Never a dull moment


Why is there never a dull moment with Caltrain? I swear, every time I head to any station, there's always some drama. Fortunately for me, it's not always bad drama.

This morning, I realized that the next available train that stopped at South San Francisco was leaving about thirty minutes after I had finished waking up, petting the Bella, and stumbling to my computer to check train times. About five minutes after that, I realized I wasn't going to find any parking at the Mountain View lot, I'd better head south to the Sunnyvale station where the parking structure means all-day parking.

The Sunnyvale station also meant I had five fewer minutes than originally thought I did. Five fewer minutes in this case, meant rush. So, rush I did. I left the house with a calculated 10 minutes until the train arrived, assuming the trains were departing 2 minutes early, as they had been last time I rode Caltrain. I arrived at the station with five minutes before the train was calculated to arrive, and turned into the parking structure.

Now, I hadn't expected to find parking on the first floor or the second floor. When I didn't find parking on the third or fourth floor, however, I started becoming nervous. Surely there would be roof parking right? I turned the corner for the top floor, into the bright sun of the roof, and found rows of cars. Crap!

No, no, wait, there was a space at the very end, right next to the pay machine. Hoorah! I parked quickly and hustled over to the pay machine, where a small Asian woman was all a flutter, waving her arms, asking "Help me, help me!" I went to the pay machine and looked at the screen. It was asking for $2.00 on the screen, but blaring out crazy instructions that made no sense if you didn't already have a ticket. She said, "Look!" and shoved a $5 bill into the money slot. The machine rejected it.

I looked again at the screen and down at the wad of money I had in my hands. I hadn't recalled how much the parking fees were, so I had grabbed four quarters, two dollar coins and five singles. I unfolded the singles and fed one to the machine. Almost as if the machine had been starving and was now pacified, the lights stopped flashing, the horns stopped blaring and the two of us heard a contented sigh from the machine, as the amount due dropped from $2.00 to $1.00.

I fed another dollar into the machine, waited a moment, pulled out the parking ticket, and handed it to her. I needed to make the same train, and I didn't have my retardo 8-but-really-4 ride ticket validated yet. I pushed the buy ticket button again, and shoved the two dollar coins into the parking pay machine. Grabbing my ticket, I noticed the woman was still standing there, once again, all a-flutter.

On, right. She wanted to pay for her parking ticket. I handed her my three singles, she handed me the five that the machine kept rejecting and asked the fastest way down. I pointed her to the right staircase, jogged back to my car, and started unloading my stuff. As I heard her clip clip clip away in her heels, I realized my watch said 10:26. My calculations had the train arriving at 10:27, and my ticket was validated. Crap.

Slinging my scooter over my shoulder, I ran for the stairs, ran down the stairs, and around the corner. Dropping everything and grabbing my wallet, I was thankful I had the multi-ride ticket, as the small Asian woman was at the ticket machine, heading the front of a long line of people wanting to purchase tickets at the machine she was using. Oh, goodness me.

I validated my ticket, packed up the keys and books I had run down the stairs carrying and turned to walk to the far platform. "Is this correct?" I heard the woman ask again. I looked down to see her ticket, and asked, "Are you going to San Francisco?"


"Then your ticket is correct." Relief flooded her whole body. "But you need to be on the other side of the tracks," I continued.

"The other side!" She took off running. I hadn't heard the train, so I knew that both the train hadn't arrived and wasn't approaching. Once it approaches, if the train hasn't screwed you over by stopping across the tracks, you can cross the tracks behind it and still make the train. The woman hadn't realized any of this and by the time I had blinked twice and started moving, she was already on the other side, waving happily at me.

I don't recall if I had had such a hard time the first time I rode a Caltrain ride. I do know that I much prefer to train up than drive up, if the timing is convient. Maybe one of these times won't have the drama and suspense.

Full train


Hmmmmm... train riding is certainly up these days. This morning, on the train into the City, we had standing room only for a good portion of the ride, with a bunch of people exiting at Millbrae. When I boarded at the 7:23 train at Mountain View, there were only three rows unoccupied. I wisely sat at the window seat sensing the train was going to fill.

It did, and by Menlo Park, the car had no seats left. Interesting. I wonder how many people sleep and how many people actually get work done.

I also wonder what the guy sitting next to me in thinking, as I take pictures of the car. Maybe I should take a picture of him and really freak him out.


Gah, his breath stinks.

Can't see!


I went up to the City for lunch with a friend yesterday. I took the train up, as, well, the cost of a round trip train ticket is $11.50 and cheaper than the $15 for gas to drive up. I guess I could pay $5 in gas and drive Kris' car, but then I'd have to worry about the MPG in the car. And drive 50 MPH. So slow. And on the freeway. You know, the roads built to drive a million miles an hour on?

