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HIDWTS: Scottish Chivalry.

This holiday version of How I Decide Where to Sit was prompted by my brand new commute! Actually, a few different commutes, because I work at different campuses sometimes, and none of them are particularly near each other, bus-route-wise.

www.flickr.com/photos/in…

Deciding where to sit has been a snap, really. The buses I take are rarely crowded, and unless it is a single-decker bus, my usual spot is the front seat on the top right. It used to be the front seat on the top left, but then I was on a bus that drove past some untrimmed trees just as I was dozing off.

So yes, dozing off: I am up to my old falling-asleep-on-public-transport tricks. It’s a side-effect of the lame insomnia I’ve been battling recently. So far, I have managed to pop awake just before I need to hop off the bus, so basically I am using up all of my luck and tomorrow a grand piano is going to fall on my head.

Today I was walking to the bus stop on my way to a holiday luncheon for work (for those of you keeping track, this is the second of three parties I have been invited to, an unexpected yet pleasant result of working with four different teams) and I decided to take a shortcut across the edge of a park. As soon as I stepped off the sidewalk, I knew I was in trouble. The heels of my boots slid and then squelched in the muddy grass as I wobbled my way across, only to find a small iron railing I would have to step over on the other side. On a drier day, this wouldn’t have been daunting at all. I was mumbling something about how this wasn’t such a great idea when I looked up to see a young man in front of me reaching his hand out to steady me as I stepped over the railing. I thanked him for his trouble and got a diffident “nae bother” in response. And then, in keeping with the spirit of the moment, we genially avoided making conversation or even eye contact as we waited for the bus.

I used to ride a shuttle to work. It was a really nice shuttle and the first time I had ever had that luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.

HIDWtS: Thanksgiving in Scotland.

This Thanksgiving edition of How I Decide Where to Sit is dedicated to reviewing all the rookie mistakes one can make when riding public transit in a new city for the first time, because it is kind of like what the Pilgrims did when they– no. Even I can’t torture that metaphor. It is dedicated to rookie mistakes because I made them all today and I need to laugh about them with you.

  • I waited thirty minutes for a bus whose arrival time as reported by the phone app was stuck at "21:39" before giving up and walking to a stop of a different bus that seemed to be showing up every ten minutes.
  • I assumed that the stops for the line going inbound were in generally the same place as the stops for the line going outbound.
  • I forgot about the driving on the left side of the road thing, which means I was waiting on the wrong side of the street for the inbound bus.
  • I thought I could easily cross a simple little two-lane road to get to the correct side of the street, but finally gave up and walked all the way around to the subway (underpass) so I could cross without dying.
  • When I finally boarded the right bus, I was so set on sitting up top that I was forced to sit on the very back row, which is almost exactly like the rumble seat.
  • Despite much rumbling, I fell asleep. But woke up just as the bus approached the landmark nearest my stop!
  • I disbelieved my gut telling me to walk THAT WAY home and instead listened to the little blue dot of the GPS which lies.

So really it was like riding public transit for the very first time ever! That is the spin I am going to take because I am in denial, denial that moving to a new country, even if you (sort of) speak the language, means not knowing how to do anything very well for a while and just sucking that up because the alternative is hiding in your very nice flat all the time and pretending to buy postage from the cats just so you get better at counting out the different coins. Not that I have been doing that at all.

[caption id=“” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Lothian Buses 991 SN57 DBX, by Ingy the Wingy”]Lothian Buses 991 SN57 DBX[/caption]

Anyway, I had thought about doing some sort of Thanksgiving meal here, but the more I pondered approximating turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and the rest, the more homesick I felt, and then I felt disappointed about feeling so homesick. My stomach sold the rest of me out for the memory of pumpkin pie. Yesterday’s vegan baking experiment of pumpkin mini-muffins did not do the trick, although they were tasty. (I used this recipe, with a ripe banana in the place of the eggs.)

Homesickness aside, I am extremely thankful for this new home, for my family and friends, and for owning a lot of candles because this place is very dark just now. I think I will go roast some chestnuts.

HIDWtS Rating: We just debated taking turkey legs to the chip shop that will fry anything. Do you think they will do pumpkin puree?

[box type=“shadow”]I used to ride a shuttle to work. It was a really nice shuttle and the first time I had ever had that luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Sleep deprivation.

After yet another terrible night of sleep, I was looking forward to work today, figuring that some semblance of a routine would keep my mind occupied and focused. Holiday weekends are wonderful but I need structure to flourish. Otherwise there is everything to do, all at once, and nothing gets done. My sleep schedule also goes wonky, not that it matters when I can’t fall asleep.

