Caltrain Experience

July 22, 2013

New experiences are fun. It’s like making discoveries except that they are only new to the one discovering. This morning on the way to a new job, I was a relative explorer on the Caltrain commuter from San Francisco to San Jose.

I rode Jessie to the block where the downtown station is located, and parked — first motorcycle to arrive this morning, not including several scooters that appeared to live there. Taxi cabs waited to whisk away important people to their early morning agenda. It was cold. The fog was nestled in early morning dampness. I had on a cashmere sweater, expecting to peel it off in ten more degrees by the south bay where the sun was more apt to shine. Someone had told me not to worry about getting a spot at the 4th Street station, even after 8 a.m. Of course not, when it costs 60 cents an hour. You can park on Embarcadero for 50. Tomorrow it will be free parking at the 22nd Street station, next station down.

To make sure I caught the pre-8 a.m. departure, I skipped my morning home-brewed coffee routine and grabbed a cup at the station. Newsstand coffee it was, for a buck twenty-five. And it was surprisingly decent. Drinkable even without milk or sugar.

In the station, bicycle people rolled their wheels to the platform and boarded. It reminds me of Denmark where more people in the cities bicycle than drive cars. Except that there, people lock their bikes at the station. Though there is a place to lock your bike at the Caltrain station, these cyclists on the platform were taking their vehicles with them on the train. Seems like too much trouble to me. I’d rather suit up in leather and park a station further down the line.

A woman tapped her Clipper card to engage fare payment. The reader beeped and reminded me to tap mine. Nice to know some service companies take advantage of technology, especially in proximity to Silicon Valley.

The station at 4th Street was pleasant, but it was no Grand Central.

On the train, I looked for a seat where I could see clearly out the window. I asked a guy which side had a better view. “Neither,” he said. Pessimist. In New York, where people tend to have a healthy positive attitude that balances the extra stress from a highly dense population, the answer would have been more helpful. This made me miss New York. Though, the passenger on Caltrain did finally recommend the eastern side over the western.

I noticed no outlets, and seats filled with gen x- and gen y-ers. No baby boomers. At least not in the back of the train. After sitting, I noticed that some of the seats had cup holders. Not mine. My decent coffee stood in my snack bag as I munched on cranberry walnut bread from Andersen bakery.

I was on my way to my first day at my new job. It is my first full-time job since 2002. That’s 11 years without a full-time job because of PTSD. It was not just an adventurous train ride. I wanted to release tears of jubilation. They didn’t leave my eyes.

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