Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I make posts on my personal blog (and Winsome Icarus) occasionally titled "THINGS I WANT THURSDAY" listing the expensive things I need for school (external hard drive!) and frivolous things for comfort (prints!) What I really need and really want is a very large coffee mug and a design-friendly leak-proof commuter thermos. I went to Target and didn't find either. On the one hand, that was okay, because there's a mug on Etsy I have my tiny heart set on. On the other, all of the commuter thermoses (thermosi) were inferior. The ones that might promise not to leak all over the interior of my bookbag have huge handles or are too heavy. The ones that are sleek, aerodynamic, and just right, will shatter and spill hot coffee all over my homework. And probably my ipod. ahhhhhhh, I just want to drink my coffee, on the sly, on the bus, without compromising my artistic sensibility! I want to remain practical, too! Oh, the angst!
I read last week that Etsy, despite serving as the home for handmade original art (my description), often sells vintage items. So I gave it a go, because Mighty Goods and the design blogs weren't churning out the results. I didn't find my dream commuter thermos, but I did find a handful of transportation related goods, and I am desperate to share.

Bike All Year shirt (M) from Full Sail, $18. There are other sizes, colors, and styles available too. I know that bicycles aren't as public as a bus or subway car, but biking is still a carless way of getting around, and it's getting nice out (depending on where you live). Also, since I'm still feeling like cyclists are in as much danger of motorists as I am as a pedestrian, I don't really care what you think.

Night Commute from Amy Saffner, $30. 11 x 14 print of an oil painting. Saffner's painting reminds me of a romantic, stylized, dreamlike Nighthawks. I mean that as a good thing, and I want this print so very badly that I can hardly stand it.

Bring Home the Bacon, from babypop, $. Black performance fleece hand-warmers. These come in a variety of styles (Pac Man, broken hearts, stars, aliens, little monsters, Peeps) but the bacon and eggs is my favorite. First, because I am not a morning person, and I like the idea of my groggy body clinging to the train as it whisks me into the city and the inch of felt bacon peeking under my winter coat. Also, my morning (afternoon, and evening) commutes could use a sense of humor. These really would be great for a commute in any chilly city, and I'm almost sorry it's beginning to get niceish in Baltimore, because I don't need them. Also, I'd like these on my bike, too.

There are a lot of vintage mugs, by the way. My favorite is the owl mug on the first page (because I really like birds and it's only $4). I sat in on a lecture today and found an artist who has made a number of transportation based paintings, and when I have a moment, I intend to share that, too.

It's only 11? This took forever, I feel like it's already past midnight. Have you seen a perfect commuter mug that can weather the bus, light rail, and bike ride?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where Only the Headline is Accurate

Scraping for news during the trial for an assault which has stirred controversy over racism (and ageism) The Baltimore Sun published a really lame article, pontificating that MTA riders are now terrified. (Apparently we've removed our blinders now?) With the mostly accurate headline "Safety still issue for bus riders Scene is calmer, passengers more aware, but many remain wary" Sun reporter Nick Madigan writes:

Some bus riders in Baltimore brace themselves before stepping aboard. They say they never know what might happen.

Even after transit and city officials vowed to make public transportation safer after a brawl in December that left a 26-year-old woman with broken facial bones, the experience of riding buses is far from serene, some regulars said yesterday.

"Sometimes kids get on the bus and your heart is pounding," said a nursing assistant who, fearing for her safety, gave only her Nigerian first name, Ebun, as she waited for the No. 27 bus in Hampden -- the same route on which the Dec. 4 assaults occurred. "You better keep quiet or you're going to get slammed. You pray to get off safe."
Oh, the drama. I'm with Ebun that there are days you don't know what will happen. That there are verbal fights and you wonder, when is the driver going to get involved? And sometimes the driver pulls over, walks to the back, and kicks the passengers off. And sometimes the verbal sparring ends on its own accord and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. But Madigan is going to the gold, now that he's seen the Wire this season, striking fear into every non-rider he can, by interviewing little old ladies about how scary highschoolers are. (At one point, there is finally some admittance that adults cause more problems. It's about time.) He quotes my pal, spokesperson Jawauna Greene as pointing out that things are improving, and quotes that the mayor says that it's safer than in December, where there were four incidents involving violent activity on and off the bus. But then he finally gets to the scariest fact, which it turns out, is not scaredy pants Ebun (is she even real, Madigan?):

Last year, at least 50 MTA drivers and police officers were assaulted while on duty, according to Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Democrat who represents Baltimore's 41st District. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee considered a bill introduced by Rosenberg that would stiffen penalties against people convicted of crimes against transit employees.
Holy cow! That's four a month! Which is almost one a week! I'd prefer that you not shank me after I said the F Word, fellow riders, but I'd really appreciate it if you leave the drivers and officers alone. They love this job about as much you do--which is to say, we all have a job, and some days we really love our supervisors, co-workers, and job, and that some days, a drunk guy pukes in the back and we have to clean it up. Or they do. I don't have a job that involves cleaning up body fluids, and for that one fact, I hope the driver is getting paid more than I am.

