Coming up from the train this morning, I walked my usual path through Powell Street Station, winding to the right and up the mini-escalator to a little landing before the second mini-escalator. On said landing were two orange cones, pretty much squarely in the middle of the walkway. Splaying out in all directions from the cones was spilled coffee, heavily whited with milk.
I almost actually paused mid-stride, no doubt causing a chain-reaction of commuters walking inattentively ahead, already trying to dodge conical orange obstacles. But I proceeded, while craning my neck and trying to figure out if that had really been what it looked like.
Someone had taken the time and energy to place not one, but two cones over the top of a large coffee spill, but not to make any effort to clean it up.
Sure, I may have been watching it in a twenty-second window between placement of the cones and running to the janitorial closet to procure a mop and bucket. I considered sticking around atop the second escalator to determine whether this was an especially inopportune period of time or really a telling phenomenon. The fact that I considered such a dalliance would (or might) make me late for work (and I was about 10 minutes ahead of schedule) was sufficient answer in my own mind to the possibility that this was just a brief phenomenon.
Besides, wouldn’t one normally keep the cones and the mop in the same place?
It struck me, of course, that this whole incident was The Metaphor for the current state of things, at least in America and possibly on a larger scale. There’s only time, energy, inclination to throw up caution flags, to do the absolute minimum to warn people of the danger without the slightest effort at containment. You have been warned. But no one is even going to attempt to actually ameliorate the harms. Navigating is only safer by the slimmest of technical margins, in that you know that you’re navigating something dangerous.
Postscript — I write an awful lot about BART and situations that take place on the trains and in the stations. To the point where it’s sort of amazing that I have yet to create an official category for posts about BART. I should do that, but that would require retroactive categorization, which is sort of a gargantuan pain (especially when I’m so far behind on other, seemingly more meaningful projects).
It does make me wonder, though, about what I would have to post about if I didn’t take a train regularly. My ideal life involves writing full-time, but I’ve always been very aware of how crazily isolating that could become, to the point where inspiration and life events were much less available, thus diminishing much of the point of writing full-time in the first place. The paradox never troubles me so much as when I think about my observations on public transportation and how I would rarely be on it without this kind of routine. I think the summation remains that a full-time writing life would require enough small, enjoyable trappings of routine (e.g. clubs/activities, volunteering, etc.) as to keep a finger on the pulse of the “real world.”