5 p.m. BART: a commuter’s mission

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Where would we be without BART? We would all be suffocating to death within the Berkeley bubble. Without BART, we wouldn’t be able to conveniently embark on our San Francisco explorations or adventure to other Bay Area destinations. But the story changes as soon as 5 p.m. rolls around — that’s when it’s “Oh, $hit” o’ clock. This is when you’re slapped with the realization that BART not only accommodates UC Berkeley students but also everyone else and his mama. BART during rush hour has given us frustration and anger to last a lifetime, but really, sometimes it can just be too much to handle.

Take, for instance, that push you feel against your tush — and from all directions. It’s like you’re trapped in a cage made of humans. After you reluctantly accept that the only option you have is to squeeze yourself into the train in order to get home before dark, you step into a hot, steaming mess of nasty. There are butts — lots of them — all waiting to comfortably press against your thigh, your hip and even your butt. It’s amazing exactly how someone’s breast can manage to push against your arm or even your head.

As soon as BART dramatically jerks in order to get going to the next station — where it shall welcome new passengers into hell — it then becomes a game of Twister. Legs spread out in order to get a good standing and prevent any drastic bumps into the person two centimeters away from you. Arms immediately reach out for a strap, pole or anything (we mean anything) to hold on to avoid slamming against the train’s walls. Quite honestly, this seems like a stupid idea, because everyone is caught in his or her own human sandwich. You can trust us when we say you’re not going anywhere.

And where’s that smell coming from? THE PIT. Or maybe it’s even worse. As if your day couldn’t get any worse, you’re forced into a pretty dangerous and unsafe vehicle with stressed people who are wearing the stink they wash off at night. Not even Febreze can mask the smells that force their way up your nostrils and just make you want to cry. Some people don’t even have the decency to move their butts a few inches away from your face or their sweating armpits away from your nose. But it’s not like you can blame them — they don’t even know you’re there.

Then there are the lucky BART sitters. Where do they even come from? Even from the Civic Center station, all seats are taken, and you’re left standing next to that guy with the bike. As you stand and suffer in silent agony, they read their books or swipe through their iPhones while occasionally looking up to just stare at you. Awkwardly. But it’s not that you’re ugly or anything. They probably feel sorry for you. I mean, who wouldn’t? There you are, sweating, on the verge of tears, exhausted, feeling a bit violated with nothing to hold on to and no shoulder to cry on (although you could probably start crying on that man’s shoulder, and he wouldn’t even know). Your personal bubble has forever been popped, and they get it. You can be sure that they would do anything for you to feel more comfortable on your way home — except offer their seats.

The commuter’s struggle is indeed real. BART will inevitably fill way past capacity with people just as anxious to get home and go to sleep. But as with every trip, the moment will finally come when you are on the steps of a tall escalator that will take you into the light and the smell of fresh air (or, somewhat fresh air) of Berkeley, sweet Berkeley.

What’s your most uncomfortable moment on the BART? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: Ric e Ette under Creative Commons

Contact Karen Kwaning at [email protected]