At some point when I wasn’t looking, I became a certified regular commuter (CRC). You know you are one when you find yourself on first-name terms with the staff of your usual bus line. Before that, I was just an unverified frequent rider (UFR). A frequent rider is the transitional stage of a person who ditched paper tickets and uses her transport company’s dedicated phone app but still doesn’t know all the ropes. Even before that, I was a random unaspiring occasional (RUO). An occasional is a loser who prints out her tickets and doesn’t yet have her favourite seat.
My newly earned status as a CRC entails the social duty of small talk with staff. This isn’t going very well for me because I’m not precisely the interactive kind. I imagine, however, that I might soon unlock a more advanced status when the transaction of polite phrases will be replaced by a simple and elegant exchange of mere meaningful looks. I also hope to get access to the function of a permanent seat reservation, so that the staff, for the sake of our continuing peaceful coexistence, would ensure that no one will ever be able to book my seat. Everyone knows it’s my seat. Only some aggressive individuals still sometimes try to cheat me out of it.
The first sign of my promotion to a CRC appeared when stewardess Martina observed that I surely love to travel with them, considering how often I indulge in this pastime. Since I’m no good in conversation, I didn’t manage to respond anything beyond the tentative and hesitant Uh, well, yes, I guess… She also addressed me in Czech, though she sees well that my ticket reservation app is set to English – you shove your phone with the reservation screen on in the stewardess’s face so she can check your ticket number – hence she should deduce that I’m not comfortable using my mother tongue.
The second sure sign of my CRC status occurred when steward Francis gave me a quick glance, confirmed with me that my reserved seat was at the back of the bus as per usual and checked me in without having to look around in his passenger list for more than one second. Normally, it’s up to the staff to tell you your seat number, so this was an interesting inversion. Also, I don’t need to be told which seat I have reserved – only amateurs accept the seat automatically allocated to them by the system without changing to their seat.
Here is my seat, selected below in yellow. Looking at it, I see I need to change the language of my web reservation account as well. Bloody Czech everywhere. It’s like I live in the Czech Republic.
Since I’ve been off antidepressants, whose side effect was apparently depression, I’m so Zen, which is so unlike me, that I’m scaring myself. Among the appalling symptoms that I now manifest is the fact that I don’t even hate my commute. I find it almost delightful to spend two hours a day sitting shielded from weather and people on the bus.
I still may have some hope of not turning into an entirely zened-out person with her chakras so aligned that nothing can mess with them. This hope is founded on the anger that possessed me when I was ordering my bus tickets and discovered that my seat was taken. As I’m a frequent rider (as of frequent flyer), it should be generally and universally known that seat no. 53 is my spot. How dare someone challenge my carefully thought-out seating arrangement?
My reaction to the loss of my chosen seat was akin to Sheldon Cooper’s on The Big Bang Theory. While I didn’t approach the trespasser while yelling in her face THAT’S. MY. SPOT. ! YOU’RE. SITTING. IN. MY. SPOT. !, my thoughts were preoccupied with murder. I didn’t enjoy my alternative seat at all because it was on the wrong side of the bus. As everyone, I hate to end up on the wrong side.
I still approve of the seat allocation system though. I believe it is essential that people’s names are matched with specific seats in the unlikely, as they insist, case of an accident. Should the bus drive into a bridge with everyone dead belted in their seats, it will speed up the identification of the bodies immensely.
I imprudently shared this positive view with my colleague and co-traveller, who didn’t appreciate its ingenuity and looked upset. Especially in the light of the incident shortly after the bus set off when the driver hit the brakes rather hard and rather unexpectedly, sending all unbelted passengers and unattached objects flying. If I hadn’t been belted, I would have certainly cracked my head on the seat before me. This way I was only hoping that we hadn’t run over a kitten.
I recently joined the ranks of most people and equipped myself with a tablet. I was resisting for a long time because I regarded tablets as luxury tools of entertainment that I shouldn’t afford. Then I found a hybrid of a tablet and a laptop, which is tablet-sized, tablet-like but has an optional docking keyboard for when one means typing business. I picked this particular tablet because of the keyboard – and because it’s white. I’m the kind of person who purchases things based on colour and I’m not even ashamed of my silliness.
