Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Platform of Terror

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. - Oprah Winfrey

Heading home from work this week, I jumped off BART and went to the Amtrak kiosk. A young lady lurked over me while I was buying the ticket and when I finished she stopped me, "Can I ask where you're going?"

She looked nice enough, and I figured she just needed help getting a ticket. "Last station, do you need help getting a ticket?" I asked.

"Where do you wait for the train? Down here?"

"Up the stairs; I wait on the platform."

"Is it safe? This is my first time taking the train and I went up there to wait and it's really dark and it's open to people and it makes me feel really uncomfortable, so I came down here where its lit and there is a station agent."

"I do this every week, and aside from being asked for money, it's fine up there. I think it's pretty safe, I just site in the well-lit area in the middle."

"I don't want to be creepy or anything, but you seem really safe, can I just hang out with you?"

"No problem."

Sometimes I forget, being a man who has ridden public transportation in a score of cities around America (and Europe and Asia and Australia), that this kind of thing can be scary. Don't get me wrong, I've been scared plenty of times riding Bay Area public transportation, but the Amtrak station has never evoked that in me. Still - it is very dark and creepy and not in the best area of town, so I can't blame her.

When I was riding BART a lot for work and heading home at the late hours of 10pm or 11pm, I used to dress in my long black trench coat, "gothic fisherman cap" and my "strangler gloves." I figure it was a decent deterient; if you're going to rob someone, better to avoid the guy who looks like he might go psycho on you.