Reader Mail: A Rather Hellish Commute During Today’s Storm

Today’s commute was no fun for anyone, what with the storms making everything on the road (cars, buses, bikes, etc) difficult, to say the least. This morning I saw a lot of tweets with tales of mayhem, but this one from Reader Phuong, was particularly detailed.
Knowing that a big storm was coming, I specifically delayed a meeting scheduled for today, and made sure I didn’t need to go anywhere, since no matter how much one prepares, the first big storm of the year almost ensures a lot of problems, despite everyone’s best efforts.
Anyway, here’s Reader Phuong’s commute:

I got to Forest Hill Station this morning about 8:55, thinking I could get to work by 9:30. A 1-car M train entered the station and it was already packed. I managed to squeeze on, and another guy was behind me pressed against the door. I held on.
We started moving and suddenly we weren’t moving anymore. All of 100, maybe 150 feet into the tunnel the train slammed to a stop.
The driver came onto the horn shortly after to explain that he had this train yesterday and that it’s a “bad train”. His words. Apparently it has a tendency to throw its emergency brake on. The remainder of our 35 minutes underground, he left the speaker on, providing at least some levity.
He reset the electronics. The doors popped open. I held on tightly to the bar while the guy behind me almost fell out when he was leaning against the door. It remained wide open for minutes while we clung to the bars, hoping the train didn’t suddenly decide to start moving again. Jokes passed around the car, people who couldn’t tweet the situation used the old-fashioned method of speaking their thoughts aloud, but eventually the doors closed again.
From the front of the car, we start hearing a girl ask the driver if he could let us off–let her off. She wanted to get off. She needed to get off. But the doors were not going to open again, so don’t hold your breath. Angry, and halfway to tears, she attempted to get at the emergency handle on the window to get out. Too bad she couldn’t get to it.
A mousy girl asks if anyone has a phone that can go online. We’re about 70 feet underground. Sorry.
We hear for the next several minutes the driver talking to someone from dispatch about what he had been doing and what he needed to do. Reset the electronics. Apologize to the riders. Explain again it was a bad train he had yesterday and had the same problems. His fixes yesterday aren’t fixing it anymore. The steps need to go down, and I watch my feet to see if I’m going to be half-standing on nothing in a minute. Nothing happens. He announces again that he needs to reset the circuit breakers, and the steps will go down and the doors will open. I continue to brace myself, but it never happens.
“What the FUCK are you doing?” says a gruff female voice. “You keep moving and it’s pissing me off.” It’s getting a little “Lord of the Flies” in here.
The driver says that they’re going to hook up a train to ours and pull us back to the station.
An engineer walks into the tunnel and enters into the front of the train. The angry girl who wanted to get off attempts to get off. She is unsuccessful. The engineer departs.
The train rumbles. The other train must be getting hooked up now. Our train lurches forward and people nearly fall over.
The engineer returns and this time announces that he needs to get to the middle. We all have to shove off to the sides so he can get to the middle where the electrical panel is. We cram off as best we can, things get tight. He reaches the panel and unscrews it, exposing the electronics inside. He checks that everything is in place and presses a button before before leaving us again.
Another lurch forward and more people fall over. I notice the A/C has stopped running.
A girl in the middle starts crying. She’s becoming claustrophobic. “Is there something we can do to make this better for you?” a kind man asks. “I just want to get off.” We all do. But before that, we start moving forward again before suddenly coming to a halt.
We finally start moving backwards toward the station. Only once again to stop. Everyone is annoyed now, and it’s getting warm.
We are moving slowly back to Forest Hill Station. The ordeal takes a few more minutes. As we inch into the station, there are bewildered faces everywhere. The platform is packed. One of us remarks, “They better know this next train is for us.” Laughter.
Freedom! I inhale deeply. And suddenly the platform feels like it could sag under our additional weight. The platform keeps filling up and there’s hardly any standing room. The train takes longer to just get out of the damn way.
A 2-car L starts pulling into the station. It’s packed. Old Chinese ladies elbow their way on somehow. One girl from my original train shoves her way on angrily, literally pushing a guy out of her way. I can’t board.
A 1-car T stalls before fully pulling into the station. If I can get on, I can get to work without a transfer. Non-elderly Chinese women elbow their way on. I guess they start early. I get within 3 feet of the doors this time.
Another 1-car T pulls into the station. I’m getting on this. I’m getting on this and I’m shoving everyone out of the way if I have to. I am an old Chinese lady. I glance to a girl to my left in a red jacket. She has been next to me since we got off our train and has missed them all just as I have. I’m hopeful she gets on this one with me. It’s not packed, not yet. I think about what kind of gesture it would be to hold out my hand and tell her, “You’re not missing another one.” I do nothing. I make it. She doesn’t.
I make it to Van Ness Station.
I’m completely out of the tunnel.
I am at the 2nd and King stop. The air is fresh. It’s raining, but it feels amazing to not be on Muni anymore.

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