Of course, if I drove, I'd have to pay attention. Better to take the train and spend the two travel hours being at least somewhat productive.

My productivity was increased by the crappy view.

The train was covered by a large advertising sticker for the "real" Yellow Pages. To see out, there were little holes. Not big enough for much other than impressions of the outside.

Train up


This afternoon, as I was thinking of wrapping up work, Andy IM'd me with the single word question, "Train?"

A dozen reasons why I didn't want to train up to small groups ran through my head: I had cones I wanted to take to practice since we never seem to have any; I had discs to take since we never seem to have enough; I had warmups to deliver to teammates, even though DanO picked up 10 for the team, thereby reducing my load to 2 for today's practice; I already had my car for the day, I'd have to pick it up later; there isn't a train station within 100 feet of the fields, which is how close I can park. All sorts of excuses not to train, but not really any valid reasons not to train.

So, I packed as minimally as I could, as we'd be running from the station to the fields, a half mile run plus or minus, left twenty minutes early, and went to catch the train. Tragically, I spent the whole train ride talking about me and my failings as an ultimate player these last few years, instead of, oh, I don't know, talking about him. Yeah, that would have been better.

Once we stepped off the train and jumped over the tracks, all while thinking, huh, wow, this is a crazy silly station with a bizarre layout, as we weren't crossing the tracks illegally or unsafely, Andy prompted, "Jog?" Uh, I guess if we're going to make it to practice on time, hustle starts now, and off we went.

About a quarter mile into the run, Andy asked me, "Do you run regularly?" I thought the question odd, but answered, "I try to, yes," then asked, "Why? Am I slowing down already?" We were running at a nice clip, faster than I would have run on my own, more his pace than my pace, but I didn't think I was yet struggling to keep up. He commented, "No, you're just not breathing hard."

Huh, what do you know? No, i wasn't, but, dang, that was the nicest compliment I've had in a long time. Maybe he'll stop flustering me as much.

Creepy guy on the train? Not so creepy


The train from San Carlos was quite full this morning. Instead of my usual seat, facing backwards so that in case of collision I'll be okay since there are no seatbelts on the train, I found open seats only on the second level, on the side with lots of sun. So that's where I sat.

The train ride is over half an hour long, so I pulled out my laptop, put on my headphones, and started up a DVD I had been watching. The only problem I have with watching a DVD on the train is that I tend to forget to pay attention to the stops and have to rush to gather all of my crap when I realize we're slowing down to stop at my train stop. That panicked woman with hair flying and crap tucked under each arm, hunched over so as not to drop the bag she's clutching to her chest as she sprints off the train? Yeah, that's me.

Today, as the train was approaching a stop about half way through my ride, a tall older man was standing under my seat in the aisle on the first level. I noticed him only because he was staring up at me.

When I noticed him, I start staring back down at him. He shuffled over a little bit to look at my computer screen. I shifted to stop him from seeing it, ignoring that at least another dozen people on the second level could see my screen just fine - it was the guy staring at me that I cared about. He then pointed his chin at my computer, and I shifted around even more. What the heck was this guy doing, trying to look at my computer. Was he stalking me?

With the second shift, my hip pressed up against my bag, and I felt the distinct vibration my phone makes when I've missed a call and someone has left a message. I whipped out my phone and realized, the stalker guy pointing his chin at me, yeah, that guy was trying to tell me, me with my headphones on, that my phone was ringing.

Not that I heard it over the DVD. I was too busy glaring back at the guy.

I hate that train


I'm officially a real Caltrain rider! Check me out: I have bought my very first 10 ride ticket today. This is a major commitment, let me tell you. Almost as big as that 6 month contract I signed with Velocity Sports.

Because I'm exiting the train at San Carlos, I'm limited to what trains I can take north. Limited in the sense that I don't want to stand around picking my nose at VS, and I doubt they really want me setting up shop in their office by arriving an hour early every day. Of course, it might be they don't care at all, but that would change my story.

The train at Sunnyvale (Sunnyvale being yet another limiting factor in this whole train thing) that I take is preceded by another train by five minutes. This preceding train is an express train that doesn't stop at Sunnyvale, but rather flies by at an uncomfortable speed on its way to Mountain View.

I hate that train.

That train rolls by, without slowing, at a blurred speed, a rush of air ahead of it that swirls everything in its path into a tangled bird's nest mess. I don't mind that so much as the large objects zooming by me, not much but 10 feet of air between me and it. And that makes me nervous.

Many years ago, maybe twenty or so, I was on a road trip with my family: my mom, my brothers, an aunt, her children, my best friend, her sister and her father. We stopped by some canyon in Arizona, it might have been a shallow part of the Grand Canyon, but I don't think it was. My cousin, who was five, maybe six years older than I, jumped the railing, walked out to the edge of the canyon, and sat down. After what seemed like a long time, he came back, and we all piled into the cars and continued driving. My cousin later talked about the experience with my mom. I overhead his commenting that the song of the canyon was great, and the urge to jump was surprisingly strong.

