I decided to drive to the train station rather than bike today. I like my daily 20 minutes of cardio, but I was running a bit late. My phone said it would take 10 minutes. I had 20.
I drove, letting one pop song play before the station started listing ways women could fight off rapists with their shoes. The announcer started off making fun of women for wearing high heels, like it was a moral fault to like pretty things or women who decided what “professional” means. 13 minutes in–I got a little lost–and I get to the parking lot, turning past dozens of empty spots. I’m within sight of Diridon station’s red brick facade. A man in an orange safety vest walks up, tells me he can’t sell anymore spots because he has to save them for a corporate event. He takes my $5. I hope he isn’t an entrepreneur who’s realized commuters with 7 minutes until the last Baby Bullet to San Francisco will give any orange vest $5. He tells me to drive a quarter mile away, park behind the Shark Tank. He gives me a yellow ticket on thick card stock.
Two lefts and a right he tells me. I thank him. I make my first left out of the driveway–another commuter nearly t-bones me, rushing to park for her train. I get a green. I make my second left. Working my way into the right-ish-bike-ish lane, I make it to the Shark Tank lot. I show my ticket to the young woman at the gate. She accepts it and does not tell me I was hoodwinked by a man with an orange vest and a Kinkos card. I park. 5 minutes.
I can no longer see the red brick of the station. I start sprinting as soon as I close my car door. My keys fly out of my bag, in front of another car rolling into the parking lot. I fly after them, scooping them up and shoving them deep in my bag as I gallop down the stairs. I get my Clipper card in my hand by touch as I make the turn onto the sidewalk. It’s thicker than my ID, without the bumps of my debit card.
My bag swings in front of my body and I hit a red light, a long one with no crosswalk. I watch a man with shoulder-length dreads make eye contact with the 6 lanes of stopped traffic and sprint across. I do the same, bag gripped to my chest. I can see the red brick station. There’s no clocks to tell me how much of my 5 minutes I have left.
I run, over the bus-pedestrian no-woman’s land of the ground transit hub. My legs are slowing down; I’m not sure if I am breathing. I focus on slapping my feet on the ground as it turns from asphalt to concrete to tile. I look up; I’m inside the station.
I see my train through the wavering windowpanes of the station. I have my Clipper Card in my hand. I shove it at the blue watch post–not accepted. I shove it again, glancing at my train. I taste pennies. The watch post tweets at me to tell me it’s taken my tender.
I run down the long slope under the tracks; a woman starts to run with me, high heels clattering on the sliding tile floor. A man in sneakers jogs beside me. People start to run with us. We’re in a pack, galloping along the flat before the that low slope back up to the daylight and the waiting train. Above our heads we hear the jingle-jangle of horns for a train departing–or arriving. Same sound.
We pick up speed, cornering together. I can’t hear our train over my heart’s blood. I see our train. Not moving. Doors open. Waiting.
We split; I commit to the nearest door. Others leap for those farther down, more likely to have open seats. I spent my luck for today and jump the steps to get inside. No seats on the bottom level. Doesn’t matter. I can stand. My phone says it’s one minute to departure. I climb the train’s internal steps on aching shaking legs to find an empty row at the very top. I sling my bag over my shoulder to sit. My chest is heaving and my pulse is in my instep, my ankles, my temples and my throat. The doors jingle-jangle and close. I breathe.
“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” – Gloria Steinem