Sic Transit

I never thought it would happen, that much of anything would tip the travel balance so much in favor of driving. But it has happened this week, one San Francisco trip too many.

Lunch with Leo. A frequent occurrence, and always a pleasant one. And this time with Jane, yet.

Having just driven into San Francisco the previous evening, well, driving again seemed excessive. Why not let Caltrain do the driving? Thus, one’s life in slogans.

And things went promisingly at first. In fact, more than promising. For to cross the street from the San Francisco Caltrain station, roll up the tram platform…and more or less collide with a J Church Muni train, well, that is an extraordinary thing. So extraordinary that I even asked the driver, “how often does this happen?” Actually, my phraseology was even simpler, but so was his grasp of English. So I got no answer. But I did get abundant cheer from a very pleasant Chinese-American driver who even went so far as to flip up one of the passenger seats to make room for my wheelchair. “Either one,” he added, referring to the two available fold-up chairs. An unaccustomed bit of Muni merriment. Even more unaccustomed, a through tram, all the way from Caltrain’s station at China Basin to 24th St., Noe Valley. Way cool.

Yes, gentle reader, you know it’s all about to crumble. And so it did, the transit dream. At Brannan Street station, a line of trams like ours were stopped, queuing for entrance to the tunnel under Market Street. The driver was making inexplicable phone calls. I hung on his every word, then being unable to discern one word from another, simply hung on. Muni gossip was buzzing about the tram car. Problems with the construction on the new line, that was the consensus. True, there is a certain amount of tunneling under way these days in San Francisco as the T Line bores its way toward Chinatown. The extended tram route will surface under the old Pagoda Theater, someone explained recently. Which puzzled me…to briefly digress…for in San Francisco, tearing down a Chinatown-North Beach landmark would be unthinkable. Therefore, are we to believe that trams will actually stop inside the old theater…pulling up next to the popcorn concession? Well, I must confess that that was occurring to me. Which was itself a bad sign. A sign that things, including my mental processes, were going off track.

And the track had been such a promising one. This was to have been a no-change-of-trams day, taking that long uncertain wait on one of the underground Muni platforms entirely out of the picture. But by Embarcadero station, all that had changed. The driver, rather sheepishly, told me that his train was going out of service. Everyone would be getting off. Van Ness your last chance, he added.

I waited less than five minutes, but the day was already cascading out of control. Lunch was late. My next appointment was late. And tomorrow and tomorrow…. I rolled off the J car at 24th St., bounced my way along the pleasant Victorian thoroughfare that is Elizabeth Street…for my grad school years I lived only half a block away. Then swept downhill into Noe St., then Castro Street and into my familiar sushi haunt. Good thing Jane and Leo were already there and chatting up a storm. And speaking of storms, one was brewing. By the time I got to Menlo Park, a steady rain was falling. It fell on me. Stormy weather.

And to reinforce the overall effect, the next day on the way home from my monthly Caltrain Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, more than rain fell. An entire powerline decided to fall, blocking the tracks. Funny thing, but I had considered driving. But it just didn’t seem right. Going to a public transit meeting. There is a message in all this. But I keep refusing to heed it.

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