Cold Weather Sensibility

Listen, in my mind, I know it gets cold every year around the same time. I know it gets really cold. I know it’s because it’s winter, and I know that it is going to happen at roughly the same time every year.

That being said, for whatever reason, I simply can’t make myself believe it. Every winter, I am genuinely stunned at how cold it gets. It’s like, despite being a fairly logical, practical, informed person, cold weather memories are the one thing my subconscious has retained the almost miraculous ability to suppress.

Which means every October/November, I’m shivering by the bus stop wondering what the heck happened and when will it stop.

It may be time to invest in some polar fleece.

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Nice to meet you

There are a few different kinds of commuters. The first (and my personal favorite) kind are just trying to get from Point A to Point B. They’re quiet, probably tired, and just want to listen to music or read or stare out the window in peace.

The second kind is a bit more gregarious. I usually imagine that these people are not regular commuters, but rather newbs or people just going to the city for the afternoon or the island for the evening. The train is new and exciting, and they want to make friends. They will literally interrupt your reading with a comment like, “That must be a good book!”

The ironic part of that statement is that what they mean is, “That must be a good book because you seem so focused on it.” They are interrupting your focus to comment on your focus. Maddening.

But the second type of commuter at least means well. They’re just trying to be friendly (slash, occasionally, hit on you). It’s the third type that is actually a problem.

The third type is the commuter that thinks a train car is the same as a busy street or, even worse, a bar or club. They speak much too loudly, having no qualms about fighting with either fellow passengers or someone on the phone. If, God help you, you have to take the train after one in the morning, you’ll get the ones who seem to think they’re at a casting call for the next Jersey Shore. Cat calls, douchey attempts at flirting, and all around slutting and toolery are rampant.

Unfortunately, these antics are not always confined to the evening trains (though they are much more likely…you can buy beer and cocktails on the platform then). For example, this morning a group of four people (two women, two men) got into a boisterous bickering match about, I kid you not, which of the women had shown more “attitude” during a conversation about whether or not the train car was full.

A) Who cares?
B) You’re both in seats now, so who cares?
C) It’s eight in the morning, so WHO CARES?

I may need to invest in a quality pair of headphones.

Nemeses and Nor’ Easters

I’m starting to think the weather has something against me. Something personal and deep-seated. Like, maybe we went to high school together, and one time I got the spot on debate team Weather wanted, but Weather let it go, and then I got voted to homecoming court and Weather had to make the decorations, but Weather let it go, and THEN — well, then the guy Weather had secretly been in love with for six years asked me to get a Pepsi float with him at the neighborhood soda fountain and, for Weather, that. Was. The. Last. Straw.

What I’m saying is, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything intentional to piss Weather off, but I did something she’s not going to forgive me for anytime soon.

I’ve already gone into the virtual art form that is commuting in the rain, but I left out was all the preparation this dance requires. Starting with wardrobe.

You know how commuters have to carry their days on their backs? It’s a similar philosophy when it comes to dressing. I make my groggy, “what should I wear today” decision, knowing in the back of my mind that whatever it is has to transition seamlessly from morning-train couture to evening-plans ensemble. In other words, I’m going to wear what I put on, no matter the environment, for the next 16-17 hours.

Interestingly(ish), the most difficult part of the whole process is shoes. For example, if it’s, oh, I don’t know, pouring down rain, I’ll want to wear my Wellies. But I’ll want to wear modest heels or ballet flats at work. But I’ll want to wear dressier heels to the meeting after. If you’re keeping track, we’re up to three pairs, including my giant green rain boots.

In the end, I’ll probably wear the boots and pack heels or nice flats, but I’ll stare at the shoes at some point during the day and think, “If only…”

Fashion regret is real, folks, and it’s cruel.

So I guess I should try to figure out some way of making up with Weather. Maybe a Pepsi float would help.

(***Edit (lot of these lately…): It was crazy thunderstorm-ing (get made-up verb’d) last night when I wrote this, anticipating a soggy trip. This morning it was sunny and gorgeous. Apparently Weather’s new plan of attack is making me look like a whiny idiot. She’s good.)

Trains, rains, and how we all feel

There really is nothing more poetic than commuting in a monsoon. Everyone is dashing around, trying to pretend it’s not really a big deal, but if you happen to get roped into conversation with anyone, it’s all you can think to talk about.

Anywho, sorry for the gap in posting. Monday I had nothing to say, Tuesday I forgot my phone so I missed out on my train ride writing time, and yesterday my bus never showed up (Yup.) so I worked from home and didn’t really have time for personal writing. (Though I did get to go for a run and eat lunch with the fiance…so, not all bad!)

Commuting is a weird experience. I’ll be honest, most of the time I dislike it, though using it as blogging time has given it more purpose. But the really interesting thing is studying the culture. Because commuters are a different culture than people who drive ten minutes to work each morning. They have their own set of laws, values, and etiquette.

One time the fiance and I went out in the city with our friends Bryan, Craig, and James. James is also a commuter, so when the ticket collector came around on the train ride home, James and I pulled out our monthly passes while everyone handed over their single-ride tickets.

At this point, Craig pipes up, “Do you guys feel better.than us because you have monthly passes?”

James quickly said no, but I said, “Yes. Well, not better but stronger. I think I’m stronger than you.” I was kind of joking, but also kind of serious.

