Update: Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency


Exactly 3 months after the announcement that 20% of Attention Passengers: Adventures on Public Transportation profits (or a lump sum out of my pocket if Attention Passengers didn’t turn a profit) would be donated to Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, it’s time to give!


Remember, BOSS helps people find affordable housing and living wage jobs through their training programs, shelters, and social services. Primarily operating out of the East Bay in places like Berkeley, Oakland, and Hayward, they aim to eliminate mass homelessness, mass incarceration, and community violence.


As someone who has met people on public transportation in need of this exact type of help, I truly wish the best for BOSS and their pursuit of their goals. If you would like to contribute to the cause, you can donate here.

The Weirdest Public Transportation Stories


May I present to you, without context, a list of the strangest and most memorable things that have happened to me on public transportation so far:

  • Someone punched me in the eye on a bus in San Jose, CA.
  • Many lively people in pajamas regularly got picked up by the “drunk bus” in Santa Barbara as I rode home from my closing shift at work.
  • A very drunk guy on BART once screamed at me, “Fight me, bitch!”
  • An either bored or giddy Caltrain conductor began announcing stops by explaining all his favorite things to do around each stop (shopping, sightseeing, etc).
  • I’ve had to call authorities due to people on the train:
    • smoking crack
    • wielding a massive hunting knife
    • violently raging
  • A lovely lady once fell during turbulence right into my lap and I caught her, fair maiden style. We both blushed.
  • A train held at a station during a wild thunderstorm, the rain blowing in horizontally through the door and soaking everyone.


The Great Bay Area Experiment: MUNI, BART, Caltrain, Amtrak

During the first month of my first job in San Francisco, four friends graciously let me sleep on their couches all around the Bay, allowing me to experiment with these four public transportation systems to decide which I wanted to live with for my foreseeable future. Which would prevail as the best option: MUNI, BART, Amtrak, or Caltrain?

(Psst…these amazing stickers are from Transit Supply.)

And the results are in:

  • Shortest commute was MUNI (but I couldn’t afford SF rent).
  • Cheapest (in terms of rent + fare) was BART (but definitely not the nicest).
  • Nicest was Amtrak (but I could only occasionally work out of our East Bay office and it was unsustainably expensive).
  • Best balance was Caltrain (but it took SO long without an express train).

Which would you choose? Can you guess which I chose?

How many keys to different places can one need in one month?

Well, my cheap ass chose the cheapest option: BART! (To be fair, the opportunity to live with some of my favorite people in the world was also a factor.) For the first two months, I believed I had made a grave mistake: over an hour’s commute time one-way, compounded by problems like delays, people on the late trains I would rather avoid, the stench of brake fluid burning, overcrowding, and more. Oh, how I wished I had put up the money for SF rent to ride MUNI.

After two months, however, I discovered all the tips and tricks to riding BART to make it more tolerable, including always bringing something to do on the train (sleeping is a TOTALLY valid activity, in my book). Delays appeared to lessen as well, whether that be because they actually lessened or because I became less bothered by them.

Every now and then, though, I still wonder if I should just fork over the cash to rent a place in the city. I can always fantasize.

Attention Passengers Teams Up With BOSS to Improve Our Community


In the spirit of getting in touch with the people we interact with daily on public transportation (as opposed to simply observing them) and making a difference, I’m so excited to announce that Attention Passengers is teaming up with Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, or BOSS, to help lift families and individuals out of homelessness by donating 20% of profits from sales of the book.

Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency

What does BOSS do?

Headquartered in Berkeley, CA, BOSS helps the very low income and homeless people of the Bay Area get back on their feet and become self-sufficient. This work is crucially important, as homelessness in Berkeley is increasing while housing costs continue to rise.

Services include multiple shelters in the East Bay; career training for the formerly incarcerated, homeless, disabled, and others; housing stabilization to get people into affordable permanent housing; and much more.

Check out the latest news and what they’re up to on their site here.

So what is Attention Passengers doing, exactly?

20% of all profits from sales of Attention Passengers: Adventures on Public Transportation will be donated to BOSS. These funds will help pay for housing, meals, employment and health services, counseling, and other life-changing support. I plan to send a check quarterly and I’ll keep you updated on our progress over time. In the unlikely event that Attention Passengers actually doesn’t turn a profit, I plan to donate an amount out of my pocket anyway.


