Never Getting Home

It took me two hours to get home on the train last night.I know for some this is normal, but it wasn’t for me.

When I came down the escalator the platform was a sea of people, tightly knit together in a mass of black and grey, standing in one direction away from the platform I usually wait on. Of course there were no announcements to explain this sight. Everyone was relatively subdued and waiting patiently. There must have been five hundred people there, everyone on their smart phones checking for updates. Eventually a calming female voice made an announcement. There was a serious medical emergency at the station before ours and they had closed down the track. Meanwhile they were running all trains, in and out, on one single track. That was even more alarming to me. How could they do that without major smash-ups?

There was no air to breathe below ground. This was also a good indication of how unprepared the city was for an emergency. No police presence either. Another announcement was made. This one specifying that there were too many people here and train personnel were closing the doors at street level for a while. 

I considered my options. To stay or find a coffee shop to wait in, but then I realized I’d be trading one line for another. I decided to stay. Trains trickled in for the next hour, but none were mine. The mass of humanity thinned out a bit bringing some relief. At this point I was strategizing which trains to take and backtrack to get home, but it was too complicated. I would have ended up in Alaska. I stayed put.

Eventually, an hour and fifteen minutes later, another announcement was made telling us the serious medical emergency had been handled and trains were resuming on both tracks again.

While we were never told what that emergency was, we were grateful to get on our respective trains heading in the right direction even if we were packed in like cattle.

Calvin says, “So glad I wasn’t with you. I would have rolled on the ground and howled my complaints.”

A Marathon of Our Own

This last Sunday Alf and I had a Bay to Breakers experience of our own.

We drove into the city where Alf dropped me off at work while he went to the beach to wait until I was finished. It was the Bay to Breakers marathon run with the city streets swollen with more cars and traffic and he was anxious about parking. But he got lucky and was able to find a spot a block away from the ocean, in a good neighborhood, on that sunny morning with a cool breeze.

An hour and a half later, he called.

“The car’s been stolen,” he said out of breath. “I’ve looked everywhere.”

“Call the cops,” I said. IMG_0130

He did. They told him every officer in the city was on duty for the run and nobody was available to come and take a report. Would he please go to the nearest police station?

That police station was more than two miles away.

Alf walked there while I finished my work and then a colleague dropped me off.

The station was in a relic of a building, well preserved, but institutional and cold inside. By the time I arrived Alf was finishing up with the report.

“We’ll call you if we find your car,” the police officer said with pity in her eyes.

Not likely. It’s probably on its way to Tijuana.

I made a quick mental inventory of the things left in the car and concluded I could live without them. Alf, on the other hand, was going to miss his cool dark glasses, his jacket, and the Fastrak tag. With that alone the thief could crisscross every bridge in California on our dime.

We called our insurance company, they sprung for a car rental, and we drove home.

An hour later Alf got the call.

“We found your car. You have 20 minutes to come get it otherwise we take it to the impound lot. Make sure you get a release form from the police station where you filed the report.” Click.

So off we went back into the city, back to the police station to get the form. By now it was 9 o’clock at night.

From there we drove to the impound lot, or tried to. It was impossible to find for the first hour. Then we spotted it. It was tucked under the freeway in a darkened lot. We walked in. Another woman in the waiting area was talking loudly on her cell phone.

“My car was stolen and I’m waiting for the police to get here so I can get it back,” she said.

We wondered how many other cars were stolen that day. It must have been good pickings with all the runners and tourists in town.

We showed the release form to the clerk at the counter. She examined it, then went to her computer screen, then frowned.

“You need a stamp on this,” she said.

“A what?” I said. This reminded me of life in Mexico. Did we need to slip her some money?

“Without the stamp we can’t release your car,” she said.

It was now 10:30 at night. I wanted to come around to her side and strangle her.

“Where do we get this stamp?” Alf said holding me back with his arm.

“A police station,” she said.

“There’s a perfectly good one right across the street,” I said.