Based on an inner feeling in my guts, I determined that my tablet would be male and called him Snowhite. Yes, he’s a male Snow White, and so far he hasn’t expressed desire to switch gender. Since I’ve been commuting, for two or more hours a day, I’ve been carrying him around at all times. I’ve tentatively learned the time management skill that I admired in other people who just work or play as they go rather than staring blankly out of the window on their commute. Something to hate with less than my usual fierceness.
Continuing in my leg post streak, here’s a photo of a curious arrangement I found in a shopping window. I’m not sure if the choice of bodily parts plus the purse mean something, and I don’t want to know. However, I think it’s a great fit to my psychedelic bus story below.
The thing about buses is that once you get on, you can’t get off. It’s not like the train when you can always throw yourself out of the window when your travel mates are particularly taxing. I spent an hour on the bus in the tragicomic company of what turned out to be college girl students. It’s been a few days now and I’m still praying to the god who isn’t that they may not be students whom I teach.
The college girls produced a bottle of wine the first thing and started to pass it around. As they didn’t offer me any, though I was squashed in a seat next to theirs, I immediately disliked them. To start with, it was funny to eavesdrop on their talk (I didn’t particularly mean to eavesdrop, but they were too noisy to block out even with my earphones on). Then it got me terribly depressed.
Because a person commuting for two hours a day has nothing sensible to do during the commute, I naturally spent the trip judging them (feel free to judge me). The poor things were trying to hard to act as though they were having fun, but I was positive they were faking it. It was more angsty than cheery. Ultimately, it turned out to be simply stupid.
One of the college girls was musing aloud on the metaphysical question as to whether her nylon tights will get dry overnight when she launders them in the evening. While I do not undervalue the essential importance of this problem, it was the trail of her thought that saddened me. (Also, I braced myself from saying anything, but yes, your tights will be dry overnight, provided you wring them out properly.)
For one thing, she would normally dry her nylon tights in a dryer. In which case she can just toss them out after wearing and buy a new pair each time. It’s like drying your cat in the dryer. Neither the cat nor the nylon will be any better for it. Another thing, she concluded her deliberations with a heartfelt exclamation, If only someone invented a combo washer dryer! I said nothing but was half-tempted to invite the girl over to my place and show her mine. I could probably convince her that I own the first functional prototype of the combo washer dryer. She’d be thrilled.
I woke up today with a bit of script whirling obsessively round my head: var_dump($blahblah);. This is a developer’s query and is perfectly useless for me to remember at the early stage of my evolution into a geek. My three-week IT course left its indelible marks on me: not only do I have nightmares in which code validators scream red at my code, now I also wake up with a dump in my head.
Wondering if my dump wake-up might have an instructive meaning, I looked around to discover that I actually live in a dump. Now, from my perspective, dump at home happens when I fail to vacuum the floor daily and when I fail to take recyclable rubbish to the bin regularly. Most people would probably call my dump a clean place.
Since I’m me and not most people, I vacuumed thoroughly and took a huge bundle of recyclables out. I could hardly carry the bulk of it. On my way back I stopped in a small shop on the ground floor of my building and got some extra cleaning supplies to soothe my OCD.
I still can’t get the dump out of my head though. Now I think that what the dump dream really meant was that I should skip cleaning and go out to shoot some dump-o-ramas: shout-out to Cardinal Guzman here, go check out his take on the dump-o-rama genre!
This is another instalment of my tongue-in-cheek gratitude project, which takes into account that I’m ungrateful. Also taking into account that I spent the last five days commuting to and fro to attend the final week of my IT course, this is a five-in-one catching up post. So catch it if you can.
The last week of my web building course built up on the knowledge that I didn’t gain in the previous two weeks. I felt sorry for myself and occasionally also for our instructor with his regular outbursts of instructing passion. He reminded me of me when I was young and took my teaching like it could make a difference.
