Saturday, December 08, 2007
Playing Businessman on BART
To continue the BART stories:
When we'd get on BART to go wherever we were going, the kids were actually usually on their best behavior. They would occasionally yell things like, "Let that lady sit down, she's old!" that you wish they wouldn't yell, but it really did show that they meant well.
One of their favorite games was to pick up discarded newspapers and pretend to read them. Sometimes they'd really read them, but usually they didn't want to put that much effort into it. If I asked them what they were doing, they'd let me know that they were playing businessman. To them, that's what businessmen (and no, it was never businesswomen) did. They read newspapers on BART. Once, one of them told me that she was looking for a new job for me, so that I could "have a better job."
We met some real businessmen on BART once, and it turned out that they were even BART businessmen. They were BART executives who rode BART periodically to see how things were going firsthand, and they sat down with us. These guys - who were obviously high up in the system judging from what they were wearing - started asking the kids where they were going. They gave some pretty unintelligible answers because on the way to a field trip, they are always so excited that they trip over their words and end up making no sense at all. The executives were patient though and (although I'd be surprised if they ever figured out where we were going) asked to come with us. The kids got really excited and invited them, but the men said that they had to go to work but that they'd really rather come with us.
The best part was when we got off, one of them told me, "You know, those were the best behaved group of school kids I have ever seen ride on this train." Now, if you've ever seen my class in action, you'll understand what a miracle that is. If you haven't met my class, just think about how many times a group of inner-city, mostly minority kids who are for the most part proud of being "ghetto" gets called well-behaved. Yeah. It doesn't happen.
I think the preparation for BART rides really worked!
Of course, they didn't always behave that well, but they mostly did well on BART. On buses, for some reason, they tended to act up more. I don't know what the reason was. I know that BART was exciting for them. On the way to one field trip we got through all the hassle of getting to the station, getting through the ticket gate, getting on BART, riding BART... and as we were getting off, one of the kids said to me, "That was the best field trip ever!" We were still on our way to the field trip! He thought the BART ride was the field trip, and it was the best ever! I wish the BART executives had been there for that one!
The other rule on BART was that they had to sit if there was a seat. They all wanted to hang on poles, but their balance wasn't good and they couldn't reach the top poles, so if there was a seat, they had to sit in it. And, this being BART, they had to sit next to a stranger if that was the only seat, but if the stranger was crazy, they could raise their hand and I would let them move. They knew what crazy meant and didn't abuse it. They couldn't switch seats, either, otherwise it was a Chinese fire drill at every stop.
If there weren't any seats, I told them what to do. On trains with a lot of floor space, they could sit on the floor. Otherwise, they mainly hung on to me. If there weren't any poles to hang on to, I would hold on to the top bar, and they had to hold on to me. There would be two or three taller kids on each of my arms (which were stretched up to hang onto the bar), and two or three holding on to each leg. Some would hang onto my backpack or belt. They mostly managed not to fall over, but I never got a picture. I must have looked like some strange child-growing tree.