Tuesday, October 21, 2008
adventures on bart
living in the east bay, yet working a minimum of three, often times four, days a week in sf at various jobs and other preoccupations, affords me the wonderful opportunity of great people watching during my adventures aboard the bay area rapid transit. tonight for example, after an eventful evening of babysitting involving bite sized finger food, my failed attempts to construct a monkey out of white playdough "like mama makes it, LIKE MAMA MAKES IT!!" that ended in tears all around, and demands for 15+ stuffy toys to be brought into the crib at bedtime, i was more than looking forward to zoning out and making sideways glances of my fellow bart riders through the window reflections.
the best places to sit are obviously the ones where the action is all in front of you: the sideways seats near the door where you get a full 180 perspective in your peripherals (though if occasional eye contact with strangers sitting across from you makes you uneasy, i suggest you opt for option two...), or the seats at the end of the car that make sure no one's dancing the jig or something crazy behind your back. plus from there, you get all kinds of great window reflection angles. so tonight i board at 16th street and find my place in a vacant sideways seat opposite a man, early twenties, goatee, intricate corn rows, pants with legs baggier than most. he's studying the quintuple colored system map posted on the wall behind my head like he can see a light moving along the yellow line marking our train's progress along the tracks. after i we both transfer at 12th street oakland to the richmond line, we find ourselves seated in the exact some seats as before, but this time, i'm the one staring at the map behind his head. funny; it's like how people go to class lectures with 300+ people and always sit in the same seat or in yoga classes how people always set up their mats in "their spots." i feel an odd sense of comaraderie with my corn rowed companion.
as we pull away from macarther station, the middle aged woman with dyed red curls going every which way, an old navy tech vest to match and the rolling backpack dolled up with obama paraphernalia that has just boarded the train has scanned the rest of her seating options and has chosen to join us, settling herself next to me. she pulls out some crochet project and i think to myself, "she could be friends with my mother." suddenly, she dives into her rolling backpack, digging, searching for something, zip zip ZIP! finally she comes up for air clasping a yellow box of what i guess to be throat lozenges, since she offers one to cornrow, as he suppresses a cough, leans forward and accepts her offer with an outstretched palm and a silent nod of thanks. as he sits back in his seat, he pushes the lozenge into his cheek with his tongue and him and i make eye contact for the first time. i guess i hadn't noticed his cough, and suddenly i feel a twinge of guilt; not only do i not have a cough drop or hard candy to offer him, i hadn't even noticed my corn rowed companion's cough. as i stand to take my place at the door, preparing to exit, i offer cornrow a weak, part sympathetic, but mostly apologetic, smile. he nods up at me. "night," he says, returns a smile and the doors whoosh open in front of me.
there's something about the kindness of strangers that can make feelings of frustration or apathy disappear. perhaps i'll start carrying around throat lozenges.