On Transit
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About:  My name is Alia. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and spend a lot of time on public transit—usually BART, but sometimes buses or Caltrain. It can get old, but there's always something new: I listen in, look over shoulders, and deposit stories here.

I avoid identifying individuals, either in words or pictures—but at the end of the day, public transit is ... well, public. I'm happy to chat about the ethics of eavesdropping (or anything else). Drop me a line.

Credit is given where credit is due; all other words and pictures are my own. Let me know if you see something you like.
“Things are cool, things are cool. Working, studying. Going to be a crime scene investigator. I know, somebody’s got to do it. Plus I love dead bodies, so I figured, either that or a mortician. And I’d rather do homicide. But them morticians do make cheese, though, they make some cheese.” —To each their own, to each their own. 
Aw-kward platform run-in of the week

"It’s been a while, huh?" Granola variety. Gentle face and an armful of sunflowers.

"Wow, yeah." Theater-tech type. Pink eye-shadow and a choker necklace. "Gosh, you know, I saw you on the train, but I just thought you were a dude, ha. Ha!"

This is wildly off-base, but Sunflowers takes it on the nose. “Aw,” she says, still smiling, “nope!”

"Oops," shrugs Theater-tech. "Well, anyway, nice flowers."

"Thanks! OKC, you know? I hope she likes them!"

"Mmm, yeah, funny, I’m not really on that thing any more. I mean, since the girlfriend. Actually, our first date was right after we … our first … two dates. So it’s been two years. Actually."

"Aw," says Sunflowers, "cute! So did you guys do anything for Pride?"

"Some things, yeah, but I had to work on Dyke March. Ma-jor bummer."

"Aw, tears!"

"Yeah, so mostly we just stayed in and cuddled."

"Aw, cute!"

"Yeah, um, anyway, this is me. Great to see you! Hope your OKC date isn’t that bad!"

"Aw, thanks!"


"My brother was all like, I want to marry a girl who’s a virgin. And my grandma was like, well, what if she was raped? And I was like, grandma! What the fuck?"

"You said, ‘What the fuck?’ to your grandma?"

"I might have, dude, I mean, I cuss at my grandma all the time."

This guy is playing a take-over-the-world type of game on his phone. It prompts him to “Modify Genetic Code” of a double helix drifting across the screen. He swipes through to the next step, which is, “Name Your Plague.”

I watch him tap out, “D-U-C-K-F-A-C-E.” 

Suffocation-hazard-packed morning train. A couple is exchanging Eskimo kisses over my left shoulder, her hair brushing my neck with each little sally onto his sweaty face. They are thirtysomething, neither young nor old enough for this bullshit to conceivably be construed as cute; furthermore their conversation has not strayed from the subject of teeth-whitening methods for the past four stops. I wish them imminent and acrimonious divorce.

“THAT GUY LOOKED LIKE DRAKE!!!” —(Speaker’s friend flings herself valiantly at the window to confirm this, but the man has left the platform, alas.)
“Unfortunately, [Thomas] Edison had terrible taste in music. Everything he bothered to record sucks.” —Ungrateful hipster?

This guy's doing “Never Going to Dance Again,” these guys are loving it, doing a weird sort of hula thing with their hips.


Two big cops and the most beautiful bomb dog. It’s the sleek taupe of Eucalyptus bark wet in the fog; its legs and lean, inquiring head are black. It slinks along the tile with its tongue out and its eyes up. It’s young, I think.  

I don’t speak to police if I can help it, not since the statue incident, but I’ve never seen a dog like this and so I ask what breed it is. “Belgian malahrmmm.… ” the handler mumbles. “Belgian what?” “Maluhhhnrm.”

"Spell it?" I ask. 

"He can’t spell that!" roars his partner. "Dog’ll spell that before he does!"


New busker at Montgomery commits to Outkast’s “Hey Ya.” He’s loud as hell and the majority of the commuter crowd is with me in being not quite awake enough for this yet. As he approaches the call-and-response section I begin to get nervous for him, but the Peets baristas come through—even providing an admirable falsetto reply to, “Hey, ladies!”

<3 <3 <3

Monday, yeah.

Monday, yeah.


Lebanese chick in a black polyester catsuit, one hand on the boyfriend’s collar and the other around a pink and yellow bouquet. Boyfriend is winning pretty hard and asking a series of leading questions to ensure he receives credit for the flowers on the Internet.

"I bet you’re going to Instagram those, aren’t you?" he sighs. "You’re always Instagramming flowers.”

"Good ideaaaaaa!" she coos. She fishes a phone out of her handbag and deftly selfies with her nose half-buried in the blooms, quickly commences swiping through the filters. He watches her screen surreptitiously while stroking her hair. 

"Isn’t there a way to, like, tag it with people?" he suggests.

BONUS: They had matching cell phone backgrounds o-ooooof …

… the Stanford logo. :D

49 plays

The Chinese violin (or “erhu,” Google informs me) is an instrument I associate most closely with the tortured, screeching variation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” that often greets commuters at Montgomery. But there was one night, late, I ran down the stairs to catch a train at Ashby and heard it played like this.

Extrapolate from the bad recording to the moment of stopping dead in the empty tunnel. I held my breath to listen. A trick of the acoustics, the strange angles of this station? I felt sure I’d turn the corner into the green of a rice terrace, 1000 B.C.

But no—just this man playing by the turnstiles. 

get off my laaaawn

Summer brings three invading armies: tourists, the Irish, and Haas interns. The tourists are economically important and the Irish are entertaining, but damn … I wish the interns would take a schoolbus.

From what I (and anyone else without good headphones) can gather from their giddy, interminable conversations, they spend the workday “liasing” with their “teamies” at an hourly rate I’m fairly sure I’ll never make in my life. Their most pressing concerns are, without fail:

  1. PowerPoint
  2. Who, if anyone, is taking them to lunch tomorrow, and if no lunch is forthcoming, how expensive it will be to purchase lunch, yet, how tedious it would be to pack lunch just in case, additionally, the potential for wasting said packed lunch if fact free lunch is provided, due to, packed lunches just never are any good the second day, and, do they even have time to go grocery shopping, given the PowerPoint, oh my God?
  3. The likelihood of being kept on at the end of the summer. The quest for the one true retention rate of Big Four summer hires is passionate, collaborative, and all-consuming, with individual interns contributing clues garnered from Internet-stalking, cafeteria hearsay, and second cousins who used to work in HR. Alas, the trail stays cold: I have heard hypotheses ranging from 5 to 70 percent.

I know, I swear, that I ought not begrudge the youth that first blush of career enthusiasm. But still I will the train operator to intervene over the intercom: Back away … from the water cooler. I repeat, back away … 

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