Thursday, April 7, 2011
Yesterday, I touched down at SFO and thus began my first trip back home since leaving in Dec. of 2009. Over the past 20 years, I have used SFO for many-a trip to points far beyond the boundaries of CA. I know how to navigate the airport. I don't stop, stumble, or stare around hopelessly trying to find exits, entrances, boarding gates, or public transport. Well, I don't do any of things except for yesterday. Yesterday, I couldn't find BART.
BART, opened in 1977, has carried me around the Bay Area since I was of single-digit age. My mom and I used to ride the trains to sight-see, not off-board, and then return home. It was cheap, good fun.
After the divorce, BART took me, with the help of a drop-off or bus ride, from dad's house in Pacifica to mom's house in Hayward (or the other way 'round, depending upon which parent I was living with at the time). As a bratty 12 year old, I would almost always chose to sit in the last car because it was usually empty. It was there where I would smoke a roach or drink a smuggled in beer. As with all end-of-the-line trains, the back end of the train would become the front end in order to make its return journey. The conductor, now sitting in the "caboose," had to make his way from the end car to the front car before we'd be on our way. One time, as the conductor came through the car I was in, he made sure to tell me, in a friendly but firm voice, that it wasn't a good idea for me to passenger in an empty car as things could happen. He didn't really elaborate, but I knew what he'd meant. That conductor did me a huge favor. Never mind my own personal safety, I had only thought of being alone, breaking the law, and sulking on my ride home from a weekend spent at dad's house.
In later years, I was one of the many commuters who took BART from the East Bay to school, and, then, to work. I'm BART savvy, so how come I couldn't find the darn train yesterday?
Well, if one doesn't fly in from far-flung foreign places where American English is a mere babble in films and on TV, then SFO-BART is a trek to get to. After hiking around the domestic terminal for some minutes, I lucked out and found an info. booth that was actually staffed. (Well, by "staffed" I mean replete with volunteer, but, after carrying around heavy bags for minutes on end, I wasn't going to get picky.) The volunteer, it turned out, was not only friendly, but knew the layout of the airport and was able to tell me where I was to find the in-house BART station with a very pleasant smile on her face. I mean I knew where it was (int'l terminal), I just couldn't figure out how to walk there from where I was. I sort of felt like a Bay Area failure. It was a weird experience. Up until the age of 40, I had lived in the Bay Area, and, now, I couldn't find my way out of the proverbial paper bag. Fortunately, the rest of my return trip has not been marked with the type of "WTF?" anxiety I briefly experienced at SFO. It's good to be home.