Thursday, October 13, 2005

BART almost gave me today off

I haven't mentioned this because I've complained about it so much in the past that I didn't think it was worth the brain effort to complain again. Yes, it's the return of the "overnight stay" error on my Translink card. This happened, oh, at the end of September, and we're now almost halfway through October. I haven't seen my Translink card for almost two weeks now. Which means, yet again, that I have to put 20 bucks on a BART card every other day so that I can get to work. Which also means that I now have about 300 dollars floating around somewhere that's for my Translink card. And I can't access it. I just have to wait.

So I've spent probably 160 bucks of money that wasn't allotted towards transportation, while my Translink card is somewhere and my extra money is being stored in cyber space.

When I had mailed in my card to Translink to get it fixed, I sent it with signed letter asking them to change my address in their system. I figured along with the instructions to clear the "overnight stay" error, they could update my information because if they're reading one part of the letter, they should just go ahead and finish it. Right? Every day came and went without my Translink card in my mailbox.

I started to get worried, so I called yesterday to tell the Translink folks (who are now beginning to be my best pals) that I'm trying to track down my card and that I had asked to get my address updated, and I'm thinking it didn't happen. My card was mailed out on the 5th, she told me. I've never received it. My address wasn't changed either (go figure). So this means the people living in my old apartment now have access to a card full of money. Lucky them.

We agreed a new card should be issued to me, and my address was updated. So I have to fork over more money for the next week.

Today I tried to put more money on my BART card but the machine hated my credit card. And my ATM card. So I moved to another machine, and it hated my cards as well. So I went to another machine, and that machine hated my cards too. I gave up. Let the machines win this battle. I had 10 bucks in my wallet, so I used that to get myself to work and back today.

The whole time I was battling with the machines, the newspaper seller lady was watching me. Nothing like have a battle with a machine while someone is watching. That's always fun.

I got on my normal train. I wasted so much time with the machines that I thought I was going to miss my normal train. Somewhere in Hayward, the train began to have door problems. Which means we could get kicked off. This wasn't such a bad thought because the next train should be relatively empty. The train operator announced he was going to turn off the train's computer system and reboot. The lights would be going out and back on. This was the first step in trying to fix the door issue.

I was liking this new train operator. He speaks clearly, loudly and gives us the information we need instead of being left in the dark (literally, in this case). The door problem cleared itself and we were on our way.

When we got to Bayfair, our train operator informed us that a train at San Leandro (the next station) was on fire. You could smell the smoke at Bay Fair. Unless that was from the warehouse fire in Oakland. Oh, what a fun morning we were all having.

So our train operator left his little box and walked to the back of the train. Without saying anything. I couldn't remember if we began to leave the platform and then stopped or not. I assumed we did and he was going to move the train back to the platform to pick up all the people from the fire train (they got moved back to Bay Fair somehow). Low and behold, this was what he did. He moved us back, opened the door and all the fire train people peeked in at us and asked if our train was going to SF. Oh, of course it is, we told them. Come on in. Some hesitantly stepped in and looked around and some walked confidently and sat down. There was a lot of talk about some Fremont train. Then some people who were on the train from the beginning got up and got off. Curious.

The train operator made his announcement that cleared this all up. Our SF train was now a Fremont train. Luckily no dirty looks were thrown my way because I was one of the ones telling everyone it was an SF train. I got off and stood on the platform with, oh, about 1000 other people. Then BART stated making announcements about the San Leandro station being closed, and all trains leaving from Fremont were being turned around at Bay Fair and going back. This was what they called a "truncated" service (love them 100 dollar words -- let's use words that will make people think! Then they can't get mad at us!).

So I had to think quickly. The ultimate bad situation is BART never getting up and running again. Do I really want to hang out at Bay Fair until I figure this out? At some point going to work will be fruitless -- something else to consider. I looked around again, and I saw all the faces with that "you better not try to get on the train in front of me look," and I knew it was going to be a very bad and bloody cattle car scene. And I just wasn't in the mood for it.

I hoped on the next train going to Fremont. Why? Because when they do start running the trains again, I'll be on the first train going to SF, there will be less people and I get to sit down instead of being pressed in to by some weird man who smells of stinky man-ness.

I got off at Fremont and sat on the stone circle bench and started to freeze. It was 49 degrees. And I was sorta dressed warm, but sorta not. And my cellphone was pretty much dead. And I had to deliver something to someone at 9am this morning. And I had to figure out at what time I was just going to call it quits with BART today and go home and be warm and toasty with my kitties.

I called my coworker and told her the situation. I asked her to take care of my delivery, if she could, and that I'll let her know if I wasn't coming in, but for now I was waiting in Fremont. I called my husband and told him. He said my kitties wanted me to come home. I said I was going to wait. I really didn't want to take a day off just because of BART.

Waiting panned out because after about 3o minutes, they announced the next train would be going to SF. I got on, relaxed and waited for the cattle car to happen. It was going to be a stuffed car.

That's when the train operator told us he was just informed that the train was now a Bay Fair train.


So again, I had to think: Get off and still wait until they clear this mess up, or stay on and be warm. I could just go back and forth until service was restored. Then the train operator said there was a chance the train would continue through Bay Fair, but he didn't know for sure.

Ah, screw it, I'll take my chances.

Well, the train did go through Bay Fair, and I made it to SF 2 hours late. By the time we got to SF, the train was completely stuffed with people. And I got to be one of those lucky ones who were in a seat and taking a snooze while they all suffered. You know those people, and you know you hate them too.

And to think, I could have just gone home.

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