Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hand off the knee, please.

The other morning I was happily napping away when a man in a white suit sat next to me. I thought at first I'd been dreaming, since the man in the white suit smelled of incense and liquor and I decided that only someone from a novel or a dream would smell that way. But no, I wasn't dreaming. I know I've mentioned several times that I don't like to be touched by strangers. He had the unsavory and all-too-common habit of sitting with his legs splayed wide open, spilling into my allotted space. He also fell asleep, which means that when the bus would make a left turn, he would slowly lean over toward me until he side was touching mine. I decided not to get overworked by it. Then our bus driver announced that we should change buses, and so I took the opportunity to hope that he would select another seat. But no again. He sat next to me again. Determined not to be overly perturbed, I read my book calmly until, in a seemingly random and relaxed gesture, he let his hand move to my knee. I moved my book to the side and made a deal out of looking with a deep frown at his hand, which he quickly moved. We rode in silence for the remainder of the trip.

I wonder to myself when I will finally snap and make a scene with one of these individuals. I will probably simply immortalize him as some super unsavory character in a white suit and smelling of incense and liquor.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Too Close For Comfort

I wish I could post more positive stuff. For the most part, though, the sort of positive stuff I would end up posting would be along the lines of "had a pleasant enough ride today, nothing out of the ordinary, everyone was pleasant."

So I've learned something interesting about myself recently. I don't like to be touched by strangers. I can't sit for an hour or more with one entire side of my body pressed up against a complete stranger without obsessing about it the entire ride. Usually this sort of scenario occurrs with men,since they are on average larger and so take up more than their fair half of a seat bench. Yesterday was a typical example of this. A man sat next to me and immediately his arm and thigh were touching mine. I moved as far over as I could to eliminat the touching, and he took this as his opportunity to spread out. He then fell asleep. At this point, it was my body holding him up. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that his was blocking my escape from the situation. I find that feelings of claustrophobia occur, for me, when I am being touched by a stranger AND my escape is blocked. I feel trapped. Finally, no longer able to take it, I got up to move. Instead of standing up, he did this little turn thing which I hate because then I have to stick my butt in the person's face while trying to squeeze past. He must have sensed this by the look on my face, because he ending up standing at the last minute. Or maybe he didn't want to be that close to my butt? Anyway, I was free. He fell back to sleep.

In a related story, I was in a similar situation to the one above, with the exception that as the man fell asleep his head would fall onto my shoulder. I don't like to make waves in the world, but I feel it is within my right to request that he not do that. But, rather than make a big scene, I would nudge him to wake him back up. In retrospect I maym have simply said something, but I never know who I'm dealing with on the bus and so don't want to aggravate someone with a mental condition or tendencies to anger/violence. I see people get angry at someone who obviously has a mental condition, and I just feel like there's no point. For the most part, it's not like they can help it. It would be like getting made at a child for making a mess. Anyway, that's all.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I spent the day flying to a neighboring state for an interview. The interesting thing about this was that it took me less time to fly there than it does to take the bus to work. That makes me sad, and angry as well. If the people who determine the routes would get their head out of their asses and actually ride some of the routes they plan out, they would see that much of the pain and heartache that is this city's public transportation system could be easily alleviated with some well-placed express routes. For example, there are malls in every major corner of the county. Currently the "express" routes go between those malls, but they take surface streets. The routes end up takin an hour to an hour and a half. If they had true express routes that went directly between malls, taking the freeways and having zero stops in between, they could focus the other routes on local fanning routes and cut all travel down by up to an hour. It's that simple! Grr.

After a stressful but, hopefully, successful day in this neighboring state, I came back in the afternoon and prepared for a long bus ride home. Actually, it was nice that it was long because it allowed me to sit back and ruminate over everything and begin preparing for a possible second interview. While I was riding, I began to notice two young men sitting near me having a loud and intense conversation. They were young black men, and they were discussing black politics and the evil of the whites. They talked about everything from how Krishna was actually a black man to how AIDS was a disease created by white men and injected into black men. They talked about how whites aren't even aware of their inherent evil, and that one day the end of times will come and there will be a huge massacre of the evil whites. I've never actually heard anything like this except in movies. I'm not even sure what to think about it. I have a friend who is black, and I find myself wondering if it would even be appropriate to bring it up to her to see what she thinks about it. All my life I've been taught about racism and how it is a crime perpetrated by white people against other racial groups, and that race isn't even a real biological concept, but something some man made up once. I wonder what Oprah would think about this? I watched her special not too long ago to honor Sidney Poitier, and the amazing discussions that went on about his life and his experiences growing up black, and how he was able to move beyond opression to become what he is today. I also recall reading The Pursuit of Hapyness, and how Chris Gardner also overcame a difficult racial situation at a brokerage firm to become the mogul he is today. What would these amazing men think about the conversation I overheard? It also reminds me of the fight I witnessed in front of the Chee Chee bar, and another I witnessed later (but haven't blogged about yet) between several young black men, and it makes me think that these young men are holding each other back, that they should have more respect for themselves and their fellow black men than to be beating each other up. Anyway, it was a pretty intense conversation and experience for me to have overheard it. I even feel weird blogging about this, despite the fact that it's anonymous. I have had coworkers, friends, and school mates who were black and for whom I have a great deal of respect. It troubles me that we still can not get past the issue of race to where we can deal with each other as people and nothing more or less.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some tips for the new adventurer.