“That won’t work, you’ll have to go to this one,” she said as she slipped a piece of paper across the counter to us. “Not all police stations have the stamp.”

Now I was convinced we were in another country.

The piece of paper gave us directions for walking, driving or taking public transportation there.

We climbed into the rental and followed the driving directions. What looked like a quick trip across town on paper turned into a nightmare of going in circles of barricaded and one-way streets. It took us another hour to spot the station. I stayed in the car and locked myself in. It felt like I was in a war zone. Alf went in and came back with the famous stamp on the release paper.

We returned to the impound lot, handed over the release paper, and got processed quickly. We walked through an outside fenced-in corridor that looked like it belonged in a high-security prison and stopped at a closed gate. A security guard appeared, we handed him the release paper, and he unlocked the gate and escorted us to our car.

We stood there amazed.

Nothing was missing inside. Not a scratch on the outside either.

The guard shook his head.

“That doesn’t happen,” he said. “Usually it’s just a shell.”

It was midnight now. I climbed back into the rental to return it to the airport, the only office still open. Alf followed me in our car.

We drove home in silence with a ton of questions and no answers in both our heads.

Calvin says, “Next time come into the city on roller blades.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Hoopla

I went yesterday to see the Super Bowl hoopla at Moscone Center. The NFL had set up a huge staged exhibit that cost $35 a ticket.

Thousands poured inside.

I wasn’t among them. I’m not that kind of fan.

Prices have skyrocketed around this event to the point of shocking me.

For example, if you flew into San Francisco from Colorado or North Carolina on Saturday, stayed in an Airbnb for two nights, watched the game and left on Monday, it would cost you more than $7,000.

I suppose that’s nothing if you’re a millionaire, and I saw a lot of them yesterday.

It’s amazing what we’ll do for our favorite sport.

 

But the sight that was most extraordinary were the SWAT teams, the police presence, and the security agents roaming all over the area.

Frankly, I thought I was in another country.  Super Bowl

This couldn’t be the United States.

Yep, it was.

The security surrounding the Super Bowl rivals the stuff that happens when our president rolls into town for a fundraiser.

At one level you feel protected, but on another, it’s pretty darn scary.

I grew up in countries where heavily armed police, army tanks, and soldiers marched in and took possession of an entire city.

That was when there was a dictator running the country.

So what I witnessed yesterday sent shivers down my spine.

Calvin says, “Were any beagles sniffing NFL footballs?  beagle

 

A Good Friday

I love when police officers ride the subway in the mornings.

Immediately everyone calms down and there’s peace in the car.

These officers usually travel in pairs and stand close to one another by the door as they chat.

But you know they’re not really chatting. They’re checking everyone out.

This morning another pair showed up.

This time it was a tall officer with his Westminster-Dog-Show K-9 companion.

Nobody looked at the officer.

We took a collective breath of admiration for the dog.

He was simply gorgeous. And friendly. But that was camouflage.

I wouldn’t want to smell like a bad guy because that friendliness would turn into a growling mass of teeth.

So I got up from my seat one stop early and walked over.

I had to.

“How old is he?” I asked.  IMG_0970

“He’s seven,” the officer said. The dog looked up at me and then lay down. Phew. I passed the bad guy test.

“Was he brought over from Germany?”

The officer shot me a look that said, How did you know that? “As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Do you speak to him in German?” I asked.

“No, he speaks English,” the officer said.

Of course.

The dog continued lying down and looking very relaxed, to keep everyone on board oohing and aahing over him.

I said thank you while I kept my hands in my pockets to keep from reaching down and scratching him behind the ears. Sweet and lovely as he was, I also know he’s trained like a ninja and I didn’t want to see that side of him.

But he did make my morning commute oh so sweet.

Calvin says, “Somebody has to play bad cop. Glad it’s not me. I’d just sniff out everybody’s lunch.” beagle

A Reality Ride Home

Last week’s subway train was late pulling into the station. The crowd shoving to get on board reminded me of a stampede of cows racing down a hillside before an earthquake hit. A few stations later, a commotion between two people began at the back of the car.

