Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It had to happen sooner or later, right? Last night, due to full buses, full trains, and lots of meandering stops, I missed the bus that is the last leg of my journey homeward. Sighing and turning up the collar of my coat, wrapping my scarf securely around my neck and pulling on my gloves, I started the long, three mile trudge home.

(Okay, three miles isn't that long. During the day, or on well-lit streets with wide, clean sidewalks, it's nothing.)

"Were there no other buses," you ask.

Yes, of course, in 30 minutes, but there was a bitter wind blowing and I thought that, all else being equal, I'd be better off moving than standing like a human popsicle at the bus stop. I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Two other mass-transit passengers turned up their own collars and joined me on the trek. Although, due to some odd protocol I'm unacquainted with, it seemed to be necessary for us all to pretend we couldn't see each other.

Anyhow, they gradually wandered off into side roads, and I was alone, except for the endless streams of cars flashing by.

Had it not been dark and cold, it might have been quite a pleasant walk. As it was, the treacherous sidewalks (courtesy of those businesses and householders who couldn't be bothered to clean the snow off their property two weeks ago, the residue of which is now compacted with dirt and gravel into a sort of min-glacial ledge) and the roar of the traffic coming up behind me (making me remember all of those, "pedestrian hit by a car" stories I've read" combined to make the whole experience less than idyllic.

(Although I did get to walk by the fire station and admire the little holly wreaths the firemen had hung from the grilles of their trucks.)

I didn't walk that far. A mile, maybe a little more. I stopped at the grocery store, dialed up the R.C. on my phone, and demanded that she pull herself together and come and get me.

My dedication to conserving fossil fuels goes only so far.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:51 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2006

We're now up to three in the list of wimmin who have Looked At Me Funny while I was riding public transportation. I'm not sure I understand what their problem is. One of them had to crane her neck to glare at me over the head of a rather tall man sitting next to her.

I'm not doing anything. I'm just sitting (or, as the case may be, standing) there quietly. Why are they Lookin' At Me Funny? They always look so cranky. As if just the sight of me gives them a pain.

Hmph. I bathe you know. And comb my hair and put on clean clothes and make-up and everything.

And last night there were other bus-related adventures.

We had a new bus. It even smelled new, which was lovely. And the heat worked, which was equally delightful. But.

When I hopped on the 27 bus, I and the other embarking passengers were informed that the driver was also new. In fact, he'd been relying upon the kindness of the riders (and their desire to get to their own stops) to guide him through the route, since he'd never been in that part of town before and wasn't quite clear on where he was supposed to be going. We had to tell him when stops were coming, where the lanes required him to merge, and when to turn.

I was a bit worried about him when I got off. The only passengers left were two kids sitting far to the back of the bus. I'm not sure they understood their responsibility.

I hope he didn't get lost.

There have been winos and stoners! (At least, there have been drunks.) So my Public Transportation Experience is complete.

There are gorgeous displays of holiday lights that I can now take the time to enjoy. It's nice to ride high above the traffic. You can really see things.

(Today, we also have things going beeeeeep in the server closet here at the office, but I'm pretending I don't hear them.)

Yesterday Buehler needed a power adaptor run over to Alvin at a client's office. Fortunately for me it was within walking distance (only four blocks), otherwise I'd have had to decline. There are drawbacks to not having a car during the day.

After I got home, we walked over to the drugstore so I could pick up prescription refills, then detoured through Whole Foods to grab something for dinner.

I'm becoming quite the experienced pedestrian, aren't I? Saving the planet and hopefully shrinking my butt a tad at the same time.

Sadly, being on foot does leave you open to being abused by passers-by. Last night, for instance, as we crossed a parking lot, a guy stopped his car and hollered out the window at us, wanting to know if we knew that our shirts were blinking.

Dork. Of course we knew. When we're out walking after dark, we wear flashers--the kind you can get to put on your bicycle. We've been mocked for it before (although we also met one young man who informed us that they were "tight"--an expression we chose to interpret as a compliment) but people rarely actually pull over and park to pass remarks.

The point is that they can see us. We're not going to be run over, walking along in our black coats and sometimes dark-colored scarves and hats, because no one sees us coming.

I think it's a good idea. I have no idea why it causes so much hilarity when people see it.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:18 AM | Comments (4)

Friday, December 1, 2006
You lookin' at me, punk?

MOPT update, whether you wanted to know or not.

