WHY BY PINKY
(a column about what I think)
Why some commuters
make me want to kill them
I am not a California native. I may be loathe to admit it, but I was born in Texas. Years of observation have shown me the biggest difference between a Californian and a Southerner. Itís not what you might think - left wing vs. right, pear cider vs. Bud Light, Jerry Hall vs. Sharon Stone. The biggest difference between Californians and Southerners is that Californians donít have any damn manners (especially Bay Area Californians). I lived with a couple of hippie girls a few years ago who believed that "manners" were morally wrong, symbolic of an oppressive, butt-clinching society. Excuse yourself for burping in front of them, and youíre on the receiving end of a tirade about how uptight, downtrodden and wrong-headed you are. According to these women, being a slob was the proper, morally correct thing to do.
Not everyone is that extreme, of course. And you donít have to go to finishing school or have your knuckles rapped with a ruler to have socially acceptable manners. In the grand scheme of things, no one who matters will really care which fork you use and where your elbows are. What Iím talking about here is a basic decency and consideration for your fellow human beings, with a little social protocol thrown in for good measure. Most of this stuff isnít even beyond the realm of common sense, which is another thing a lot of people around here donít seem to have.
Iíve been making the commute from Oakland to The City for a year now, and I think BART is a definite microcosm of the macrocosm, as it were. In the BART environment, you can see some of the absolute worst of human behavior, the kind that makes decent folk come dangerously close to mass murder, postal style. Weíre all supposed to be in this together, right? We all have somewhere to go, we all have important stuff to do. So where does this Every Commuter For Himself thing come from?
Letís begin at the beginning, shall we? Letís talk about escalators. Now, this is very simple for those who are paying attention. The right side of the escalator is the "slow lane". Stand there if you have a big heavy bag or want to space out or arenít in any particular hurry. The left side of the escalator is the "fast lane". When youíre on the left side of the escalator, you walk down the stairs. If you hear a train coming, and thereís person a couple of steps behind you yelling "Thatís my train! Thatís my train!!" GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY. I cannot tell you how many trains I have missed because some lunkhead is just standing there, doing I donít know what, contemplating their navel or something, in the damn fast lane. This is what Iím talking about with basic common sense.
HEL-LO!! To your right, there are standing people. In front of you, there are people running down the stairs. In back of you is a woman shouting some muddle about a train or something. There are strange whooshing sounds, a breeze, and the woman behind you is making a fuss of some sort. She also has her arms out, poised to PUSH YOUR SPACY ASS OUT OF THE WAY. I remember one time, I was stuck behind a lunkhead standing in the fast lane, happily chatting away with a friend standing next to him in the slow lane. In front of him, people madly dashing for the oncoming train. In back of him, a slowly boiling me, really late and needing that train. "Excuse me," I say politely, once or twice, but heís totally immersed in whatever insignificant idiocy he seems to think is important. I feel my hands come up, the elbows bent. At this moment I am really, seriously, considering murder. I am going to push this jerk down the stairs. Why is he such a selfish creep? Whereís his attention to his surroundings? His basic consideration for other people? Up his butt, thatís where. At the last moment, murder on my mind, a thin red veil coating the world, I grit my teeth and use as much restraint as I can musterÖand instead of shoving him to his untimely demise, I "shoo" him.
Shoo! Shoo! And what does he do? He steps to the side, all right, just slowly enough toÖyou guessed itÖmake me miss my train. He turns to his friends and says sardonically, "Wow, so, weíre in San Francisco, right, where all the nice and polite people live? And thereís this woman behind me making an imperious gesture. Hooow ruuuude."
Auuuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh! If this were New York, you asshole, youíd be picking your teeth up off the linoleum.
Now, letís assume youíve made it past the escalator relatively unscathed. Youíre waiting in line for your train. Suddenly, you feel a shove, and teeter into the Yellow Zone, hanging over oblivion, waving your arms wildly. Whatís caused this? Some rat bastard with a big bag with a laptop in it or something, who has totally barreled into you and HAS NOT EVEN TURNED AROUND. I mean, really! Even a half-hearted " Ďscuse me" will do. After Iíve recovered my balance, I see myself grabbing said laptop bag and hurling the offender over the side, onto the third rail and laughing maniacally at the smoke and sizzling. But no, murder is wrong, so instead I say, "Excuse me!!!!!!". What, you may ask, does the rat bastard do? Rat bastard turns around with an offended look, and even goes so far as to say, "Whatís your problem?"
Auuuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh! If this were New York, youíd be basted and barbecued by now.
Now for the last part, and this one is for all you men out there, because apparently chivalry is dead. This is one of the most likely places for unbelievable behavior: GETTING A SEAT. You know how this works, donít you? Run onto the train, breaking out of the half-hearted orderly line weíre all in, and grab a seat or youíll be standing up all the way through the Transbay Terminal. Embarcadero (where I catch the train) is the worst place for this, because itís the last stop in San Francisco. People are just pigs about the seat thing. I am so tired of seeing little old ladies holding on for dear life to a pole they can barely reach, while some strapping young jerk in a business suit is calmly reading the newspaper directly beneath her. Heaven forbid her handbag bonk him in the head as sheís tossed like a rag doll, because he invariably has the gall to look, yes, offended. Or how about the exhausted looking woman in high heels with grocery bags, coughing into a kleenex? The woman with the toddler? And if I see one more man run to grab a seat and totally ignore a pregnant woman whoís forced to standÖ
I feel it now, my chest is boiling, Iíve left a trail of imaginary bodies strewn through the BART station. Auuuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhh! If this were New YorkÖ.