I DON’T OFTEN POST ABOUT COMMUTING because I’m trying to attract readers, not repel them. Commuting is the act of getting yourself to and from work. It's usually mundane and unremarkable. In large metropolitan areas, such as the Washington, DC region, we have a subway. It's called Metro. Most days it works. Some days it doesn’t. But it’s what we have, and it’s better than driving, especially because I drive a land yacht vehicle that is basically unparkable in the city owing to its size.
I don’t usually mind the crowds or the freaks. I am good at compartmentalizing, at isolating myself, absorbing myself into a good book or a crossword puzzle. But some days, the stories are worth sharing.
Yesterday morning, for example, I hopped on the first car of the train as it pulled into my end-of-the-line station, excited to have scored my favorite seat. (It’s the little things.) I thought I heard the speakers crackling but couldn’t make out the announcement, so I ignored it. Next thing you know, the driver slams the door to her cab, walks through the car and yells, “This train is out of service!” I said, more to be helpful than anything, “Oh, you know your speakers aren’t really working – we couldn’t hear your announcement.” And she replied, with a bit of a giggle, “This train SUCKS! That’s why it’s out of service!”
But that was yesterday. Today, I got to share a seat with a woman who started out as a stranger, but after thirty minutes, I felt as if I knew her, in that same way you know the characters on The Office or the movie Office Space because you work with them. This lady sat on her side of the seat, then proceeded to invade my personal space. Which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I don't mind sharing a seat, but I have to insist that you confine all of your body parts to your half. Do NOT touch me. I don't know you like that.
So this lady busts out an entire cosmetic counter’s worth of makeup and vigorously applied it to her face, with much SNAPping of compacts and PUMPing of mascara SMACKing of lips and FLAILing of her elbows into my personal space.
She was Very Busy. She could not stop moving. When she had finished her glamourfest, she pulled out her Blackberry and checked it for Very Important Messages. The, she produced from her handbag a pair of earphones, whose cord she had to untangle (again with the flailing of elbows across the divide). With the earbuds successfully jammed into her ears, she then grabbed a red pen and The Washington Post (and who among us hasn’t wanted to do that recently? The copy editing at The Post just isn’t what it used to be!) and began to read the paper with arms stretched oh-so-wide, into my personal space, snapping the paper to straighten it every so often.
She never used the red pen, though. I guess there were no typos today. Or maybe it was just a prop.
I concluded that this woman is the kind who’s busy at work because she makes herself Very Busy. I have a hunch she thinks she’s more important than she is. Her mid-level management position at a government agency is a fine job with great benefits, but really, she’s probably peaked already. She probably works long hours and complains out it but secretly enjoys it. (You know that person.) Even though she’s really inventing work for herself. Or maybe not, but I will never know because I got off the train before she did.
When I arrived at my client’s office, I found a most pleasant surprise in my mail slot. Conveyed by the San Francisco Government, printed on a suitable-for-framing heavy card stock, was a certificate declaring that for one year beginning July 1, 2010, my client is exempt from the city’s commuter benefits ordinance! (Hold your applause!) Of course, while the presentation was most impressive, it loses a little bit of prestige when you consider that my client closed its office in San Francisco in mid-2009, almost a year prior to the effective date of this exemption. So, because they have no commuters in San Francisco, I would hope they would not be bound by this or any city ordinance.
I love bureaucracy! And, dear readers, you know that nobody loves to write a letter to the city government more than I do.
I’m going to send an email to the Acting Director who signed the certificate. Mr. Assmann, it’s only fair to warn you that you will be hearing from me.
(Yes, that is, apparently his real name. Come on, I couldn’t fabricate this stuff, I’m not nearly that clever!)