A Bus Buddy

I am back, I am caffeinated, and the blog posts will be flying off the keys with increasing frequency and an uncharacteristic amount of zeal. This, at least, is the idea.

Early on in the summer, my laptop decided it’d had enough of me (or maybe enough of the voltage in Italian outlets – your guess is as good as mine) and refused to hold any charge for even a second. Consequently, it was annexed to the family room ottoman for two months, perpetually reliant on a power cord accessorized with a “DO NOT UNPLUG ME!!!” post-it note. A lazy excuse to not write, but sufficient for a person such as myself. I also developed the internal monologue of “I’m just taking the time to collect material, it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine” – which was true. I penned many a note, illustrated many a character. It’s fine. It’s fine. And with that and a new laptop (!!!), dear readers, I present to you a study in the joys and sorrows of public transportation: the Bus Chronicles.


I’m sure most people would agree that 7am is a great time to be alone. Personal space is kind of a 24/7 preference for me, but it is doubly so at dawn, triply so at dawn on a bus. It’s not necessarily because I am cranky – I like to think I’m pretty chipper, actually – but because the viewing of a PNW sunrise should be a very personal affair, something free of interruptions, i.e. the coughs/elbows of strangers. Being trapped in the window seat by a sleeper when I arrive at my stop has always been an additional concern. Let’s not even discuss someone actually falling asleep on me. For these reasons and several unnamed, when came a morning of especial introversion, I assumed the role of that asshole who, in the most passive-aggressive preventative measure known to man, puts her bag in the seat next to her. As we coasted into the next transit center, I pretended to be asleep so no one could ask me to move it. It seemed like a foolproof plan. I had seen other people pull the exact same moves.

But, knowing precisely where to find me, Guilt paid a visit. It was a Thursday, and for some reason that day of the week tends to draw a particularly high volume of commuters, at least from my own observation; a shortage of seats was a possibility. So with a sigh of resignation, I grabbed my backpack and opened my eyes. There stood a woman, short in stature but inordinately large in visible bitterness toward me, looking down at the spot to my right in an expectant sort of stare. A modest line, but a line nonetheless, had formed behind her. Confused, I glanced behind me – there were a few seats open. Alright then. As I pulled my bag onto my lap, she gracefully plunked herself down and looked ahead. I scowled.

Despite an obvious and acute awareness of how my sleep had inconvenienced her, she conked out within the first three minutes of sitting next to me. This woman is the director of my nightmares. She proceeded to lean, excruciatingly slow. 90 degrees, 87 degrees, 83 degrees, one centimeter from my unwelcoming shoulder. At the last possible moment, she startled herself awake. This became a cycle, countless repetitions of eyes closed, shoulders slumped, leftward tilt, groggy awakening. A dance so slow it is nearly imperceptible to humans. As is only natural, she was in the throes of sleepytime as we neared my stop. I hesitantly placed my hand upon her small shoulder and looked earnestly into the place her eyes would be when she opened them. Rather than an expression of anger or annoyance, her now-conscious face was covered in what looked like deep disappointment in my character or something, as if she’d expected more of me. “Excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop.” She collected her lunchbox and purse and released me into the aisle. The end.

Except it wasn’t the end. She sat next to me again. And again. This woman, who was clearly no fan of mine, took the seat next to me no less than four times – if nothing else, at least the world maintains a sense of mystery. She continued to fall asleep, getting closer and closer each time until finally my shoulder became her own bony and angular pillow. How comfy. One morning, she sat down and promptly extracted a blank sheet of paper from her bag, folded it and held it over the parts of her face which breathe in air. To clarify, the same air I breathe. It immediately took me back to the day in English class when a guy purposely sat next to me, only to throw me sideways glances of abhorrence when my SEASONAL ALLERGIES made me sniffly. He also buried his face in his sleeve for the entire hour. What is up, guys. What is up. In the moment, I always chalk this up to pro-league hypochondria and I just want to tell the person to take their damn vitamins and chill out for a second. But, even though it offends me to be skirted around like the mad dog in To Kill a Mockingbird, I do realize there could be legitimate reasons to protect your health in such a vigilant manner. Here I go again: rationalizing my way out of anger. I should run workshops on this.

To conclude this many-chaptered story, I have a few theories as to why this mysterious woman kept taking that seat to my right. First, perhaps she shares my preference for the second row of front-facing seats on the left side of the bus. After all, that specific section does have the best and most expansive window view, which is why I sit there. But she spent ample time with her eyes closed on these trips, not looking out the window at all. My second theory is that, again, like me, she has a strange affection for petty annoyance. Sometimes I am grateful when a person irritates me, because it gives me reason to be irritated, which I kind of enjoy on occasion. The fact that this woman didn’t like me was clear as crystal, especially in the inevitable, tension-filled “excuse me, sorry, this is going to be my stop” interactions. Lastly, maybe my shoulder is more comfortable than I give it credit for. But that is highly unlikely.