My shift is a little later for a couple of weeks as I cover for a coworker’s vacation, so I had to look up the shuttle timetables and plan out my commute, something I have not done for many months. I could make excuses as to why this stymied me – lack of sleep being foremost, along with excessive mistrust of public transit – but truly I was surprised at how much I wrung my hands over a five-mile trek.

I decided to take Muni to the shuttle, and then the shuttle to work. So simple, so straightforward. When Muni approached the shuttle stop, I briefly pondered whether or not I should just stay on Muni the whole way, or if I should take the shuttle. Muni being what it is, I decided on the shuttle. Then I froze in my seat. I told my legs to move and they didn’t. There was no panic, just an absolute lack of movement.

Then I fell asleep.

OK, so sleep deprivation is kind of scary after all.

Would it be weird to show up to the hair salon in a cervical collar? Nodding off during a haircut seems dangerous.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Secret club.

For seven months, I have been stumped, not by a puzzle or a game, but by a shuttle.

When I board my shuttle in the mornings, it is already nearly full. I figured there must be another stop somewhere, but there is only one listed on the schedule. One morning I worked up the nerve to ask a fellow passenger where this might be. Her answer was snottily unintelligible, so I didn’t ask for clarification.

I am no stranger to the world of secret clubs. Why, I have been excluded from some of the very best of them. So I got the hint: the first shuttle stop is a secret, and one I have to figure out for myself so I can crash it and make the secretive people really unhappy.

It’s not that I want to ruin anyone’s good time. Except that I do. I really, really do. I am, in fact, kind of a jerk when it comes to secret clubs. It’s not about entitlement, but rather about figuring out the puzzle of it. I can be annoyingly persistent when there is a puzzle involved.

However, I have an even stronger trait that often trumps my puzzle-solving desire: I am easily distracted. So easily distracted, in fact, that for seven months I kept meaning to figure out where this stupid secret stop was, but something would always distract me in the morning, like:

  • I need to mail this letter, so I should find a mailbox.
  • I am cold so I will just stand here where the wind doesn’t blow so hard.
  • I am thinking about a story I am writing.
  • I am thinking about homework.
  • I am reading (while walking, ill-advised but I do it anyway).
  • I am knitting (while walking, even more ill-advised, but I do it anyway).
  • What would happen if I was a sleeper agent and was suddenly activated?
  • What will I eat for lunch?
  • What would a suddenly-activated sleeper agent eat for lunch?

Last week, I was so tired that my exhaustion overrode any distractions. Instead of turning one way to walk to my usual stop, I turned the other way. Before long, I was standing in a group of people who looked like they were waiting for something. I was too tired to do anything but stand there too. I vowed that if nothing happened before 8:15, I would hail a cab. Before I had to deal with that impossibility, my shuttle showed up. I sat in an empty row, sleepily victorious.

HIDWtS Rating: That feeling of awesomeness wrapped in disbelief of my own ignorance. Kind of like a bacon-wrapped scallop, but replace the bacon with Tofurky.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIWDtS: Bye-bye, lady.

Every once in a while, I encounter the N-Judah Greeter. He is a sweet man who says hello and waves to everyone who boards the train, and says goodbye and waves to everyone who leaves.

Most people avoid catching his eye, because that is his signal that it is okay to wave and talk. He spends a lot of the time in suspended animation, looking expectantly at each new passenger, hoping for eye contact. As soon as the person looks up, he waves and exclaims, “Hello!” Women get a “lady” tacked on the end. If the person does not respond, he repeats himself a few times, then stops and moves on to the next person.

If you, like me, respond, then there is a short script:

“Hello, lady!” “Hello!” “Where are you going?” “Home!” “OK, lady!”

On the way out, there is a similarly enthusiastic send-off. If it happens to be a Friday, as it was when I last saw the Greeter, he waves and says, “Bye-bye, lady,” then adds, “Have a good weekend!”

The Greeter has a thankless job. Because he is friendly on Muni, he is mostly treated like a hostile stranger. I have learned to take my enthusiastic greetings and send-offs where I can get them, because I never know when it will be the last time I see a place.

Except now I know. I know when my last Muni ride will be. I know when I will close the front door of my home for the last time, when I will drive to SFO for the last time, when I will get on a plane with my bags and my cats and fly over this giant place to a dream.

My beloved FunkyPlaid and I are moving to Scotland. Now that I can type that, it is real to me. He leaves in just over two weeks to get settled and start his PhD program, and I leave in just under two months with Zen and Torgi in tow.

Almost eight years ago, FunkyPlaid made this trip alone. I drove him to SFO and dissolved at the security checkpoint. I joked with him the other day that I won’t be crying this time, but who am I kidding? The moment is too big for me not to cry.