Yesterday evening's commute was enlivened by two men at the bus stop who wanted to be my friends (in an entirely non-creepy way, I mean) and an odd little woman on the bus who kept Looking At Me Funny. I don't think I have to put up with being Looked At Funny by a woman who's wearing a red-and-black coat, a blue scarf, and a pink hat, okay? Who's she to talk?

I'm here to testify that bus passengers do, indeed, get weirder after dark.

Yesterday's evening commute was punctuated, at the end, by a bus running 20 minutes late. I'm given to understand that in good weather, RTD runs largely like clockwork; (I know there should be some kind of punctuation there, but I'm not certain which bit. I haven't semi-coloned in a while, so I'm putting one in. Feel free to mentally substitute whatever should have appeared.) but in bad weather the schedule instantly falls apart.

This, not surprisingly, annoys the riders, but it makes perfect sense to me. When the weather is bad and people are having accidents or getting stuck or just generally driving like idiots all over the roads, that's going to slow down the buses.

This morning's commute was notable for nothing at all. The bus arrived on time, got me to the station three minutes before a train appeared, a bus was waiting for me at the terminal, and I got off in exactly the right spot to swing through Starbucks and arrive at my desk at 8:25.

In other non-news, I'm alone in the office today (as I frequently am) and am not behind on or buried in any deadline-pressed projects, which is unusual for me. I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.

I have no bookkeeping to do, no reports to write or review, no surveys to format or code, no filing that needs to be done, no mass mailings to send, and no tech problems going on that I need to worry about.

Today's task list includes: Address an envelope, send an email, put 12 products in a box and ship them (already done), and proof someone else's report.

Possibly more will come to mind as I review my notes from the last couple of weeks, but I really do think I'm finally winning the battle!

Posted by AnneZook at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 30, 2006
I Lied

I said that was the last of the Magic Of Public Transportation (MOPT) posts, but when adventures happen, I feel the need to share.

So, where were we?

Ah, yes. Yesterday, when the roads were horrible and the weather was stinky and I was thrilled to climb on the bus and wend my way to the train station without fighting the madding crowds of cranky drivers.

But. Party Time didn't happen last night. I was bussing down to the train station to meet the R.C. when she called up and said she'd put her car into a ditch trying to get into the park-n-ride down by our place and that she'd be waiting 75 minutes for AAA to come and drag her out, after which she intended to go home and never leave again and by the way never talk to her about public transportation again because she wasn't having any of it.*

No, it's not RTD's fault that the weather was bad or that the park-n-ride stations were slippery (although one does wonder how I, personally, managed to commute to work past many of the city's major arteries and down one of the busiest highways in Denver without ever seeing a single snowplow or sand truck) but I maintain that it is their fault that they dug a hole for a planter and didn't mark the excavation. I don't think people ought to go around leaving sneaky and treacherous holes dug next to driving areas.

There are things what try men's souls and there are things what don't.

Me, I have zero patience for inefficient store clerks (which is aggravating, since my Super Power happens to be the uncanny knack for picking the check-out lane with the most neurotic, lazy, and/or twitchy clerk in the store) or for, really, standing in almost any kind of line. But a wait of ten or thirty minutes for a train or a bus doesn't faze me. I watch the people, stare at the sky, ponder passing clouds, or mentally re-landscape my surroundings. I'm always happy inside my own head.

But the R.C. has no kind of patience to wait for transportation. When she wants to go somewhere, she wants to go there now. So, you know, public transportation was already something of a tricky proposition for her.

And then I spent all day yesterday emailing her to convince her to park down by our place and ride public transport downtown so that she wouldn't have to drive in the bad weather. And she had an accident by following my advice. Sigh. (In my own defense, had I known how much icier it was down south where we live than it was at my office, I'd probably have voted to skip the party.)

So. One demerit for the MOPT.

Then. Not having a ride car and what with my ride being 4 miles away in a ditch, I realized I'd have to brave the perils of the city streets and pick up a bus to get myself home from the train station.

To refresh our memories, we're talking about the 5:25 bus, the one I have to circle a square mile of roadway to reach the bus stop for and yes I know that's bad grammar but stay with me, people.

Because I had the time, I circled the aforementioned mile of roadway and plopped myself down, ankle-deep in snow, at the unlit bus stop. And I waited.

Eventually (and right on schedule!) a bus appeared in the distance. I watched with disapproval as it changed lanes, moving away from me, and then turned left to go into the park-n-ride lot.

"That's my bus!" I thought, since the "27" on the front was clearly visible. "Why is it going in there? The website trip planner said it didn't go in there."

I'm looking around and pondering this when a passing car's headlights illuminate the bus stop sign next to me.