No matter her reason for doing so, I don’t believe my bus buddy will be sitting next to me again anytime soon. Thankfully, I am done commuting. But I do have more stories – stay tuned.

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Hot mess in terminal S

The other day, I frustratedly scrawled the following into a notebook:

I am sitting in Gate D6 at the Amsterdam airport. In a bout of nostalgia which is completely circumstantial and not my choice at all, I am HANDWRITING this blog post before I can type it. Why? I made the mistake of A) owning a dinosaur of a laptop that constantly needs to be plugged in, and B) packing my outlet adaptors in my checked luggage rather than my carry-on. In my defense, though, my plan was to NOT EVEN HAVE TIME to use an outlet at this airport. Originally, I was only supposed to spend an hour here between flights. But OH the utter fickleness of a flight itinerary booked through Delta.

See, yesterday I was on the “Flight from Hell” (this term was coined by Nancy, an elderly woman standing in front of me and my friend in the practically stagnant line for hotel vouchers… which I will get to later). Our flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to leave Seattle at 2:15pm, and at first things were looking alright – we had some pre-flight mimosas and boarding was relatively painless. Took our seats, settled in, watched the cheesy safety video. After all of this, we were told that one of the air valves on the plane needed repairs and they were bringing in a maintenance team, which would delay us slightly – that’s fine, whatever. Delays are normal and problems need to be fixed. Eventually the maintenance crew left and we were forced to watch the safety video again, which was comically irksome, but then we were finally up in the air. I mean, we were up in the air for thirty minutes. And then they notified us that the valve problem had not, in fact, been fixed, and we had to return to Seattle to re-address the issue.

… and then I took a pause in recording my story because yet another flight of mine had been delayed. And I wasn’t even sure if I had a seat on it. (“I didn’t even cry!” she exclaimed with pride)

Me, when I'm being cool as a cucumber in a time of crisis

Me, when I’m being cool as a cucumber in a time of crisis

Anyway, I am now ready to continue telling this story. As you’ve probably noticed, I call it “Hot Mess in Terminal S.” Because when we re-landed in the Emerald City, we touched down at Terminal S. And it was a HOT MESS, YOU GUYS.

So. The pilot turned the plane around and parked it back at Seatac. The maintenance crew came back. Since we were all in the middle of watching the Oscar-nominated movies we never had the chance (or money) to see in theaters, we did not de-board the plane. You don’t turn down the opportunity to watch free, good movies, ever. That is a rule. But much to our chagrin, the movies eventually ended and we were STILL sitting on the runway, five hours after we were supposed to take off. Dry airplane sandwiches could not squelch the widespread, ever-growing annoyance. Eventually the crew began to sense that their passengers were slowly turning against them, and they let us off the plane, saying we would re-group in approximately two hours and then we would be on our way – at 9pm.

The disgruntlement was palpable (and also quite audible) as we exited the aircraft. We distributed ourselves among the four restaurants in the terminal, and some people re-booked for a flight the next day. It was an odd and miserable atmosphere, with dozens of strangers exchanging knowing eye-rolls and sardonic laughter while dunking over-priced chicken strips in plastic containers of BBQ sauce. I was, of course, sorely disappointed because this delay pushed back my long-awaited reunion with my best friend in Glasgow – but I also thought the situation was pretty funny. It was so ridiculous it was kind of unbelievable. I continued laughing when we had to watch the stupid safety video for the THIRD time around 9:30 that night, although at this point the spirits of the group as a whole had risen a little bit. Hope had finally re-gained some buoyancy all thanks to free Pizza Hut at the gate’s info desk. We settled in under our paper-thin airplane blankets and resumed our movie marathons, greatly looking forward to our inevitable takeoff.

After 45 minutes of sitting on the runway, a man’s voice came over the intercom. “I have some bad news,” it said mournfully. I chuckled, thinking it had to be a joke. Spoiler alert: it was not a joke. The pilot had just exceeded the hours he was legally allowed to spend on-duty. “I’m afraid we are going to have to shut this down tonight” explained the mystery intercom man as the undeniable rumblings of mutiny spread throughout the economy cabin. Once again, we de-boarded. Slowly, angrily, some people loudly and profanely. And then… The Lines.