This departure is a culmination of so much planning, hard work, imagination, and passion, bolstered with support from our dear friends and family, and sprinkled with a bit of good luck and great timing. Most days it is difficult for me to picture the end result because there is still so much to do, and I find my motivation in knocking things off to-do lists. But every once in a while, I look up from the cardboard boxes and think of the adventure about to begin.

Bye-bye, lady.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Instruments of torture.

O, hello. I am glad you are still here! The end of the semester was a little harrowing, but now there is a moment to breathe and obsess over seating arrangements.

I am not great at it yet, but for the past month I have been knitting while commuting. This is much more productive than dozing off, and it keeps my restless brain occupied.

There appear to be two ways of dealing with a knitter on public transit. One is to avoid. In the wrong hands, a knitting needle could do some serious damage, maybe even a d4’s worth. Very scary. Also, I have a terrifying presence, so anything sharper than an oven mitt in my hand is incredibly intimidating to the average person.

The other way is to ask a hundred thousand questions about knitting, how to knit, the history of textiles, and which things can be knotted together into other things. This always goes really well, because though I have been a knitter forever, I have no idea how even to approach teaching someone else how to knit. As far as I am concerned, I hold a piece of yarn near a stick and wiggle my hand and something happens.

As you might imagine, I am not very good at knitting. But persistent!

Although I have been dutifully observing the behavior that occurs when I take out my knitting on public transit, I have yet to discern the pattern behind commuter reactions. So far, it is about fifty-fifty, and evenly split down any defining characteristic I could choose to name. I am beginning to think that the division may have something to do with the annoyance of movement in one’s peripheral vision (avoid pesky knitters with their constantly-moving hands) or the well-known stereotype of knitter as affable and knowledgeable textile oracle who is secretly a crime-fighting superhero.

Maybe that’s not a well-known stereotype. It should be. Because, you know … never mind.

HIDWtS Rating: I cannot divulge this for fear of endangering your life, citizen.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Dance with me.

Previously, I confessed my deep and abiding affection for sitting in The Pocket while on Muni, as well as my irritation with the Blockit No Pocket phenomenon. But a few people showed me the error of my ways. The Pocket can be hard on the knees, and it is the most cramped seat on the train. The Blockit has a nice one-knee freedom, plus it faces the middle accordion section, which is nominally exciting as it twists through turns while above ground.

Last week, while enjoying the rebellious luxury of my own Blockit No Pocket, I spotted an older woman having some trouble getting seated before the train started up again. She was holding onto the bar in the middle accordion section as she tried to walk to the baseball seats. From the looks of her grip and the train’s rate of acceleration, I could see this was not going to end well.

I got up, not altogether steady myself, and held both hands out to her. We smiled at each other as we clasped hands. I braced the back of my legs against the seat as I swung her, gently, toward the first base seat. She landed as delicately as a bird and let go, laughing as she thanked me.

That dance was the best thing I did all day.

HIDWtS Rating: One, two, cha-cha-cha.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Home run.

Between the middle accordion section of a LRV and one set of doors are four seats. Because they face inward instead of forward or backward, passengers who sit in them often slide to and fro with the braking and accelerating of the train.

These seats are named, in order from the middle to the doors, after the bases of a baseball diamond because of their exquisite sliding powers. They are usually filled up in the following order:

  1. First
  2. Home Base
  3. Second or Third, depending on how inoffensive the people sitting in First or Home happen to be
  4. whatever is left

On less-filled trains, I like to keep score. I once saw a very inebriated and slippery person get a home run.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Cheek to cheek.

[Ed. note: This is almost a week overdue, thanks to the ridiculous summer cold I caught. Lucky for me, seating is timeless!]

Let’s talk express. Let’s talk hard facts and numbers. Or let’s just talk about rear ends, because that is all I remember from my first experience with Muni’s Nx bus.

With all of the nightmare-laden nights I have experienced lately, I am beginning to ponder the efficacy of a routine nightcap. Nothing too heavy, mind, but something that will knock me the hell out until morning. Last night’s theatrical production was a garish parade of grotesquely-exaggerated characters from my past. They weren’t doing nice things like sitting quietly on a luxury shuttle, either.

By the time I left the house, I was astoundingly late, the type of late that could not be recovered from gracefully. Since I live in a neighborhood without ambient taxi traffic, that was not an option. The new N-Judah express bus was, though; it would take me most of the way to work and I could theoretically find a taxi for the last tiny bit.

The Nx was already 90% full when I boarded. By the time we reached the last stop before the express portion, I was wedged in the aisle with nowhere to move. My butt was smushed up against someone else’s butt. It was not an entirely unpleasant feeling, while being completely unwanted, leaving me in aesthetic limbo. If I haven’t already mentioned this, I am fairly claustrophobic, which means that I don’t just start punching people if I am in a crowded space, but it requires many deep-breathing exercises and meaningful stares at the nearest exit.