This stop, the sign said, will be permanently closed on November 19, 2006.

You remember how I was annoyed and thought it was stupid that I could get to the train station on a 27 bus, but I couldn't pick up a 27 bus from the train station to get home again?

Apparently I can. It's just that no one told the RTD trip planner about it.

So, I'm standing there thinking I'm going to have to retrace my steps (and I was right - there is no sidewalk on that road, or at least not one I could find in the snow) back to the train station and wait for the next bus, since there was no chance at all I could get back there in time to catch the bus I'd just seen.

Then the bus came back and in spite of the fact that I was being a moron, standing at a closed bus stop, it stopped for me. So, a demerit for RTD, but a point for the driver, making it a wash overall for MOPT.

I had to endure weird looks from the driver and the helpful advice of everyone riding, all of whom wanted to explain to me that there was a park-n-ride just out of sight on the other side of the road and that if I'd walk over there, that's where the bus was going to stop from now on, but I took it well, I think.

I do go on, don't I?

And I haven't even gotten to today's adventures yet, but since they largely involved me accidentally getting off the bus four blocks before the stop I needed and thus having to walk an extra mile, I don't know that I'd be able to work it up into a story. Not even if it was ten degrees out there.


* I lost track of that part of the story, so let me complete it. She was rolling very slowly through a parking lot, so no personal injuries were sustained beyond the discomfort attendant upon standing in a 15 degree parking lot for an hour and a half.

AAA showed up, towed her out of the hole, and said they didn't think her car was too badly damaged. She drove it home last night and to work today. She's going to need a new bumper, but until she has it checked by the garage, she doesn't know if any structural or other damage was incurred.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:40 AM | Comments (4)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The Last Of Mass Transit

I remain firm in my plan to Mass Transit two or three times a week. I'm going to shut up about it. Very soon. But I'll still be riding. In fact, I'm already having trouble imagining putting myself through the hassle of driving every day.

Like today.

I was laughing, people.

I caught the bus to the rail station, then the bus to my office. 55 minutes, in spite of traffic backed up in every direction due to icy roads and continuing snowfall that the City of Denver inexplicably decided would not require sand trucks or snowplows. If you're not on the roads (light rail, I heart you), then you don't have to care about road conditions.

Mind you, I caught the bus at 7:35 and heard other passengers complaining because it was the 7:05 bus that was running late, but that didn't affect me.

(They were pissy at the driver, which astonished me. In what way is the driver responsible for, as she informed them, accidents blocking the roads and cars in front of her getting stuck on the ice? I get that they were pissed they'd been standing outside in the snow for half an hour longer than they'd expected or wanted, but acting like it's something the driver did deliberately is just ridiculous. It's interesting to see that people can get road rage even if they're not driving. There's probably something Deeply Psychological in there, about a human being's response to minor irritations when repeated frequently, but I'll leave that to the experts. Since my own walk to the bus stop takes four minutes, if I'm moving very slowly, I'm not one of those who will probably wind up standing at stops for a long time. At least, not very often.)

It took so long for the bus to reach the light rail station (traffic, people getting stuck on the roads, other people causing gridlock by refusing to leave intersections clear, etc.) that I had time to figure out that I can catch the 8:05 bus, in good weather, and still be on time to work! (That's thanks to the magic of Buses Only lanes on the surface roads.)

The more I experiment with this Mass Transit thing, the more convenient it gets, you know?

The train was SRO this morning, so I was strap-hanging, but the 0 bus, in contrast to yesterday's wall-to-wall load, had only four people on it. Not that it would have mattered to me. I'm already a Seasoned Pro at this and I'd scavenged a seat by the exit before I realized the bus was going to be mostly empty. (The bus will stop upon request, but it's not going to sit there forever and wait for you to disembark. You have to be ready.) This morning I'd even packed all of my bits and pieces into a zipper bag, so I wasn't juggling two or three carry-on items like I had to yesterday. Today I had the one bag and my handy-dandy umbrella. (It keeps the snow off my head and out of my eyes and, being bright red, insures that drivers will see me as I'm walking across roads.) So it's all convenience and easiness. I'm thrilled!


I have to report that so far I am grievously disappointed in the quality of my fellow travelers. So far they're all average, normal commuters. I mean, I wasn't expecting winos and stoners, not at 8:00 a.m., but I thought there's be some colorful figure in the bunch.

