They say that you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes that they wear. I believe this to be true. Shoes tell who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going.
While sitting in my thread-bare BART seat, my eyes will often dart across the sea of shoes. Just as unique as the passengers that I travel with, their shoes come in every conceivable size, shape and color.
Some people are very thoughtful and deliberate with their shoe choice. The other day I observed a woman whip off her designer, leather, high-heeled boots and place them in individual, protective, shoe bags before entering the train. What does this say about her personality? Uptight? Or just very organized?I imagine she must have a pristine walk-in closet where each of her handbags are kept in a protective cover. Her clothing is categorized by color, fabric and style. Perhaps she already has her entire wardrobe planned out for the work week? This woman and her shoes embody aspirations I can only ever hope to achieve.
On the flip side, this morning I observed a businessman wearing a beat-up pair of shoes with a giant white splotch on the toe. I am pretty sure that the spot was the result of a seagull taking care of business. What do these beat up shoes tell me about this guy’s life? Is he single? Perhaps overworked and too tired to notice that his shoes are unkempt.
There is yet another breed of shoe wearers on BART that entertain me the most- the stiletto princesses. Come wind, rain and snow (OK maybe not snow in SF, but you get the idea), these ladies insist on making the trek to work in 4 inch heels. I am the most amused when they are unable to find a seat and are required to hold onto one of the germy handrails to prevent themselves from toppling over. They just grin and bare it through clenched teeth, their hammer toes and bunions pinched in the vice-like grip of their pointy shoes. What does this tell me about their personalities? Are they stubborn or simply slaves to fashion? Perhaps they are trying to snag the handsome VP in their marketing department through seductive footwear.
Next time you step out the door, pause for a moment and check to see what your shoes are shouting about you. It might be more personal than you think.
Extreme behavior was kept to a minimum today. No screaming, fighting or strange smells. Just lots individuals expressing their sense of style.
Fashion Plate #1: The 80’s Secretary. She was equipped with neon pink lipstick, feathered hair sprayed witin an inch of its life and a saggy trenchcoat. The 80’s have heavily influenced fashion over the last 4 years, but this gal was holding true to the exact same styles from the decade of shoulder pads, bushy eyebrows and Aqua Net.
Fashion Plate #2- Juxtaposition. Have you ever observed a seemingly youthful frame, only to be shocked by the 82-year-old face peering back at you? It’s jarring. A woman entered the train today wearing a fitted leather jacket, red shirt and designer jeans- a great youthful ensemble. But the face looking back at me looked was a non-gender, 70-year-old face with short slicked back hair and a 5:00 o’clock shadow.
Fashion Plate #3- Shim. I applaud transgender, cross-dressing individuals for embracing their individuality. This ‘lady’ was really rocking it. She was about 6 feet tall, had a blunt brunette bob, a pencil skirt and bright red fingernails. If more typical women put even half of the effort into their appearance that this person did I am sure that they would feel much more attractive and confident.
Now to plan my outfit for tomorrow… I don’t want others judging me 🙂
I am going to attempt to re-cap the last month of people watching while in transit…
BART is a dirty ride. There is no doubt in my mind that frightful disease, microbicrobial creatures and maybe even the occasional feral cat are hiding in the grimy carpets, worn seats and greasy hand-rails. The train cars did not come from their manufacturer this way- it’s the people that ride transit that make it creepy. A week ago, I sat by a professional woman who was contently pecking away at her laptop. Then I noticed that she was getting really uncomfortable. She started scratching her scalp, then her neck and then she started digging away at her hands. After closer examination, I noticed that this poor woman’s hands were so dry and crusted that each time she scratched little chunks of skin would fly away-revealing blood and the raw under-layer of her epidermis. I felt bad for her, but repulsed at the same time. Then yesterday I encountered another crusty passenger. This 20-something, male, had long, dark hair that reached down his back. The catch is that he had obviously not washed his hair in about 2 weeks. He would scratch away at his greasy scalp and then wedge his head between the headrest and the window. This guy was not homeless and he had obviously taken the time to grow his dirty locks- he was just lazy. He showed me yet another reason why napping against a BART window or headrest is downright disgusting.