It only took the bus twenty minutes to get downtown from 19th Avenue, a blink of the eye in traffic terms but an utter eternity in butt-smushing. Before boarding the Nx, I considered myself worldly when it came to public transit, but I lost purity-test points on that ride. I never did catch a glimpse of my posterior partner. Was it you? Don’t ever tell me.

HIDWtS Rating: At least it wasn’t the T-Third Toucher.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Holiday catch-up edition.

The past few days have been spent in a homework daze peppered with obsessive Google+ fidgeting, and then I actually left the house on Saturday, Sunday, AND Monday to do offline things, which was weird and also good. But now there is catching up to do!

This morning, I boarded a mostly-full shuttle and beelined for the newspaper-reader. Yes, that’s right, crinkly, smudge-prone pages and all. My reasoning is simple: every time I sit near someone reading a physical newspaper, I get the news. Either the reader tells me something interesting (to them only, maybe) that is happening, or I peep the pages myself.

Sure, I could buy a paper, or read the news on my phone, but I have extremely low initiative when it comes to things that are boring and repetitive. Both of those solutions require me to do the boring thing, whereas sitting newspaper-adjacent only requires me being a receptive or perceptive person.

Sadly, newspaper-readers are rarely spotted on my shuttle, and people really don’t like it when you attempt some surreptitious Kindle-peeping.

Also, I like the rustle noises.

HIDWtS Rating: Pulpy.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Don't be that guy.

Some days I have a clear picture of what is right and what is wrong. Per yesterday’s post, there are unspoken rules that are pretty obvious. When they occur, passengers are fazed, or are at least slightly less apathetic than usual.

Other days, I am just not sure. There is one Muni seating situation that never fails to throw me because it seems wrong yet fazes no one but me: Blockit No Pocket.

You know how much I love sitting in The Pocket. As much as I love that, other people love sitting in the Blockit without anyone sitting in The Pocket. In general, I do not understand the habit of sitting in the aisle seat to block off the window seat. It’s not like I can’t see the empty seat next to you.

Worse than this is when I attempt to sit in the window seat and the aisle-sitter does not get up, but merely twists aislewards so I can attempt to smush past or climb over.

Don’t be that guy. I mean that with love and compassion and gender neutrality. Don’t make your preference – which is everyone’s preference, by the way, not to sit next to a stranger who might poop on you – anyone else’s problem. Just sit like a responsible adult, out of the way of other people. And get off the phone!

HIDWtS Rating: Yes, I am bossy today.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Crazy train.

Things that are commonly acceptable to do while on public transit:

  • Reading.
  • Writing.
  • Listening to music.
  • Playing games on your handheld gadget of choice.
  • Knitting, crocheting, embroidering, or any other craft that doesn’t involve poking someone else’s eye out.
  • Sitting quietly.
  • Napping if you don’t fall over into the aisle or into someone’s lap.
  • Smiling.
  • Singing, but only if you are part of a way-cool a cappella group and only singing one song and it happens to be one I like. Also please wear matching sweater vests.

O RLY?

Things not on the first list that I have witnessed (bolded items witnessed today):

  • Talking on the phone.
  • Eating sweet and sour pork.
  • Slamming miniatures during the morning commute.
  • Most manicure- or pedicure-related actions.
  • Asking for donations.
  • Selling cookies, candy, t-shirts, and God.
  • Glaring.
  • Aggressively attempting to start conversation with strangers.
  • Hawking and/or spitting.
  • Having sexytime, solo and otherwise.
  • Sneezing without covering your mouth.
  • Losing control of your bowels and/or bladder.
  • Singing of all non-sweater-vested a cappella varieties.

HIDWtS Rating: I learned today that it is “hawk” and not “hock” which is good because I don’t think you can get much for phlegm at the pawn shop.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Smell ya later.

Today the shuttle was nearly full when I boarded, so I chose the seat next to the person who looked like she smelled good.

I know I didn’t include this in my rule set, but that’s because I hadn’t realized it was a rule before today. So here is my new rule set:

  1. Sit in empty row.
  2. Sit next to someone who looks like they smell good.
  3. Sit next to someone who looks like they smell neither good nor bad.
  4. Sit in rumble seat.
  5. Sit next to someone who looks like they smell bad.
  6. Stand in aisle.

relevé

I love the sense of smell. I enjoy wearing essential oil, and I enjoy trying to guess what others are wearing, too. Sometimes I even enjoy trying to discern bad smells, but not enough to willingly sit next to them.

