If you go on a BART ride one of these days, take a look around the station and the car you’re in. You’ll probably see any of three new posters East Bay artist Owen Smith has created for BART for a series called “Literary Journeys.” The posters depict BART riders lost in Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon”, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”, and Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club.”
Until I joined the Alameda County Library as a staff member almost five years ago, I commuted each work day by BART.
Now I don’t miss the late trains, crowded cars, fare increases and the occasional threats and actuality of BART employees going on strike. I do miss the reading time that each BART ride guaranteed. Boarding a train three stops from its Fremont starting point assured me of a seat, but the return trip was more of a game of chance since Fremont-bound trains did not come as often as passengers would have preferred. Still, I usually had the opportunity to read and block out the mass of humanity around me. I knew when it was time to disembark by the section of the daily newspaper I had just set aside or by the number of pages I had just read of the book that was in my tote bag.
One of the books I know I read as a BART commuter was “The Joy Luck Club”. I remember clearly how touched I was by the passages about the mother abandoning her young twin daughters by the road side while escaping the foreign power occupation of her town. I remember I dared not look up, hoping no one noticed me as I pressed a tissue near each eye to stop those tears and being careful not to dislodge my contact lenses. Looking back, I think my hormones were at play at that time since just months earlier I had given birth to my second child.