I thought I might start a few posts focused on the more positive side of public transportation after that run of gross-outs. So, for my first trick, I will provide some tips for the new adventurer.

First, welcome! You have embarked on a new adventure full of surprise, beauty, and danger! What better adventure that one that could start as close as outside your front door? Your first step is to determine your destination. Do you plan to use public transportation to go to and from work? Do you plan to use it for grocery and errand running? Or do you plan to be truely adventurous and go see the tourist attractions and other sights of your fair city?

Each type of destination requires different kinds of planning. For example, if you choose to use public transportation to travel to and from work, you will want to identify your start and end times, and compare those with the start and end times for the routes you plan to use. Some buses, like those running to my home area, stop fairly early, requiring I work within a very specific time frame. You will also want to look at means of transportation other than the bus. Is there a train or trolley in your area that could make your route faster or more pleasant? Can you use a bicycle for some or most of the route? How far will you have to walk to and from the stops? In my city, there is a free shuttle from the train to your work destination, but it requires reservations at least 24 hours in advance. I've never used it, since the train is more than twice as expensive as the bus. But it is an option. If you choose to use a bike, or have a large amount of walking before or after your bus ride, you will want to consider a change of clothes and other things, such as water, in your adventure bag.

If you choose to use public transportation for grocery and errand running, I highly recommend a wheeled cart, which you can usually find at hardware stores, in which to place the spoils of your adventuring. In places such as New York and San Fransisco, such carts are common since many people do not drive. In my city, they are used by the elderly, and so I do have to deal with some not-so-sensitive comments from my peers. But that just shows that they do not have the adventuring spirit. I feel sorry for them.

If you are planning on using public transportation to explore your city, I would highly recommend picnics and bicycles. This will greatly improve your experience of the chosen destination, and will allow you to spend a leisurely day adventuring. Also, it will save you even more money than what you are saving by not using your car.

Once you have selected your destination, plan your route. Usually you will be able to find tools online to help you plan your route. My city has a very easy-to-use online trip planner where I plug in my addresses and it gives me several route options. If your city does not have this, there should be at the very least some sort of telephone number you can call to obtain information. Be prepared with your exact to and from addresses and the day/time you plan to travel.

When you travel, there are a few things which might be good for you to take with you.

Reading Material/Entertainment
Mace or other type of personal protection
Cell Phone
Route Directions
Comfortable Shoes

If you have questions, always ask the bus driver first. Do not trust that other bus riders will be able to help you to your destination. I can't tell you how often I've heard riders give out wrong information to lost souls. If the bus driver can't help you, call the transportation number and get help from them. If you get lost, it would be better to remain on the bus until you figure it out and then have to backtrack once it gets sorted. You do not want to get off the bus at the wrong stop and find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere in a dangerous place. Believe me. I've done it.

Every city is different, obviously. I live in a city where it hardly ever rains, so I can get away with forgetting my umbrella. It's not going to be a breeze the first time you try, especially if you've never done anything like it before. But that is precisely why it is an adventure.

Have fun!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Things I intensely dislike.

1. Two-day-old alcohol sweat smell, particularly the kind from cheap beer (as I know from an ex-boyfriend). It's probably one of the grossest smells there is. Especially during the summer, it's an intensely sweet and sour smell. It is usually coupled with #2 (below). When you drink a lot of alcohol, over time the alocohol seeps out through your sweat glands. If you don't shower the next morning, or the morning after that, the smell gets worse as the days go by and especially if you do something that makes you sweat more.

2. The "I just smoked a cigarette and put it out as I was stepping onto the bus" smell. This is usually bad, but even tolerable unless coupled with #1. The only way the 1 + 2 combination could be worse is if the person breaks the cherry off of the cigarette and puts it in their pocket to smoke later. The smell from a half-smoked cigarette is very strong. Having someone like that sit next to you on a stuffy bus is an extremely and intensely unpleasant situation. Now, I used to smoke, and it is only until I quit that I have come to realize how strongly the habit affects a person's smell. I have come to accept the "I just smoked a cigarette" smell because I don't want to be a hypocrite. A person is entitled to their vices. But I was always aware of the "don't save your half-smoked cigarettes" rule because of the smell. Also, I bathe daily.

