ZB suggested one evening in Toronto that I should create a weblog-category based around BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), so that everyone can read all my stories of being hit on while using public transportation. The idea made me laugh, but I’ve taken it under consideration and created a “Travels & Travails category”—the latter because public transit is nothing if not drama sometimes, no matter how much I love it and no matter how much amusement it provides. (Seriously, does your public transportation of choice have ice cream carts? [And why was I not on the train that day?] Do you get to observe men having their goatees braided on the train? In short, I love the stories.)
Meanwhile, I present to you a (for now) short series of open letters to my fellow commuters—
Dear People Who Still Don’t Understand Right vs. Left:
A long, long time ago, Yaser referenced people like you in a short post filled with rage directed at those who don’t seem to understand the seemingly simple concept of “Stand right, walk left” on escalators. Seriously, people, get with the program. I hate having to elbow you when I’m trying to get to wherever I need to go. I like walking, and you’re in my way.
Even in airports, I eschew those moving walkways in favor of actually walking all the way across the airport to my gate. I wish you would do the same. And if you don’t want to, that’s fine, just please open up the pathway for me, so I can get by, dammit.
Plus, the sooner I get to Berkeley, the more time I have to swing by and grab a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream before heading into the office. Every single minute makes a difference—and, as Adnan established recently in Toronto, American minutes are longer than Canadian minutes. Stand right!
Dear Man with the Drama of Which I Wish I Knew More:
You provided my intriguing, one-sided BART conversation of the day, as you talked to an unknown person on your cell phone while riding the train from downtown Berkeley to MacArthur: “I just wanted to say, I was…I was happy that you pressed charges. Don’t hang up!” [Other person hangs up. Man pulls the phone away from his ear and stares blankly at it.]
That was such a cliff-hanger. It’s not fair. I demand details!
Dear People Who Always Want to Sit:
Stand up! If you’re on a bus or train and refuse to give up your seat to the elderly, the disabled, the pregnant, or those who otherwise look like they have a priority over you to the seats: You’re an asshole.
I have no other words for you.
PS: I hate it when you see such people boarding the bus or train and shift your glance away or clamp your headphones even more tightly over your ears, as if to imply that if you can’t see or hear them, they don’t exist and then you really don’t have to get up. That makes you even more an asshole.
That is all.
Dear Man Who Propositioned Me on the Train:
First of all, buddy boy, it’s a little early in the morning for such drama, isn’t it? There I am, transferring onto the Richmond train at MacArthur, heading into downtown Berkeley. There you are, already seated, looking like a young, solid, clean-cut guy, dressed nicely in a button-down and slacks, wearing glasses and those newsboy caps I like so much. You’ve got a stack of papers in your lap and you’re diligently marking them up and making edits, so I figure you must be a teacher or something. I end up sitting in the row behind you, you turn around just as the train begins moving, and the following conversation ensues:
Man: “Excuse me, does this train take you to Berkeley?”
Yasmine: “Yes, the Ashby stop is next, and then North Berkeley, and then downtown.”
Man: [Laughs.] “Oh, okay. I thought for a second I might’ve gotten on the wrong train.”
Yasmine: [Smiling politely.] “No, you’re okay.”
Man: “So. Are you seeing anyone?”
Man: [Jaw drops.] “What!” [Gives me the once-over—as well as he can, anyway, with a train seat between us.] “How is that possible!”
Yasmine: [Trying not to laugh.] “You know, I ask myself that question once in a while, too.”
Man: “Will you go out with me sometime?”
Yasmine: “Umm. I’m not interested in a relationship at the moment.” With random men on BART, I mean. Even if they wear those newsboy caps that I like so much.
Man: “Oh, well, I didn’t mean anything about a relationship.”
Yasmine: “In that case, I’m definitely not interested.”
I’m glad my decisiveness on that issue finally shut you up long enough for me to get back to my book. Seriously, though, yaara, does this really work for you? Hitting on women on BART, I mean? You should take some pointers from this guy, perhaps. I mean, he may have rambled on about gypsies and Egyptians, but at least he finally wore thin my defenses enough for me to smile quite genuinely at him, in the end.
PS: Thanks for providing so much amusement for our fellow passengers. Do you understand how many smirks I had to walk past when exiting the train?
Dear Pissed-Off Girl:
Your loud, disgruntled phone conversations all the way from the Pleasant Hill to the MacArthur BART stations (“I can’t believe that shit!”) kept making me laugh. Also, I kind of envy your lack of concern for all the head-turning you caused amongst your fellow commuters every time you screeched into your cell.
One more thing: How did you manage to get full-reception for the entire ride? I barely get a single bar, if I’m lucky, which makes me disgruntled because all I want to do on BART is send my friends textmessages about strange characters like you whom I keep encountering.
Dear Man with the Business Suit & BlackBerry:
I was so glad you were there when it came time to board the Fremont train and the man with the curly white hair and thick Italian accent shouted behind me, over the din of the rapidly-approaching train, “Excuse me! Downtown San Francisco?”
I looked helplessly at the Fremont sign, trying to recall BART-line configurations in my head, but then you came along, BlackBerry at your ear, and said, “Yes, you transfer at MacArthur.”
“MacArthur? Which train?” asked our friend.
“This one. I’m going that way, too,” you said soothingly. “Come.”
We all boarded together, and you—phone still in hand—pointed out to him all the relevant stops on the colorful map hanging across the carriage. When we got off with the mad crush of people at MacArthur, I craned my neck over the crowd, and saw you, tall and steady, shepherding him across the platform to the waiting San Francisco/SFO Airport train. I smiled to myself and ran down the escalator and back up another flight of stairs to catch my Pittsburg/Bay Point train on the next platform, all the while thinking about how awesome you were.
Dear Sweet Man with the BlackBerry:
I think I’m in love with you.