Now that your skin is crawling, I will delve into the softer side of BART. The other day I sat next to a woman who decided to spend her ride-time journaling. Since I am a tiny bit nosy (OK, I am a full-out snoop), I peaked over her shoulder to see what she was writing about. Then I saw it. She had an entire book filled with diary entries all addressed to her dead mother. ‘Dear Mom, I wish you could have been here today to see the joy that Baby Josiah brings to our family.’ I allowed her some privacy and looked out the window for the remainder of my trip.
The particular BART line that I ride happens to run right through the heart of all hippy, free-loving, Berkeley. Berkeley is a safe-haven for artists, academics and environmentalists. Many of these free thinkers like to indulge (be it still illegally) in the occasional joint. I recently had the opportunity to observe this in action first-hand while riding on BART. I could smell something a little off (but as you know this is not unusual on public transit) and turned to see the offensive odor emanating from the guy behind me. He had decided to whip out his stash and roll a join during the middle of the bumpy ride. He was totally out in the open for everyone to watch. Then when we reached our next stop he simply climbed out and lit up on the platform. Hmmm. I know there is a lot of legislation buzzing around about marijuana, but I am pretty sure that it is still illegal to make a joint and smoke it at BART.
I am looking forward to a weekend without BART. I am going to drive my white SUV all over suburbia and enjoy every minute of it. Until next week, happy riding.
I assumed that because I ride BART at the same time each morning that I would start to recognize a few ‘regulars.’ My compadres in public transit. Strangely enough, the only regular has been an old homeless guy that I will dub ‘Stinky Gus.’
I first encountered Gus a couple of months ago while I was on my way to an interview in SF’s Financial district. He is old (but I guess that being homeless can really age you, so technically he might be 32), he is stinky (hence the name) and he is usually tired. For the cost of a BART ticket, Gus has a warm, comfortable seat to sleep in until the BART police kick him out.
I saw Gus again last week. This time he made quite an impression on the entire car. When I first entered the car, I was pumped because there were literally 12 open seats! This never happens during commute hours. I sat down and then it hit me. Whoah. The smell was overwhelming. I turned around and saw Gus slumped in his chair, grinning in his sleep. I moved several seats away but it was becoming difficult to breathe. Then my friend Gus took it a step further- he started snoring so loudly that everyone could hear his deep growls over the roaring train in motion. At 7am it was too much to handle. I decided to switch cars.
The funny thing is that I still could see through the doors into Gus’ stinky car. Each stop an unknowing commuter would happily sit down and then jump up and move away from the stench. It was almost like a game to count how many passengers would shift away from the stinky guy.
I can’t deny the guy a good nap. Most mornings I wish that I could stay on the train and slip away into a deep sleep too.
Today I am proud to be a BART passenger. The average BART car contains a bizarre sampling of people from all walks of life where high-level executives mingle with hipsters, school age children and the elderly. In the last couple of weeks I have observed the collective interaction of passengers with a few individuals who have special needs. I am not trying to be politcally correct here. Being handicap is a trial in regular living, but it seems to have an added level of complexity when smooshed with the average population in a BART car.
This morning a man entered my car yelling and uncontrollably shaking/waving his right arm. The guy was down right strange, but it was obvious that his body’s jerky actions were beyond his control. Rather than glare the guy down, my passengers moved aside and provided him with a seat on a standing room only ride. Don’t get me wrong-I don’t think that they are saints. There is a sign clearly displayed above the seats by the doors indicating that if an elderly or handicap person enters the train that by law you are required to give up your seat. The point is that they did it. And they did it begrudgingly.
My faith in people is renewed. At least for today!
BART or Bay Area Rapid Transit, has become a mainstay in my daily life. Like clock-work, Monday-Friday you will find me among the masses-fighting for my 15 inches of space on one of San Francisco’s main modes of public transportation.
There is a strange, unspoken code of conduct among BART commuters. You do not speak, you do not make eye-contact and you do not mess around by cutting in line. For the most part passengers attempt to escape their BART reality by immersing themselves in distraction. Books are popular. Workaholics with laptops are common. Many passengers choose to slip into a world of music and transport themselves to an alternative reality of bass, rhythm and lyrics.
After observing my fellow passengers for several weeks, it dawned on me that I literally could not make up the types of things that I see and experience while trapped inside of a BART car each day. It’s humanity at its core.
So ride along with me and catch a glimpse into the not-so mundane world of a SF Bay commuter.