Home » Tales of the City Part II » Going Off the Rails

Going Off the Rails

I had an appointment in The Mission, so I decided to take BART instead of Muni, and what a contrast that was. BART looks like a 1970s version of the future—fast, streamlined cars with beige vinyl seats, wide aisles and lots of legroom. 

Within minutes of a boarding, I heard a commotion at the back of my car—a man yelling at the top of his lungs. He was ranting about how he used to be in charge of it all. He was the one, but then … his wife did something to his testicles.

“Oh, Lord Jesus, save me from this pain … in my groin, in my testicles,” he raved.

My first reaction was pity. What kind of pain, addiction and suffering drives a man to plead with God like that? I thought of the passage in the Bible that I had read just the night before about the boy who would throw himself on the ground and thrash about. Viewed through the modern lens of science, he was likely epileptic. The disciples could not heal him, but Jesus did, telling them offhandedly that it required fasting and prayer. 

Soon the man on the train came into sight, pacing back and forth along the length of the car. He had left his blanket on the seat across from me and came to pick it up. He was young, white, casually dressed. Were it not for his behavior and the blanket, he would have been indistinguishable from all the other commuters on the early evening train.

He continued to rave as he paced energetically back and forth, gesturing wildly with his hands, spinning a tale about his wife, a lawsuit and Donald Trump. Passengers began to force their way into the next car via a somewhat dangerous passage between cars on a moving train. At one point, he stood directly in front of me and continued to rant about his testicles. I half expected him to pull his pants down. An older black man in a suit moved across the car to stand between me and the man who was ranting. 

I began to worry that the ranting man might be dangerous, so at the next stop I exited the car, along with every other female passenger, and quickly ran to the next car before the train left the stop. On my way out, I made eye contact and nodded at the man who had put his body between me and potential harm – hoping the gesture was enough to express my gratitude.

Where does the train stop for people trapped in pain and fear?

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