Okay, this morning there was a woman eating a frozen pudding pop for breakfast, but that's not that odd. And there was potentially something odd in the guy who chose to use the pull-down seat in the handicapped space, crowding up against my shoulder, instead of one of the five or ten entirely empty rows on the bus, but I was Pondering Public Transportation and didn't really pay that much attention to him.

Tonight - a party downtown, then Mass Transit Magic back to my part of the world. (Car? Who needs a car?)

(Okay, the R.C. needs a car. I'm relying on her to get me home from the train station. Still. I feel so urban! Not as urban as I felt last night, waiting for my train in the snow, but....)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:35 AM | Comments (3)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
More Mass Transit

I think I've exhausted the patience of the only person or two who ever evinced the slightest interest in my new Mass Transit Adventures. But I still have more thoughts.

I am working, but it's boring work (data entry) and a large part of my brain is pondering things like bringing a week's supply of yogurt into the office so I don't have to carry two meals in every day. Maybe even bringing sandwich stuff to keeping the refrigerator, for lunch on the days when I Mass Transit to the office? (Or figuring out how to pack two meals and a travel coffee mug in a smaller space.

("You could eat breakfast at home," I hear you suggesting.

"No," I reply. "I couldn't. It's taken me three years of constant effort to learn to eat 'the most important meal of the day' and I'm certainly not up to facing food at some ungodly hour like 7 a.m.")

I finally got the RTD site to disgorge a schedule for the 27 bus!

I ride it both ways. I pick it up on the corner by my apartment in the morning, at 7:35. A bit earlier than I'm accustomed to leaving for work, but not impossible.

And I catch it again in the evening, at either 5:25 or 5:52, but it doesn't leave from the parking lot of the light rail. I have to go across and down the street to catch it. I'm not sure about that part. It's a thing I'd do in the spring or summer without a second thought, but the idea of crossing that particular street after dark? I'm not excited about it. Streetlights are rare, and the traffic is heavy.

Oh! Oh! Oh!

After T-Rex finished rampaging through that intersection, I noticed they'd put in a walk signal at the corner with the interstate on- and off-ramps. I was wondering why since it's not really the kind of intersection that attracts pedestrians (beyond the odd panhandler). Now I've figured out that that's where they want light rail people to cross that street! (It takes me a while sometimes....) They want us to walk down that block, wait for the light, and then walk back up four blocks to the nearest bus stop. On people's yards, I might add, since I have no memory of there being a sidewalk there.

Mass Transiting is many things, but convenient doesn't seem to be one of them.

That means the 5:52 bus, of course. No way I can leave my office at 5:00 and be at that bus stop by 5:25.

I'm sorry to go on and on about this. Once I get it figured out it will be no problem. It's just a puzzle trying to work out the timing before I do it.

Tomorrow I'm riding the 27 bus in, though. I'm meeting the R.C. downtown for a party tomorrow evening and it will be her problem to get me home. :)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Adventures In Mass Transit

So, this morning I had another Mass Transit Adventure. My first weekday commute!

Scorning the 27 bus, the one that would take me from my house to the park-n-ride as long as I'm standing out there in time to catch one of only three buses that pass by in the morning, I drove myself to the station. (I'm willing to stand outside and wait for a bus but until the RTD website provides me with some information on how I manage the return journey, I must decline to undertake the experiment. "Never go anywhere you can't get home from." That's my motto.)

My trip commenced at 7:10 a.m., when I left the apartment.

Six minutes to the station, three bucks for a round-trip ticket, including all transfers, and two minutes later, I was off! We arrived at Broadway Station at...I don't know what time. (I really must do something about my lunch bag and purse and coffee cup. I need things arranged better if I'm going to be juggling these things through a train and a bus or two in the morning.)

I looked for a "0" bus. I knew I needed a "0" bus. The website, and Bernie, an experienced mass transiter (hey! It's "make up your own words" day!), had been clear on that point.

0 buses abounded. They were scattered around the parking landscape with careless abandon. One of them, I knew, was mine, but which one? I scanned the map provided with great care and discovered that...wait for it...I needed a 0 bus!

Which one, the map coyly refused to divulge.

The various bus stops, although liberally provided with standard Colorado signs (i.e., printed in ten-point type and requiring you to get within five feet before being able to read them, thus rendering them useless to the motoring traveler and of limited use even to the foot passenger) didn't reveal any gathering place for 0 buses on a northbound route. (I found one on a southbound route but decided a ten-mile southbound detour was not going to help me to reach my office approximately 2-1/2 miles north of the station.)

Deductive reasoning was my salvation. (All those hours with Holmes were not wasted.)

