July 10, 2002

miles to go: 1,088.38

"NO [expletive deleted] WAY! " the woman declares. "They ain't NO [expletive deleted] WAY I'm climbin' up them [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] STAIRS!

And she comes to a dead stop in front of me, dropping her Smart & Final grocery bags to the floor of the BART Station with a grunt.

Her traveling companion seems equally distressed. They both stand there for a long moment, hands on ample hips, eyeballing the long, narrow concrete staircase leading upstairs to 12th Street. It is clear that neither of them are happy with this unexpected turn of events.

"Why the [expletive deleted] they don't have a excalator goin' upstairs?" snarls The Companion. "How come they only got one goin' DOWN?" She glares hatefully at the down escalator, running with quietly ironic efficiency ... right next to the staircase.

I stand behind them, patiently waiting.

These are the two women who sat behind me on BART tonight. I didn't actually see them while we were riding on the train from the Coliseum to downtown Oakland -- I was busy looking out the window, pretending not to listen to their conversation -- but I recognize their voices. Mostly they talked about the difference between Polident and Fixadent. 

"Polly-Dent come in them tablets," I recall the woman explaining to her companion. "Those what you use to clean 'em at night. Fixy-Dent what you use to hold 'em in." 

At one point the companion asked her friend to spell Fixadent for her -- this prompted a noisy/bumpy/agitated scramble through purses and shopping bags, as they looked for a pen and paper -- followed by a lengthy discussion of the best local stores to purchase Fixy-Dent ... the merits of Fixy-Dent over other, lesser adhesives ... whether or not those bottom teeth could have been saved, or whether the roots was so dead, by the time the teeth fell out, they looked like little rotten black stumps with strings hangin' off them.

(Note to self: bring something to read, next time you ride BART. And schedule a dentist appointment ASAP.)

Now the women are glancing around the station, obviously looking for alternate exit possibilities. "You think they might be an elevator, over there on the other end?" asks The Companion hopefully, waving a fleshy arm in the direction of the Frank Ogawa Plaza Exit. "I think they might be an elevator over there on the other end."

"If they ain't an elevator," the original woman booms, "somebody gonna have to CARRY my FAT [expletive deleted] ASS up these [expletive deleted] STAIRS, I'm tellin' you what." And they burst into shrill, raucous laughter. Neither one of them moves an inch in any direction, though, and the entrance to the stairwell remains effectively barricaded.

I make a tiny *ahem* noise in the back of my throat.

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to their plight. I understand. God knows I've had my own *issues* with the unexpected vertical ascent, over the years. Three summers ago I almost had a heart attack climbing the hill to my sister's house: a fact David loves to remind me of ... usually when we've just finished riding over The Moraga Hill.  But it's been a long day, and I'm supposed to be meeting David in front of his office in five minutes. The last thing in the world I want to be doing right now is standing in a sweaty BART Station in the middle of a withering East Bay heatwave.

"Excuse me," I say to them politely. "I'm just going to skooch around you, if you don't mind." 

And I squeeze past them as carefully -- and as deferentially -- as possible. I'm not sure which they will find more offensive, frankly: my use of a nauseatingly happy-doodle word like 'skooch' ... or the fact that a woman at least twenty years older than either one of them is all but running up the long concrete staircase, right there in front of them.

And that she's taking the steps two at a time, as she goes.

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43 steps. i counted.