Widgets Magazine


Public Transportation

I went to San Francisco the other day on what was perhaps one of the busiest days of tourism of the year. So there I was, on the Caltrain, smushed in a train full of sardines, standing up, head nodding off on the cold metal staircase. Private space had shrunk to no more than an inch in front of one’s face. After an excruciatingly long ten minutes, we reached Menlo Park, and on wriggled twenty fresh passengers–seas were parted, purses were jabbed into waists, toes were stepped on, until, finally, the doors closed, and the train rumbled on, everyone hanging on to something for dear life. A woman next to me moaned to her husband: “we paid for this?” I rolled my eyes–but really, I wasn’t any better. Was I enviously eyeing those single-passenger seats on the top row? Aw yea. Did I kind of glare at the twelve-year-old boy who swiped the last open seat? Duh. I’m an awful person, I realized–the kind of person who begins to hate not only the seated people for their possession of seats, but my fellow plebeians in the aisles who wanted that butter-soft blue-cushioned seat just as much as I did.

I had to pee though, and that sucked, because nothing is worse than having to pee and knowing you’re going to be stuck in that place for an hour. Halfway in, a man got up and scooted past me. An empty seat! I turned around, but there was a man next to the seat. He had obviously been waiting there longer than I. Human decency resumed for the moment; I gestured for him to have the seat. To my surprise, he gestured back– “you have the seat.” After some polite back and forth, it was agreed (through hand gestures) that I sit–the train ride after that wasn’t so bad, thanks to this kind gentleman. Maybe people are good…was my faith in humanity being restored? Or was I just an oblivious noble now?

Another, strangely, life-affirming moment happened on the Muni. I was in an overly crowded bus near Chinatown, trying to get off at my stop. The doors were about to close, when I said softly, sort of to the small Asian lady next to me that I needed to get off. “Oh, you have to get off!” Her eyes widened and she began pushing me out the door. “She has to get off!” she called. She pushed me, quite literally squeezed me, through the clump of being standing on the stairs. Another woman I think I actually crushed on my way out replied sympathetically to my meek excuse me’s: “Oh, oh, you have to get out,” she said knowingly, and let me plow by. I finally landed on the street, like a cell popping out its membrane, and I have to say–I kinda missed those people on the bus.