SF Bay AreaTravel

“Please Stand Clear of the Doors” My Long Love Affair with BART

Updated: May 18, 2023 07:45
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People love to hate Bart. I love to love Bart.

I’m at the tippy top of the escalator peering down into the depths of the underground North Berkeley Bart station. I’m a smidge late, but I spy my shiny silvery 7:14 am Bart train bound for SF glory! He is waiting for me with open arms… I mean doors. He’s always there, everyday. So dependable, everything you’d want in a train. But those arm-doors don’t stay open long, and I need to be embraced now! Can I make it in 5 seconds? Yes I can! I charge down the escalator steps two at a time almost tripping on that last step. Can I jump into my silver train’s arms in 2 seconds before those doors slide closed and he slips away into the dark tunnel and leaves me forever? Yes I can!

I grasp my Sony Walkman tightly. “Hootie and the Blowfish” cassette tape blasting in my headphoned ears. I dash across the landing and just like an Olympic high jumper, I hurl myself, and my giant protruding pregnant belly high up in the air and leap over the head and body of a large man lying lifelessly smack dab in front of my Bart doorway. l land down securely inside that train. What a jump! Phew, I made it! I hear the crowd roar! I breathlessly wipe a bead of sweat from my brow and look around at the crowd on the train. They are not roaring.

They are frowning, silent, passengers, and all eyes are on me. And to my disdain the arm-doors of my shiny silver Bart train are not closing and not embracing me…today. I turn off my happy “Hootie and the Blowfish” song. My train is not going anywhere, and neither is the large obstacle-man I lept over. Two policemen are attending to the fallen man. Oops! I’m sorry I didn’t notice that I accidentally kicked your wire-rimmed glasses that had fallen off your face, into that abyss between the train and the platform, when I jumped over you.

My silver train finally leaves the station 20 minutes later. The man was OK. I was not that OK.

The man-obstacle incident occurred 28 years ago. I had been a commuter on that daily SF transit treadmillI for a long time. Bart was always there to greet me every morning with open arm-doors. He carried me to my downtown office and then he’d carry me back home in the evening. We did this religiously. It was a nice relationship. I’m older now, and so is he, but I still see Bart… a lot. Not for work, but for pleasure. I was just with him last night, that shiny slippery silver eel. We have always had a solid relationship since the day he opened his silver arm-doors to little me in 1972.

Climb aboard if you want to take a ride down Memory Track, and “Please stand clear of the doors…”

Seventies: We played an adrenaline-filled game on Bart when I was a teen. My girlfriends and I would dash out of the Bart car when the doors opened at each station… run, and touch a faraway wall, or pillar, and then run back into the car as fast as we could, before the doors closed… giggling all the while, (until someone gets left on a station platform alone).

Eighties: I commuted to San Francisco on Bart in the Eighties everyday. All the working women wore Suntan L’eggs Pantyhose and Giant Reebok running shoes, with slouchy scrunched sox, and Giant shoulder-padded pin-stripped Ralph Lauren power suits.Their Giant sky-high hair blocked views.They carried their Nine West pumps in their Giant Coach bags ready to change into when they arrived at their tiny office cube. No cell phones, just Sony Walkmans, Cartier watches, and Danielle Steel novels.

Nineties: I took Bart back home from SF after a Primus New Year’s Eve concert. The Train was Jam Packed, much like the Mosh Pit I had just witnessed at the show. Riders were intrigued by a feller who was filling his nostrils with silver Quarters.…a lot of Quarters…He had a big nose. Everyone kept passing him more Quarters. The entire car applauded when he filled his nostrils to capacity. Cha-Ching!

Twenty-Twenties: The Unbearable Lightness of Barting

I was sitting in a Bart car on my way to SF. Bart was pretty empty. We stopped at the 12th Street Station in Oakland. The doors opened, no one immediately entered the Bart car. I thought the doors were about to close, but they didn’t. I then sadly watched as two sneakered feet, then two dirty pant legs… attached to a torso, then, a head, came sliding along the dirty platform to the dirty floor of the Bart car. Luckily the doors closed a split second after the head made it in. This man could not walk, and he was scooting into the Bart car on his back and rump. His legs were atrophied. He stretched his thin body out flat and fell asleep. I hope he felt safe and sheltered in Bart… at least for a little while.

