Taking public transportation in a bustling metropolitan city is kind of like going out into the woods when the sun goes down: the freaks of nature come out. And in the past three years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve racked up quite the laundry list of entertaining stories from my daily travels on BART, the main transit system in the SF Bay Area.  For born and raised San Franciscans, the daily happenings on BART are non events. They’re desensitized to the weirdness. But for me, a Midwestern girl living in Cali, this is pure entertainment – plain and simple.  

In the beginning of my time here in San Fran, I’d come home – wild eyed – detailing the hilarious or fuckinweirdass shit I’d see on BART, much to my husband, Jeff’s, enjoyment. It became a daily thing. He’d be like; “What happened on BART today?”

Tales on BART

Courtney, just do what I do: look down and try not to get noticed...

In the early days, I was easily shocked. I’d see what I presumed to be homeless people, perhaps old Vietnam vets, vehemently arguing with themselves. They’d be so pissed off!  As this was going on, I’d look around and see that everyone was looking straight ahead. No one was paying any mind to this person’s rants. I guess they were trying to avoid becoming a target themselves. So I’d follow suit.

One time I was waiting for the train in the city, chatting away on my cell phone with a friend, and some Asian guy came up to me and put his middle finger right in my face – about an inch my from nose – and then walked away. I was stunned! WTF was that? I turned to the guy sitting next to me and his look was incredulous too. It was hard to carry on my buoyant conversation after that and pretend I didn’t just get the finger jammed up my nose.

I’ve been on the train and had some guy sitting next to me mumbling obscenities in my direction as I tried to ignore him by cramming my book in my face. One time, some stupid kid was talking extremely loud with his friend, obviously wanting the attention of his nearby seat mates, and he turned to me and asked me what I thought. I’d obviously been listening but I pretended I wasn’t. I said; “I’m sorry, I’m not paying attention”, and I waved my book at him, indicating that I’m reading. He then said; “Ya, is that why you haven’t turned the page in 20 minutes?” BUSTED! I sheepishly said the book was boring as I sunk in my seat. ARGH!

I’ve seen an “all-natural” mom breast feed what I can only assume is a five year old – saggy boob out. Annnnnnd she had arm pit hair. Ew. Recently, a family with instruments plopped their shit down right in the middle of the train and started whaling away on their guitars and drums singing some ‘60s song. This was a first! People didn’t say a word, but several got up and moved train cars!

My favorite is this homeless man who gets on the train and announces to the people that he needs a dollar so he can get a cheeseburger from McDonalds dollar value menu. Oddly, I’ve seen this guy like three times! Each time he has a different order and most of the time he details what be’s going to get with your hard earned money. I feel like asking; “Are you going to get onions this time? Mustard or no?”

Just the other day, I saw a completely normal looking man doing the cha cha cha as he waited for the train. He had his frame set, arms up (holding his imaginary partner), as he shimmied his hips and moved around his makeshift dance floor. As this was happening, people walked by, looking straight ahead, as if nothing strange was going on around them.

In fact, over the years, I’ve begun to question what’s weirder – the guy doing the cha cha, the woman breast feeding a teenager – or the people all around pretending that nothing is going on, staring straight ahead like zombies. I’m thinking; “Am I the only one witnessing this shit? C’mon people – laugh! Cry! Point a finger! Do something to show you’re human!!!! But oh no, you can’t do that in San Fran. We’re a politically correct nation of everything goes. And around here – it does.

So this Midwestern girl has grown accustomed to the oddities of every day BART patrons. I look straight ahead just like the other zombies. But occasionally – and this is the best – I’ll make eye contact with one of the other humans, also snickering at the absurd activity that is happening around us. And at that moment, I feel gratified knowing that the simple entertainment pleasures in life aren’t just mine.

If you ride BART, or take any other form of public transportation and you have  funny or interesting stories to share, please add them in the comments section!

8 Comments on Diaries on BART (San Francisco’s freak show on rails)

  1. Oh yes, I love BART for many reasons – none of which I mentioned in this blog post! I live for the day when someone stands up to those dumbass kids blaring their rap music so load that it’s bowling granny over in the seat adjacent to them. I’ve seen snippets of this — the take no prisoners, balls out BART riders, and I heart them to the ends of the earth!

  2. I was probably one of those weirdos when I rode the bart. I was talking and laughing and looking around and carrying on, however, if some little ching chong put a middle finger in my face, I probably would’ve snapped it off Chuck Norris style, hi-yah!

  3. HA! He moved too fast – like vampire speed. He was gone before the realization that his finger was in my face even hit me!

  4. So I have to share this gem…Candyce and I were on BART on a random weekday night and I was wearing my “commuter shoes” aka: ugly black leather Dansko clogs. So we see a really weird looking guy walk to our train car–he’s mostly weird looking b/c of his uber-strange outfit which included some sort of white hat, SHORT and very TIGHT white pants with visible bright white tube socks, bright white sneakers and i think he may have been wearing a vest of some sort…anyway he is just standing there and just seems ‘off’. I notice he is talking to these 2 women sitting diagonally from us…not sure what he’s saying but i notice that one of the women is wearing red Dansko clogs. Candyce is like “i think he’s saying something about her clogs…hide your feet!” So i attempt to hide them but alas, it’s too late. This weirdo saunters over and kind of stands creepily 2 feet away from us. Then he speaks: “I like your Danskos.” well thanks buddy. Not exactly the most fashionable shoe. He proceeds, “I’m going to the San Francisco Foot Flyers party tonight…it’s a party for men that appreciate womens feet and women who appreciate men who appreciate womens feet.” UM. I think stunned silence followed by us trying unsuccessfully not to burst out laughing ensued. oh and i looked over and another innocent bystander was cracking up as we made eye contact. At least she wasn’t pretending this situation wasn’t weird….

  5. That’s funny! I’m glad you encountered another human who also found this situation comical! There’s always some weirdo on BART who wants to comment on some article of clothing or handbag passed the point of being polite, where it just gets annoying and strange. This also happens a lot on the bus to work after getting off BART. On the bus, you always get the creepers who hijack your conversation with your friend and want to add in their two cents! It’s like, um, hello – this is an A and B conversation, so C your way out!! (HA! I haven’t said that in a while!).

  6. I like that those kids called you out on the eavsdropping, haha! And, I might’ve given you the finger if you were talking loudly and annoyingly on the bus or train, but if you were just waiting out in the open, that’s different! It was always dead silent on the bus and for the most part after work on the train in Chicago….I wouldn’t dare make a peep b/c I saw some people get shitty! I got felt up one time on the train, it was awesome. There was a creeper staring at me for a while when we were all packed in…and then he went to get out and slid up against me, b/c he had to of course, and man handled my boobs! It happened so quickly and of course he was off the train by the time I realized that I had been groped! I just stood there speechless feeling dirty, with nobody to tell!

  7. Erin, no matter what anybody tells you, this is not your fault. You didn’t provoke this creeper into fondling your boobies. He did it because he wanted to, plain and simple. Never feel like you’re to blame for being too hot or anything.

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