The intercom announces a pair of missing children—brother and sister, expected at Lake Merritt and overdue by an hour. In years of commuting I’ve never actually heard the system used this way before. I imagine thousands of people simultaneously reviewing tape, hundreds of mothers wincing what-ifs.
The woman next to me picks up the phone to the train operator. “I saw two kids sleeping on a bench at South San Francisco,” she tells him. “One appeared female. I do not know the sex or gender of the other child.”
Oh, this town.
“I just saw a woman all dressed up and trying to look hot— get off the train, saunter over, high heels, hips swaying—and try to walk up the down escalator. Totally made my night.”—From David. To be totally, totally fair … I have done this. Minus the heels and swagger.
A girl and a service dog in training. I think the dog’s going to flunk—it barrels onto the car straining at its leash, nose sweeping the carpet, tail high. It starts down the aisle and there’s some sort of entanglement, a swirl of bags, a yelp and a sharp word. When I file in a few seconds later the dog’s disappeared. I look for it near the girl’s seat and in the doorway at the other end of the car … were they with another person? Did I miss some sort of handoff? Huh.
Two stops later I reach for something in my bag and find the dog at my feet. Into its black and downcast eyes I project all sorts of remorse.
Morning rush. At Montgomery, a wispy strawberry-blonde saws laboriously at a double bass. Right? One size up from a cello? Whatever it is, it’s substantially bigger than her and emitting miserable groans that to my untrained ear suggest the erratic death rattle of a whale—at best, a funeral dirge for the weekend. A BART employee mopping a spill nearby greets the musician as she pauses to flip through sheet music. “That’s a big one!” he says. “Sounds kinda scary!” She stares at him.
Sundress and leggings boards at 16th Street with a slouchy fellow in Converse. “Apparently it’s a hot topic,” he’s saying, “running for the train.”
“What does it matter?” Leggings sounds vaguely irritated. “If you want to run for the train, run for the train.”
“But everything matters.” He has the voice and face and slight smile of a very young Ira Glass.
They’re quiet for a while as she sips from a thermos etched with leaves. Then, “Yesterday I saw a man running down Mission with a baseball bat.”
“Literally running and screaming with a baseball bat. And, you know how I’ve been watching a lot of the Dalai Lama on YouTube? Well, this is exactly what he talks about. Like, most of the world’s problems are caused by too much emotion.”
“But,” he says again, “you could also say it was just the opposite.”
She glares from over the thermos. I want to give him a high-five.
It’s about five minutes between mom closing his fist around the dollar bill and him placing it into the case. He’s wide-eyed and wordless, but he gets it done.
It’s tacky as hell for me to post this, but I can’t figure out any way to answer anonymous mail except publicly and I did want to say thank you. I felt more self-conscious about that little Christmas thing than almost anything else I’ve ever written here, so your note was especially appreciated.
I wish you a speedy exit from the weepy phase—even if it is making you an especially generous reviewer.
The closest I can get to a story, to an excuse for taking this picture, is to say that I’m going to an art museum tonight and considered, as I compared the curve of her spine to the slope of that top tube, that perhaps I needn’t bother.
(I’ll ghostwrite your love letters for a dollar a word. Is that tacky? Aesthete’s gotta eat, bruh.)
A family on the way from the airport, barricaded behind luggage marked with sew-on patches of the Chinese flag. At every stop, the little boy leaps from his mother’s lap, squeezes between the suitcases, and positions himself at the door with his camera ready. The chime sounds, he takes his photo, he returns to his seat. He says nothing. His face is grave.
I’m smiling; I love a serious child. Plus, the man in dreads is playing R. Kelly from his phone.
1) Search term: “tumblr strip club for older lady.” Hope you found what you were looking for?
2) A pickup by Uptown Almanac—an actual blog, which is totally glamorous to me. I’d like to say hello to new readers and also express some remorse for subjecting the Gently Scruffy Twenty-Something to wider ridicule. I swear it was just an observation.
3) Continuing click-throughs from OKCupid. Curious, because I long ago transitioned from enjoying the sociology experiment to, like, recoiling in defeat and horror from accumulated exposure to man’s inhumanity to man. I don’t have a profile up, is what I’m saying, so … ?
Standing encircled by suits in earbuds, chin up, eyes narrow, trying furiously to determine which of these grown-ass men is the source of the “Call Me Maybe.”
Gently scruffy twenty-something has quit his job. A rundown of his plans, provided between West Oakland and 19th Street stations, scores a perfect ten on the Gently Scruffy Twenty-Something Funemployment Checklist:
“I’m so proud of you for doing this,” says the girlfriend, Pattagucci and hiking boots. She adjusts her head on his shoulder to better accommodate one of two whimsical pigtails. “It’s so great that you’ve got, like, specific ideas for what you’re going to do.” Then, incredibly, “How did you even come up with all that stuff?”
I’ve been only half-listening—idling somewhere between mild interest and envy—but now I turn in an attempt to determine whether she’s being facetious. She’s tracing the lines on his palm with one hand and holding a bag of Four Barrel coffee in the other. It would appear not.
Photographing her videoing him drawing someone else. I’m not blurring faces because I’d really love to meet these two—which of course I could have, right then, had I not been so slow to work out what they were doing. As it was, it didn’t click until I was halfway out the door: from where I was standing beforehand I couldn’t see the sketchbook, identify that round thing as a fig rig (Why’s that girl carrying a steering wheel?), or figure out why she was staring wordlessly over his shoulder with an SLR.
He’s reading The Game.
Maybe Boston related, maybe not, but there are police ev-er-y-where—in the station, on the platform, on the train. I suppose this is meant to remind us that we’re safe, but like most measures thus intended it has the opposite effect.
Anyway, here I go, under the bay with a few hundred strangers and their suspicious packages. La-dee-da.