Last night I saw this large, balding guy follow a short man onto the BART train, hollering at him. When the short fellow tried to laugh it off, the balding guy got right in his face, aggressively laughing back, mocking him as his head bobbed up and down.
There is a certain platform etiquette on BART—two lines form at each train door entrance; when the doors open, people exit out the center, before riders file in. But the lines are often sloppy. Back in college communications courses they taught us about how much space people like around them—supposedly northern Europeans wanted more space, while other cultures were comfortable closer together.
That doesn’t really hold true on the platform, as some people queue in an orderly fashion, and others orbit outward. Which happened last night, so that the crowded “queue,” as it were, started halfway back toward center platform, stretching around a pillar and beyond, behind an ill-formed, loose half-circle at front.
Downtown commuters who want a seat on the packed trains will often ride first in the opposite direction from home, west to the civic center, to disembark, cross the platform so they can get seats on the trains headed back east across the bay. That happened lat night—a westbound train’s doors opened and dozens poured out just as our eastbound train arrived.
With the disordered group in front, a few people (tiresomely) marched past the queue and tried to slide in alongside the train and in the door.
One of them was a short man with graying brown hair. He might have been of Greek or eastern European descent. Right behind him a large, balding man with close-cropped white hair was right in his ear, hollering at him: “People are lining up here, man! Why don’t you wait and let these people who are queuing here get on the train first?!”
He kept talking as people poured on the train behind them. I didn’t hear it all, but he sure wasn’t letting up. The short guy stopped by the handicapped seats to confront him, and the big guy stayed right in his face.
They were both fiftyish; not just young males looking for trouble. I have to say, my sympathies at this point are with the big guy. We all feel disrespected sometimes, we all deal with the workday’s unpleasant surprises, annoyances, accidents and insults. You just want to get home, to a place where fortune changes and good things are happening for you, rather than the workaday grind. Let’s at least afford each other a modicum of respect in the meantime, right?
Still, the big guy was a bit scary. I’m with you on the queue-jumping, pal. But you aren’t going to go postal here, are you?
The short, dark guy tried laughing nastily, the kind of laugh you see in mob movies before the trouble begins. That’s when the big guy got really aggressive, leaning down at him, head bobbing vigorously in his face and laughing out loud, mocking him right back, as in: “Go ahead, make my day.”
I sat on the other side of the entry area, close to the doors (as I can get out early and don’t want to wend through too much crowd). The short guy went a couple rows back to the last row at the end, still grinning.
The big guy sat in the handicapped seats by the door, turned away from me, still facing his new acquaintance and presumably grinning back. And still talking to him, too. The short guy wasn’t backing down, but when the big guy got out his cell phone and took the short guy’s picture, you could see a new concern enter the short guy’s eyes.
Then the big guy got out some papers and began jotting notes. Maybe it was part of some sociological or psychological study. Or maybe he really did have a screw loose. He clearly had had enough, and was going rather far over the top, too.
Ah, just another evening commute on BART. It’s because of stuff like this that my boss drives in every morning. The train filled at Powell, standing room only at Montgomery, and sardine city at Embarcadero, so I didn’t see either of them again. I suppressed my urge, as I disembarked, to seek out the big guy, tap his shoulder and say “good for you.” (Okay, I was curious to see if close up he might he might seem unhinged.)
As the bay area’s economy heats up while they don’t add more trains, I’m guessing it’s only going to get worse.