“Don’t touch me!” a woman yelled to a man who had pushed his way onto the car.

“I didn’t touch you!” he screamed back.   Christmas2

“Yes you did! Don’t you touch me!” she bellowed back.

Their voices intensified as we traveled through the tunnel to the next station. At this point everyone was straining their necks watching them.

A reality show was unfolding before us.

Next the name calling began, followed by obscene language, and then tempers erupted.

I didn’t want to be witness to a homicide. I prayed. I asked God to calm them down. He did, but it only lasted until the next subway station. Then both parties detonated again.

“Don’t you remember they taught  you in kindergarten to keep your hands off of other people? Did you learn that?” the woman said.

The man said nothing. He drew a knife.  The woman screamed even louder.

The subway was now parked at the station.  Seconds later the police showed up and stepped on board. They handcuffed both parties and escorted them out of the station.

The rest of the ride home was in eerie silence.

Calvin says, “What they need are sniffer dogs to ferret out eruptions like they do drugs at airports. I’m game. I’ve had lots of practice.”  beagle

 

Due for Another One

At midnight last night four cop cars pulled up in front of my neighbor’s house across the street.

Alf was awake and watched from the bedroom window.

I like my police department. They have heart.  cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

They could have screeched their way into the neighborhood like they do in the movies with lights flashing and sirens screaming, but instead they crept in like silent ninjas.

Alf said it was their voices that caught his attention.

People, one by one, came out through the front door, with one man in handcuffs. The last person to leave was our next door neighbor. She crossed the street and went into her own house.

The cop cars left as quietly as they had arrived and the neighborhood fell silent again.

Even the birds had stopped chirping in the trees.

I was sound asleep so I missed the entire thing. Alf told me in the morning.

That explained why I dreamed cops were combing my front yard and looking behind every bush.

Wait. That happened several years ago and I was awake then.

Every few years we have some criminal activity and it always seems to end up in front of our house. We’ve had our share of car chases, and thieves and escaped criminals running through our backyard with cops and police dogs in hot pursuit.

I guess we were due for another incident.

Calvin says, “It’s thrilling when those German Shepherds strut their stuff. Makes me proud.”    beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not On My Watch

This morning on the subway ride to work I called the police.

A while back I had the presence of mind to add the police number to my cell phone just in case I ever needed it.

Today was the day.

Three men staggered into my car. An African-American and two Caucasians. The Caucasians looked like wild mountain men with long, unwashed hair, and straggly beards. They came on smoking pot. They huddled in the back two rows. One of the mountain men pulled out a Sharpie pen and began doodling on the window. Every other word was the F word for everyone to hear. All three wore hoodies and jeans.

Not a single man on board pulled out his cell phone to call this in. Nobody got up to tell the conductor. Instead everybody stared straight ahead, enduring the tension with a passive resignation.  photo (20)

Well, I was going to have none of it.

I dialed the police.

A woman dispatcher answered. I told her the problem. I answered her questions including identifying the car number we were on. She told me she’d report it.

Meanwhile new passengers came on at the intervening stations, sat with the three men until they realized they were crazy, and one by one  got up and moved to the other end of the car.

At the third stop a policeman came on board and blocked the doorway. He motioned for all three to get up and leave. They obeyed him like docile school children. The officer continued to stand in the doorway and asked for the person who called in to identify himself.

I raised my hand.

“Do you want to come out and make a citizen’s arrest?” he asked.

I pondered it for a few seconds. I thought that sort of thing went out with typewriters and cassette tape recorders. It certainly would add to my list of adventures. I could tell my grandchildren, and even blog about it.

“You handle it,” I said.

It was cold and the problem was off the train.

Thank God for cell phones and no-nonsense police officers.

Calvin says, “Wow, what chutzpah. From now on I will hold you with new respect.” beagle