Today’s revelation was that I would rather sit uncomfortably than smell something bad for twenty minutes, but I would rather smell something bad than aisle-surf.

I was in luck today, because the woman I sat next to smelled like freshly-cut grass and roses.

HIDWtS Rating: Inexplicably, someone always smells like watermelon Dum-Dums.

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Pat endings.

This morning I was very distracted, which meant I got out of the house early instead of just on time. I don’t know why this works the way it does, but it may have something to do with how I am too distracted to worry over the little aspects of getting ready. The getting-ready part is in automatic mode as my brain cells tussle.

The subject of the distraction was a bad movie I watched last night. I am finally getting around to selling some of my things on eBay, but first I have to sort through decades of clutter. To motivate myself, I put a movie on in the background and spread my things out on the coffee table so I can put them in piles: Keep, Give Away, Sell.

The movie was called “500 Days of Summer” and I do not think it set out to be a bad movie. I think it set out to be a good movie, a thought-provoking movie about the nature of fate and coincidence and romance and all sorts of things that normally interest me a lot. But none of the characters in the movie were at all likable. Zooey Deschanel’s character, Summer, is outright loathsome, playing yet another emotionally distant, quirky woman-girl, a trope that should have ended with Kate Winslet’s character in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. The plot was predictable, told out of order in a way that I think was supposed to comment on the jumble of memory but instead just left me curious as to what exactly happened that turned Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Tom, into such a gigantic jerkface.

There was one moment in the film I liked a lot, however. (SPOILER ALERT) I liked seeing the moment where Tom realizes that not everyone’s “soulmates” match up, that sometimes you think someone is your soulmate and they do not think you are theirs. I liked this because it was relatively subtle, yet had real emotional impact.

And then it was all ruined by the pat ending. (SPOILER OVER)

Musing about the film this morning distracted me enough that I do not remember how I got myself to the early shuttle. When I boarded, there were only five other people on it. I wondered briefly if the rapture had happened after all, and then I fell asleep.

HIDWtS Rating: Writers, please stop writing pat endings. Hey, wait …

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Predictably unpredictable.

Today’s installment is not brought to you by anything. At all. Because that’s how I am. I mix it up on you. See? I’m not predictable!

Well, I am. But I’m not! And also am. It is the age-old struggle of loving an established routine and yet always getting bored enough to poke at it.

There is one constant in my life: too little sleep. Last night, I guest-starred in a game of D&D. It was my first time playing 4th edition. While I will save the in-depth critique for another time, I will say that the mechanics of 4th edition lend themselves to more of a hack-and-slash game than a storytelling session. Still, I enjoyed myself immensely, this enjoyment only topped by a member of our group discovering that someone was watching porn across the street on a giant screen facing an open window. If you had told my younger self that I would grow up to someday pretend to be a goblin warrior while studiously ignoring gay porn, I would have told you to stop with your beautiful lies because no future is that bright. But here it is. It’s my future. Suck it, high-school haters.

D20

So, uh, where was I? Ah yes. Mixing it up on you. Zigging and then zagging. Disliking Muni with sassy intensity and then taking it all the way to work. This impulse is less of a reactionary opposite-of-what-you-expect thing and more of a curious poke-this-to-see-what-happens thing. I don’t really mind when people call me predictable; I do mind when I start to feel bored.

Good for my career but not for my boredom, Muni deposited me near work without incident and I was right on time.

HIDWtS Rating: What does this button do?

[box type=“shadow”]I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]

HIDWtS: Inappropriate footwear for the Apocalypse.

The fog is back. Yesterday morning it was 70 degrees at 7am. Today it was in the fifties and foggy. I’ll let you guess which I prefer as I don my sweater, scarf, coat, and boots.

After a night of disturbing dreams – which I cannot blame solely on “The Wire” but I probably should not be watching that right before bed – I stumbled through my morning ablutions and to Muni. Again, I don’t know what is wrong with me. I keep getting on Muni despite knowing how slow and problematic it is. It’s a sickness. I just want to live in a real city with real public transit, and I am willing to pretend if that’s what it takes. (Note: that is not what it takes.)

Got The Pocket and had one blissful stop before the Blockit was filled. The passenger had gold metallic flats on, which I remembered is a Hot Trend in Footwear according to the Style Channel, which I watched once for five minutes before realizing that it was pure, distilled evil. But I do admire flats-wearers. As a person with no arches, I am not masochistic enough to wear flats, so I console myself with the knowledge that flats are inappropriate footwear for the coming Apocalypse. My feet will be ready.

new boots, old tights

But back to today! Gold-Footed Blockit sat, shuffled through her purse for her phone, and immediately entered an extremely animated conversation. On public transit. Next to me.

