A beat behind: sleeping on the subway stairs

By
November 10, 2009

I hate to say I told you so but, well, I did. Turns out the Bay Bridge was just as potentially lethal as I feared (yes, I know no one fell to their doom in a fiery whirl of catastrophic death but still, people could have been hurt). While my Chronicle kept me updated on a redundantly uneventful and daily basis, the Bay Bridge closure created a bit of a Halloween travel dilemma.

My Sunday Chronicle tried to persuade me that Halloween was, well, uneventful. But for a glammed-out witch, a handsome clown and a finicky cat (me) a night in San Francisco turned out to be less treat and more tricky.

I confess I am not a savvy navigator of public transportation. In southern California, where I’m from, public transportation is kind of a mythological concept — like unicorns or real breasts. But with the broken bridge leaving my little blue Toyota Matrix trapped in Oakland and with tickets to see the band Built to Spill at the Fillmore, the witch, the clown and the cat (me) were left no choice but to blindly paw our way across town.

While traveling into the city was a breeze on BART, the second half of our journey across town was via MUNI. Here is where I learned that the best time and place to ride MUNI is generally never and never. After taking MUNI in the exact opposite direction we needed to go (while I clung to a pole, intimately squished between a witch, a clown and a man in a fedora) we learned from the man squished behind the witch that we needed to take a MUNI bus, not the metro we were currently on. It is one of those things that is not differentiated between on signs or online and is apparently just something savvy city dwellers know via SF-osmosis.

So after surfacing and discovering we had missed the No. 2 bus the witch, the clown and the cat (me) decided to cab it.

This is where I learned the second most important thing about getting around the city. The only way to effectively catch a cab (on a holiday commemorated by the “21-plus” crowd with booze and face paint) is to throw your body into the middle of oncoming traffic and hope the cab driver takes mercy on your soul and hits the brakes. Our cab driver amazingly managed to transport us all the way across town without braking or allowing the tires to ever really make contact with the potholed and vertically dipped pavement beneath us.

Arriving alive and rejuvenated by the thrill of our high-speed hover-cab ride, we triumphantly made it into the Fillmore. Built to Spill was worth the effort and afterwards the band’s front man deejayed an intimate dance party for a handful of die-hard fans left twirling on the dance floor. Needless to say, the witch, the clown and the cat (me) tore it up until closing time.

Leaving the Fillmore and stepping out into the chilly night, the clown bravely risked his life, braced for impact, and after a few failed attempts gallantly caught us a cab back to the Embarcadeo BART station, where we faced our final obstacle to reach home.

The station was packed with around a hundred other witches, clowns, cats, monsters, mummies, nurses, flappers and paper machéd, cardboarded, thrift-store spun, staggering, exhausted, smiling and/or grumpy East Bay dwellers trying to make it home before sunrise. It was like a giant Halloween after-party where the guests stayed way past their welcome.

Camped out, sitting or sleeping in tiny clusters on the sticky floor of the station, we all watched trains with riders pressed up against the glass of the double doors, packed to capacity, fly through the station towards the East Bay without stopping. Meanwhile, the great BART-Oz in the sky promised the BART would get all of us home eventually and asked us all to be patient and please, for the hundredth time, stay behind the safety strip.

About an hour after we set up our subterranean encampment we finally made it onto a train. I want to take this final moment to apologize to the flannel-clad pirate who had to ride all the way to the 12th Street exit with my tail against his face. He can blame (or thank) the Bay Bridge for that.


A beat behind: sleeping on the subway stairs was published on November 10, 2009 in Opinions and tagged with ,

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  • Tara Filowitz

    This is so well-written, I highly enjoyed it! In a nutshell: AWESOME! My favorite line: In southern California, where I’m from, public transportation is kind of a mythological concept — like unicorns or real breasts. Tara Nelson has a great writers voice and continues to impress with each new piece.