Thursday, August 30, 2007

Public Transportation Death Threats

On the train ride home, I read a Zeroxed copy of "Federalism," Chapter 3 of a high school American Government book. My director gave me the book to help me brush up on basic political background as a means of preparing myself for this job, & Federalism is step one, apparently.

The guy sitting next to me begins asking me about the chapter - why I'm reading a high school textbook, etc. Instead of ignoring him, we start talking about politics, politicians, paranoia & a population full of apathy - pretty interesting, actually. Mid-conversation, I notice a well-dressed, 30-something Asian man sitting across the way, furiously banging his watch against his seat's metal bar & muttering obscenities. Distracted, I mention his apparent rage to Federalism Boy, who accidentally points his finger in the crazyman's general direction, or something else horribly inflammatory. Immediately riled up, Angry Asian immediately starts shouting, "Don't you point at me! I'll fucking kill you. Don't point at me! I will fucking kill you!"

Federalism Boy is kind of laughing, clearly unruffled - he's lived in D.C. for four years & says he's used to the nutters that roam the capital. I dare to peek at Angry Asian, both terrified & intrigued. His voice sounds warbled, somehow, like he's either vocally impaired or underwater; he's difficult to understand, but you can't exactly ask death-threateners to repeat themselves. As soon as he catches me looking at him, he begins yelling, "You too! I'll kill you, too! When we get off the train!"

Shrinking violent that I am, I begin repeating,"Oh God, oh God, oh God," over & over, so Federalism Boy asks if I want to move to another traincar. I do. We promptly book it to an emptier car, far away from Angry Asian & his killer tirade, where I decide it's safe to start laughing. Amused & out of harm's way, we recap the situation & savor our safety.

But Federalism Boy gets off at Fort Totten, & I have no idea where my death-wisher has exited, if at all. Amused as I am, I still exit my car with trepidation, confident the Angry Asian will emerge from his traincar to slit my throat as I head toward the escalator.

Clearly (& thankfully), this did not occur.

But are you noticing some sort of a theme here? Apparently kindergarten did me no good. Why haven't I learned NOT TO TALK TO STRANGERS?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Most Miserable Morning Ever

7:43 a.m. --- I leave my house to drive to the bus station to catch the 7:51 bus.

7:47ish a.m. --- I double-check with a woman who's also waiting: "Does this bus go to Glenmont?" She tells me it does... so I wait.

7:51 a.m. --- The bus going the other direction has come & gone (with Directional Woman on board). I sit alone at the station with an Ethiopian woman dressed in a parking attendant uniform. No bus.

7:52 a.m. --- The garbage truck passes by, emitting a smell so nauseating that Ethiopian Attendant & I gag in tandem.

7:55 a.m. --- A white poodle pees on the side of the busstop sign in front of us. "Wow, we sure do have a great spot here," I joke. Ethiopian Attendant laughs. We strike up a conversation about the woes of public transportation. We have both been in D.C. for fewer than two weeks.

8:00 a.m. --- Still no bus.

8:05 a.m. --- Still no bus.

8:06 a.m. --- "I'm going to drive to the Metro station," I tell Ethiopian Attendant. Somewhat trepidatiously, I offer, "Do you want a ride?" She accepts, & we walk to my car as I think to myself, "Shit. I am about to be mugged & left for dead by a middle-aged immigrant woman wearing Velcro shoes."

8:15 a.m. --- I confide in Ethiopian Attendent (real name: Ganette) that I'm afraid someday I'll drive to the station only to find myself parking-spotless. And whaddaya know? The lot is, you guessed it, full.

8:16 a.m. --- Graciously, I drop Ganette off on the 5th floor of the parking structure so that she can catch a train. "Drive carefully," she tells me. "And thank you so much. Have a good day!" I mentally pat myself on the back: If I'm going to pick up a stranger, at least I chose one with good manners.

8:17 a.m. --- Panic sets in. No parking. I have, essentially, driven to the Metro station for the sole purpose of dropping off a stranger at the train station. I decide that karma probably owes me one.

8:18 a.m. --- I leave my mother a frantic voicemail, as though she can help me from Ohio. I ask two Metro policemen for directions, then promptly burst into tears. "Drive to Wheaton," one tells me."There are always spots there." His directions to Wheaton suck. I keep crying.

8:19 a.m. --- In succession, I leave voicemails for Becca & Jessie telling them I'll be late to work. In a last-ditch effort, I also call Ben, who answers... & I start crying again. I promptly feel like a toolbag, despite his niceness.

8:22 a.m. --- I am supposed to be at work in half an hour. My commute takes approximately 45. After making a couple more laps around the parking structure, I do the natural thing... and head home.

8:31 a.m. --- I arrive back at my original bus stop, where I've chosen to park my car & wait for the next bus. I realize that the 7:51 bus I'd been waiting for was actually scheduled to arrive at 8:08 - exactly two minutes after I hopped in my car to drive to Glenmont. I remind myself to look at the "Monday - Friday" schedule from now on, & not the "Sunday" schedule. But if I ever need a 7:51 a.m. ride to Glenmont on a Sunday, I now know such transportation exists.

