While I Was Out . . . . .


I’m back from a brief vacation – just a couple of weeks – but I missed some major commuting events. The big one was the BART protests, which seem to be continuing, although at a much lower simmer. The shooting and killing of 45-year old Charles Blair Hill at the Civic Center BART station by BART police on July 3 triggered the protests on August 11. BART’s questionable decision to turn off cell phone access in the stations during the uproar added another layer of fury to the demonstration. The whole planet got involved in that issue, blogging and twittering about free speech and public safety. Commuters were caught in the middle of all this when the stations closed down for a few hours and everyone had to wait.

Commuters driving on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge got caught in a scary confrontation on August 17 when a gunman inside the Extended Stay Deluxe Hotel in San Rafael (located on the 580 freeway near the bridge) appeared to be holding his girlfriend hostage and began firing out the window at the freeway. The California Highway Patrol shut down the freeway and bridge during both morning and evening commutes creating havoc with the commute traffic. Some drivers even ran out of gas during the long wait. The bridge re-opened early in the morning on August 18 when officers were able to place a metal sheet over the hotel window to prevent further gun shots. The gunman died later that day, of causes unknown, and the girlfriend was found safe and sound in another room in the hotel.

Commuting’s enough of a challenge on a ‘normal’ day, so I was glad not to be among the commuters on those stressful days, and sorry for the travelers who were.

My return to the casual carpool in the last days of August before Labor Day was relatively easy. Quick commutes, with light traffic as the final days of vacation counted down for many of us commuters. I grab the best moments of these grueling rides – the sparkle of a prism hanging from a rear-view mirror, the first geese flying over the freeway near Berkeley, the snowy white egret in the shallow water near the Bay Bridge, a rare ride with a Beethoven concerto on the radio, a breath-taking glimpse of a construction worker climbing up one of the 4 swaying cat-walks connected to the emerging bridge tower on the new Oakland Bay Bridge, the sun breaking through the foggy early morning clouds over the Carquinez Strait as we cross the Carquinez Bridge.

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