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.


Story, Goal, Song: part II

It is time for the second installment of this enthralling series (if you missed the first part, you can find it here). Ready? Okay.

A story: Sometime in October, I sent this shame selfie to my good friend and coworker:

photo (31)

At least my hair looks shiny.

Aside from being unquestionably one of my favorite people to text, she is also a music student who could both understand and laugh at a mistake I made as the only non-music major working in the music library. While trying to help a patron with looking up a piece in our catalogue, I made a “W.C.” out of what was really a quickly uttered “Debussy.” So I searched for this W.C., silently chastising the guy for arrogantly assuming I would understand his slangy nicknames for composers… until I realized he was actually asking for a very well-known piece by a very well-known composer. Oops.

Well, the aforementioned friend and coworker decided to give me a crash course in the pronunciation of composers’ names, much to her own amusement. I will say, I think I did an exceptional job considering I have little to no knowledge of classical music, and I do have witnesses – an elementary understanding of French, German, and Russian pronunciation certainly came to my aid. There were a few that tripped me up, I admit, and these were a source of raucous laughter for my teachers (WHATEVER PROKOFIEV). But I was given a passing grade, and as a reward I got to smile a smug little smile with the composer-laden sticky notes on my fingers. Good memories, good memories.

(yes, same sweatshirt as before)

(yes, same sweatshirt as before)

A goal: I like to think I’m a kind person, but I am also an intense critic. Like, needlessly. See, I have always fancied myself a pretty intuitive young lady – for a long time, this meant first impressions were sufficient to understand another person. I met them, I got them. And although thankfully I’ve moved on from this naive notion, I still find myself, from time to time, flattening people for my own convenience. In some cases this means I imagine a person as divine perfection (laughable), in others it means I caricaturize someone for a private laugh with my friends (can range from questionable to reprehensible). Nixing this practice is going to be a challenge, partly because I am so reliant on my so-called “keen social observations” for my day-to-day comedic bits, but I really want to be, first and foremost, a truly kind person, and I believe that starts with imagining people complexly. It’s a lot harder to sneer or scoff or criticize when everyone is perceived as fully human, singular, with experiences that are unique and unknown to any passing stranger. To put it concisely: I want to get better at recognizing the multi-facetedness of every person and, in so doing, lessen the unnecessary criticism and up the kindness (even if it’s just in me talking to myself).

A song: This song I have definitely mentioned before, and I mention it again because, seriously, I have listened to it at least three times a week for the past seven months (no wonder spotify recognizes it as my top-played song of 2014). Melancholy but powerful, “Byegone” by Volcano Choir stuck with me through spring, summer, fall, and winter, and I still have not grown tired of it. Atta boys.

Also, this video is literally just fluorescent lights strapped to a tree, but it might be one of my favorite music videos of all time…?

Catch you on the flipside.

10:43 pm


I find living next to the freeway immensely comforting.

Most people, I feel, do not associate urban life with serenity. Constant noise, an onslaught of hurried pedestrians at every street corner, blinking lights all hours of the day and night. Cities are busy places wrought with bicycle bells and ink-filled planners. Late buses. All that jazz. Feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated isn’t a particularly difficult task, I think we citydwellers can all agree. It’s somewhat of a loud and isolating experience.

But I have found the quiet. Every night before I shut my eyes, I sit on my bed and look out at those blinking lights, at the many cars zipping along the freeway, and I listen to a song on repeat (roughly 5x, I’m one of those people). It is always easily the most peaceful little twenty minutes of my day. I can be running, running, running from 6am to midnight, completely stressed, red eyes for want of sleep, and the glow of the city skyline in the distance chills me out almost instantaneously. Magic? Perhaps.

The unrelenting presence of headlights on the freeway outside my window isn’t bothersome, but soothing. 3am in the suburbs is an incredibly lonely hour, but here there is always someone else who is awake and thinking. It’s a good exercise in empathy, watching cars drive by on the freeway late at night. What kind of day did she have? How does he feel about his life right now? I won’t try to deny the corniness of this thought process – it’s straight out of a twee little rom-com. But I like it and I’m going to keep doing it, so there’s really no stopping me. I want to imagine people complexly and be endlessly curious about their lives. Living right next to the freeway is good practice.

It has been a long and arduous week. But I am very happy.

Goodnight, o city of mine.

Songs for nighttime window-staring:

The Places Where Language Falls Short

Trees, a bench, and a glowing streetlamp - what more does a girl need?

Trees, a bench, and a glowing streetlamp – what more does a girl need?

Hello all, and happy autumn! I hope everyone is enjoying the pumpkin-flavored everything and all of the crunchy leaves on the sidewalk. Pro tip: go out of your way to step on them. Very satisfying.

Fall quarter is in full swing, and this lady is gearing up to declare her major in the next few months – predictably, English. As a result, my classes have been full-to-bursting with books and lectures about critical theory, which I had very little knowledge of until recently. Basically, these authors think it’s their purpose in life to point out our stupidity and ignorance in the way we read and understand things; evidently I’ve been doing everything wrong for my entire literate life. So I mostly oscillate between wanting to melt into the floor, and wanting to kick over a giant pile of copies of Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson in a very violent fashion. My mantra has consequently become “CHILL THE F OUT,” and I silently repeat this to myself for roughly two minutes every hour.

But sometimes I luck out and the things I’m studying inspire me.  For example, we’ve been talking about mimesis a lot lately, or art that portrays the real world. I’ve been told it’s impossible for a piece of writing to be truly mimetic, and I believe it – language is imperfect, therefore it isn’t plausible to have a perfect, language-based representation of my universe or yours. It makes sense. However, I don’t think flawed language is a problem. Quite the opposite, actually.

Maybe we can’t perfectly articulate how the universe feels, or how it hurts to be rejected, or how some melodies seem to soar through the space between our ears. But if we could accurately convey both the beauty and the horror of real life, what would be the point of writing? No one would want to put the world into words if it was a simple process, it wouldn’t be anything special. For me, it can be difficult to describe things. But when I find the right word or the right sound for something, no feeling can match it. And when someone miraculously articulates precisely what I’m feeling, it’s just that: miraculous. There is a moment of perfection, and though it is fleeting, it feels like an infinity. Elusive reality has been captured for just a split second, translated into something we can understand: language. And when I think about this, I wonder if beautiful things would really be as beautiful if perfect words for them existed in our vocabularies, if we could simply describe them. I would argue no, because I don’t believe beauty is simple. Sometimes, the places where language falls short are the most brilliant.

I was sitting in my favorite area on campus last night, pictured above, when all of this was somersaulting around my brain. It was quiet and chilly and completely deserted, just the way I like it. Everything feels right when you’re in a place that feels like it belongs to you.

This has been yet another example of me rambling incessantly about the beauty of the world. You’re welcome. I grew up on Anne of Green Gables if that explains anything.