Monday, October 27, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
This author tells the story of being delayed on the subway here in Boston (aka "the T") for 20 extra minutes:
...everyone was understanding and not a single person complained. In fact, people were still very courteous to each other afterward when getting off the train. No one became upset, everyone simply used the delay time to do something else.
Glad to hear it! Whether this is the norm or not, I appreciate the author (DarkSun) taking the time to point out that being nice to your fellow commuters does actually matter, and people do actually notice and appreciate it.
I've always said that the commute is everything between your desk and your house, so when I have to wait extra time on the elevator for people who still don't understand how it works, that counts.
You're on the elevator. Someone else is approaching. Maybe you want to hold the door for the person (or maybe you don't), maybe the person thinks she can make it. Either way, at least a few times a week I see the panic moment "Oh crap, I've forgotten how to keep the door from closing!" Whether it's staring blankly at the button panel trying to figure out which one is the "door open" button, or hurling yourself directly into the path of the door and letting it slam on you, neither are particularly good options. If you're going to get on I'd prefer you just do it as efficiently as possible, especially if it's morning and we're going to repeat this little scene half a dozen times as people pile on.
Here's the trick. Most (if not all?) modern elevators don't rely on the "open if you bump into something" approach on the doors. Instead they have a little light sensor that detects whether there is something blocking it. Sometimes it is at eye level (like my current building), but I used to work in a place where it was down closer to your knees.
Find that little sensor. Now, when the door is closing, regardless of which side of it you are on, just put your hand directly on that spot. Don't panic about it, don't freeze and crack under the pressure. If there's still an inch or two of clearance where you can fit your hand (or even a folder or piece of paper), you're fine. Block sensor, door opens. If I am the first to walk on an elevator and there are people behind me, I'll always put my hand on that spot, assuring that the door does not begin to close on anybody.
And for god's sake, if you do want to get on, stop standing directly in front of the stupid thing when the doors open. People may want to actually get off, too.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
In my train station, at the edges of the platform, there are these big yellow areas that clearly designate "Don't walk on these, because you know, you might fall in the pit where the trains go." It's even got an extra bumpy service to prevent you from slipping.
The downside of this feature is that, much like the breakdown lane on the highway, people will see the lack of traffic as a way of saying "Hey, I can get where I'm going faster" and just walk on it anyway. I haven't seen anybody fall in the pit yet.
The real downside, though, comes in the morning. What's the difference? People are trying to get off the train. You know what? Those people *have* to step onto the yellow part first, and they can't see you coming. I can't count the number of times I've stepped off the train only to be blindsided by somebody briskly strolling down the yellow line like it's the passing lane on Rt 93. Normally I'd feel bad to walk in front of somebody (because I do actually try to have consideration for the people around me), but it's not like I did it on purpose, or that I had an option.
Be a little courteous to your fellow commuters, huh? It's hardly their fault that they just stepped in front of you. It's yours, for walking where you're not supposed to be in the first place.
I've had the same job for over 2 years now. I take the train in to Boston, then on colder or rainy or late days I'll catch the subway, which means walking from one building to another, and getting on the escalator down to the next floor. I've written of this before.
Yesterday I met up with a coworker who'd come in on the same train, and we walked over to the subway together. I took a left, he took a right.
A right? Where the heck is he going?
Oh, I see. He's taking the stairs.
THERE ARE STAIRS???
Been commuting for 2 years, never knew there were stairs. Seems only logical, but until he actually took that right? It never occurred to me at all.
Friday, October 17, 2008
As a geek parent of three small kids, I'm a regular contributor over at Parent Hacks. Right now they've got up one of my posts for discussion on things you to remind yourself of chores before you run out the door.
What works for me? Make a pile of whatever needs doing tomorrow (phone numbers, letters to be mailed, etc...) on the kitchen counter. Put car keys on kitchen counter. Not leaving home without those!
Anyone else got good ways to remember what they're supposed to remember? Contribute here or over on the main thread at PH.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Always something new on the commute, isn't there?
You know how, on that long trudge up the steps from subway to reality, you're basically staring, sheep-style, at the butt of the person in front of you? You avert your eyes, you look at your Blackberry, but basically that's just the nature of what happens when the person directly in front of you is a step or two higher.
Well this morning the woman in front of me had a hole in her pants. Not a large one, mind you - just maybe an inch or two. But having come from a split seam right up the middle, let's just say it was in a strategically placed spot. So strategically placed that I could tell you what color underwear she was wearing.
That is, if she was wearing any.
Now somebody explain to me how you bring THAT up to a complete stranger? "Excuse me, ma'am? You're showing the world that you decided to go commando this morning." I'm not even sure what you do in a situation like that, it's not like people carry around a spare pair of pants for just such an emergency.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
A situation happened this morning that I'd never seen before. Surely you know what happens when the only way to get from one place to another in the subway is an escalator? People run up and down it, because they are in such a hurry that they can't wait the 10 seconds for the escalator to take them there. If there's somebody standing still, they shove past.
Well today, a guy got on the escalator with arm braces. Not sure if that's what they're called - the sort of crutchlike device, a metal rod that is braced against his forearms and goes straight to the ground, like a cane that he can't drop. On both arms. Naturally he takes up some space on the escalator. And there's no getting around him.
NOW what, Mr. I Have To Get By, I Can't Wait 10 Seconds? I watched, amused, as the number of people queued up behind us, looking up and over shoulders to try and figure out the blockage. You could tell on some faces that they were trying to figure out whether they could get past without looking bad. Nobody tried it. But you knew they were revving their engines, you could tell by how fast they bolted across the platform the minute they could.
