Sunday, March 11, 2012


The 7 P.M. southbound from San Mateo is the place, man. Everyone's got a problem, no one's there on purpose.

I tried to help this girl who was working something out in Spanglish with her mother on the phone, and just walked up to me and said, "Safeway, here?". We were a good couple miles from the nearest Safeway I know of, so given her English, I switched to Spanish to try and help. She wasn't a whole lot more coherent in Spanish, and my Spanish is good enough that she took the liberty of speaking way faster than I could follow, but I did gather she'd gotten off at the wrong stop and didn't think she had a valid ticket to go back south. I asked if all she needed was a ticket--from the phone conversation I overheard with her mother, it would clearly have been a well-spent $2.75--and she thanked me but said her mother was coming to get her.

Then this pair of deaf people appears, maybe a mother and adult son; maybe a little slow, it was hard to tell, but based on how they were moving and the troubles they were having. They had weekend-sized duffel bags, and the woman was crying occasionally. The guy walked over and made a noise, pointed at his ear, and typed on his phone.
"Which way San Jose?"
I told him (well, gestured) he was on the right platform. I noticed they were having some frustration with the ticket machine, so I meandered over and noticed he'd bought a ticket for Zone 2 only, instead of Zones 2-4. I opened up the notepad on my iPhone.
"San Jose?"
He nodded, and I pointed to Zone 4 on the map, then to his ticket. He spoke as best he could, but it was easy to understand.
They got tickets sorted out, asked me (via phone-typing) when the train arrived in San Jose, where it would pull up. The woman cried intermittently, the man comforted her, they settled down with a couple snack-sized bags of Bugles. I stood there helplessly, wanting to help or at least understand, wondering what their story was, with their overnight bags and strange, emotionally-laden travel plans. Were they catching a plane, or did they just need to get to San Jose? Was somebody dying or in trouble?

I typed on my phone, "Good luck." They said "Thank you" in sign language; he added his vocal approximation.

I dunno. I hope they made it through okay.

Why can't I just magically fix everything?

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