Blah blah blah, demise of civilization due to lack of manners, blah. Here is where I thank Etymotic (who is not paying me to say this) for making the outstanding mc3 earbuds. Thanks to them, I enjoyed the Judge John Hodgman podcast so much that I missed my shuttle stop entirely. I still got to work early, and now I know about Etymotic’s programmable noise-isolation app, Awareness, so I don’t risk that again.

HIDWtS Rating: John Hodgman. That is all.

HIDWtS: Rumble seat.

A brief shuttle anatomy lesson is required for today’s How I Decide Where to Sit. The shuttle is comprised of, um, many rows with four seats per row, two on either side of the center aisle. The very last row goes straight across the back of the bus, ending abruptly at the wheelchair-accessible ramp machinery.

I call the last row the rumble seat because it is as close as you can get to roughing it while still being inside the shuttle. The seats are bench-like and unforgiving, and they magnify each bump the shuttle hits at any speed. Also, if you are close to the machinery, you will get shoved into its pointy bits at some point.

I dislike the rumble seat so much that I buck the standard rule set, which is:

  1. Sit in empty row.
  2. Sit in rumble seat.
  3. Sit next to someone.
  4. Stand in aisle.

My rule set transposes 2 and 3. The rumble seat is still preferable to aisle-standing, of course. I’m no fool.

Today I took the early shuttle and got the last empty row, so I was able to witness the rule set in action when someone boarded after me. He started for the rumble seat, but veered off to sit next to someone in the second-to-last row instead. He sat like me! I always appreciate moments of similarity with a stranger, probably because I spent so much of my younger days feeling like a freak.

The rest of the way to work I reminisced about my summer abroad at the end of high school. My mom enrolled me in this summer program at Cambridge, which was ostensibly for smart kids who enjoyed studying so much they wanted to do it over summer break. I met some smart kids there, but mostly I met kids who were much more interesting and connected and dangerous than I was. I felt doubly alienated.

Halfway through the program, I met A, who worked at my college. He was a few years older, and didn’t really socialize with his peer group, either. We ended up spending quite a bit of time together, and were sweet on each other, although to my recollection nothing really happened romantically. I had met a kindred spirit, and we spent hours matching up experiences in our pasts, thrilled that we had each found someone like us.

We kept in touch after I went back to the States, and a few months later, A decided to visit me. When he arrived, he immediately fell for an acquaintance of mine, a petite woman with a lovely brogue who didn’t have much use for me after that. They disappeared into their love-haze, and I was heartbroken, not that A was someone else’s, but that we were no longer the same.

Today I thought of the sweater A gave me – how he made fun of me calling it a “sweater” instead of a pullover – and how later I had lent it to another friend of mine, who promptly lost it. At the time, I didn’t care, because I was angry. Now I would like to see it again and remember that lazy day on the banks of the Cam with a friend I thought I’d know forever.

HIDWtS Rating: Nostalgic.

Cambridge
Photo credit: Aurelien Guichard

HIDWtS: You snooze, you don't lose.

Today’s episode of How I Decide Where to Sit was brought to you by the letter Z, the letter Z, and the letter Z.

I was all on time, all over on time, all up on time, and various other prepositional phrases. But I was sooooo sleepy. (FunkyPlaid and I had gotten home pretty late from the Scrabble tournament, and then watched an episode of “The Wire” instead of going straight to sleep. So irresponsible, but so worth it.) I decided I was too sleepy to walk to the shuttle stop, so I took a lazy Muni ride. But everything was great. I had The Pocket, and no Blockit (the aisle seat next to it). Then a Blockit with a yoga mat sat down, emanating crazy amounts of body heat, perhaps from Bikram.

So I promptly fell asleep.

I should note that it doesn’t take a cozy, warm seat for me to fall asleep. If I am tired, I fall asleep pretty much anywhere. (Every car passenger seat I’ve been in for more than twenty minutes, on the toilet, in the bath, in the shower while leaning against the wall, bench outside a Dunkin Donuts, dentist’s chair during a routine cleaning, ferris wheel at a state fair.) I am not narcoleptic, just easily lulled by repetitive sounds. This is both very handy and incredibly dangerous.

Today it was neither! But it proved extra-exciting because I woke up exactly as the train was pulling away from my shuttle stop. Even though I have a very clear picture of when appropriate naptime is, like this:

What happened today went like this:

I would like to say that I rode the rest of the way to work in horrified certainty that I would be late, but instead I shrugged and went back to sleep. And I got to work right on time.

HIDWtS Rating: Looking forward to the nap ride home!

HIDWtS: No choice at all.

