It speaks well of a transit system when one’s commute is not a topic of conversation. It has been my experience that BART achieves that goal more often than not. My trip from the 24th Street Mission to Montgomery is accomplished on autopilot. When I arrive at work, details of how I got there are hazy and unimportant.
It’s not all blissful oblivion, of course. There are minor irritations, mostly products of my personal quirks, to contend with. I don’t like being in close proximity to people I don’t know, which is odd for a city dweller but there you have it. BART cars get full, especially during commute hours, with most of the crowding toward the center of the train. To avoid the packed-sardine feeling, I wait on the platform where I can board the first or last car.
This tactic works pretty well and I’m often able to find an open seat. By open, I mean not having to sit next to someone else. I prefer to stand than do that.
Scoring a seat all to myself by no means guarantees that I’ll be able to keep it for the duration. People board at other stations and want to sit down, sometimes next to me. Unfortunately, I don’t project enough of a “get thee hence” vibe to dissuade them and am unwilling to resort to radical measures like publicly masturbating. BART has their own police force and it would ruin my day if a bunch of cops stormed the train with weapons drawn, shouting “Hey Sicko! You can’t jack off here. This isn’t Muni.”
So you see, I respect the needs of others. If someone really wants to sit next to me, far be it for me to insist otherwise. All I ask is one small favor: no fat people.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of size acceptance, but I’m also realistic. There is a good chance I will need to exit the train before they do and excessive corpulence can cause problems. Moreover, it has been my experience that passengers’ girth is inversely proportional to the amount they are willing to move their knees. It is only a matter of time before one of my attempts to hurdle these human beanbag chairs gets somebody hurt.
Other than that, consider me a satisfied rider. The BART system works very well, until it doesn’t.
Delays can arise from mechanical failures, police matters, and the occasional suicide. Once the glitch is fixed, the perp handcuffed, or the front of the train hosed off, service resumes but there is a ripple effect. The number of people waiting on all subsequent station platforms has grown during the delay. Boarding and offboarding takes more time, resulting in even more time lost and surliness over the loudspeaker from the train operators.
After such an experience, I find myself saying uncharitable things about BART to friends and coworkers. I’m really not being fair. Things could be a lot worse, or as my imaginary cop friend so aptly put it, “This isn’t Muni.”