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Here’s how my evening commute went today:

  • 15:15: I decide to stick around past quitting time in order to avoid some of the traffic on snowy roads. This decision has the added benefit of helping out at work a little, too.
  • 16:30: Quitting time comes and goes. Snow continues to fall. I remain unperturbed.
  • 18:00: The library closes early and I leave with two coworkers to walk across the traffic-laden street and get into my car.
  • 18:10: After scraping the windows and warming the car up a bit, I decide to drive around the parking lot a few times to see how the car holds up with the snow. A bit skiddy, but okay.
  • 18:15: I set off on my way home.
  • 18:17: I hit my first patch of ice and experience that fun sliding feeling.
  • 18:18 & 18:19: Two more patches of ice. I get the hint and decide to drive to the transit center and take a bus home instead.
  • 18:50: I finally make it the seven-tenths of a mile to the transit center. I call FunkyPlaid to confirm that I am doing the right thing by leaving my car at the Park & Ride and taking the bus home.
  • 19:00: I approach the bus that appears to be my bus, but it is a driverless, darkened bus, and does nothing to greet me.
  • 19:46: The driver appears and lets us all on the bus. I feel very happy that I am soon going to be home! I am less happy when I watch my phone battery and backup battery drain from 100% and 60% respectively to 0% and 1% without warning. But still pretty happy.
  • 20:21: The bus, unable to make much headway in brutal traffic, gets stuck on a very busy road. Not even a little stuck: properly stuck. And all of the passengers suddenly discover that we have boarded a bus that has no chains. No chains. In a snowstorm.
  • 20:30, 20:40, 20:50: Helpful passengers try to get the bus un-stuck. It is of no use. Other helpful passengers say really encouraging things and share their snacks with people who have said they are hungry. I am reminded that I do like Portland, even when it is a big snow wimp.
  • 21:01: Another bus comes and we all get on it. It is now very full but it has chains and is moving at a proper pace. A fellow passenger strikes up a conversation and we trade commute woes. They are similar; we share solidarity and even bitch about the recent election a little. This takes my mind off the fact that I have not eaten dinner or gone to the restroom in too long. We marvel at the number of cars stranded, apocalypse-style, along the side of the roads.
  • 22:01: The second bus gets stuck, just over a mile from my house. I debate walking and then I watch people attempting to walk down the street and near cars and really falling a lot more than I am comfortable with. The bus driver and another passenger start digging the bus out. My new bus friend is not going to walk; she is going to stick it out. I decide to stick it out with her.
  • 22:50: With all of the passengers crowded toward the back of the bus, crossing fingers and otherwise hoping a lot of hopes right out loud in front of each other (maybe even some bad language, but in a positive way), the bus driver punches it like when I say, “Punch it, Marge!” to myself even though I’m not Marge and have no idea where I got that, “The Simpsons” maybe? He punches it and the bus demurs a whole lot before lurching out into the intersection. We are free! We whoop and holler. It feels a lot like the winning goal in an ’80s movie high school sports event.
  • 22:59: My new bus friend waves goodbye and gets off the bus. When I get off the bus, I thank the bus driver and the helpful passenger, and all of my other new bus acquaintances wave goodbye. It is pretty great. I forget that I still have to walk home.
  • 23:00: I remember quickly. The walk sucks. I take a lame photo.
  • 23:15: I walk in the door and Zen yells at me and all is well.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: a loud explosion. Uh-oh, power outages are on the way …

About ten years ago, my life wasn’t going so well. I had a job and a flat and a car and friends and a relationship, but as with most things, the trappings of a good life are not necessarily a good life.

I dealt with this not-good life involved by letting one of my compulsions, normally kept very closely in check, do whatever the hell it wanted for a while. (At the time I likely justified this to myself by any number of equivocations involving this, at least, not being as “dangerous” as any manner of other self-destructive, expensive, hazardous habits.)

The compulsion? Tracking Muni buses.

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I spied on the buses. I have … let’s just say several notebooks filled with these notes, and when I was in Observation Mode I remember thinking that if I didn’t write all of this down, something bad would happen.

And yet tonight, while rearranging a bookshelf, I opened one of these notebooks and was thoroughly calmed by the presence of these notes. Because I know my brain, I know that I wasn’t really tracking Muni buses. No, instead I was reminding myself in the midst of a horrific relationship that involved significant amounts of gaslighting that there were things that I liked that I could not destroy.