Today’s How I Decide Where to Sit is subtitled “And that is all my fault.” My cold/flu hybrid illness has been hanging on since Memorial Day weekend, despite my best attempts to sneeze, cough, walk, sleep, and vitamin it off. This morning I hid in bed for a little too long before getting ready. This is where you might lecture me about staying home from work while sick, and I might agree with you, but I obsess over not taking too much sick-time because, let’s face it, the American working world can be a little crazy about sick-time. This may be because we don’t get enough vacation time, so people use sick-time for non-sick reasons, making legitimately sick sick-time look suspect. And if you type “sick” enough in one sentence it starts to look hilarious.

Anyway, by the time I was ready to start this morning’s commute, I realized that without Muni’s cooperation I was not going to make it on time. That is a stark realization to have, because Muni is known for being the exact opposite of cooperative. My only chance was to skip the work shuttle entirely and hope nothing horrible (like the horrible thing that just happened yesterday) happened.

I boarded, sat in The Pocket, and read “A Clash of Kings”. Someone sat next to me about halfway through and took her iPad out of a very expensive-looking purse made out of the loveliest olive-green leather. We were iPad reading buddies the rest of the way. (I peeked but couldn’t figure out which book she was reading. I saw “Castle” capitalized that way, so it could have been a fantasy story or Richard Castle fanfic. If the latter, I hope it was Booth/Castle slash.)

Booth/Castle

Without incident, Muni deposited me near work and I walked briskly the rest of the way, making it just on time.

HIDWtS Rating: I really want a new purse.

HIDWtS: Muni edition.

Hello! This is a very special edition of How I Decide Where to Sit because it did not involve the work shuttle at all. Today I decided, against my better judgment and experience, to take Muni to work. That decision was 90% laziness, 8% capriciousness, and 2% annoyance from yesterday’s encounter.

Deciding where to sit on Muni is a little different from deciding where to sit on the shuttle. Skipping over the priority seating area, I apply the following criteria in order:

  • Is there dirt, wetness, and/or unidentifiable disgusting crud on the seat? There is a lot of this on Muni.
  • Is the seat next to someone who is obviously not in the shared reality? I worked at the public library and don’t need to relive that.
  • Is the seat next to someone who looks contagious? This is kind of a funny one, but I have to be pretty careful with my immune system. Muni is full of folks who have really interesting ways of dealing with things like sneezing (in the manner of a lawn sprinkler) and nose-blowing (into a sleeve, really).
  • Is the seat next to someone talking on the phone? I am unable to hear someone talking on the phone without eavesdropping. I’ve tried countless times to shut that part of my brain off. If the person is speaking in a language I don’t understand, then I start trying to figure out syntax and vocabulary. (I’d just put on headphones, but my reading comprehension plummets when I listen to music.)

My preferred seat is what I call The Pocket. It is the inside seat of the row in the car that abuts the middle accordion section. It is nicely tucked away from most everything while still being near a window, and it has a nice little ledge on which to prop a foot. And that is where I sat this morning, almost all the way to work, reading “A Game of Thrones”. Someone sat down next to me, a large-framed man in khakis, and he kept a demure amount of personal space between us as he Blackberried away. He pretended not to notice my snuffling when I got to That Part of the book.

HIDWtS Rating: Shockingly pleasant.

HIDWtS: Sitting as a hostile act.

Today’s installment of How I Decide Where to Sit is brought to you by bizarre passive-aggression.

So you kind of already know where I am going with this one. Picture a work shuttle, and picture it almost full as I waited in line to board, which made me wonder where all these people boarded and why I do not wait there instead. That is a mystery for another day! Today I was tired and sick of this cold that hangs on and I was hungry and I was not feeling my best. Even so, I was not willing to be a line-smoosher, which most of the people at my shuttle stop are.

Line-smooshers, instead of waiting in a single-file line, smoosh up by the door, creating a globule that then shoves itself into the shuttle in an extremely inelegant way. I really don’t like this. I am a single-file line person. I like the fairness of waiting one’s turn, and also the rule of who showed up first gets to board first.

I realize that I am not living in the right place for this sort of orderliness. San Francisco is a haven for anti-manners because somewhere along the line “counterculture” got associated with “rude” and they’re all peanut butter and chocolate now.

One person at my shuttle stop is consistently polite. If he is standing in front of someone, he always invites that person to board before him. Because I am a little crazy, I would accept this offer once and then decline it once, accept, then decline, hash marks in opposite columns, perfectly fair. Now I always decline and insist he goes first. Maybe he has earned some sort of line priority in my head. I hadn’t thought about it before writing it down just now. But I am all about rewarding good manners.

