Monday, October 03, 2011

The story of Pizza Man and the Train

Friday evening's commute home on the train was cut short by technical problems. While already on the train we heard an announcement that there were issues with the overhead electric lines and at one station short of the halfway point on the line the train would have to stop, and would turn around and go back north to Downtown. Buses would be provided to shuttle passengers down to a station past the problem area.

Having ridden the train for 12 years now this was not the first time I'd run into such a scenario. I knew that there'd be some delay in dispatching buses, and then even after they arrived passengers would cram into them like sardines (and waiting for latter buses would be no better, as more southbound trains would just keep coming and depositing more stranded passengers). So I immediately pulled out my phone and called my wife, with the hope that she was still on the road driving home from her job and that she could swing over and retrieve me.

I got her voicemail, so I left her a message. Of course she called me back just as we were all shuffling off the train at that 103rd station and I missed it. And then when I called her back I missed her, so we engaged in that phone tag for a while, but eventually we did connect and as it turned out she was only a little over ten minutes away.

I waited by a side street that ran parallel to the tracks, listening to my iPod. Then I heard the loudspeaker of the train. I turned and through a fence I could see that some disgruntled passengers were standing on the tracks, actively blocking the train from being able to proceed back north. Mostly it appeared to be one guy, holding a pizza box, but from what I could tell he was having no difficulty stirring up the anger of others who were annoyed at not being able to get where they were going (in his case, presumably because the pizza would get cold).

I certainly understand the frustration of just trying to get home and hitting a serious delay. I've been through this more than once. And this situation was exacerbated by occurring well into the evening, after the regular MTA customer service office was closed. There was no representative directing people to where the buses would be coming (it wasn't obvious) nor answering questions. It definitely could have been handle better.

Here's the thing: I have gotten really upset at times over the course of my life and had some really bad notions run through my mind, but at no point would I ever think of blocking the path of a train.

The operator pleaded with the man over the loudspeaker, and all the people who'd gotten on the train to go north were getting upset themselves. But the pizza man (as we'll call him) and the others wouldn't budge.

I should note that, this being the era it is, several of those who were not blocking the tracks but were near to him had their phones out and appeared to be recording this. It was unclear whether it was to document what was in his mind a valiant standing up for himself or to capture the ranting of one who had lost it, but still they were rolling.

When the first sheriff's car arrived, the deputy got out and waved his flashlight at the people, presumably trying to disperse them. When the second sheriff's car pulled up, the deputies in there must have thought a riot was about to erupt as the passenger door was open before the car even slowed.

At that point my wife called and noted she was parked over by the Burger King across the street, so I didn't get to see how the deputies handled the pizza man, but I'd guess he was charged with something (whether he was arrested or merely cited).

Perhaps his plan all along was to get a ride in the back of the patrol car. I mean, apparently he already had dinner... and enough to share.


  1. Pizza man needed a beating. I think it's a federal crime to impede the operation of a train, can't remember.

    I worried the other day, taking the BART into downtown San Francisco, that there would be protesters disrupting the trains, but thankfully no. There are remarkably few mentally ill street people around this year at the Oracle show. I think the police have cleared them all out, finally deciding that having visitors associate San Francisco with crazy people is probably not the best thing.

  2. Marvin: So did Kelly Thomas deserve to have the Fullerton police beat him to death?

    Too bad you didn't have a chance to hang around, Doug. Maybe the cops could have confiscated your recording device and charge you with illegal "wiretapping."

  3. It's always interesting to see what direction these things take... in the comments. If only the actual event had been this exciting...


So, what do you think?