Thursday, June 20, 2013

Commuting and Death

I once tried to start a web-comic with some friends and in one of the comics, a character is making light of his self-esteem issues. His line was, “I was going to hang myself on a bridge, but I didn't want to be a burden on the city.”

I was riding home on the BART the other day. I was six stops away from home, which would normally be a thirty minute ride. Suddenly, the train began to slow down between stops and an announcement was made. “Due to a medical emergency at the Hayward Station, Bay Fair will be the final destination of this train.” Everyone put down their books and looked to their neighbors curiously. Bay Fair was a good four stops short of the end of the line, several cities away. The denial was obvious as everyone shared the same information, but insisted on asking everyone around them to confirm what they had heard. Before anyone could reach acceptance, the conductor added that further details would be announced soon.

After another few minutes of everyone speculating on the possible details, the announcer revealed the source of the problem- a person on the tracks had been hit by the train. There was no emotional reaction felt in the car aside for an air of suspense. The conductor continued, “Therefore, the tracks are obstructed and this train will not be able to progress further than the Bay Fair Station,” there was more to the announcement, but all I could hear was the pained groans of a populace set back on their daily commute by a few hours.

Once I arrived at the Bay Fair station, a general sense of confusion left countless standing around aimlessly, asking “what am I supposed to do now?” and “will there be more trains?”

Eventually, I made my way through the herd of confused lemmings to find that BART had worked with AC Transit to reroute several of their largest buses to transport BART passengers to the four remaining BART stations. Upon boarding the bus, complaints were still the majority of what was heard among the crowd. At this point, I had muted my music to observe the overwhelming tones of hatred for the man on the tracks. The dissatisfaction continued as they asked us to leave an overcrowded bus which did not have enough room for all the BART passengers so that we may board a much larger one. People grumbled the whole way, mumbling profanities against the bus driver for doing his job to ensure that we all made it home. 

Once on this bus, I found myself in the midst of a crowd, unable to reach a handrail and standing uncomfortably in order to not fall. As I stood, the general tone of discontent settled down as the entire bus began to listen to one woman in a red shirt.

“I don’t know what’s going on or where I’m going!" she shouted. "These stupid fucks have got us moving from one bus to another and they're not even telling us where we’re going.” Despite the falsity of her statement, one could presume her complaints drowned out any such announcements whilst she followed the herd of lost cattle from car to bus to bus. “Some goddamn idiot was on the tracks. Yes, he died. I’m glad he did, because I would've killed the bastard if he hadn't. Son of a bitch, I would have killed him.” The air of the train had shifted from uncomfortable to upset in a hurry. Her rant carried on for some time, before a brave woman had the decency to ask for the bare minimum standard of decency.

“Do you have to curse so much?” It was at that moment, the woman realized that the people around her were listening to her curse the dead. Her rant toned down a bit as we reached the second stop and a seat opened up.

Once she was sitting, the dirty looks were enough to get her to say her final farewells to the brave soul on the other end of that cellular and sit in the solemn situation patiently with the rest of the dozens of people displaced by one unknown person who was now indisposed.

I stood and stared out the window, contemplating the way we can be so angry at a dead man. There are times to be angry at the dead, sure. When a loved one needlessly takes their own life, or when a mad shooter’s killing spree is brought to an end by his own bullet seem fair enough instances. But when we are mad at the dead for extending our commute, I think it's safe to say we're having the wrong reaction.

No comments:

Post a Comment