There was something on the tracks at the Powell Street station and none of the trains could get through. The crowds built up and built up and finally they cleared the track and here came our train – only four cars instead of the usual eight, and jam-packed with double the people each car could hold comfortably.

I squeezed on to the last car – according to Moses, who knows these things, the first and last cars are usually the least crowded.

I found myself a spot and just then, the band struck up. Now, I’m used to hearing leaky earphones. (Why, exactly, do people with leaky earphones never listen to Bach?) And I’m used to hearing the gruesome details of last night’s date or the boring detains of this morning’s meeting conveyed in a booming voice over a cell phone, ‘cause, you know, the phone doesn’t carry the voice. It’s just a signal that someone really far away is shouting at you and you should listen. Anyway, these are normal train noises. I have never heard an actual band before.

Just in front of the doors, a sousaphone player squatted. In front of him were a baritone sax and a huge ol’ drum. And they were fantastic. They played something I didn’t know, then the sousaphone player took out a little horn (cornet? Looked like a little squat trumpet or English horn) and blew the first notes of St. James’ Infirmary. They played that (the sousaphone player switching off constantly) for about 15 minutes. Then they played a syrto I didn’t know that – naturally – turned into Miserlu, a very fast version. When they got off at Lake Merritt, everyone clapped and cheered and thanked them. Crowded, late – it was my best BART ride ever.

One Response to “OOOM-Pah”

  1. Moses Gates Says:

    When I say the first and last cars are the least crowded, I am specifically only talking about New York subway (and it’s really mostly the IRT). I don’t know about BART.

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