My dear Bart is struggling these days. Covid did a number on him. But he will pull through. He has to, for the sake of the Bay Area and for me. And guess what? Bart just had its highest ridership day of 2023 on April 19th, and it’s only gonna get better. Some people see the Bart train as half empty. I see the Bart train as half full. Many improvements are on the way. So come on back Bay Area people. Bart needs you now more than ever.

For me, B A R T stands for “Being Alone Riding Together”

Remember the TV show “Let’s Make a Deal”?…”Behind these ever changing doors awaits fun! and surprises! I’ll take Door number 3 please. Pick a door, any door. Just don’t pick that “last Bart door” (more about that later). I find it fascinating to be repeatedly semi-confined with a group of complete strangers from all walks of life for a short period of time. Gotta listen to ear-budded music when I do though. It makes me feel that I am taking part in a movie with a great soundtrack. It’s usually a good movie, especially after a Giants, or Warriors game, or the Bay to Breakers (coming up May 21st), or any festive event. Bart stranger-riders become a Bart community then.

I feel pretty safe on Bart, and I travel alone at all hours of the day and late into the night from Berkeley to Oakland and San Francisco. If I don’t like the vibe in a train car, I hop in another. Yes, there are many homeless riders sleeping on Bart in the late night, but only in the winter (and spring and summer and fall). I have empathy for them. They are just seeking shelter from the storm. And in opposition to the ‘sleeper cars’, there are the riders in that ‘last car’. “Remember there is no smoking on Bart”.

Can the Bart Operator please insert the word “crack” before the word “smoking”? Maybe the smokers in the “Crackhead Caboose” will listen.These same smokers are no doubt fare evaders (yes. I’m profiling), so I’m glad Bart is installing new ticket turnstiles which will curb at least one of their habits. This feature to keep gate jumpers out will also help Bart from becoming a “Mobile Homeless Shelter”.

If you are worried about your safety on Bart:

~ Ride in the first car with the smooth Operator

~ Download the “Bart Watch” App on your phone. It will allow you to quickly report suspicious activity directly to BART Police. (Take note of your train car number above the doors at the end of the train car)

Concerned about cleanliness? Would you want to clean a Bart car?

Watch this video about the Bart car cleaning crew. Eric, Veronica and all those in the cleaning crew are heroes. Thank-you.

And fyi: Bart cars have virus-trapping air filters. Air in cars is replaced and filtered every 70 seconds.

And let’s tip our Conductor caps to those Train Operators. They do much more than mumble unintelligently into the mic (thankfully not all of them mumble). They have saved lives. Learn more about Operators like Captain Jack and The Bart Whisperer Allen Hollie

Check out Muni Diaries for more great Bart stories. And BARTable, celebrating all things Bart

Dear Bart,

Get well soon. We are rooting for you. And I still love it when you embrace me with your silver arm-doors.


Until we bart again.

xo, Schatzie

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Schatzie Frisch

Schatzie Frisch

‘Schatzie the Renegade Deli Heiress’ is a Bay Area native and a lover of San Francisco. Much of her humorous art and writing are a direct result of having been in close (a bit too close) proximity with the cold cut, *Headcheese, at her beloved parent’s Delicatessen, The Junket (RIP 1979-2021). Schatzie is a Vegetarian, and the creator of the only “Headcheese" Art Gallery in the world. www.SchatzieFrisch.com

When Schatzie is not making fun of Headcheese, she has fun swing dancing, pumpkin carving, chasing pirates, eating donuts and playing Ukulele in ‘Schatzie’s Tropical **Snoball Lounge’.

*Headcheese /ˈhed.tʃiːz : A cold cut that originated in Europe. Headcheese is not a dairy cheese. There is no cheese involved.
**Hostess Snoballs