One of the filthiest and urine-smelling light rail stations in Sacramento is the Watt I-80 last light rail stop near Arden Arcade. The steps are covered with spilled tomato sauce and stepped-on pizza slices, urine, spit, water, foods, paper cups, sandwich wrappings, oily handrails, and such plain filth and litter. And there’s not enough help to clean it up. The portable toilet stinks so much women can’t use it. And the slow elevator smells of urine so bad, most people hold their nose when they use it.
Why do so many people urinate in public elevators? There should be a media camera on the ceiling of light rail elevators in Sacramento to identify the offenders. Is the porta-potty in the light rail station too fetid to use? With so many fast-food eateries near the light rail, you’d think someone would find a toilet and not have to use the elevator so frequently for so many years.
There should be an escalator in addition to the three flights of stairs people have to climb to get to the bus stop after departing the light rail. This is awful for seniors and the disabled who need to use the elevator, which is wet and fetid with a penetrating urine smell that makes it difficult to breathe in there.
Once you board the light rail, the young people put their feet up on the seats making it impossible for older riders who no longer drive to find a seat. Sometimes, you walk in the light rail car and sit down, only to slip on vomit–rarely, but it happens, last year, at least one time for we seniors using public transportation to attend noon-time free classical music concerts at a local church.
When is somebody going to clean up the mess? The other light rail stations aren’t too bad, but the Watt I-80 station where you have to walk down three flights of stairs or walk up is an eyesore. Those who need to use the elevator have no choice.
That’s why an escalator would help. It’s the urine smell in the elevator and the slowness of it with no visible phone if the electricity should go out and the crowd of people stuck there going from the light rail station up three flights to the bus stop at street level. It’s something out of a horror movie with that smell. And so far, the media has not covered this topic.
Sacramento senior citizens sometimes feel disrespected going to and from local senior centers while using public transportation in the early afternoon, especially while traveling by light rail and in some buses. Okay, so most times it’s safe. But after a decade of riding public transportation, the old sometimes feel crowded out by the screaming young.
You sometimes see older couples riding the bus, but they look like fish out of water among the young loudmouths, the unemployed, the angry, the mentally disturbed, the sometimes homeless, the young mother and infant, the elderly shopper, and the poor. Smells in the bus range from stuffy break fluid, usually nothing unusual, or sometimes even to raw fish. To get you to ride the bus more often or the lightrail, you’re told it’s safe. But how safe and how healthy?
It depends whether you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time or just minding your own business and every one else does the same. At some point, numerous homeless people get on board the light rail and get off at the usual stop, Loaves and Fishes. As a white-haired elderly woman, I get on the light right.
A woman sits down in front of me. A man sits down to my right side. He puts his ear phones on and suddenly turns to me and screams an epithet in my ear–an epithet that he uses to speak to the woman in front of me. Then he looks over at me and apologizes. I nod like it’s okay. I understand his emotions. Sure. Then why’d he have to yell the ‘n’ word as loud as he could in my ear? All I was doing was minding my own business reading my paperback. The woman smiles at me.
“I’m sorry,” he says. I turn around nod, and smile shyly.
“I’m from New York,” I say slowly without emotion. “Where it’s okay to express yourself.”
What motivated the young man to turn around and say this to a woman who obviously looks over 70 and petite? Why the anger at me? I never met him before. The woman across from me smiles.
The action leaves a feeling of tension in the air. Hey, I say to myself, it’s my birthday, and all I want to do is get downtown to see a free classical music concert in the church at noon, baroque music.
Where’s the serenity that’s supposed to be good for an older person’s health to get out of the house and go to a free noon concert in a church? Wish there were a place on public transporation where seniors could sit by themselves. But if there were, probably someone would have an outburst of elder rage. So on goes my MP3 device to listen to audio books–Jane Austen novels. Looking for healthy trends at low cost in all the right places of Sacramento today.
The problem usually is from loud passengers who often divide the seating by age or even race. You get mentally disturbed or angry passengers who don’t like the looks of other people start to yell at them. Yesterday on the bus one woman started screaming at a senior couple minding their own business, “you people brought drugs here, not my people.”
The elderly couple verbally attacked by the middle-aged woman at noon sitting across from them were singled out because of their appearance or ethnicity. They didn’t respond to the loud verbal abuse, and didn’t utter any words. The couple just left the bus, whether it was at their stop or not. And that bus line runs every hour.
On the light rail when there are few seats, not many will take their feet off of the chair in front of them to let someone else sit, regardless of age. Usually, it’s the young male or female with his or her feet on the seat in front who keeps his feet up there as older women or people with disabilities enter. The person with his or her feet on the chair in front will defer more quickly to blind passengers than to older women.
Basically, the way passengers disrespect public transportation can be seen by the way the floor looks in the light rail, the usual banana peel under the seat and frequently open cans of soda. The littering and feet on the seat happens mostly in the late morning and afternoon hours after the rush hour of commuters have gone to work. That’s when the young, unemployed males and females, from teenagers to middle age ride the light rail and other public transportation.
Another time is when crowds of students coming out of school nearly trample any older riders coming home at the time school lets out, between 2:30 and 3:30, when buses are crowded with kids coming home from middle school. You get a crowd of students screaming loudly, pushing and shoving, and usually the older riders feel squeezed out. Rarely do young men get up and give older women seats.
Usually it’s other middle-aged people who rise to offer seats to seniors, and a few young women students of college age. But usually, young people do not offer seats to older riders unless ordered to do so by the bus driver, which rarely happens. It’s about crowd control rather than courtesy many afternoons. There are a few exceptions.
How healthy is the trend in riding public transportation? Many times it’s safe in a variety of neighborhoods. But sometimes people just “don’t abide to ride.” When security officers are not in a particular section of a light rail car or the bus driver is silent, you can judge the health of the situation by the grease smeared on the bus windows, or the water and other liquids, sometimes vomit, on the floor of the light rail cars. Often there are babies crying and young moms with strollers that sit next to you. Certain hours of the afternoon the light rail and buses are crowded long before the rush hour for commuters begins.
Yesterday, as you step up on the light rail car between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., you notice once in a while, but not often, the smell of vomit on the floor of some seats. You see on another car, the red dried liquid that could be food or blood on the step you have to use to enter the light rail from the street. And you wonder about the woman wandering through the near-empty cars or the crowded cars screaming at the top of her lungs to her hallucinations.
Another day, a young woman falls down with a seizure, and some passengers help take her off the train while other passengers ignore her on the wet, sticky floor and just move to the other end of the car to avoid looking. You never know what form of health or ambiance will await you on the light rail or bus. Most times it’s safe, but when you’re old, can’t drive, and need to get around, it is sometimes scary. The scariest moment, though is when the driver accidently hits you with the closing door as you leave or enter.
It’s happened twice here, to this bus and light rail rider, in the decade public transportation is used to commute between the Arden Arcade area and where the free noon concert happens each week downtown or the yoga class at the senior center, where it takes two hours to get up and back from Arden Arcade to the downtown area.
How healthy is Sacramento’s trend in public transportation that can accomodate seniors trying to fill the day before sundown? It’s all about how the young treat the old in public. And some days, you ride, and nothing out of the usual happens.