Two bad rides on BART

My teeth are not great. Not quite often enough to be often but also not rarely enough to be rarely, a chunk of yellowed white or an old filling chips off when I'm chewing something chewy — popcorn, licorice, a peanut butter sandwich, etc. This morning, though, a filling came out intact in my sleep. I awoke choking on something tiny, hard, and metallic.

But, what's a poor schmo gonna do? No insurance. Can't afford a dentist. Sure as hell can't afford dentures.

Well, I can't think about that today, like Scarlett O'Hara said. Maybe I'll think about it some other day.

For now, I still have enough teeth left to chew.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

BARTing in to the city with a sack lunch and this morning's Tribune, a woman sat in a seat not far from me, with two children, and a stroller.

The girl, about 4, screamed over and over, at exactly the frequency that shatters glass and nerves. The boy, 2 or maybe 3, had free reign of the train, and toddled and crawled and bumped into everyone.

As the train made a slight turn, a toy he'd dropped rolled away, and he started bawling like his sister. Meanwhile, their mother said "Shhh," but only twice, and softly.

While his mom watched, the boy chased after his toy, and stepped on an old lady's foot. She screamed, he screamed, and then he fell over and started bawling again. All this while his mother wore a resigned expression that said, "Kids can be exasperating, can't they?" 

Kids can be exasperating, lady. That's why I don't have any. You have two, and maybe a third one in the stroller, so why are you manufacturing 'em if you're not going to even try keeping them under control when they're out in public? No, I didn't say it, only thought it.

At West Oakland Station, as people got on and off, a yuppie almost toppled over the boy. "Steven," his mother said like she was talking to a two-year-old, "you have to get out of people's way." She made no attempt, though, to get the boy out of everyone's way, or to make him sit down. Eventually she said "Shhh" a third time, though.

As the train began moving again, then dipped under the bay, the boy's toy rolled around on the floor, bumped against my shoe, and disappeared under my seat. The boy was stumble-walking toward me, arms and dribble everywhere, and I didn't want him crawling under my ass, so I bent over, picked up the toy — a spittle-soaked plastic ball with a noisemaker inside — and tossed it underhand gently up the aisle.

Well, you'd think I'd kicked the kid or something. His mother started yelling at me in Mandarin, and two other women (guess they'd been watching) hollered at me, too. The boy ran after his toy and started bawling again, and his sister of course had never stopped.

A big man in a suit brought the kid's toy back, handed it to him, and pointed at me and said, "You make me sick."

Hell, I'd only been playing fetch with the kid, like playing with the dog at home. Of course, I knew better than to actually say that, or say anything. I didn't even shrug. Mom and the kids were still screaming, and it felt like everyone on the train was glaring at me, so I stood up to get off at Embarcadero Station, though that's not my normal stop.

As I walked out the door I'm pretty sure I heard someone mutter, "Asshole," which was doubtless meant for me.

On the platform, I turned left and walked to the next car of the same train, where it was quieter, with no screaming kids. Took a seat and resumed reading the paper.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I seriously don't hate kids, you know. I only hate uncaring idiot parents.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

At the magazine, I worked for six hours, and Bill paid me $150 for hours worked since late December, so I'm momentarily rich.

A week ago I might have put that money aside for the move to New York, but that's not happening and I'm not a responsible adult, so I splurged on a rare treat — a Number 1 for one at the Sincere Cafe.

Won ton soup, pork fried rice, egg foo young, prawns, and pork chow mein, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. Six bucks plus tip.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

In the same way that a meaningless pop song can be fun if it has a good beat and a catchy tune, I have always enjoyed a good Steven Spielberg film. Tonight at the Red Vic, *free* because a reader had mailed me a pass, it was Jaws (1975), and man, what a ride!

"You're gonna need a bigger boat." There's no meaning to the movie, no message, nothing to ponder on the subway ride home, but it's loaded with laughs, scares, blood and guts. Shark eats people. Shark bad. Movie good.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Inside each BART station, there's a men's room and a ladies' room. I don't know what's in the ladies' room, but in the gents' there's one toilet and one urinal.

However, due to muggings and such, there's a sign asking that only one man be allowed in at a time. You're supposed to lock the entrance as you walk in, and everyone does, but it means a restroom built for two can only be used by one.

And you know, a single BART train can carry up to 2,000 passengers. They might ride for as long as an hour from one end of the line to the other, so one restroom per gender per station seems less than what's needed. And now that they're limiting each restroom to one person at a time, that doubles the wait when there's a line.

Tonight, there was a line, and I was 7th in it. With a large movie Coke inside me, I was desperate to pee, balancing first on one foot and then the other. Usually I don't speak to strangers about pooping and peeing, but I asked the men in front of me, and three of them said they were waiting to poop. One of them even volunteered to let me go ahead of him.

Still, at a couple of minutes per poop in front of me, I was maybe 10 minutes from my turn to urinate, as I heard the train tooting its approach to the station. Trains only run every twenty minutes at night, so I needed to make a quick decision.

And the decision was, to hell with it. I abandoned the line and jogged down the escalator, unavoidably squirting some pee into my pants as I hurried to catch the train.

I took a seat at the very end of the last car, and then, with the nearest passenger fifteen feet away, I discreetly unzipped and pissed on the back of the seat in front of me. Relieved at last, I moved to a different seat.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

So when you're complaining that the BART train smells like urine, blame me, but before you get all sanctimonious and Republican, tell me what you would've done.

From Pathetic Life #21
Monday, February 5, 1996 

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Man, my teeth are awful. 13 1/2 on bottom, 14 on top. They've held steady at that number for a long time. I don't brush as often as I should, but I floss A LOT and clean them with my shirt sleeve daily.

    About 15 years ago, I was at a large family gathering - Shawna's family, not mine - at Barney's Burgers, a kinda schmancy burger place in Noe Valley, near the video store at which I worked. I was chewing a burger, and a HUGE piece of tooth broke off. I yelped a little, but nobody noticed, that I could see. It was about the size of a half-peanut, and looked like a root piece.

    1. Did you keep it, try to glue it back in, or simply toss it? I always toss my tooth bits.

      Your teeth are holding steady, you say, and mine are too. It's the dangedest thing. I used to worry that I'd be toothless in my old age, and I would be, if they'd continued crumbling at their 1980s and '90s pace. I started brushing more often when I got married in 1997, though, and the mouth disaster has slowed greatly. A tooth chip coming loose is kinda uncommon now, even though I sometimes forget and go days without brushing.

      I floss a lot, but not for dental health. I just don't like having bits of food stuck in between.

    2. Pretty sure I snuck it into my pocket, then tossed it in the street afterwards.

      I have found those floss picks to be absolutely a game-changer. I have a bag of 'em in my desk, and just clean my teeth as a sort of unthinking thing.

    3. Yeah, I love the little mini-flosses. They're made of plastic, so they'll be lying around in the carpet after I'm dead, after we're all extinct, but they're *so* convenient. Cheap, too, especially when you use the same one for weeks, until the floss snaps.

  2. Haha, I vividly remember reading that fetch story and laughing like the idiot I am. "You make me sick," hahahahaha!


    >it was Jaws (1977)

    Try again on the year, my brother.

    1. Kid need to be yelled at more than they're yelled at. Do your part today.

      Just a typo on the year, all fixed now. Grazi.


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