Anyway, today I was one of the last people to board, and it was quite full, so I took the first seat that was available. As I was walking toward this seat, I realized that the person next to it was glaring at me. I don’t get glared at often, so it was hard to miss. She was also spread out well into the empty seat, so when I indicated my intention to sit there, she sighed loudly and melodramatically as she rearranged herself and her things. It was so loud that I cracked a smile, thinking it was a joke. She didn’t seem to think it was funny.

At first, I thought maybe her glare was her normal “I’m annoyed I have to be up so early” face. I certainly have one of those. So maybe her annoyed face was only directed at me because she saw me headed for her seat, and was looking up at me to see if I was going to make her morning worse. But the sigh?

People like this genuinely baffle me. Sitting next to you is not a hostile act. It just means I want to sit down on this extremely bumpy and fast-moving bus so I can read or nap or listen to music in relative comfort. Just like you!

The rest of the ride was uneventful as I obsessed over my own facial expressions. And over not sighing melodramatically at people, because let’s face it, that shit is grade school.

HIDWtS Rating: Did I just write 500 words on shuttle seating?

HIDWtS: Primal urges.

Today’s episode of How I Decide Where to Sit is sponsored by that weird impulse to run for the shuttle even when I have decided not to run.

Tuesdays are early shuttle days because the just-on-time shuttle is usually packed, and I have already clarified my feelings on being an aisle-stander. I left the house with enough time to make the early shuttle with a Muni boost, which usually ends up being the opposite but I took the chance anyway.

I arrived a block away from the shuttle stop just as it was scheduled to leave. Recently I decided never to run for a bus because it seemed like I was always running for buses, and if my life should ever flash before my eyes, I don’t want it to be a montage of me Chariots-of-Fire-running for a freaking bus. So I told myself no way, no how would I ever be running for a bus again.

While the brain is a rock, the body is a Muppet, and sees the shuttle start to close its doors, does a frantic Kermit arm-flail, and takes off running. WHAT THE HELL, body. We DECIDED. Kermit-body is extremely pleased to catch the shuttle! Look what we did! And only a little sweaty! Rock-brain is unhappy at being shown up this way, and vindictively chooses a seat next to an unhappy-looking and tiny man.

The tiny man is so still on the way to work that I glance sideways a few times to make sure he is breathing. Also I concentrate very hard on erasing any appearance of my running from his life-flashes tape, just in case.

HIDWtS Rating: Kermit likes to RUN!

HIDWtS: Standing room only.

Here is another installment of How I Decide Where to Sit! Because grad school makes everything meta.

Today I was running a bit late due to congestion. In my sinuses, not traffic. I was running so late that I had to take Muni to the work shuttle, which is kind of like shotgunning Coors before sipping Ardbeg.

On my way, I glimpsed the new rare bird in the Muni aviary, the NX bus. The NX bus is striped dark blue, that is how you know it is the NX. Like Night-X. Or Nix. So goth. Also, no one is on it. That is another way you know it is the NX. Why is this? Because it stops a billion times from the beach to 19th Avenue and then never again until Bush and Montgomery. I shouldn’t be so hard on the lonely, gothy NX. Today is its first day. Maybe this plan will wildly succeed, unlike every other SFMTA plan.

But back to my work shuttle. I was feeling rather proud of myself, arriving three minutes early despite Muni, when I realized the shuttle was pulling away from the curb. Three minutes early. Which could mean only one thing: no room! I ran to catch it anyway, pissing off the driver, who gave me stink-eye because he doesn’t like aisle-standers. Believe me, I don’t like being an aisle-stander, but if I don’t open the library on time, brains will go hungry!

Aisle-standing, or shuttle-surfing as I like to think of it, is an acquired taste. I have not acquired it. Sometimes it involves glomming onto the wheelchair-accessible ramp machinery and hoping it doesn’t unfasten itself from the wall. Other times, lucky times like this morning, I cling to the metal bar up front and pretend to be a very untalented and apathetic pole-dancer. Also without dancing or taking my clothes off, and while reading “A Game of Thrones”. It’s kind of a stretch, but I am committed.

HIDWtS Rating: Two sore feet. A Water Dancer would not have sore feet.

HIDWtS: Mixed signals.

A new series on cygnoir.net: How I Decide Where to Sit. HIDWtS for short. (Not really short.)

Background: I ride a shuttle to work. It is a really nice shuttle and the first time I have ever had this luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m going to write about it.

Today was easy! There were empty rows! I picked the first empty row on the port side because I was lazy and tired. A woman in a brightly-colored skirt sat next to me and maintained the “ready to stand up” position the entire ride. I could see her in my peripheral vision while I was reading, so I kept thinking it was time to stand up. Confusingly, she relaxed right as the ride was ending.

She was messing with me.

HIDWtS Rating: Paranoid.

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I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.