Every day on my walk from the train to work and back, I encounter a painfully high number of people in need–adults who have little more than what they carry from spot to spot. Some of these people regularly chat and catch up with the friendly people who pass by each day. Some sweep the streets and clean up the area where they set up their tents. I attempt to bring food and water to them when I can but I want to harness the power of a community of people who can accomplish more than what one individual can. I want to help people move on from their current situation and gain power over their own futures. I also want to keep the money local to the Bay Area, at least to start, since that is where the Attention Passengers book was born.

BOSS aligns perfectly with those ideals. They also have a track record of success and you can check out their financial information with an account on Charity Navigator.

BOSS Berkeley

(Please keep in mind that I reserve the right to alter the donation plan at any time.)

Memories of Trains Past

School buses, metros, high speed rails…our lives are filled with transportation, often public, even if it never takes center stage. Primarily identifying as a driver for most of my life, public transportation only occasionally slipped into my consciousness until recently, yet memories of those trains and buses remain vivid years later.

My First Time: Miami Metrorail

Photo by Alancrh.

As a kid, my parents took me to work with them in downtown Miami on the Metrorail and Metromover. The whole ordeal seemed like a theme park ride to me: high above the city with a great view of building and cars flying past. And the best part: no seatbelts! I could jump around and change seats all I wanted! That is–until my parents yelled at me to quit fooling around. In my quieter moments, I contemplated why the windows were so dirty, attempted to translate the graffiti so poorly scratched into the plastic, and studied the design of the metal tokens that took the place of tickets as if they were treasure.

Foreign Adventures: Japan, Hong Kong, Paris, and Costa Rica

One of my favorite ways to get a view into lives of people in a different country is by public transportation.

In Japan, the countryside whizzed past as the high speed rail raced from Kyoto to Tokyo. The flat fields morphed into small towns patched with rice paddies in lieu of vacant lots between buildings.


In Hong Kong, children in uniform raced from school to the bus at the edge of the jungle park while monkeys followed in hot pursuit, watching for dropped food.

Parisians dazzled me with what almost looked like a fashion show on the bus. I admired their black coats, black dresses, and black heels as I tried to deflect attention from my old hoodie and sneakers.

Deep in the countryside of Costa Rica, our bus maneuvered the dirt road to avoid a farm dog lazily wandering about the path. We passed a couple of horses hitched to a tree and stopped to let a line of people onboard. As people ascended the stairs and found a seat, the dog followed at the back of the line, attempting to board! The driver had to push the dog back out the door.


All of these experiences (and more) formed the basis of what would eventually become Attention Passengers: Adventures on Public Transportation.


Inspiration! Graphic Novels You WILL Want to Check Out


These are a few of the artists/authors I’m obsessed with. You’ll quickly realize that nonfiction (or at least based on real life) is my favorite type of content, especially when it comes in the form of autobiographical vignettes aka memoir. Check them out and give me your recommendations for more!

Julia Wertz – Drinking At The Movies, The Infinite Wait, etc. etc. etc.


She’s hilarious and inappropriate and weird and everything I love, all encapsulated in graphic novel form. I love how she presents the strange task we have of dealing with serious and sometimes extraordinary struggles as part of our everyday mundane lives.

Wendy MacNaughton – Meanwhile in San Francisco


This book–Meanwhile in San Francisco–is everywhere in SF nowadays…as it should be! Great observations about what gives a city its unique vibe have always fascinated me. A bit cheeky and satirical, this book is all sincere.

Michel Hellman – Nunavik


Already obsessed with remote areas, particularly in Canada and Alaska, I couldn’t pass up this story of Hellman’s trip to the remote Northeastern part of Quebec. While unfolding his observations from different towns and areas, problematic issues–particularly issues the native people face as well as the changes foreigners have imposed upon their culture–make their way to the forefront.

Pete Duffield – Kellie and Pete


Not a physical book yet (and why not?!?!), this guy skyrocketed to internet fame after HuffPo picked up a story about his drawings revolving around his life with his (now) wife. He doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to revealing how weird they are in their everyday lives.