In Which We Take Bart to San Francisco and Encounter Danger at Every Turn  

Posted by Heidi in

Before I get slammed by those who left their heart in San Francisco, let me add that SF does not have to be dangerous. It can be quite safe, most particularly on a cold winter’s night when most of the homeless people are bedded down in their shelters. And lest I get slammed by some organization paying attention to the rights of homeless people, let’s just say they are scary to me, even if their boozy, debilitated, can’t-go-another step act is just that. I mean, what kind of people pretend to be drunk and homeless in order to swindle a buck or two out of the pockets of unsuspecting theater goers? If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. (clarification: not all homeless people are faking it—in fact, most aren’t. Even scarier.)

But that’s a story for another day. Today’s story is this: Back when The Big Guy was not yet diagnosed with all the troubles for which he (desperately) needs meds and The Spouse had only been on meds for a couple of months, things weren’t looking too hot. We were unemployed, we were depressed and worried and so was the Big Guy (though he didn’t know why). My then-youngest was just starting to get in on the family act (woe is me).

Since the Big Guy loved (read: was crazy-obsessed with) trains, we thought it would be fun to take BART, California’s public transit system, to San Francisco and see some sights. So, we did. The Big Guy was about nine or ten and sat next to his dad on the train. I was one row over with the Middle Child, aged about five. I was happily consumed with watching the old California neighborhoods thick with Victorians and other architectural gems whiz by. Presently, there came a stop up ahead and a number of people stood up and started to walk towards the doors to be let out.

One of these was a large fellow who looked very unhappy—the kind of unhappy where he would be happy to make you as unhappy as he should you do anything to put him in an even darker state than he currently enjoyed. On his way down the narrow aisle, he tripped very slightly over the large and ungainly feet of the Big Guy (who even at ten was a big guy). It was just a little trip, a little run-in between the feet. Nothing that couldn’t be easily ignored.

The Big Guy just didn’t understand.

So, the Big Guy kicked him back.

Someone was about to get creamed.

I was blissfully unaware of the proceedings but The Spouse who, after the first blood-curdling moments of being accused of having kicked said Big Angry Man, spent the rest of the ride thinking such things as: We can’t take him (the big guy) anywhere! When is he going to learn he can’t do things like that? Will he ever learn he can’t do things like that? And other such negative musings which often lead to further negative musings such as, I am a failure and the really important one, Is the big angry man going to get off at this stop or is he going to kill us?

I don’t remember too much about what we did that day except walking a very long way down the street to Pier 39 where the Big Guy was pretty much a human bowling ball, knocking down unsuspecting tourists left and right. That and the fact that we were too tired to walk all the way back to the BART station so hopped on a bus before stopping to think that we didn’t have enough cash to pay the fare. Oops!

I do know that by the time we got back to the BART station for our homeward journey, my husband had filled me in on enough of what happened for me to have an inkling of what he was going through. Depression and worry as a result of faulty brain chemistry is pretty darn tough. On top of that, add real reasons to be depressed and worried and that’s a recipe for disaster.

That’s what I was bracing myself for--disaster.

Standing at the platform, waiting for our train, I noticed that The Spouse was meandering along from platform to platform looking longingly down along the tracks as if this was his ticket to freedom, happiness and a life with no cares. Don’t be silly!, I told myself. He’s not going to do anything rash! And then I chuckled, that nervous kind of chuckle that doesn’t fool anyone, and forced myself to stop dogging his every move.

That was when I heard it, the whoosh of a train quickly running in and out of the station behind me. I tried to trust, to not worry, to ignore the impulse to whirl around and hunt down my husband who I strongly suspected had gotten on that train and sped down the tracks, out of our lives. Therefore, my search for him was quite casual, even surreptitious. But he was nowhere to be seen. The Spouse was gone.

Spinning this way and that, my hands securing a sure-to-end-up-under-a-train-kind-of-kid on each side, I frantically scanned the length of the tracks in every direction, all thoughts of casualness and normality forgotten as easily as how many calories are in a Jack in the Box chocolate shake with real ice cream and whipped cream topping (750—but I’m sure I’ll forget the next time I drive by).

Starting to panic, I attempted to take stock of my situation. There was no one around. I was alone with a five year old and a ten year old (who was less help and more trouble than his little sister). Worse yet, I had left my purse at home and had no keys, money, credit card, identification, or cell phone. And more to the point, based on the look in the Big Guy’s eyes, no food. How would he continue to get bigger and yet even bigger if I couldn’t feed him? We would become like those homeless people with cardboard signs asking for donations. Only, I didn’t even have any cardboard.

Just as I was considering running and screaming down the tracks, direction unclear, The Spouse stepped out from behind a pillar, totally oblivious to what I had been thinking and my utter state of panic. I smiled at him, he smiled at me, our train pulled in and we went home. I don’t know if I ever told him what I was thinking and I doubt he will ever learn of it because he doesn’t read my blog. Just like 50 million other internet users in the world. But, hey, it could be so much worse.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 24, 2008 at Thursday, July 24, 2008 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

6 wise, witty and wonderful comments

I read your blog and enjoy it. We have some friends in common, Hillary B and April P (Can you believe she had an 11 pound baby!). Anyway, I read your blog last night and then spent the rest of the night thinking about it. Weird, huh? When I was living out there, I worked for the Regional Center of the East Bay as a Case Manager for People with Disabilities. I had wondered if you had connected with them yet? If not, I can help you. There might be some help out there for your older son. Also, there is the CARE Parent Network out in Martinez. I was friends with Betsy, who was the director, but I think they have another person now. Anyway, they were a great group of women and very supportive. Anyway, I have been working with children and adults with disabilities for about ten years and have a special place in my heart form them and their families. Your stories of barf and toilets remind me of a family I am working with right now who have the same issues, but there child is 5, so they have many years of barf and toilets ahead. I may let her know about your blog if you don't mind. She might find some support in the humor of it all. Anyway, I enjoy your blog and will read your book! Good luck!

July 25, 2008 at 5:33 AM

Boy, you sure made my day! Thanks for commenting!

July 25, 2008 at 9:56 AM

I enjoyed this post very much when I read it yesterday; it's a powerful experience, well told. I didn't enjoy it so much when it became the backdrop for a nightmare last night, but you get extra points for getting into my subconscious.

July 25, 2008 at 7:27 PM

Hey, Jami, thanks for your comment! Sorry for the nightmare . . ..

July 25, 2008 at 8:12 PM

Heidi,
my family had a somewhat similar situation that unfortunately was quite different. Mine had to do with my mom, you know aunt Booey, well anyway we were on BART while we were visiting out there and when it stopped, she stepped out to take a picture of everyone else still on the train. And Lo and Behold, the doors closed suddenly and took off leaving our poor mother standing on the deck just staring after BART with her mouth hanging open. It is a very humorous anecdote when we tell it now, it wasn't so funny to mom then. See it was similar in the fact that both stories involved BART. It was different because it was my mom and not your husband and mom was left behind when she really didn't want to be. Oh mom, you are such a hoot.
Roxanne

July 25, 2008 at 8:38 PM

Yes, Aunt Booey is a hoot---but I thought she didn't like being called Aunt Booey so I have been calling her Ivaloo as her parents intended. My mom is a hoot, too. Gotta love those gals!

July 25, 2008 at 9:21 PM

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