Maybe it should upset me more to write it out like this. It certainly sounds hyperbolic. For my mindset at the time, a dust bowl of reason, it was a reasonable thought. In a way, these notes are tiny reminders I was leaving for my future selves — although all those selves are far in the past now — little breadcrumbs leading me back to a place in my head where it was okay to exist.

Brains are weird. And amazing. And people are resilient, and buses have arbitrary numbers that don’t bolster the spandrels of existence, and you reading this right now proves that things that don’t make sense can make sense.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Go Slow” by Tei Shi.

This morning began with a packed bus, unusual for my bus stop and for the time of day. The trip got more exciting as the driver detoured around a crash site but missed a turn. Getting us back to our actual route involved a curb-crunching three-point turn and a particularly exciting chug up a steep grade with a proper bottoming-out at the end.

Tonight I was a bit late leaving work. The later bus had unfamiliar people, an unfamiliar driver, and the light was all wrong. How attuned to routine I am, how easily flummoxed by a shift of forty-five minutes.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: FunkyPlaid packing for his trip down south. 😢

I spend a lot of time on the TriMet bus. So much time, in fact, that I’m a little smug about how much reading I get done these days. Books, not internet. At first, I read news on the way to work, but that was just too bleak. (That said, I recently enjoyed reading George Lakoff’s “Understanding Trump” … but not while commuting.)

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Today’s photo is of the upholstery on my bus, which reminds me of the beloved PDX carpet, only with 99% more paramecia. Which is fitting, because sometimes I share a bus with humans who behave more like single-celled organisms. On my ride home on Sunday a gent sat next to me and attempted to roll around on me, citing “arm pain”. I refrained from channeling my inner Liam Neeson. My inner Liam Neeson really wanted to tell this guy what kind of pain he was about to experience if he didn’t stop rolling around on me.

Instead I excused myself, stood up, and moved to the back of the bus. Mr. Arm Pain proceeded to grumble at me — all the way across the bus — for moving my seat.

And that’s TriMet life. Most of the time it’s peachy-keen, three hours a day of free reading time. Plus one of my coworkers takes the same bus, and so for half of my commute, I have an awesome seat-mate who doesn’t even mind if I doze off.

Writing from: my stifling study. Sticky temps here. Listening to: the hum of the fan and the faint rush of cars a block away.

Tonight I took the WES commuter rail to the MAX light rail home. And then FunkyPlaid and I went out for some driving practice because I need to get my Oregon driver’s license ASAP. As much as I love public transit, 3 hours of commuting each weekday is draining.

Zen does not need to concern herself with such things. She spends her days lounging in the backyard, as happy as I’ve ever seen her.

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Writing from: my study. Listening to: the tumble-dryer, because as soon as the laundry is done, I get to go to sleep.

Despite this being a Deluxe Handbag of Holding, I pushed it past capacity today. I’m still unsure what I’ll need for a full day of work plus public transit commutes, so I am definitely over-packing.

Note to self: you’ll fall asleep on the bus for at least the first couple of weeks, so stop bringing multiple books to read on the way home. Also, you work in a library.

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Writing from: my study. Listening to: “Es Tut Mir Leid” by Stefano Guzzetti.

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Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

“It’s getting real” is a phrase I unabashedly love. I love it because it’s fun to say and because it indicates a transition from unreality. This unreality is exactly what I have been experiencing in the beautiful enclave of Marin County, reinforced by the fact that I am dependent on others to get in and out of it.

It got real tonight when I took the bus over the bridge, then another bus, and ended up at 19th and Judah, waiting for the N. I snapped a pic on the wheelchair ramp and paused to admire the view. A passerby cheerfully reminded me that I was not in the right place to board the N.

True to form, three inbound Ns came in quick succession while I had to wait over twenty minutes for one outbound. When it arrived, it was packed, but I boarded anyway.

I came face to face with the N-Judah Greeter.

Nothing was different. Everything was different. My belly felt warm, like it was full of hot cocoa.

I took the N to my usual stop and walked to our former home. It was too dark to see if it had been painted a different color. The living-room was bathed in television glow, and different plants were crowded into the meager patch of dirt near the front sidewalk.

Without thinking, I walked to where I would meet my former coworkers for dinner. (The body remembers where it once was situated in physical space.) I sat down at a table set for twelve. (A week ago, I was laughing over lamps in an empty flat.) I am alone in a restaurant full of people. (Text messages ping inside my handbag.)

How has it been four years already? How has it only been four years?

Writing from: Zen’s room in this beautiful enclave. Listening to: laptop fans singing to each other.

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.

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.

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