We’re all going to the end of the line: Open letters to my fellow commuters

Public transport is ROCKING, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

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?”

Yasmine: “No.”

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: “No.”


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.
Marry me?

34 thoughts on “We’re all going to the end of the line: Open letters to my fellow commuters

  1. Dear Yasmine,

    I loved your letter because it made me smile.

    That post you refer to was removed a long time ago (forever as of last night when I permanently deleted all backed up archives of my old site because I couldn’t bear to read them). My commute these days is a ten minute walk through the park in the morning (for which I am immensely grateful). It does much towards reducing your rage and stress.

    Also, I’ve never been hit on (in the non physical sense) anywhere, period. And I think you should have given clean-cut boy a chance. Maybe he likes yellow too.

    Please write about your trip to Toronto in detail, with lots of accompanying pictures. I wish I could have been there.

    Lots of sunshine your way,


  2. dear yaser –

    your letter made me smile back, so widely =)
    maybe we should all write letters more often. i had forgotten how awesome they are, and how happy they make me.

    i caught my breath for a split second when i read the “forever as of last night when i permanently deleted…” bit, because i thought you went and took down the entire site. there was a post i remember you wrote long ago—about an imam? teacher? he seemed like such a beautiful person. i hope that’s not among the posts you’ve deleted =/

    re. clean-cut boy, okay, fine, next time i won’t write off guys so easily. maybe he DOES like yellow, and i let him get away! sigh.

    your commute now sounds so lovely.
    and we all missed you in toronto, truly. there were many sad comments of, ‘too bad yaser isn’t here…’ and once, i referenced your ‘stand right, walk left’ post while going up or down the subway escalators in TO, but everyone else looked completely befuddled and couldn’t remember it. =/

    toronto was incomplete without your presence, but i’ll do my best to write about it a bit.

    have beautiful days,

  3. yeah! where is the toronto post? and the DC post? and the spain/morocco post? jeebus!

    also, i enjoyed your metro rant. as you know, i’ve had a time or two or three where i’ve experienced the joys and pitfalls of public transpo. ah me.

  4. hmm.. you missed the couple with the tattoos and earrings who relentless make out while standing near the doors, so that anyone trying to get out needs to, err, shove you off the train

  5. That was great… I especially loved the last one. I think I’m lucky I don’t live in a city with a serious public transit system. I would never get anywhere because I’d get so distracted… I’d get on a train needing to go one place and think, “Hey, why don’t I get off at this other stop instead… this looks waaay more interesting than where I was planning to go.”

  6. Yaz! See what happens when you set aside some actual time to write an actual entry? You get something so wonderfully funny as this! Thanks for sharing your stories dude. I’m happy that you at least get amusement out of your commuter stories. When I’m commuting all I end up getting is angry. Maybe it’s just NYC. I think that’s it! I think I need to move to Cali.

    Please write more. And post more pics!

  7. public transport pickups – i’ve seen them work before my very eyes. Also, I can never get left and right straight, so have pity on my directional dyslexia and don’t push me if I am on the wrong side.

  8. fathima,
    if it makes you feel any better, the toronto post is mainly written already. but i got so excited about writing again, i wanted to update right away, and that ended up being this.

    you HARASSER! they’re all coming. sooner or later. sometimes, later. ;) also, i thought about you a lot while writing this post – luckily, i have not yet coming across someone clipping his/her nails on the train. *shudders* also, i just finished re-reading your ‘get off my lawn’ post and laughing, and now i’m laughing all over again at all the comments :D

    ha! would you believe, i can’t recall coming across those yet. i’m sure they’re there, it’s just that i’m the oblivious type. i rarely notice people unless they’re sitting next to me, talking so loudly that even *i* can hear ’em, or hitting on me.

    the last one was TOTALLY my favorite ;) and you’ve given me such an awesome idea – i think one day i’d like to just ride a BART line from end-to-end, getting off at each stop and spending a few minutes in each neighborhood. it’d be so amazing! i really have to do this. what a GENIUS IDEA.

    you’re going on my list of HARASSERS (That I Love). what’s up with angry-NYC-commutes? you all have so much rage. i need to come visit and take the train with you, so i can understand what’s up. am so glad you enjoyed the post =)

    i totally should’ve tried a PTP on The Man with the BlackBerry. he was so swoon-worthy. sigh. as for your directional dyslexia, maybe you need the sort of helpful sweater my dad bought my brother when he was little – it was a yellow sweater, and one arm had a red stripe (for the right side) and the other arm had a blue stripe (for the left side). am not sure it completely worked, but it was a rocking looking sweater, and i wish i had one now.

