October is a month of tricks and treats, nearly by definition due to Halloween. But the fall month is an even more special grab bag of both thanks to those fun folks over at Bay Area Rapid Transit. So, in honor of both the holiday of costumes and those masquerading as reasonable transportation workers and management, let’s look at both the tricks and treats delivered by the current BART strike jumbling Bay Area roads and bringing even the most calm of commuters to their knees.
It should go without saying that the BART strike makes the recent federal government shutdown seem quaint. And, when it is eventually over, perhaps we will all feel a little more appreciative of the transit line’s existence although frankly this bout of anger is going to take a little longer to burn off than the test run in July.
Beyond that, the strike is a very valid excuse for being late to work and leaving early. Heck, even sleep in because it’s not as if you’re going to get to your destination during peak hours any faster. Treat! But then the trick — the same traffic jams mean some might feel like they’re only getting home in time to climb into bed.
But while in actual traffic think of the treats the extra time delivers like a chance to enjoy songs on the play list a shorter commuter doesn’t allow or maybe a few books on tape. Learn Spanish, well even. Think of cures for the Syria conflict. Feel a more personal connection with on-air traffic reporters and that automated voice on 511. Consider the trip an exercise in patience and picture a mental sand Zen garden.
Then there’s the trick — pondering these “work rules” on which these BART negotiations allegedly hinge. Most people’s work rules mean just, um, going to work. This will lead you to ponder getting a job with BART which leads to envious thoughts of workers’ current compensation. Trick! Trick!
Those who can telecommute might find these last days a treat. For those who can’t, the hours of traffic or strategic maneuvering among other modes of transportation are enough to raise thoughts of outright quitting. But then you’d be out of work, out of insurance and need to navigate Covered California. Trick!
And so we continue to trek and some might find a treat in exploring new routes as a way to avoid congested bridges. These are the same Pollyannas who will talk about gas prices dipping while ignoring how the constant idling of unmoving vehicles does nothing but burn the feeble savings.
Not wanting to brave the roads helps justify happy hour. Treat! But then there is one less public transportation alternative to stave off a DUI. Trick! Of course, there is still Caltrain, Muni and buses. Treat! But wait for it — standing room only brings its own tricks. Sore arches. Elbows. Body odor.
Speaking of smells, the BART shutdown means regular riders are spared the faint smell of urine that wafts through some stations. On the other hand, those who consider the stations their personal bathrooms are also receiving a tad more privacy.
If the strike lasts long enough or comes back around, as it always does, riders may also be spared the annual nude day on BART. No trick there; all treat. No one needs to be nude on BART.
Another treat? Joining the other disgruntled masses with whom to commiserate on the ferries. Consider the sail a “boos” cruise but instead of a party, all the Bay Area is getting from the strike is the hangover.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.