(Note to reader: Pardon the comical f-bombs)
I recently came back from a trip to San Francisco. I did the usual touristy stuff; I visited old historical buildings, I strolled along the Fisherman’s Wharf, and I waved at the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t go on it. I just waved at it. It was lucky I gave it that much attention.
You see, I’m a nervous traveller. Travelling introduces me to things I’m not fond of. I’m not fond of bridges; there’s nothing underneath them, ergo there’s nothing underneath me when I’m standing on them. I’m not fond of flying either, probably for the same reason. But at least bridges have big, well-engineered frames holding them up. I don’t recall seeing anything holding my airplane up, except maybe a wing and a prayer. Well, in my case, a lot of prayers.
Fortunately, I was travelling with my brother, my niece and my great-nephew. So of course, I kept a brave front. After all, big brothers tend to never let you forget embarrassing things. This never changes, even as we enter our 60s and 70s. So I wasn’t about to whimper or cry or pee my pants or do anything that he would tease me about well into our 80s and 90s.
My saviour, however, turned out to be my great-nephew. He was barely a year old and required constant entertainment throughout the flight. I found myself singing many lullabies. His favourite turned out to be Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Okay, so it’s not an official lullaby, but someday he’ll “scaramoosh” his way through nursery school and make it official. He also found the rough landing funny. It wasn’t funny to me; in fact it was quite terrifying, but he seemed to really enjoy it. I think the wrong person was wearing the diaper.
We flew into Oakland and went to stay with my other niece in Pleasanton, a quaint town named after a person and not after a happy feeling. Although I experienced a happy feeling just being on terra firma, and we didn’t even have to cross any Bay bridges to get there!
But alas, the inevitable was to happen. My brother and I would be crossing the Bay to tour San Francisco. Our three-way conversation went like this:
I say: Will we be driving across the bridge?
I think: Please let’s not go across the bridge.
Brother says: No, it’s a pain in the butt to drive into the city.
I think: Thank God, no bridges.
I say: So we’ll be going by ferry?
Brother says: No, that would take forever. We’ll be taking the BART.
I say: The BART?
I think: The BART?
Brother says: Yeah, it’s the subway system that goes under the Bay.
I say: Under the Bay?
I think: What the fuck?
Brother says: I heard that think. You’re welcome to swim across the Bay, but just remember there’s a reason Alcatraz was built in the middle of it.
I say: Oh, so going under the Bay makes way more sense.
I think: What the fuck?
Brother says: Stop swearing.
And so began my BART 101 lesson about this big, well-engineered subway system that would test my claustrophobia. Oh, I’m not terribly claustrophobic; I mean, small rooms and elevators aren’t an issue, but come on… a subway under the San Francisco Bay? On the San Andreas Fault?
The BART is not affectionately named after that loveable Simpson brat, but rather is the acronym for Bay Area Rapid Transit. It was built in the late 60s and early 70s. It links several counties to Oakland and through to San Francisco. It runs along the bottom of the Bay and claims to withstand earthquakes. Right… All of San Francisco is built to withstand earthquakes. But things still shake and crack and fall, don’t they? And what about “the big one”? What if “the big one” hits while I’m there? In a subway, under the Bay, in an area famous for its shake-rattle-and-roll? I decided that if we did indeed encounter “the big one” while underwater, I would just swim my way to the surface. My brother wondered if I would be doing that before or after several tons of concrete fell on me.
And so we boarded the BART, which fortunately ran above ground for the majority of the 40-minute ride. The subway car looked like any big-city subway car. The people looked like any big-city people. They even smelled like big-city people. Cologne, stale food, cigarette-smoke clothing, bad body odour. I gave kudos to the people with the bad body odour. After all, California is suffering a drought, and these folks were merely trying to conserve water. And deodorant too, apparently.
After about 30 minutes of stop and go through all the stations, we entered the underground, or rather the underwater, tunnel. The train picked up speed, as did my blood pressure. But I was proud of myself; I didn’t whimper or cry or pee my pants or do anything that my brother could tease me about well into our 80s and 90s.
It didn’t take much more than 5 minutes to cross the Bay. Once we exited the tunnel, I released my breath. I think I was holding it for the whole time we were underwater. Sheesh, if I knew I could do that, I would’ve swum across after all!
We enjoyed the day in San Francisco, with the thought of the return trip tucked away in the back of my mind. I experienced the same nervousness on the trip back, but once the 5 minutes were behind me I was able to enjoy the ride back to Pleasanton. BART was now behind me. No more underwater subways for me. I was done.
A couple of days later, my niece approached me with a great idea. Our three-way conversation went like this:
Niece says: Why don’t the two of us go into the city for some aunt-niece bonding time.
I say: Awesome idea!
I think: How are we getting there?
I say: How are we getting there?
Niece says: The BART.
I think: What the fuck!
Niece says: I heard that think.
© 2015 – All rights reserved Loretta Notto @ Mermaid Fingers