Ultimately, I think it's just a little presumptous to pretend that fights aren't part of the in-and-out of riding the MTA. The populace of any city can't really to be trusted to behave, and I'm not sure my guard has ever been let down. And why would it? If I did, I'd be bored in the suburbs. It's a trade you make to live in a city and even if it doesn't seem fair, it's one you accept in an automobile-based society when you don't have a car. The end.

Maybe It's Mondays?

I have an unproven, scienceless hunch: MTA sympathesizes with the Monday blahs, concentrating its efforts to be mildly pleasant on Monday mornings as a way to say, "We feel you! Monday is out to get you! We understand."
On the face, it's great. MTA is right, Monday's totally suck, dude and I appreciate the sympathy. However, having been duped into this friendliness, I'd like to ask that MTA step it up--bring me the happiness every morning. I already love your drivers with my cold, tiny, shriveled heart, but if you were as sympathetic to my agony at 5 p.m. on a Thursday, my heart might grow into an acceptable size, and I'd be more apt to dole out the sympathy to you.
I guess I should accept the good fortune I can get and move on. I was turning the corner on the way to my stop when I saw the 8 barreling down the three-lane almost-highway, and decided to make a run for it. Realizing I wouldn' make it, I thrust my arm into the air in a desperate cry, a motion that said, "I've already started to run, please stop, or I will live forever shamed."
The bus signaled and stopped at the very spot where I was. The driver nodded to say, "It would really blow if I left you here. I feel your pain."
I sincerely hope she has an excellent day, but I can't help but harbor regret that my joy will turn sour later this afternoon when the good will has evaporated from MTA's insensitive hearts, leaving me desperate and alone.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sometimes I Just Wanna Hug You

I've been having rough mornings, mostly because I'm lazy and can't get out of bed before 9 a.m. As a result, I'm always running late, and, always hoping for a really fast driver.

The 8 line ends at Lutherville, where the Light Rail whisks me into Mount Vernon. There's a stop near the strip mall, and then a stop at the end of the line, less than one block's distance to the platform. Yet that distance between platform and entrance is enough to miss a train, and I inevitably miss my train in those few short steps.

This morning's bus driver was a dream come true. He was patient and relaxed, which I think would be hard driving a bus up and down York Road, a road with constant construction. He was friendly, and I liked that he had this understanding that everyone was struggling to survive the week.

But what I really liked is that because I pulled the line for "LUTHERVILLE PARK + RIDE" he knew I was sending a secret symbol: stop at the entrance for the Light Rail because That's Where We're All Going. So he did.

...I missed my train anyway, but I can't help but want to throw my arms around him in the warmest hug for trying.

I made a grievous error, and for the first time, incited rage in every bus passenger. Often, I am the only passenger irritated, but last night it was my turn to screw up and avenge the bad vibes I’ve been spending for the last year. Oh, and to make up for the heavy sighing it wasn’t an empty bus. Every seat was filled on this tumultuous journey.
I was so excited (or anxious) about my adventure that the first street I saw that was L-A-word (looking for Lafayette) had its cord pulled (at Lanvale, miles from my destination).

The doors swing open and the bus struggles to a complete stop. Immediately realizing my error, I hide in my seat, hoping someone else will need the stop. No one moves forward and a soft murmur builds among the passengers.
“ANYONE GETTING OFF,” the bus driver hollers.
More silence, and everyone is looking at me.
“NO,” I yell to be heard in the front, “I MADE A MISTAKE.”
There is a sudden uproar.
“I’M SORRY,” I scream.
Their outrage is deafening.
“I DIDN’T MEAN TO, I WAS CONFUSED,” I try again, waiting for the bus to lumber forward.
Finally the bus driver mutters—I can’t hear over the passengers—and we move on.
“I FUCKED UP, SORRY,” I add, hoping everyone will realize that I made a mistake we should move on.
Now it is the silence that is deafening. I see in the windows’ reflection that the old man behind me is giving me a stern nod. People clear their throats in disapproval.
Not only have I offended the riders’ by not knowing where I’m going and pulling the cord on the wrong stop, but I have sensationalized the ride with explicit language. I vow to wash my mouth out with soap, or cheap beer, when I arrive at my destination.
When I get to the stop I exit near the front of the bus. I apologize to the driver, sheepishly. Despite her disappointment in me as a member of the community twenty minutes prior, she is kinder this time. She tells me it’s okay, we all make mistakes, and wishes me luck.

