Thursday, July 19, 2007

People watching and being one of the "bigger".

I'm a natural observer. I always have been. Many people might say I have a short attention span or I am not paying attention to them, but the simple truth of it is there is typically something more interesting (or at least unique) happening right around you that you don't notice. Fortunately/Unfortunately I am blessed/cursed with a mind that must pay attention to these things even if it means splitting my attention 5 ways. This is why I like live poker as opposed to online, this is why I'm better at the early stages of relationships than long term, and why I hate menial route tasks compared to "firefighting" upcoming emergencies. They are just more random and interesting than the static world or the flat panel. ...and I'm wandering again, but here is an example.

I had a thought that struck me today as I was pinned in by two larger women on the subway. The thought had occurred before and I had been following the observation like a random social anthropologist. It deals with the size of people and the subway. You can guess with surprising accuracy the following things about a person from just looking at them when the are on the subway.

A. At what point the will stand up to go to the door to disembark the car.
B. What method they will take to get up to the exit level.
C. How they will pay. (given, this is the newest observation game)

A) My casual empirical research shows me that: The bigger you are, the longer you wait to stand up. Being someone that deals with a gimpy knee, carries a lot of stuff and has notoriously poor balance...and is getting fatter by the day. I fully understand why. The BART and Metro Cars are NOT known for coming to a soft stop and there is nothing more embarrassing and hard to deal with for a bigger person than getting launched into a crowd of people waiting to start their day or get home. Especially in SF where you are bound to be crushing small, dainty, or primpy people that take great exception to being squashed, mauled, messed or crinkled. Therefore, the equation is [(Mass)+(# of passangers)]xTrain Velocity = Exit Order. The higher the score the farther back you are. This does not account for the elderly, cripple or people trying to trundle a massive beach cruiser (bike) out of the car at rush hour, but people tend to give them the right of way for similar reasons to those mentioned above.

B) People don't want to change and they will do what is easiest. Simply put, the bigger you are, the harder it is to trudge up 4 flights of stairs. So, the bigger you are, the more like you you are to be on the escalator. Not only that...but farther to the RIGHT on the escalator. That is where the "standstill" folks are. In between the stairs and the standstill escalator people are the "fast lane" people. Folks in a hurry but NOT in enough of a hurry to run up the stairs. Typically, the folks in the fast lane are in worse shape than the stair climbers and better shape than the standstill folks. Most of the time, I fall in the middle, it depends on how the knees are feeling and if I'm in a full suit or just a shirt and tie. Nothing worse than sweating up a wool suit on the stairs.

C) How they hold it and where they keep with will let you guess who to get in line behind to ensure a quick exit. Very few people have adopted the electronic card that I've been with since the pilot program. (Seriously, its the only major city I've ever been to that does not have some sort of balance holding fare card. We finally have one and people are mystified.) Those of us that have it are either holding their wallets or the card itself. Paper people with "multi-pay" cards are easy to spot and everyone else is going to go digging for that slip of paper.

There you have it folks. A random observation post about SF and a guide on how to get the hell of the subway faster.

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