8:36 a.m. --- Bus arrives, thankthefreakinglord.

8:45ish a.m. --- I finally (& angrily) board my em-effing train.

9:00 a.m. --- I am supposed to be at work. Instead, I'm somewhere near Takoma, listening to Eminem's "Slim Shady" on my iPod.

9:30 a.m. --- I arrive at the Dupont station.

9:33 a.m. --- I walk into my place of employment.

9:34 a.m. --- I reach into my purse & am struck by its emptiness. Astonished (& pissed), I realize why: My lunch is missing. Who the hell loses canned tuna & a butterscoth pudding? And more importantly - how??? I begin to wonder whether Ganette stole my home-packed meal.
______________________
____CUT TO EVENING____
______________________

9:07 p.m. --- After bowling & dinner with my coworkers, I board the redline Metro toward home.

9:50 p.m. --- And after an excruciating ride that forced me to listen to a fellow Ohioan (& recent D.C. transplant) tell his former Miami University frat brother about his swanky new job as a legislative assistant (whateverrrr), I arrive at my stop & literally sprint to the busstop upstairs, only to find that tonight's bus did, in fact, depart on time - at 9:47, a whopping three minutes ago.

9:51 p.m. --- I spend $12 to take a taxicab to my car, still parked five-ish miles away at this morning's busstop.

10:03 p.m. --- My canned tuna, butterscotch pudding & Capri Sun are sitting on the passenger's seat of my car, where they have apparently been all day. After all this, I am oddly comforted to realize that my hitchhiker didn't rob me of lunch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wasting my Wallet Away

This is me, selling my soul to the city for $295.83 (or more) a week.

8/22 --- Kramerbooks, “The Rules of Attraction” --- $14.75
8/22 --- Buffalo Billiards, one draft Yuengling --- $6.50
8/22 --- Starbucks, grande iced chai latte (with gift card) --- $1.62
8/23 --- Elephant & Castle, happy hour --- $13.00
8/23 --- Starbucks, venti iced chai latte --- $5.89
8/23 --- Starbucks, grande iced chai latte --- $5.28
8/23 --- Potbelly's, chicken salad sandwich --- $4.61
8/27 --- CVS, assorted necessities (i.e. shoe inserts) --- $43.71
8/27 --- CVS, assorted necessities, part dos (i.e. eyeliner) --- $15.77
8/27 --- ATM withdrawal --- $20.00
8/27 --- Washington D.C. Metro, SmarTrip card --- $20.00
8/27 --- The Big Hunt, two Yuenglings --- $11.50
8/27 --- Google.com, new domain name --- $10.00
8/27 --- Starbucks, grande iced Passion tea & sandwich --- $7.04
8/27 --- Starbucks, grande iced chai latte & croissant --- $6.22
8/27 --- Baja Fresh, bean burrito & churro --- $5.43
Pending --- Kramerbooks, “Glamorama” --- $15.81
Pending --- Tortilla Coast, chicken flautas & three Bud Lites --- $18.00
Pending --- Washington D.C. Metro, SmarTrip addition --- $60.05
Pending --- Starbucks, grande blueberry frap & croissant --- $6.60
Pending --- McDonald’s, egg McMuffin --- $4.05

HOLY SHEIST. This ain't gon' last long, folks.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Characters & Situations You're Not Likely to Find in My Hometown

Public transportation is not for the faint of heart. In the past few days, I haven't seen anything too extreme, but here, even the milder encounters are amusing: A woman petting a leafy green plant potted in a Campbell's soup can; a pretty, normal-looking teenage girl in a checkered dress who began belting out all the words to Salt 'n' Pepa's "None of Your Business" really loudly, to herself; a man with a horrific combover who stood almost nose-to-glass with the sliding doors for the entire three-stop duration of his ride. "Stand back, please: doors closing," but he didn't.

And then there was the anti-genocide vigil we attended today outside the Sudanese embassy - a gaggle of white middle- to upper-class Jews dressed in their business casual best, holding signs that read, "I stand with the people of Darfur" and "Honk 4 Darfur." When passersby honked, we didn't know how to react - you can't cheer, like you're at some high school carwash fundraiser, can you? So we just gave small waves & nods of appreciation, looked a little uncomfortable, continued recapping the weekend's festivities & anticipating our next Starbucks fix.

On the way to pick up my grandenowhipblueberries&cremefrappucino, I wondered whether the scraggly-looking man wearing the Darfur sandwich-board signs, the one wandering the street beside us, was stupid enough (devoted enough?) to actually tattoo of a green & red cross onto his forehead in permanent ink.

I'm trying not to be so vapid.
Sometimes I have a hard time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A lack of A's & an abundance of H's

I'm starting to talk like them! Spend too much time around East Coasters, & Midwestern words begin to morph. I've always been a fan of "The Akron A," the way Northeast Ohio locals say words like "mom" (more like "mam") & "class" (sort of like a quick "clayiss"). My OU friends used to tease me because "crackpot" & "crockpot" sounded the same when I said them, like druggies & soup-cookers were synonymous.