  9. Salaam Alaikum,

    It’s so wonderful that you’re back. I missed you.

    I just wrote a tweet about you and here you are!

    Btw, this is that tweet:

    @MsRickshaw Masha Allah, I do think you could make anything sound poetic. Just like Yasmeeen makes everything beautiful in her photos.

    (the 3 e’s are there on purpose)

  10. safiya,
    thank you so much! =) i’m not on twitter (am still holding out, and will go kicking and screaming the entire way ;)), so i had no idea about your tweet. thank you for sharing that, and for your sweet words.

    thank you for the three Es—it makes it a better pronunciation than three As would in the beginning, you know. the ‘yaaasmeen’ pronunciation KILLS me!

    have missed blogistan. i’m hoping to be back more regularly.

  11. Such uncanny things happen to people on the trains/underground here in the UK. You should watch thue film Tube Tales. It is a series of short films based on unusual occurences on the underground. People have even youtubed dodgy characters, some of them quite disturbing though personally I wouldn’t go that far.

  12. I don’t know which letter was better. Maybe you should look into writing columns of some sort. I’m sure you would have quite the following while breaking down some barriers in the journalism world, too.

    Furthermore, all these stories are great because of Public Transportation.

    Good stuff.

  13. rehan,
    people on trains are sometimes on crack—“uncanny” sounds like a great summary of public transportation stories. Tube Tales sounds really interesting. shall look into that, thanks!

    public transportation is amazing, YAAR ;) if real-life were like facebook, i’d require a LOVELOVELOVE button to adequately convey my sentiments towards public transport. so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post and commented, even. come back again, buddy!

  14. Does BART have “platform performers” like DC? We have these (mostly) talented musicians that sing acappella, play violin, do gallon/trashcan drumming, even play various Asian instruments at many of the metro stops…

  15. i remember that post of yaser’s too. every time i get on an escalator in the subway (okay, sometimes i forget; i’m sorry!). it wasn’t THAT long ago, was it? 4 years or so?

    you totally should have given the teacher a chance. i mean, he was so polite and everything. though i guess sweet man with blackberry has stolen your dil. craigslist has missed connections, you know. hehe.

    public transportation rocks for the people-watching and i, too, am looking forward to the toronto post.

  16. http://www.fmylife.com/?page=1

    Today, I was on the bus, when an elderly woman stepped in. She looked too weak to stand. She looked at me with her sad puppy eyes, expecting me to give up my seat for her. I felt sorry and got up. As soon as she sat down, she says, “Ha! Sucker!” She didn’t look so cute anymore. FML


  17. Hey Yaz..I love this post!

    Have you used the subway in London? It’s a hilarious experience.

    Once a bunch of teenage boys got on. They were drunk & did the craziest things..jumping around..clowning, singing, PLAYING SOCCER…
    Their antics were so outrageous that the police had to be called.. I was kinda sad..it was such good entertainment!

    Oh btw..Ramadan kareem!

  18. y- great and verrry funny post! this makes me want to blog about all my different public transportation experiences!! there should probably be a book about riding on metros across the world! i hope you keep writing and posting more often.

  19. Hey there Yaz, long time no comment…

    I’m currently in SoCal (Santa Ana) and was wondering what ‘cool’ things there are to do and what amazing places there are to eat and somehow you popped into mind. Any kind advice for an long lost lurker yaar?

    Much thanks.

  20. You win. You posted 18 days after I did, and yours is twice as long a post, and infinitely better.

    The last part goes without saying of course, but I am just stating it for the record :)

  21. Do you realize it has been EIGHT MONTHS since you blogged? You could at least give us an “I give up” post… to allow us to grieve, I mean. Come on.

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