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There were two things I didn't see coming after I boarded the J Church train the other morning: the woman who was trying to get off at the next stop and a subsequent lambasting from a fellow passenger.

"You wouldn't let that woman get off at her stop," a nearby passenger said accusingly. "All you did was just stand there." I explained how I had tried, unsuccessfully, to hold open the door when I realized what was happening, but that didn't satisfy her. Nor did my sarcastic retort, "Well, good morning to you."

"Thanks to you it won't be a good morning for her," was her angered response.

I decided to stop the interaction there. And as the train lumbered down Church street, I wanted to let this woman know that I really hadn't seen or heard the other passenger in time, that my decaffeinated mornings are a bit slow in starting, that I really do try to remain conscious of the personal space of others while in such confined quarters. I appreciated how this woman had championed the cause of somebody else, but it was unfairly at my expense.

Another darker realization began percolating: That San Francisco is inching toward being just a tad more unforgiving, aggressive and unrelenting. The pace is glacial, or not, depending upon what strata you occupy. But the change is creeping in.


Before her stop, the woman turned to me and apologized, admitting she knew I didn't intentionally block the other passenger. She said she was taking out the brunt of her frustration on me, frustration she had toward rude passengers. We briefly commiserated about being constantly nudged by the backpacks of clueless riders.  I thanked her for her apology and told her it meant a lot to me. I thought about how big of her it was to do what she just did. How easy it would be to chide me like she had and leave it at that. But she didn't, she recognized the situation for what it was, an unintentional oversight.

In an overcrowded city that's just going to see its population increase, it was nice to know that humility, sensitivity, and sincerity prevailed. I'm going to follow her example of realizing we're all part of a bigger system here in the city, that we need to be of aware of the space around us, and, more importantly, the people in those spaces.

With a Perspective, I'm Arthur Patterson.