Because commuting can suck. You’re at the mercy of a system than often proves itself unreliable, you have to operate on someone else’s schedule, and in general the whole process can be largely uncomfortable. You have to learn to be comfortable with this discomfort, and that takes a certain amount of mental strength.

Or at the very least, a really awesome book.

Of course, I can’t complain too much. I have a job, and I’m living somewhere that makes me very happy (well, the people there make me very happy anyway).

Now if only I could dry out my jeans, we would be in business.

Monsters Inc.

Writing a blog is a really precarious thing if you’re at all concerned with coming off pretentious or self-absorbed. Because, let’s face it, the entire practice is conducted under the assumptions that a) the Blogger has something interesting/entertaining to say, and b) people care.

My friend Craig does this hilarious thing called the Me Monster whenever anyone, even innocently, turns a conversation back to themselves. Example:

Person A: So I’m having a really difficult time with this class. I don’t get it and the teachers-
Person B: I loved that class! I got an A! The teacher loved me!

At this point Craig will start repeating, “I, me, my, MY, ME MY I!!!” with increasing volume while starting to beat his chest and flailing his arms like King Kong (it really is hilarious…I’ll see if I can get it on video) until Person B pipes down.

The point is, I have a lot of would-have-been post corpses sitting in my drafts folder because halfway through writing, I just stared at the words and thought, “Who cares?”

And now I can’t help the tiny Me Monster editor who sits in my brain, reading over every draft, poised to snap at the slightest symptom of ego. (He wears a green visor and smokes a cigar, in case you were wondering.)

I guess it’s pretty fortunate that most of my readers know me personally, so they do at least care on principle. For the rest of you…well, say something funny and maybe you’ll get quoted or something.

Bag Lady

You know how sometimes people say that someone has “a lot of baggage”? As in, they seem to be carrying a lot of mental or emotional weight. Well, in my world, the baggage is much more literal.

I’m a big purse girl. And it’s not like I just love the look or weight of a giant bag — my big purse is entirely necessary to my lifestyle.

My male friends tend to tease me about it, but I really don’t have any other choice. I get up quite early in the morning, and then I won’t see my home again for well over 12 hours. Which means, if there is anything I need throughout the day, it must be brought with me. Heck, if there is anything I might need at any point during the day, it had better be tucked in that oversized pocket book swinging from my shoulder or I’m out of luck.

Tuesdays are the worst because I go straight from work to the meeting. Right now my bag contains the following:

Wallet, five books for the meeting tonight, a sandwich, two granola bars, a yogurt, a pair of high heels, a letter from my dad with a wedding check I need to take to the bank, a hairbrush, a toiletrie bag, a mini notepad, and an assortment of pens, highlighters, and gum.

The entire bag is smaller than 2×2 feet.

What I’m saying is, the world can bring it; I’m prepared.

Stationary reflections

So, it hasn’t exactly been a crackerjack month for the Long Island Rail Road.

Remember a few weeks ago when the whole train stopped running? (Apparently there was a fire in the control room of Jamaica Station, a fairly crucial gateway between the Island and the city.)

Welp, apparently it takes less to bring this dog and pony show down than you might think. Last night a few trees (allegedly…I’m not ruling out conspiracy theories yet) fell on the tracks between Penn and Jamaica in a storm, and all trains ceased running in or out of Penn Station.

Now, those of you who don’t live in New York or have my commute might not grasp the gravity of that statement,  so think of it this way: I would venture that it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that at least half a million people commute into the city each day. That means that roughly half a million people were simply stranded as of, oh, 5:00 p.m. on a weekday.

The LIRR is in the middle of celebrating its 100-year anniversary. (I believe the slogan on the website right now is, “100 years…and still going strong!” Meaning the railroad has not lost its sense of humor with age.) This means that in one hundred years of running, it never occurred to the people in charge that maybe, just maybe they should come up with a backup plan. In case of a thunderstorm, which actually does have the power to bring down the whole kit’n’kaboodle.

I actually got to Penn before I realized the extremity of the damages, so I spent a few minutes milling about on the sidewalk with a few thousand angry commuters and curious passers-by. I must have looked like I knew what was going on (to be fair, by that point I did, thanks to numerous concerned texts from friends and the Fiance) because people kept asking me what was happening.

I’ve decided you can tell a New Yorker from a tourist in a second just by seeing how they respond to the news that the LIRR isn’t running.

Tourist: “Like, it’s turned off? Until when? How?”

Local: “Well, that’s just perfect.”

And even though the fact that I’m spending a small fortune every month for service that might be provided is stomach churning, it’s oddly heartwarming to watch this city in the face of adversity.

Instantly, we were all on the same team of stranded commuters who simply want to get home. People who would normally gruffly ignore each other chatted amicably on the train, swapping “where I was when I heard and what I did next” stories and “isn’t this just so typical” jokes.

I even got to spend a few hours with my friend and fellow commuter Laurie, and we talked more than we have in months as we scrambled to Brooklyn where the trains were rumored to still be running (they were, thank goodness).

So yes, I think what happened yesterday was avoidable and an atrocious way of running a transportation system, but it’s also one of those stories that I think will always define me as an at-one-time “real” New Yorker, no matter where I end up in the future.

And it shows a different side of the city; one that sure, always assumes the worst, but is still always ready to forgive.