Everyone, I reasoned, wants to go downtown. They take public transportation because there's no parking, and what parking does exist is expensive. So, I got on the most popular 0 bus and, sure enough, it trundled out of the parking lot and obediently headed northwards, down Lincoln.

Perusing my surroundings (It pays to be a compulsive reader - I can't pass a sign without reading it.) , I discovered that the bus would not, in fact, stop at 7th Avenue, as the map had indicated. Not without prompting, anyhow. If I wanted to stop at 7th Avenue, I'd have to pull a little cord when the stop was announced.

As we neared our destination, I pulled the little cord and started working my way toward the door. (People are always willing to let you off the bus, especially if they have their eye on your seat.)

7th Avenue to my office building. Two blocks. Three minutes.

I arrived at my desk at 7:54 precisely, making a 44 minute trip.

Had I stopped at Starbucks, a thing I'd imagine I'll do upon occasion, it would have added ten minutes to the trip, but it's still far short of the 90-minutes I'd feared.

So. Mass transit is more convenient than it seemed it was going to be. And now I'm a pro.

I wouldn't do it every day. I still feel that trading a twenty-minute commute for a 45-minute commute is a very minor sort of bargain, but I'll do it two or three days a week.

Now I need to figure out the 27 bus, how to get myself home, and this thing called a "monthly pass."

At least I'm doing something, right? My gift to the planet this holiday season.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:22 AM | Comments (2)

Monday, November 27, 2006
Do you have the time?

I am so in a not-working frame of mind. Nothing like a four-day weekend to make you completely forget what it is you do for a living and create a sense of Monday morning panic as you stare at your desk and wonder what the heck it was you were working on that seemed so very, vitally urgent five days ago.


Also, I have friends. Not a lot of friends. Just a handful, but they're all precious to me. I'm currently in the midst of one of my periodic bouts of self-flagellation over how I neglect them.

It's a time issue. Although I rarely seem to do much that's worth blogging, there are just never enough hours in the day to get done the things I want to do, or enjoy doing.

I always want to talk to or to see my friends, I just can't always bring myself to lay aside one of my many hobbies to do so. It always seems that there will be time later. That there will be time tomorrow or something, you know? Today I have to watch this movie or finish this book or work on that drawing or, or, or....

We don't always get tomorrows, though. So I'm going to turn over a new leaf.

I've turned over enough leaves in my life to outfit a small tree (or at least a good-sized bush), but maybe this time....

Probably of equal interest to you (meaning, not much) is my current dissatisfaction with the new high-speed light rail here in Denver. I tried it twice over the weekend, timing my trip carefully on at least one occasion.

The experience of riding was delightful. Smooth and easy. It was a joy to ride down on Friday, avoiding the red-eyed travelers grimly racing for various malls and shopping outlets on the city's highways. Meghan, the friend I was meeting for lunch and shopping, took the bus from her house (close to downtown) and we both agreed that this is the way we'll go in the future. Neither of us had any idea that it would be so simple.

But the time!

How can something call itself "high-speed" when it takes an hour to go a distance I can drive in half that time? I rode it downtown and back again twice this weekend and both times it took 50 minutes. I shudder to think how slowly it moves when the trains has to wait to load and unload masses of passengers during the weekday commute.

I've been planning, for a long time, to start using this handy-dandy form of mass transport, as soon as it was open from my end of town. Now...I'm not so sure. I accept that mass transportation is less convenient. I accept that it's more expensive than my highly fuel-efficient Toyota. I accept that it's going to take longer than just getting in my car and going where I want to go.

I'm just not sure I can reconcile myself to the idea of catching a bus at 7:05 a.m. to ride two miles, change and catch another bus to the light rail station, get on a train and ride three miles, change to a bus to take me a (not-walkable because of the interstate highway) 3/4 mile, change to another bus and ride it as it stops every block for fifteen blocks until it gets me within walking distance of my office at or near 8:30 a.m.

I can leave my apartment at 8:05 and make it to work by 8:30, you know.

(I've been trying to find a better route on the online "trip planner" but it's been down for most of the last 24 hours.)

You heard me. My daily commute, which takes me around 20-25 minutes when I drive, is going to balloon to a 1-1/2 hour marathon. And it's going to cost more than driving.

I would like to be Green. I'd like to Save the Planet. I'd like to Conserve Natural Resources.

But I don't know if I want to do these things badly enough to give two hours a day of my life to them, you know? I'm old. I have only a finite amount of time left to me.

Time. The real non-renewable resource.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:28 AM | Comments (4)