HIDWTS: Scottish Chivalry.

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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.

Lothian Buses 868 SN57 GMX

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.

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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.

Lothian Buses 991 SN57 DBX

Lothian Buses 991 SN57 DBX, by Ingy the Wingy

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.

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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.

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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.

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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]