Chapter 2

Kalyan was a patient man. It was one of his most desirable traits on his resume. It was one of the reasons that he was employed when so many where not.

It was this patience that kept his mind occupied this evening as he walked to the train station. It was a 1.2-mile walk from his front door to the train station steps. And while he knew that athletes could complete this distance in five minutes, they also enjoyed the luxury of open spaces. The tracks they ran did not have people pressed against one another. It would take Kalyan 53 minutes that night to get to the train steps, and another fifteen to the ticket gate where he would swipe his transit card, and then five minutes to stand in line for a train that he might fit in.

It seemed less busy to him that night than previous weeks. He thought it may be a time of year when the men who run the world might be on what they called 'vacation.' He understood this was something that the men who run the world needed because they worked so hard. It would be a time when they stopped running the world, and let things 'slow down' so they could reflect and meditate on how to work harder and run the world better.

The world seemed like such a glorious place already it seemed unimaginable to Kalyan how it might get better. While Madhubala enjoyed that tale of his father, he was, after all, just a Dabbawala. Kalyan never told his daughter about the man who came home each night drained of energy, thick with scabs from falls to save the dabba. His father wanted a better life for Kalyan, to go to America. And that is precisely what he did. He became a line surrogate, upward mobility in America.

Unlike those underachievers who only had one or two patrons, Kalyan had seven patrons. Kalyan worked very hard to have at least one job a day. More patrons meant more money he could save and invest in Madhubala.

The communicator notification over dinner was from one of his best patrons. His assignment was difficult. It would take a man of Kalyan's talent, skill, and negotiation to be successful. Tonight he was heading to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to wait in line for his patron to board a flight.

Since the great quake of 2063 split Highway 101, breaching the Brisbane Chasm to the airport by land was only available via Bay Area Rail Transit, or BART, from the north. Fortunately, his patron lived in Foster City where delivery service to the airport was still available.

Nearly to the BART, the communicator buzzed again. The flight had been delayed by two hours. This was expected and built into the estimation Kalyan had made in his schedule to get to SFO.

He watched as a train pulled into the station, it slowed, stopped and with doors opened people wiggled their way out to the platform. There had been 23 that exited by his count, but the pushers, with their long padded poles that reminded him of old age jouster he had seen on the learning screen, prodded on 28 souls. With only three people in front of him in line, Kalyan felt he had a substantial probability of getting on the next car that arrived and avoiding the jab from a pusher's joust.

It was twenty minutes later when the BART car arrived. Things were moving fast today. Fortune had smiled on him when ten people crawled from the car, and he was able to avoid the stick.

Kalyan found himself pressed against a window after the maneuvers of the crowd settled and the train started to roll. "Not a bad spot," Kalyan thought to himself. "Could be worse. I have a view." Optimism was the other redeeming trait on his resume that patrons always called to attention when hired. It was just his nature to consider himself fortunate.

He found that the glass window felt cool on his cheek. Both eyes could see the dark walls of the tunnel pass by as he got closer to the destination.

"Kalyan? Kalyan? Is that you?" Came a voice a few bodies' away.

"It is I Kalyan. Who is that?"

"Kalyan, it's Joe Burger, we stood in line together last month at Florentines for a dinner reservation."

"Joe Burger, hello old friend, how are you?" Kalyan replied.

"I am well."

"Joe Burger, where are you?"

"I am three behind you, facing forward, I saw your backpack and thought it was you."

"Joe Burger," Kalyan said with joy. "I can't turn around to see you, but it is good to hear your voice. How is your wife? Your family?"

"They are good, thank you for asking. And Madhubala? How is she?" Joe Burger asked.

"She is still the light of my life. The reason I live. She is wonderful."

"That is good to hear."

"Joe Burger," Kalyan said so he could be heard above the bodies, the personal entertainment units, and the cries for help from the floor. "Where are you going this fine day?"

"My patron wants to go shopping today." Joe Burger said with a sense of sadness.

"I am sorry to hear that Joe Burger," Kalyan said sounding sympathetic to the situation.

"I know, I know, but I am happy to have a patron."

"Have you brought your machete?"

"Yes," Joe Burger replied. "But I fear it isn't sharp enough to cut through these deep discount prices that she is looking to find."

"Kalyan - where are you going?"

"The airport. My patron has a flight tomorrow night." Kalyan explained.

"It is nearly 10:30 PM, do you think you will make it in time?"

"He already has a ticket purchased."

"Oh, that is good."

"And," Kalyan added almost gloating, "He is superior status."

Joe Burger gasp could be heard through the distance and noise, "Superior status, how do you find patrons like that?"

Kalyan smiled to himself and felt the grease on his skin wipe the window. "You know Joe Burger, the learning screen said that the BART once had seats on it."

"Seats?" Joe Burger said. "That's crazy. How would everybody fit?"

Kalyan chucked to himself and said, "You always bring good humor Joe Burger. I hope to see you soon. Maybe when I am getting off the train, I can squeeze out past you."

"That would be nice, just be careful of my machete." He laughed.

He could feel the train start to slow. It meant that they were on the approach of the Brisbane Chasm. It had been three years since he had a window on the BART. Kalyan's eyes darted to take in all the details his mind could process of the remains. They rolled on tracks over the northern face, a jagged and sheer split in the earth crust that had slid down thousands of feet. He could see the calm waters of Daly City Lake where the San Francisco Bay had rushed in to fill and drown all who lived in South San Francisco only a few decades earlier. As they rolled on under the red-orange glow of the city skylight, he saw the southern slope where abandon houses that didn't drop or drown speckled across unlivable slants. 

Sadly, the pushers at the airport station pulled at the door to open in front of Kalyan and not behind him. He would not be able to see his friend Joe Burger this day. With some assistance and a bit of a jab, he was able to exit before the sharp edges of the automatic doors closed.

For the first time in Kalyan's memory, the station platform for the airport was empty. There was no line on the steel steps they called an escalator. He and the seven others who had exited the BART looked to one another before the assent.

A woman behind him said, "I have never gone up so quickly." The man in front said, "My legs are burning from moving so quickly." It was indeed an uncommon day.

At the top of the steel stepped escalator was the corridor he knew well. Here were the four lines of SFO. The right wall line, left wall line, and center would go to the three domestic terminals; but the center-left line, the longest, went to the international. His patron was heading to the Federated City of Washington with superior status. This allowed Kalyan to follow between the lines of the right, where he could advance to the sorting station without a wait.

Kalyan activated his patron beacon identification on the communicator which allowed him to assume his position as an avatar through the monitoring sensors along the corridor. He removed a surgical mask from his backpack. It was designed for isolation patients and protect him from particles smaller than 01 Microns. More than protection from the germs and air born contaminates fellow travelers coughed out, it's candlewood scent covered many of the unpleasantness.