Oddly enough, I think of this memory when the train comes flying by. I often wonder if the fear of being struck by that train is as strong as my cousin's urge to jump.

Train incidents


So, to attend workouts at the Velocity Sports training facility, I've been taking Caltrain up to San Carlos. Thus far, I've been leaving from work so as to maximize my late afternoon productivity.

Each time I've trained north, to my surprise, the conductor has asked for tickets. And also to my surprise, each of the conductors in the last two times I've trained has found a violator in my car. In the past when I've trained, my ticket hasn't been checked, but those times are admittedly over a year old, and clearly both policies and cultures can change a lot in that amount of time. The checking in retrospect should not surprise me.

The number of violators certainly does, though.

Wednesday's violator was a regular rider who had a monthly pass. Either by accident or by design, he forgot his November pass and was trying to ride the train on November 29th with a December monthly pass. The conductor made him get off the train at the next stop and purchase a one way ticket for the rest of his journey, after loudly announcing to everyone on the train that next month's passes are valid next month, not this month.

Today's incident was a little more boisterous and, admittedly, more entertaining. A couple young men were on the train, moving from car to car, in front of, I later realized, the approaching conductor. The conductor, however, changed his ticket checking pattern, and approached the young men directly, asking for their tickets. Apparently, based on their completely impossible to ignore, loud conversation, the conductor had seen them hop on the train several trains back, and somehow knew they didn't have tickets. They may be somewhat regular hoppers, I don't know.

So, the violators tried to defend themselves, saying they weren't on the train illegally, they were allowed on the train, they have their tickets right here, yes right here, why you gots to be dissin' me man, all while stepping off the train. The conductor followed in a badgering tone, where's your ticket, if you have your ticket where is it, let's see your ticket, come on I've see you on this train every day for this past week and you never show your ticket.

The men started threatening the conductor after stepping off the train. I watched the whole incident amused, and in full recognition that what the conductor did, he did well, and I suspect there are few people who could do as well as he could. He was over six feet tall, and well over 200, maybe 220 pounds. Threats from two young punks didn't faze him one bit. I had to admire him a bit for the way he handled the two of them, and wonder, once again, what life must be like for someone who doesn't worry about physical safety nearly all the time when in public.

As a side note, as I left the train, I passed a woman getting off the train who had helped me on Wednesday. She stared at me confused, a have-I-seen-you some-place-before look on her face, which I'm sure was made worse by the full I-recognize-you as-the-woman-who-helped-me grin on my face.

The $20 quesadilla


I went up to the City again today. Three times in two weeks! Unheard of! I went up to meet up with Kragen, who was in town briefly with his girlfriend. They're on a around-the-world journey, with originally no plans on coming back to the United States once they started. I'm not sure why they were in town, but I wasn't going
to miss the opportunity to say hello and talk to them, hear how their adventures were going.

I took {the} Caltrain up to Millbrae, and took the BART to the 24th Mission station. I hadn't realized how far around the City the BART goes. I wanted to arrive by seven, when everyone was going out to dinner, and wasn't exactly sure how far away the house was from the station.

Tragically, my bladder was full before the train even arrived at the station, so finding out the plans had changed, and everyone was meeting at a restaurant down the street from the station. On my way back to the restaurant, I received a call back from the friend who was hosting the gathering, to let me know one of Kragen's friends, Kitt, was going to be at the restaurant, I should meet up with him. I laughed, and said, "Will do."

When I went back to the restaurant, I expected to see a group of people, some of whom I also expected to recognize.

Nope. Didn't recognize anyone. I ordered a tasty, grilled vegetable quesadilla, sat in the back of the restaurant and watched people coming and going. I hoped to find someone to meet up with, but struck out there, too.

I wandered back to the meeting house, and sat on the door step waiting for the host to come home. I managed to people watch for a while, seeing a woman walking her dog around the block, a few joggers and an old man across the street that fascinated me. He would walk two steps up the Dolores St. hill near 24th, and stop, take two more steps, and stop. Watching him, I could see the determination: he was heading somewhere up that hill, and he was going to get there.

I waited until just after 8 before I decided to head back home. The host wasn't home yet, and I had to choose between catching the 8:17 BART back to the 8:47 Caltrain, or waiting for the 10 something train, and not getting home until near midnight.

I left.

The whole evening was a bust in terms of seeing Kragen again, saying hello and catching up, but it wasn't a complete bust.

The whole evening was a step outside of my comfort zone. Heading out to hang out with a group of people I've never met before, in an area relatively unfamiliar, definitely not an area I'm comfortable with.

I did okay.