BART Encounters - part one

Yesterday I kissed a stranger on the BART train. It’s something I have always wanted to do, but had never found a stranger quite cute enough. Or when he was, there was no interest from the other side - like the guy I’d originally picked for the task.

As the train pulled into Powell Street Station, I scoped out the guys waiting to board the train. I spotted him instantly, with his wavy blond hair, just long enough to tease the collar of his button-down shirt. His eyes were blue, the jaw line strong and the five o’clock shadow was perfect. The jacket was sporty and the look casual but suave. All in all, he carried it off quite well.

He appraised the situation as he boarded the train. I was well within range of view and head nods followed; not the friendly gestures I use all the time, but the sultry cocktail hour variety: The ”I notice you noticed me!” look, which I’ve been given to believe I’m pretty good at.

“Good Going!” I said to myself as I pretended to dive deeper into my travel guide. Am I traveling someplace in the near future, you ask? No, unless the commute to work each day counts. And luckily for me, I only work three days a week, at flexible hours, so I’m not a regular on any train. Now, that would have complicated my task a little beyond my liking. But I digress…

I was digging my nose just far enough into my Ecuador and Galapagos guide to leave the cover page clear and free for him to acknowledge. If there was a surer conversation-opener, I didn’t know it, and I’ve tried enough of them to consider myself something of an expert on the subject. You’d think tucking your skirt into your underpants would be a surefire way to get people to approach you, but you’d be surprised how far out of their way they’ll go to avoid mentioning that, or the spinach stuck in your teeth - not that those are in the same league at all. I’ve tried getting my head stuck between the doors of the train just as they shut, but instead of sympathy that elicits dirty looks at the delay I'm causing. I’ve watched the women with make-up kits full of products I wouldn’t know where to use, and learned that everyone stares while pretending to look away and that no one will start a conversation with them. I tried handing out my onion-shaped business cards hoping to start a conversation, but people seem to find that pushy. Of course, no one will acknowledge the fact that listening to each other’s personal cell phone conversations has already left us quite well acquainted with each other. Experience has taught me that, to a weary commuter, there is nothing more exciting than the thought of traveling to a foreign and therefore assumedly exotic location. Hence, my carefully chosen travel guidebook. One last word on the subject before I move on to the more exciting details of my adventure: the name of the place you are traveling to must be clearly legible from at least 10 feet; careful placement of fingers helps this process.

But back to my story… I didn’t wake up yesterday, knowing that I would kiss a stranger, but as the day wore on, the certainty built in me.

Earlier that day, my friend Rachel, who had some errands to run, decided to make my commute easy by driving me over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. We argued about who would pay the toll, until all of a sudden, the answer just came to me. We each thrust our two dollars in the hands of the toll-taker, glanced back to see the benefactor of our largesse, did a little hair-toss and zipped onto the bridge. I took this to be the sign that stranger-kissing-day had finally arrived.

Mr. Red Ford Pickup, puzzled by our generosity, wove his way through the tough traffic at the metering lights to pull up close enough to first wave, and then boldly throw a few kisses our way. We only tossed our hair some more and laughed knowing that he was only deluding himself as to his charms. Sure we had made his day, but his expression of pride mixed with confusion and his misplaced enthusiasm had totally made ours.

So as I sat on the train that evening, staring at picture of blue footed boobies and Charles Darwin, I began to wonder how long it would take for “my stranger” to approach me. Last stop before the tunnel- Embarcadero. He looked up as the lone boarder entered the train. She had me beat hands down and I knew it. How could my pocket-sized travel guidebook possibly compete with a gargantuan backpack wielded quite expertly by a blonde with the most amazingly tanned supermodel legs?

Before I knew it, they had struck up a conversation and I knew half the details of her exciting backpacking adventure in Kauai- BITCH! I could tell he was getting off at the next station and she was totally going to hoard him until then. But she didn’t know that I’m not one to be thwarted quite so easily, demure as I may appear. I was going to have my kiss one way or another, although making it look like an accident seemed like the only course of action open to me.

In situations such as these, timing is key. I edged my way to the door and leaned in just as he was stepping off. Loud smack and I got exactly what I’d been waiting for all day- a kiss from a stranger. Only the Fabio like face and torso had now been replaced by the large hairy arms of a well-built woman who had wedged her way onto the train just as I was making my move.

As the door shut, my mouth tasted like dirt, and I twisted in place wistfully to see “my stranger” bend down to pick up the magazine that had fallen out his hands in the scramble. “Décor” it said. Another reminder that I do live in San Francisco.

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