Smile When You Say That…

For whatever reason (budget, stupidity, ???) SF Muni has been cutting back the number of cars running and the size, meaning twice as many people are trying to get around on what seems like half the amount of cars.  Our L Taravel line has been its own little slice of hell lately. Yesterday Dave and I caught a one car L at West Portal headed outbound and images of cattle cars or sardines are appropriate as far as how many people were packed together in very little space.  We were stuck in one of the stairwells right by the door, which meant every time the car stopped and people needed to get on or off, Dave and I had to move aside (off the car or squashed up against a pole).  The doors on the Muni streetcars are impatient (much like many of the riders), shutting after about 10 seconds, which is not enough time for people to disembark, especially when they’re squeezing through masses of folk on the car to reach the door.  So we held the doors open to give people time to get to the doors, get off the car, and then let other people in.  Imagine a half hour of this, getting stepped on, squashed, constantly shifting to accommodate other people after a long day at work, sleep deprivation/migraines two nights running. 


Things finally thinned out and we heaved a mutual sigh of relief.   And then this pasty-faced woman, one of those people who looks perpetually dissatisfied, looked at us and spoke, her voice a nasal whine. “I don’t understand. Why are you two standing there in everyone’s way, blocking the doors and delaying us?  Why don’t you stand up here?  I don’t understand.” 


Okay.  I tried to stay calm even though my initial reaction was a major “WTF?  Are you talkin’ to me?”  What I actually said was “There hasn’t been room up there up till now.”


“Yes, there has,” she whined.  “I’ve been standing here and there’s plenty of room.” 


I started to lose what little patience I had left. “No, there wasn’t, and you’re not helping the situation.”


“No, you’re not helping!”  She started to say something else, but I’d had it. 


I didn’t drop any F-bombs or call her names.  I just said, “Lady?  Be quiet.” Three little words, but infused with a world of venom, frustration and, okay, yes, definite implied threat.  When I’m angry … and I mean, really  angry, pissed off to the point of seeing red, I start to smileIt’s not a nice smile. Small children have run from this smile.  And I was smiling when I said it. I continued to smile as I added, “You’re making a bad situation much worse.”  Then I muttered something about inconveniencing her by the fact we were helping other people get off the damn train. And I kept smiling until we got off the train.  She didn’t say another word.   


I was pissed off all evening, even dreamed about telling her off.  I figure I was so steamed because a: it was entirely unjust of her to get on our case at all, and b: I was too angry and taken aback at the time to say what I should have said, which is “You’re right.  You don’t understand. It’s not like we were claiming some prize Muni real estate.  We were holding the doors so people could get on and off the train at their stops without getting slammed by the doors. So next time you shoot off your mouth, make sure you’re in possession of all the facts.” 


Oh well.  I guess “Lady? Be quiet.” will have to suffice.   That, and the various smiles and thank-yous from the passengers we helped.