3. I intensely dislike when a woman sprays herself with perfume while on the bus. I dislike this for several reasons. First and foremost, I have terrible allergies and one of the worst thing for my allergies is too much perfume. Invariably, the sprayer will spray 4 or 5 sprays, when most women know the most you should spray is 1 or 2. For whatever reason, the person who missed the "1 or 2" rule also missed the "not in public" rule. Go figure.

4. I intensely dislike when a person sits next to me in such a way that the entire side of their body is touching the entire side of mine. I'm mildly claustrophobic. When I am in a situation in which I feel trapped and where I am being touched by someone else, I begin to get panicky. The only thing worse is to be hot, trapped, and touched.

5. I intensely dislike being hit while riding the bus. I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating. I am not on the bus to meet men. I do not feel it is a prime situation in which I can find a boyfriend or husband. I am either on my long ride to work, or on my long ride home. I do not wish to meet my soul mate while riding the bus. If my soul mate is on the bus with me, he will have to wait until we meet again somewhere else. This also applies to

6. I intensely dislike when people feel the need to get involved in other people's anger/frustration/confusion/basic existence. If an argument breaks out, you can be sure there are several people on the bus who are going to have their opinion about the argument known. It fascinates me that people think anything can be helped by loudly telling other people that they are stupid. Also, people always feel like they know more about giving directions than do the bus drivers. On several occasions I've heard people give out confusing and misleading directions to poor unsuspecting tourists.

In the spirit of equality, I will also mention something I do like. I've noticed that sometimes people will talk to absolutely anyone, just because they need to. This is the time I really perk up and listen. I think people have an intense need to share with and communicate with other human beings regardless of wether the other person is actually listening. Just something primal moving them to share. I know that sometimes if I don't have someone to talk to, I can't get perspective on my own thoughts and emotions, and the act of talking about helps me get my perspective back. Most people on the bus, when faced with a talker, will look the other way and not make comments in order to discourage communication, but when a person just really needs to talk, they will talk despite this reaction. You can hear some truely amazing stories this way, too. Not like daring adventures, but true insights into the lives other people lead. It's worth listening to.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bar fights and pickpockets.

So there's a stop downtown which I consider to be the worst bus stop in the downtown area. There's about six blocks worth of unsavory stops, but this one is the worst of them. It sits right in front of the Chee Chee bar, what you might think from the name to be a strip joint. I don't think it is, although I've never been inside. I want to go inside for one drink, just at least once, but I haven't been able to convince any friends to do it with me and there's just no way I will do it alone. Tough drinkers hang out in this bar. This also means there are usually drunk people standing outside smoking, and the bus stop is literally right in front of the door. On top of this, other characters either hang at or wait at this bus stop. If you have the misfortune of having to wait here, you will be given a lesson about this stop by the people waiting there with you, even if they aren't speaking directly to you. Every time I've waited at this stop the other people around have talked about how many times they've been pick-pocketed and how many fights they've seen at the stop. For this reason I usually do my waiting at a much more populated area several blocks away. However, sometimes it's unavoidable. Like one night on Mardi Gras they had to reroute several bus lines because of the festivities downtown. This meant I had to wait at the Chee Chee bus stop. As I was walking up, two young black men got into a very intense fist fight. I'd never seen a fist fight in real life, only on television. There's a palpable electricity in the air when it happens. The minute it broke out, I stopped dead in my tracks and stood watching for several minutes. I decided the next possible bus stop was an even worse choice on a night like this, when there were drunk people everywhere, and so I hid behind the route sign and peaked around the corner. The fight dissolved after several seconds and the electricity in the air floated away into nothingness. It was not long after that a cop rode by on his bicycle. Talk about timing.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Gross-Out Part 4

So, once again I was seated behind someone. I immediately began to read my book when I noticed the woman in front of me had her hand up to her head for an extremely long time. Already wary of such situations (see Gross-Out Part 1) I took a peek at her from the corner of my eye. She must have been psychic or something, because she immediately turned around to look at me, then turned to look at everyone else in the bus, all the while with her hand still at her head. I waited a few seconds before taking another look. The woman had a patch of baldness at the crown of her head, approximately 2 inches tall by 4 inches wide. With her left hand, she was going hair by hair around the perimeter of this bald patch, giving each hair a tug. When a hair came loose, she would drop it on the ground and move on to the next hair. I'd like very much at this point to make a smart comment that will make this situation both humorous and poignant, but honestly I am at a loss.