Rush Hour

Rhythmically, persistently, a small child is kicking me in the shins. Propelling his legs with blissful abandon beyond the constraints of his stroller, the rubber-soled shoes strike with a dull thud as regularly as a metronome. This is the least of my concerns though, as I struggle to find an open pocket of air in the overcrowded BART car. A nauseating bouquet of sweat, cologne, and Chinese takeout infiltrates my lungs, mingling together in one pungent, irrepressible plume. Each inhalation skews slightly to one or the other, though none holds particular appeal. Breathing becomes a careful, measured effort, akin to meditation.

Hurtling through tunnels, cutting across highways and open fields, chasing after the fading sun, the train starts and stops, yet not a single person moves an inch. Wedged firmly in place, it would be impossible to fall, even if one gave up standing on their own volition. Familiar vistas flash by through smudged windows, but from my vantage point staring directly into some tall man’s armpit, the scenery looks all the same to me. Somewhere between Embarcadero and West Oakland, I find myself wearing someone else’s headphone wires. Perhaps the whole mob, myself included, is beginning to merge into a single person.

Compared to many, my trip across the bay is mercifully short. Swimming upstream against the current of writhing arms and legs, it takes many gentle shoves, a few accidentally trampled feet, and many profuse apologies to disentangle myself from the mass when the doors finally open at my home station. The stagnant but open air has never felt so good. To all the faithful, tireless workers who continue forward on their journeys, to repeat the trip once again the next day, again and again with no end in sight: I salute you. That onerous commute is a full time job, in and of itself.

11 thoughts on “Rush Hour

  1. Replace Bart with NYC MTA and you have my commute! I was in San Fran/Alameda last year and I took Bart all over.

    1. Oh yes, not complaining, BART is a lifesaver! I’d much rather be crammed into that tin can for 30 minutes during rush hour instead of stuck on the bridge for 2 hours. I do wish it was as robust as the MTA though. We don’t have trains running 24 hours.

  2. I discovered a trick last week: if you stand under one of the vents which occur every 2nd car and are always (so far) on the left side of the train (i.e. right beside the doors at Embarcadero), you get some fresh air. This was a lifesaver two days later when the smell of dead fish was added into the mix.
    I always have my bike, and will not lie – I’ve gotten off as soon as I cross the Bay for an extra 45min bike to my destination just to escape.

    1. Good one! I’ll have to try your strategy on Monday. Having a bike to make a quick getaway isn’t a bad idea either… Although the logistics of actually getting one on BART at that time is a whole ‘nother story.

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