A massive line formed outside the gate’s desk with passengers demanding hotel rooms, re-bookings, and profuse/tearful apologies from each and every Delta employee at Seatac Airport. My friend and I joined this line, and we stood there so long that my backpack straps actually gave me a slight rugburn on my shoulders. When we reached the exhausted and trampled-upon employee working the service desk, he kindly printed us a hotel voucher while repeatedly wiping sweat from his brow (I felt very, very bad that he had been scheduled for this shift – worst shift ever, dude). Sadly, though, the shuttle to this particular hotel was no longer running, and it was definitely not within walking distance. And after unsuccessfully fumbling around with the computer keys for ten minutes, our poor Delta friend sent us off to the airline’s check-in desk at the front of the airport to get another hotel voucher.

Our journey to this destination involved running down an escalator and retrieving our luggage from baggage claim, only to arrive at the check-in desk where there was, you guessed it, another line. This one was at least fifty people in length and it was not moving. Like at all. For twenty minutes. Despite counting ourselves among the more patient and civil Flight from Hell passengers, we finally got fed up enough to abandon our efforts and just pay for a cab to our shuttle-less hotel. I think I fell asleep en route.

The next morning, we encountered a few other disheveled non-traveling travelers in the hotel lobby. We had all been automatically rescheduled for a 2pm flight that day, but it was not as straightforward as it sounds – the details we received were few and vague, and connecting flights had been metaphorically mangled with a blunt-edged knife (as I learned for myself when I reached Amsterdam). But rather than express our irritation directly to the Delta employees at the airport (since they didn’t really have anything to do with it), my trooper of a friend and I rebelled in a more mature way by proceeding to the nicest restaurant in Terminal S – now our second home – and ordering champagne and $15 entrees, fully intending to demand reimbursement because we were not provided food vouchers. It was his idea. Pretty brilliant.

Although our flight that afternoon departed late (and we had to watch that damn safety video again), it did depart… AND IT ARRIVED! In a place that wasn’t Seattle! Imagine that! And now I write to you, happily, from the quiet lobby of the Glasgow Airport. I think my unlucky streak is over. Let’s all cross our fingers.

Next time: I express my love for Scotland and yes there will be pictures.


PS: even though this particular flight was undeniably a shitshow, I do not mean this to be an attack on Delta Airlines – most of the employees I encountered tried very hard to be helpful and dealt kindly with some pretty angry people. I mean, they could improve their safety information video, but…

The Ballpoint Pen Betrayal

You know you have problems when something as small and insignificant as a defunct pen sends you into a fit of violent rage.

I have always been very particular about my writing utensils – pencils are a no. Mechanical pencils are especially not okay, being that it is practically impossible to find one that doesn’t make some variety of that cringe-worthy squeeeeak. Gel pens are cool and everything, but not for taking notes. Ballpoint pens, as far as I’m concerned, are where it’s at – BIC, Paper Mate, you name it. If it writes and doesn’t smear too easily, I’m a happy girl. Today, though… a betrayal.

I FEEL YOU, BEN

I FEEL YOU, BEN

I got to class this afternoon and found that *gasp* I had forgotten to slip my very favorite, most reliable, best friend pen into my school bag. O the horror. I wanted to melt into a puddle of unusable black ink, right there in my Irish history class. However, I was “lucky” enough to have another “pen” (it fulfills none of the requirements to be an actual pen, hence the quotation marks) in my bag, so I used it – or, rather, I tried. This is, like, the worst pen ever. A disgrace to pens  all over the world. You start writing a sentence and everything is normal and beautiful, and juuuust at the right moment the pen decides it doesn’t really want to put ink on the paper, because it hates you. So you sit there at your desk, desperately scratching the paper, falling behind in your notes. This is not your fault; this is the pen manufacturer’s fault. Suddenly, you can write again – oh wait – no you can’t. You scribble a little bit… alas, this pen is not out of ink. And then you try to write a word. Nothing. Your entire arm fills with uncontrollable rage as you start angrily scratching profanities into the pages of your composition book, because no one can even see what you’re writing at this point. F… U… you know the rest.

By the middle of my second class, I was losing it. Rubbing my temples. Cradling my head in my hands. Trying not to seriously maim the person sitting next to me with that STUPID PEN. I felt I had been wronged – this cute, little gold-striped thing masquerading as a ballpoint pen made my usually-pristine notes look terrible, and it made me feel like Mark Ruffalo must feel when he suddenly turns into the Hulk (I actually know nothing about the Hulk, but he’s a monster lacking in self-control, right?).

Anyway, this unexpected bout of anger was a clear-cut indication that I needed to take a nap. And so I did. And I now have been effectively pacified by a beautiful gift from Olivia (Reese’s… a girl after my own heart) and the Amelie soundtrack. And I guess I also realized how irrational I was being. But if anyone wants to bestow upon me a new, usable ballpoint pen (or 600), I will not complain.

Happy Wednesday, friends.