Have you ever owned an older, formerly-awesome vehicle? You know the kind. Back in the day, it was a muscle car, a car that made people look, one that responded with joy to even the lightest pressure on the accelerator, one that did zero to whatever effortlessly?
But today, wellllllllllllllllllllllll…let’s just say…it’s maybe…not quite the vehicle it once was. A bit faded, rusty, a part missing here or there, the engine’s purr more like an asthmatic wheeze, the response to the accelerator first a pause as if to say, You’re joking, right?, followed by a full-body shudder and the asthmatic wheeze turning into a desperate whine and maybe a humongous gagging cough and then it sort of lurches into motion in a pathetic, slow-motion version of its former glory?
I’ve often wondered how that felt, you know, for the car.
Today, I found out.
SEE, today, we had massive delays at BART. First there was an incident where somebody tried to escape the police by running up the tracks.
Then someone (allegedly) tried to commit suicide by throwing themselves under a train. Needless to say, it took a while to get him out from under the train, off to the hospital, and the station opened again.
The trains were packed. So packed that the trains could barely move, nor could the people already in them. Couldn’t get on, couldn’t get off.
Which meant each station took forever to get through.
Which meant that, far from cooling my heels for fifteen minutes waiting for my shuttle to the next train, I saw that bad boy pulling through the tunnel while I was still several people back in the line.
I got through the turnstiles, and thought there might be a chance I could make that bus (now alllllll the way down at the end of the depot), if…
Run! I commanded, stomping down on the accelerator in my mind.
It was at this point that I discovered how that old car feels.
You’re…joking…right? my body replied. Then it shuddered. It coughed. It let out the most bizarre assortment of pops and gasps and cracks. And for the first few strides, it felt like running in a nightmare – where you’re running through molasses, and just can’t seem to get any speed going.
The first passengers were getting on.
I thought about sitting there, at the BART station bus depot, for over an hour…waiting for this same bus to return to take me to the next ACE train. I thought about not getting home until 7:30.
I ran a little faster.
The last of the passengers were getting on. My body was threatening large repair bills. I’m gonna bust a gasket, I just know I am…
I thought about having to be around people an extra hour. People who would undoubtedly want to ask me things, ignoring the iPod earbuds that are clear commuter-speak for “don’t even THINK about talking to me.” “Does this bus go to Livermore?” “How much is the bus fare?” “Can I catch a train to Sacramento here?” “Can you spare a dollar?” “What are you making? What are you typing? Are you a programmer? Is that COBOL? Or what’s the other thing, ASCII? I have a cousin who’s a programmer and he’s totally rich – are you totally rich? Can I have a dollar?”
I stepped it up. go go go go go
The very last passenger turned and waved at me to come on!
I stomped the accelerator one more time. A hideous whine erupted from my engine as I crossed the last few feet and jumped into the bus. Made it!
The driver, normally a really nice and friendly sort of guy, grumbled as he shut the door. Gotta GO we’re LATE…
Then I sat there on the bus as my body let me know precisely what it thought about me and my accelerator-stomping ways. HECK! HECK TO PAY, MADAM, THAT’S WHAT THERE WILL BE…
We jolted and rumbled and skidded our way around Pleasanton the long way, slammed into the designated temporary bus stop and raced across the street. Validated tickets. Began loitering around waiting for the train to arrive in about two minutes…I’d made it. In spite of it all. In spite of delays and crazy and crowds and general insanity. On my way home, on time…
Attention all ACE train passengers at Pleasanton station: ACE train number six is currently running thirty minutes late due to a freight train on the tracks between Pleasanton and Fremont…
Well, I’ll…I’ll be…
Knackered, that’s what I’ll be.
Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
1 day ago