It's just a few seconds. The odds of you catching or not catching a train because you were able to run down the steps are miniscule. I mean, sure, if you can *see* the train is in the station and you know that if you don't run for it you're gonna miss it, I can see where that would be frustrating. But on the particular escalator I'm talking about you can't even see the platform until you're 3/4 the way down it anyway, so you're basically getting all excited over the prospect of missing it.
And what's the worst that happens if you do miss it? You catch the next one that'll be along in 5 minutes. Do a quick meditation and lower your stress levels.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
So, the MBTA is launching a "civil commuting" poster campaign for commuters, telling you to do all those things you know you should do like giving up your seat, or getting off the damned phone.
My first thought was, "In *Boston* they're trying this?"
Then I read the comments on the post. :)
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
So yesterday I was running pretty late (more on that in a different post). I've gotten myself a bagel and am sitting inside the transportation building getting some work done.
A woman comes by, and I know she is new to the station as she reads a sign that has been up for a year about changes to the schedule. She sits down as well.
Another woman comes up, clearly her first time as she is looking at every door and hallway like she doesn't know where she's going. She goes outside to the platform, comes back, and says, "I think we're supposed to wait outside. They told me track 2."
"Are we?" asks the other woman. "This is my first time."
"You can," I tell them. "But the next train's not coming for 45 minutes, and it's cold out there."
Well, now this new lady is my friend. She spent the next 45 minutes talking my ear off, all about how she's got a new job at MIT, and how she could drive, but she's trying out the different options, and this is similar to how New York does it but California has nothing like this, and on and on and on. Train comes, she sits next to me. Train arrives at station, we head to subway building, she follows me.
At times I felt frustrated, after all I was very late for work and now the more I spoke to this woman the less I got done in the down time. But on the flip side, hey, she's brand new to the system. Somebody shows up in Boston and says "I've never been on the T before, how do I get to Kendall?" then it's pretty cruel to leave them to fate. It's hard enough explaining "inbound" and "outbound".
It didn't kill me, is what I'm trying to say. When I finally lost her (she had to purchase a subway pass and I explained that late as I was I could not afford to miss the next car), I did find myself watching the escalator to see if she would catch up before it left.
Just something to remember the next time you see somebody confused on your commute. Help somebody out, it won't kill you. As a matter of fact it'll probably make your commute go faster, because she won't be holding things up.
Monday, October 06, 2008
I take exit 37 in the morning. Know what that means? It means that as I pass exit 38 (going south), I work my way over to the right hand lane. After all, it's only going to be about a mile before my exit.
This morning in particular I counted 5 people cutting over to my lane at "the last minute". Not necessarily the crazy ones who cut over 4 lanes to get there, but the ones who basically waited as long as they could to get past as many cars as they could before committing to the exit.
I wonder...how often, when that happens, do you assume the person is just an idiot who waited until the last second because he was too impatient to get in line like he was supposed to? Or do you ever give the benefit of the doubt that perhaps this particular person has never driven this highway before, and didn't know that was his exit? It is 7 in the morning, after all, and perhaps some people are still sleepy. Maybe he just wasn't paying attention.
Just something to think about. If you drive with the assumption that everybody else on the road is an idiot, it's probably not doing good things to your stress levels. Every now and then if somebody wants to merge in front of you, even if they waited til the last minute, just go ahead and let them. Maybe it was an honest mistake, and you'll both end up having a better day.
But if you let him in and that SOB doesn't wave thank you? You're allowed to kill him.
So, in my home town (actually, in most of the surrounding ones) there are these very weird intersections. You come to a red light, and the road splits into two lanes for maybe 50 yards. This would make sense if one of the lanes was marked as turn-only, but that's never the case. What it ends up making, every morning, at every light, is a bonafide racing opportunity as the guy behind you switches to the lane next to you, and when the light turns green he wants to be in front. On a good day there'll be half a dozen cars backed up in each lane, and both are going to hit the gas on green and try to get ahead of the other guy.
I experience this a minimum of three times every morning. The farther you are from the light the worse it gets, because you know that no one is going to merge one-car-at-a-time style, it's going to be a jam to see who can get in front of who. Whom.
Sometimes it because more of a marathon than a sprint, as the guy who did not get to pass you at one light will now be extra aggressive at the next one. I watch that each morning as well.
I had to ask myself this morning (having come back from vacation for a week, perhaps I had a fresh outlook), why I'm bothering with this? If somebody gets to my right at the light and then still ends up behind me, then yeah, I smirk and think to myself "Look where you ended up, loser. Still behind me." So then at the next light when he jumps at his chance to zip around me I'm thinking, "Oooo, you're one car length ahead, look how impressed everyone is."
Who cares? Who really, honestly, cares? I've got to work on that. Is this moron keeping me from getting to my train? Not really. Well, if he causes an accident he will. Or if I cause one because it's important for me not to let him get in front. That would be ironic.
Figures, when I go away on vacation Lifehacker does a commute-related post. Only in this case, most of their tips (which actually come from the UK) don't make much sense.
* Don't misread the horn? If it's a quick toot or two, then I know it's to get my attention for something. If he's been leaning on it for the past 30 seconds, I get the message. What's to misread?
* Make eye contact? There are places in the US where that will cause more road rage than it prevents.
* Limit your commute to 15 minutes? Bite me. Very few people I know have the luxury of choosing the length of their commute.
* You don't own that parking space. You're right, but just because somebody's leeching it when there's a perfectly good empty one 2 spaces down does not mean I feel the need to hurry myself along.
* Late merging (when some putz waits until the last second to squeeze in to your lane because his is coming to an end) is ok. You know what? Don't care, still hate you. That's one of those cases where statistically it might work (because the cars are spread across more lanes for a larger physical space), but psychologically it's a nightmare.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
There's a downside we don't hear about much. Less driving means less people buying gas, which means less federal gas tax coming in, which means less money for doing transportation-related projects.