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Tuesday through Sunday, I ride BART to the Civic Center station in the heart of downtown San Francisco from the Colma station, a few miles south of the City. It is only a seven-minute drive from our RV park in Pacifica.

The train ride usually takes sixteen minutes. You can practically count on it.

This lulls me into a false sense of complacency; the train schedule is regular enough to make me assume that it will always get me to work punctually.

But of course this is not true 100% of the time. There are occasional problems on the tracks: obstructions, fires or malfunctions, or problems with the brakes on the cars — or more rarely, “situations” with disruptive citizenry in the train stations.

It is amazing, actually, that BART provides as consistent service as it does.

Last night’s ride into work was a different experience, as though I was living in a subtly altered reality. It was not a dramatic departure from the usual routine, but just “off” enough for me to notice.

I arrived at the Colma station to the sound of a train pulling in. I didn’t know which direction it was coming from but I wanted to make sure to catch the train if it was going into the City.

I started to jog towards the escalator leading down to the tracks, but a station manager was standing nearby to wave me apologetically down the stairs, as the escalator was out-of-service.

Difference #1.

The train turned out to be coming from the City, disgorging a huge number of commuters after their long day at work. There were so many of them that they completely took over the stairs on their ascent, leaving me little space to walk down. I squeezed along the extreme righthand side of the stairwell, hugging the bannister as I inched my way through the surge of humanity coming up.

I felt like a salmon fighting my way against an inexorable current which was in danger of sweeping me along in its wake.

I probably should have turned around and gone back UP the stairs and waited for this rush of humanity to pass before trying to go down, but I was in the middle of the staircase when they had suddenly appeared. Besides that, I am stubborn. Committed!

Most of the commuters didn’t even LOOK up to see if anyone might be trying to descend the stairs. Perhaps they assumed that no-one would be going into the City during rush hour; what are you, crazy? What do you mean, you work a night job? This is not normal!

One man in particular was on a collision course with me. He kept his gaze studiously down on the steps he was climbing up, one by one, and I was being pulled into the middle of the current of humanity directly in front of him. He finally saw my feet appearing on the step just above him and he changed course at the last possible moment before disaster struck.

Difference #2.

I waited a few moments for the inbound train, which arrived on schedule. Everything ran smoothly until just after the 24th St./Mission station. The train was moving more slowly than usual and then it came to a full stop in the middle of the tunnel. Not once, not twice, but three times. I heard a faint click of the intercom in our car, then a brief rasping crackle of static on the speaker indicating that the train operator was making some sort of announcement — but the audio system wasn’t working in this particular car.

I briefly considered going to another car where the intercom worked — the knowledge of what was going on would somehow be reassuring, even if it didn’t make my arrival any faster — but in a few seconds the train slowly crawled into Civic Center station.

After a series of jerky stops and starts, it finally positioned itself along the tracks to let out the masses.

I was so anxious to get OUT of there that I didn’t notice the train had stopped in a completely different place than usual. The escalators weren’t working at this station, either. I saw what I thought was the staircase I usually used and went up it (I don’t ride the escalators most of the time, anyway), only to find that it was a different staircase which put me onto Market St. farther away from the theatre, and ten minutes later than usual.

Differences #3, #4 and #5.

This commute felt like one of those dreams when everything is a bit off, an altered atmosphere, almost like being in a parallel universe. Do any of you ever feel like that?

It seems that the “Creatures of Habit” theme is continuing in my life, with the reminder to maintain flexibility if at all possible!