Partly to keep myself reasonably awake and partly out of desire to please, I would also break into regular fits of activity in which I would attempt to answer the instructor’s questions. At one such moment, when I accidentally managed to return the right answer, the instructor had the ill-advised idea to ask me how I arrived at it. I explained it was an uneducated guess. He observed that I reminded him of his daughter.
He was probably being sweet but I found it mildly disturbing. His daughter is eleven, he says, so does it imply that my thinking is that of an eleven-year old? Or that my chest looks like that of an eleven-year old? I mean, yes and yes, but it’s not polite to point it out. Also, how the heck old does he think I am? For me to be his daughter, he’d have to conceive me when he was like ten. This course is getting increasingly creepy.
On our day off the course, I took a commuting trip to yet another town because I so much love to get up at five and drag my ass around in the biting cold of early mornings. My schoolmate teaches at the local university, where a temporal vacancy opened because one of their teachers went mad. I volunteered as a substitute. I already have about as many issues as the New York Times, hence my sanity is no more a concern. Had I known though that the teaching takes place in a building containing asbestos and convicted for demolition/renovation, I’d have asked for a bonus to compensate the doubly hazardous working environment.
I had what was presumably a pleasant talk with the department head. I would never know for sure because she spoke Slovak and Czechs of my generation no more understand Slovak since Czechoslovakia split in the early 1990s. What I did gather was that she was inquiring about my possible interest in a future more permanent employment. It transpired that there wasn’t enough people with a doctorate willing to submit themselves to a minimum wage eight-to-five teaching toil. What a shock. I told her what I thought she wanted to hear (Sure, I’m so excited to start the next week, I was missing teaching already!) and promised nothing.
75/365: Wardrobe Malfunctions
I found out that my new shirt manifests a malfunction. When I stretched in class, all the buttons from neck to belly went unbuttoned on their own accord. As I was tired with transcribing the completely incomprehensible script from the board onto my screen, I spent the rest of the class experimenting to see if I could repeat the same effect. I couldn’t. A creepy classmate who sat in the row behind me and seemed to be taking pictures of something with his phone constantly was probably disappointed.
On a related note, throughout the whole class I had a strong urge to ask the teacher nicely to strip his shirt. Someone should inform him that a white shirt simply can’t be worn twice in a row without laundering because it looks filthy the second day. Not to mention the stain on his chest which appeared after the lunch break. It made my OCD curl up in the corner of the room, rock to and fro and cry. A lot.
76/365: Kafka Land
I live in the country in which Franz Kafka produced his chronicles of the red tape. Kafka clearly modelled his books on the local government institutions and surely found a particularly rich source of inspiration in the local employment agency. Because I’ll be teaching from Tuesday through Thursday starting next week, I can’t come for the next scheduled appointment on Thursday. I emailed to explain the situation and ask for rescheduling.
Guess what I learned. I received a brief reply stating that a job mustn’t interfere with fulfilling my obligations towards the employment agency. I wonder if I should quit so that I could devote my undivided attention to being unemployed and calling at the agency at their convenience. I’ll pay my employment advisor a surprise visit on Monday the first thing, if only to enlighten her that for her, it’s not Mrs Eastern, as she addressed her email, but Dr Eastern. I would hate to wave a gun, so what’s left is to wave my diploma, since appeal to common sense, reason or logic doesn’t apply here.
77/365: Bus Mates
I spent the whole hour on the morning bus with a guy on top of me. He was sleeping while his thigh was maintaining a constant contact with mine. That is, I assume he was sleeping. I didn’t mind it to start with, but then the person opened his mouth to speak. That totally spoilt the semi-cute impression his looks left on me. On the list of my requirements on a potential partner, I’m adding that he must be dumb. Not dumb as stupid, in which case the guy in question would be a great fit, but dumb as mute.
And I thought the worst bus mate was my Monday’s one. It was a girl who kept on punching me with her elbow while using her laptop. She was clearly dumb too, no offence, because she was using the Edge browser (!) to view a site in HTML 4.01 Transitional (!!). The site looked very much like my homework site that I made for my course. Except possibly worse. Also, my web building course is working because since I started it, I’ve been spending considerably more time viewing source code of web sites rather than the sites. On this note, here’s to the current HTML5 and good code. Cheers.