On the street I have a general idea of where I am going and head toward Lexington Street. I begin to cross the street when I get to the crosswalk and see a car. Like an idiot, I didn’t even look. I am parallel to a man a few years older than me, who narrowly avoids getting hit by a car, also. “I GUESS WE SHOULD WATCH NEXT TIME,” I yell.
We begin walking parallel on Lexington Street and he asks me where I am going. I hate to tell anyone I don’t know about myself, so I smile and shrug. I have the vague sense that I am being followed. Then I realize I’m obviously going the wrong way, and a man my age at the bus stop asks me where I’m going. But he doesn’t know where the street I’m looking for is either. The man crosses the street.
“I asked where you were going,” he says. I tell him I couldn’t hear him across the street, which is kind of true with my earbuds producing sound at full volume. “Well, where are you going?”
I sigh and tell him. “I know where that is!” He points to the Sidebar and then an awning, and explains it’s around the corner. Oh. “Come on, let’s go,” he says, and insists—to my mild irritation—that he walks me there.
He explains, as we walk, that he knows the owners. (When he lists their names and feeds me some gossip—that not everyone knows—I believe him. I’m petty.) He then talks about the event I’m going to, the bus line, the streets, and as we end the block, where he decides he’ll turn, letting me to keep my pride and walk alone, “I never look when I cross. What’s the point?”
I’m so relieved to make it—an hour later than I had intended—that I don’t bother to tell him how irritating it is to drive in the city and never know when someone will leap in front of your car without looking.
I thank him instead.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm taking the 8 into the city tonight and I'm a little nervous.
Let me add that I've been nervous since Thursday. My roommate is in Wisconsin, so when I leave the apartment, there's no one to go on these adventures with me. There's also no one to notice that I'm not in my bed at 1 a.m., and thus no one to worry and call my phone, and then call all the hospitals, and then call the police. And because I don't show up to work before 11 a.m., I wouldn't get the, "Are you coming in today...?" e-mail until noon or 1 p.m. (they are really nice), and so I don't think anyone would know I was you, know, dumped somewhere, until Thursday around 4 p.m. Which, to be honest, speaks to my inability to show up on time. (For example, I was supposed to leave my apartment a minute ago!)

I digress. I called the venue where I'm going last night and asked if any routes pass the establishment, thinking I'd need the 3 to the 8 to the 876. Nope, I just take the 8 downtown! I asked if the venue knew which street and the friendly staff member listed a view landmarks and said to take a sidestreet. But I need more, and because this city is not supported by HopStop, I called MTA this morning.

The ray of sunshine who answered looked up the venue's address to confirm that there was a stop nearby, and then gave me explicit directions. Not just "it's three blocks away," but, "get off at this stop, make a right, and take this street, and then make another right..."

MTA, you've turned my day around, and for the rest of the week, I promise not to say one bad word about you!

Now I'm three minutes behind leaving-time. Let's cross our fingers I'm not found floating in the Harbor this weekend, because no one will know until I'm found. (I need more friends.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In Baltimore We Look Out the Window and Pretend We're Not Here

CTA President Rob Huberman isn't going to put up with your ourlandish behavior, Chicago transit passengers. The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
CTA chief pulls rank on unruly passenger

RED LINE | Ex-cop boots man off L for harassing woman

March 16, 2008

CTA President Ron Huberman got to revisit his days as a Chicago cop last week when he escorted a misbehaving passenger off an L train.

The incident took place around 7:30 a.m. Thursday, on a southbound Red Line train going toward the Loop, according to CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney.

A man was "verbally harassing" a customer, according to Gaffney. She said Huberman wouldn't elaborate on what was said.

But a story about the incident on the CTA rider blog reported the man was telling a woman she "needed to wear more clothes" and "was going to get raped."

The "Tattler" story said Huberman stood up, glared at the man and said, "You're going to get off this train."

Huberman didn't say what he said to the offending customer, but he asked the man to leave and escorted him off the train at Addison, according to Gaffney.

However, Huberman does not recommend that customers try acting as civilian transit cops in a situation like this.

"They should use a call button to notify the operator or call 911, depending on the situation," Gaffney said.

Huberman was previously a Chicago Police officer and chief of the 911 center. Before becoming head of the CTA in April 2007, he was Mayor Daley's chief of staff.

You can read the Tattler's account here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I've had an ipod with photo/video since January 2006 and it's taken me until tonight to add maps to my ipod. (And embarrassingly, it's taken until last December to add any photographs to my ipod at all!)

I went to Metro's webpage first and discovered to my delight that WMATA already has you covered (there's a preview here).

Unfortunately these .zip files are only for nano, photo, and video ipods. There's nothing ready-to-go for other mp3 players (but I'm inclined to guess that Zune users deal with this hurdle regularly and have it figured out?) or the new touch ipods. I never wanted a touch ipod, but with internet capabilities maybe this isn't a problem? Can you access the internet in a Metro tunnel? A bigger issue, for me, is that these come as 9ish+ files, which require too much scrolling. I need one cohesive map as a reference, MTA, not a megabuttton of files. Thanks.
Furthermore, it's irritating that the only options are .pdf. This is an issue with MTA MD's lightrail map, especially considering that its subway map is a .gif.
So instead I'm just Google Image Searching for maps and making sure everything is updated.

MTA (NYC) doesn't have anything ready to go but, knowing MTA MD wouldn't, I saved this .gif to my directory instead. That was my plan, and I'm crossing my fingers it will be legible. Knowing all of my friends in New York consider their subway map a staple to their ipods, I know there's a way [if I'm doing this "wrong"].

How's your city's map system?

[edit]I added the .zip file from WMATA anyway and it's completely useless. Wow. Your heart's in the right place, but it's still not going to help me navigate the system. Luckily the Metro's stations are filled with maps. [/edit]