i was downtown the other day, heading home after a brief shopping venture. as i headed for the Montgomery BART station, i dodged my way past the requisite panhandlers and headed fast into the underground. i rocketed down the escalators to the platform, the sound of an impending departure floating up the hexagon-coated tubes. a train was leaving on the other platform going to the East Bay – oh, well… after a few minutes, my train arrived, and i hopped on board, ready to head home for a nice cheese sandwich.
only i was on the wrong train.
‘embarcadero…next stop. next stop…embarcadero.’ not possible. this train is headed the other way. i sat there in disbelief, the doors to the platform gaping at me uncertainly. the seconds ticked by, until i finally realized my error and jumped off the train.
as i sat on the proper train heading towards the Mission, i reconstructed my entry into the station, going over it piece by piece. i simply could not figure out how i had climbed inside the wrong silver tube…what if that decision had really mattered?
the only reason that i consider this odd is that i almost never get lost. my internal guidance system, while not as accurate as a GPS, rarely leads me astray. in fact, i don’t recall ever getting on the wrong BART train.
for a few minutes, i had trusted my instincts over my senses – i had walked into the station, onto the platform, and onto the train on complete autopilot. the urban world is a dense labyrinth, and i had temporarily lost my way. all the things i use to find my coordinates in the world – signs, landmarks, names – went out the window.
it made me realize how often i don’t really pay attention to where i’m going…i just go. how many other things happen on autopilot? how much of my life am i not paying attention to?
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