troubled people.
Friday there was a guy talking to himself and loudly groaning. He was sitting across from a guy who during the course of the journey put on eight shirts, two hoodies, then a polar fleece and topped it with a parka and a huge knit hat. It’s cold here recently but this guy was preparing to hunt penguins.
Mostly it’s just a whole lot of people trying to get somewhere. Students, elderly, professionals, blue collar, rich, poor, moms, dads, kids. Just about every make and model of person out there steps on the BART train headed somewhere.
During the course of my ride I start on the peninsula, traverse San Francisco, and end up in the East Bay. On that hour ride it is like the Bay Area has been neatly sliced in half and I can clearly see all of the different kinds people who make up this crazy place.
A one-hour BART ride is a true representation of both the best and the worst of the almost seven million people who live here and call the Bay Area home.
And I’m one of them. I’m that sort of hayseed looking girl who is eagerly looking at everyone’s faces trying to read their stories while looking like I’m not looking at all. I’m the one laughing inappropriately and feeling stressed trying to fit in at my new gig.
Not to paraphrase the Beatles or anything but…
When I ride the BART train, I am you and you are me and we are all together.
Image from LA Times.