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.


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.


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.


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.

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.)


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.