Published Tuesday, August 23, 2005, in the San Mateo County Times
PartyCar at caltrain lets tech workers relax, unwind
By Laura Ernde
It's Friday afternoon and Amandeep Jawa has barely started his commute
home up the Peninsula when he pops open a cold bottle of beer.
He doesn't have to worry about getting stopped by the police, though.
His designated driver is the Caltrain.
Jawa is riding the PartyCar, which was invented by a loose-knit group
of technology workers who bring snacks and beers for the northbound
ride home to San Francisco on Fridays.
On a recent Friday, the first half dozen partygoers climbed aboard the
No. 275 when it stopped at Mountain View at 5:46 p.m.
They parked their bicycles in the bike car, which is the lead car, and
within minutes they were digging into six-packs of Anchor Steam,
Tecate and Negro Modelo.
The party takes up most of the 18 seats that are clustered on the
first floor of the train car. Most of the car is devoted to bike
They also brought snacks like Cheetos, Hawaiian Popcorn and chocolate
"It's all about the cheap snacks, for better or worse," said Pete
Khoury, 37, who has been riding the PartyCar since the heady days of
the dot-com boom in the late 1990s.
That group disbanded after the bust and the current group of mostly
white men in their 20s and 30s has been riding together about five
Most of the guys are successful, eligible bachelors in fairly good
shape, said Cedric Westphal, 33, a researcher for Nokia who is one of
the few married men on the PartyCar.
"It's the last untapped opportunity for gold-diggers in the Bay Area,"
Jawa, 36, is a software engineer at Apple in Cupertino. Khoury is a
wireless researcher at ArrayComm of San Jose.
Being the self-proclaimed technology geeks that they are, the group
has a web site, http://www.partycar.com
with links to their Yahoo
On this particular Friday, the train pulls into the San Mateo station
and unsuspecting bike commuter Mark Cooper, 31, looks curiously at the
He notices the beer bottles sticking out of a brown paper bag in the
aisle and Jawa offers him a cold one.
"Yeah, can I steal a beer?" Cooper asks.
"It's not stealing. Just bring one next time," Jawa says.
Because of the loud train noise, conversations usually break up into
groups of two or three.
[BATN: Something is SERIOUSLY WRONG with train equipment -- like
Caltrain's wrecks, and like BART's in its literally painfully load
tunnels -- in which is it not possible to carry out a conversation in
a normal tone of voice under all circumstances. More to the point,
there is something seriously wrong with transit agencies which allow
such deficient and rider-hostile equipment to be purchased.]
Today, a popular topic is the new Caltrain schedule, which offers more
trains and makes fewer stops.
For most, the new schedule has shaved time off their regular commute.
But they did lose a few Friday revelers because the new PartyCar
doesn't stop at every station.
Another conversation was about the cult popularity of http://kaiju.com
a tongue-in-cheek hybrid of American pro-wrestling and Japanese
They try to discourage work talk because eventually the conversation
always devolves, Westphal said.
While they imbibe, the non-partying passengers go about their daily
routines. Sitting along the windows on the train's upper tier, some
listen to their iPods and others look like they're still at work.
Near the end of the trip, Jawa took the last of the chocolate-filled
cookies and passes them around to the uninitiated, which includes a
few baseball fans on their way to see the Giants.
"They're more rowdy than we are. We're just a bunch of geeks," said
PartyCar rider Christon DeWan, 25.
The train is delayed about 20 minutes and doesn't arrive in San
Francisco until nearly 7 p.m.
But the PartyCar crowd doesn't seem to mind. It gives them a few
extra minutes to finish their last beer and pick up their trash.
Similar TGIF parties take place on BART, but passengers aren't allowed
to eat and drink on that train like they're free to do on Caltrain.
Ever since there have been trains, there have been bar cars and the
Caltrain is no exception, said spokeswoman Christine Dunn.
"Anything that makes people take transit we're in favor of," she said.
For the first time recently, the commuter train placed restrictions on
alcohol consumption because of passengers who "had a little too much
fun" on their way home from a Giants game, she said.
But the ban on alcohol doesn't affect the PartyCar because it only
applies after 9 p.m. during special events.
Staff writer Laura Ernde covers county government and health issues.
She can be reached at (650) 306-2428 or lernde@...