And now? Not even a week with my new coworkers, & I already speak like them, saying things like "tehhr-ibble" & "vehh-ry." It's weirding me out. When we call Becca "Captain Manhattan," I want all my A's to sound the way A's are supposed to sound, but they don't - "Caip-tain Main-haittan" becomes vehhry New York & turns into "Cahhpt'n Mahn-hahht'n," with too many H's & not enough A's.

I'm very conscious of it; I feel pretentious when I speak differently. Even though I don't think they sound pretentious when they say things that way, I feel a like a phony for picking up on their dialect & switching over so quickly.

If this is what I sound like after six days, I shudder to think what a year as an East Coaster could do to me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Unwanted Compliments & Phone Numbers I Will Never Dial

I am on my way to the Metro, walking past the CVS in Dupont Circle, & I am not dressed in any particularly spectacular way - skinny jeans that sometimes make me look fat, with a lacy white top & a black "vest" & Chinese Laundry heels. I wear massive, cheap sunglasses that overwhelm my face & carry a massive, utilitarian bag that overtakes my body. A man in jeans & a paint-splattered T-shirt is walking my way, a nondescript man I wouldn’t have otherwise taken note of if not for this: As our paths cross, Average Man lowers his sunglasses, tipping them at the bottom so he can look me in the eye. I avoid his gaze, but as he passes me, he quickly says, very loudly, “Niiiice, baby.” And then it’s over, & I have passed this Average-Yet-Creepy Man, who has somehow made me feel exceptionally ugly & violated using only two words.

Outside my rail station, I ask two conversing bus drivers which port I ought to be waiting at if I want to catch bus 51. “Down that road, honey, that way,” says Light-Eyed Hispanic Driver, who is probably not much older than I am. Middle-Aged Black Driver says no, LEHD is lying, 51’s port is right in front of me, & am I new in town? Yes, I say, from Ohio, & they both recount to Ohio towns they've visited – Youngstown, Cincinnati, Warren, Orville. They know Akron; LeBron has turned the Rowdy into something legendary, for now. Middle-Aged Black Driver tells me he wants to give me his phone number, & when I ask why, he says something unintelligible, something about CDs. For some reason, I record this in my phone under the label “CD,” although I’m never going to call this random, middle-aged bus driver who is old enough to be my father, if my father were, you know, black. As long as MABD doesn’t ask for mine, I figure this is an okay situation; I’ll never call anyway, & if he asks for my number, I will lie. If he calls it while I’m standing there, I will be screwed. I mentally cross my fingers against this potential occurrence; he gives me his number & walks away to take a phone call.

Light-Eyed Hispanic Driver tells me his name is Hector, & do I like clubs or bars? Not clubs, I tell him, but I do bars sometimes. Nothing is open in Maryland late at night, he tells me, and weekends here suck – you have to go into the city for a good night out. If I want to go out sometime, to a bar & not a club, Hector says, I should call him. He gives me his number &, like MABD, doesn’t ask for mine, thankfully. And just like MABD, he walks away to take a phone call, waving at me as I head off to port 51, confused by this entire encounter.

I need to learn to avoid strangers. Entirely.

Poor Punctuation, Starbucks-hating and Not Drinking the Government's Bathroom Water

(For the record, this was written yesterday & posted on Myspace, before I got this badass domain name. Soooo... COPY & PASTE worked me some wonders.)
  1. The side of a local bus reads, "WELCOME! YOU ABOARD!" with the exclamation points in those places. My grammatically conditioned journalist-brain didn't (& stilldoesn't) know what to do with this greeting and/or well-wishing and/or warning.

  2. A sign in the women's bathroom beneath the House side of Capitol Hill reads, "DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM RESTROOMS." My coworker Ben does not find this sign amusing, but I do. Was it put up because the water is dangerous, perhaps leaden, or for some other, more amusing reason? And who, pray tell, is drinking bathroom water when there's a drinking fountain in the hallway?

  3. On the door of my local(est) Starbucks, someone has graffitied "Starvebucks." The bathroom requires a key for entry - a key only available to paying customers. Therefore I conclude that this tagger actually had to purchase Starbucks products in order to pen her anti-establishment proclamation. Ironic.

  4. Yesterday, the man sitting next to me at aforementioned Starbucks slurped the bottom of his venti macchiato for approximately five minutes. It had been fully gone for about four & a half.

  5. The English pub near Metro Center, called Elephant & Castle, serves Bangers in a Blanket. These taste amazing, but are especially fun to order. They're even more fun when your waitress is actually English herself. Jonah the Kosher-Keeper asks that we keep the traef away from him, as he is disgusted by our pork-eating ways.

  6. Tonight, I witnessed two-wheeled road rage at its finest: an angry biker screaming at a passing car,"Get off your fucking cell phone! Learn how to fucking drive!" When you're without a horn, I guess you have to use any means possible to convey your fury.
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