I've been living in cities for a number of years now - in Paris, France, and now San Francisco. Each is among the most densely populated in the western world. Without adequate public transportation, life would quickly become well nigh impossible.
As I did in Paris, I ride trains to and from work virtually every morning here in San Francisco.
While occasionally plagued by strikes, the Paris network of metro (subway), suburban (RER), and intra-city (SNCF grandes-lignes) works pretty well. Despite the general dirtiness and noise of the stations and the crush of people, I had a bit of fondness for the RATP.
Some of this was due to its whimsical mascot, Serge, Lapin du Metro, a cartoon rabbit who for a generation plus has been warning children (and bemused foreigners) not to "mets tes mains sur les portes," because in so doing, "tu risques de te faire pincer très fort."
Each year, there was a campaign in the trains, in print, and on the television to encourage riders to "remain cordial" on the trains. Warnings not to jump the turnstiles, leave food to soil the seats, or block the doors.
One of my favourites was a costumed turtle carrying a massive back-pack in a crowded train. The image (see above) recommended that those travelling with a full pack should take off their back packs so as not to block or inconvenience others with whom he had to spare space.
The tone on the SF Muni is, um, different, at times. People are more likely to jostle one another, talk loudly (AMERICA!!!!) and generally be rude or inconsiderate to one another.
Today on the train in, there was a woman - I'm guessing maybe 30 - carrying a massive, stuffed "SalesForce" backpack completely blocking access to the centre of the car. It looked like it was fuller than Marc Benioff's self-regard. She was thoughtlessly texting away to God knows whom as a bolus of people gathered in the doors.
This turtle was undeniably "chargé".
Eventually, to find passage to the relatively empty centre of the car, I pushed pack her bursting-at-the-seams pack, which got me a dirty look from her. That was most uncivil.
I thought of the RATP ad campaign as I made my way to the pole to prepare myself for the launch of the train forward.
So to my fellow Muni (and beyond) public transit users, a plea:
PLEASE. If you must carry a backpack with all of your life's belongings on your way to your cubicle, and the train is crowded. For God's sake, put your phone in your purse or pocket, and take your damned backpack off.
Better still, if you're over 25 years old, and you are not going camping, grow up. You're not in high school anymore. No self-respecting person puts on his big boy pants and brings his shit to work in a Jansport backpack.
No. Sorry. You don't look hip or cool. You look like you're in denial.
You're an adult. Accept it.
This is doubly true if you insist on a tech company branded pack. I get it. You work for LinkedIn. That makes you annoying, not interesting. No one likes getting LinkedIn spam, and no one likes looking at your adolescent backpack.
No. They don't. It's not worth arguing.
Get a decent case, or at least a cool leather satchel.
The comp lit mid-term was yesterday. You failed.