Friday, August 01, 2008

The Dreaded Bus, and Some Movie Reviews

Yes, I've been out of touch a good long while. The reason why needs only a small sad recap:

Our cat Toaster suddenly developed symptoms of diabetes (read, peeing everywhere), which first manifested on my birthday no less. Earlier, less invasive, symptoms had been ignored by us because we thought the cat was just bummed out by our recent move to much smaller digs. The month of April was a long dark tunnel of pee, trips to the cat doctor, new apartment carpet ruination, rapid decline of much-loved pet, and massive expenses followed by the forced medical removal of cat from life by a kindly vet while Girl Kid and I bawled our eyes out. This was followed by more egregious expenses when we had the cat cremated at Girl Kid's insistence and then had the carpet extensively cleaned by qualified professionals (also known as "Julio"). Toaster (named by a 4-year old Girl Kid in honor of the movie The Brave Little Toaster, recommended) now resides in a tasteful and tiny jar on the bookshelf. In the course of the same month, Girl Kid was jestfully tackled by a co-worker and received such a deep contusion on her shin that we had to have her leg x-rayed and now she has no feeling in a 4-inch square region of her lower leg. And then a few weeks later she sliced open the other leg with a box cutter trying to cut open a door in the new cat box. Did I mention we have no health insurance? Let me tell you, because this country sucks enormous donkey balls, it is to my shame that we had to spend the first post-injury 45 minutes calling everywhere to find a cheap clinic that could do stitches while Girl Kid held a, soon to be blood soaked, cloth to her knee before we could drive off erratically to the nearest place we could afford—which turned out to be practically in Canada. So, all in all, a very expensive and sad spring for your Mistress and her spawn. And oh yeah, because of a book deadline I spent 37 out of 41 days during May and early June at work. And then I was horribly sick for three weeks. Joy.

And Now for Something Completely Different,
AKA "It's a Gas, Gas, Gas!

Guess what America! With a two-term kid of the oil baron Bush family in the White House, the price of oil has never been higher! What are the odds, right? Gas costs something like $4.25 per gallon even at the cheapest place in Seattle, which luckily happens to be fairly close to our house, so bully for us. Two years ago when I started working again (after going back to school) and my 28-mile round-trip commute cost me upwards of $110 per month, the $72 monthly bus pass didn't seem like such a good deal in exchange for having to get up 45 minutes earlier. As we all know, Mistress Squidia needs her sleep. Plus, my old bus routes from our last house were not that great, as the trip required a transfer and a one block hike up or down a very steep hill in "Wino Slash Smack Town USA" (also known as the area around 3rd and Yesler in Downtown Seattle). But, at our new advertised-as-swanky but actually kind of crappy and surprisingly expensive apartment, the express bus to the downtown bus tunnel has a stop right out in front, and a few weeks ago I was finally driven (forgive me) by high gas prices to consider the bus again. And it turns out it's not half bad, if you follow some careful rules of etiquette and self preservation.

Things I Have Learned On The Bus:

Bring a Book.
Yes, the bus may be jam-packed with the low-rent public, many of whom are a bit "whiffy," or with do-good yuppies who recently have discovered a deep abiding urge to save the earth (gas prices), but when you open your trusty tome and begin to read, you enter a bubble of reality unique to yourself that effectively removes you from your present circumstances and also states, "Leave me alone, I'm busy...I don't want to hear about your dog's digestive peculiarities, your crappy job (I have one too), or your theories about how the government is controlling your thoughts through OnStar." But what about car sickness brought on by reading on a fast-moving (and jiggling) vehicle you say? Trust me, after the second week you'll hardly notice it, and the benefits of at least mental seclusion from your fellow commuters vastly out-weigh a little personal discomfort. Mr. Book is your friend, don't leave home without him.

Don't Make Eye Contact
Unless you want to make questionable "friends" and real enemies quickly, this is pretty much good advice in most public places, but on the bus it's vital. See my first point about old ladies with pets, grand children and/or interesting diseases, let alone the creepy guy who keeps looking at you and then at his crotch and smiling...and then back at you and winking, over and over.

Don't Look Around At All
With the exception of a quick glance to see if your stop is coming up, avoid looking around as much as possible, for fear of seeing something that may scar you for life. While most of the bus-going public is generally presentable, you might also encounter a specimen like the old bat I sat behind yesterday who had scotch tape liberally applied to both sides of her face. I think this may have been an attempt at low-cost plastic surgery, but who the hell knows? Maybe it was there to thwart the cheek demons.

Choose Your Seat Carefully, but Quickly
I've discovered that upon entering the bus the human mind is capable of a plethora of fast, almost instantaneous, mathematical and socioeconomic calculations. First and foremost is the snap decision of who to sit next to. Your choices include the twitching guy in the ripped, sleeveless gym shirt and copious armpit hair, the elderly woman drooling on her polyester day-glo blouse with the puppy dog decals, the hip-hop "gangsta" spread out over 2.5 seats (including the one in front of him), the disaffected youth with the iPod ear buds stuck firmly in place who will hate you and plot your death the entire ride, and the nylon-legged office twinkie who is complaining loudly on her cell phone about her boyfriend who said something to that slut at the bar last night who was so totally rude you would not believe it, you know? Other seating considerations include: how soon is your stop vs. how crowded is the bus and therefore how close to the front should you sit? If you sit closer to the back of the bus, will you be able to wedge your way to the front in time to get off where you wanted, or will you end up in Tacoma? It's important to make the right decisions here people! Also, at least in the summer, always, always sit with the sun on the opposite side of the bus, or you will cook like a crab. And last but not least, if you are forced to stand, try very hard to get the first spot by the back doors, as the back-of-the-bus entry/egress alcove offers plenty of places to hang on where you won't accidentally touch someone's hair or fall in their lap, and you might also catch some breezes coming from the gap between the doors.

Rosa Parks is Rolling...
In my few weeks of enjoying the wonder that is public transit, I've noticed that all the hip brown people tend to sit at the back of the bus. I find this very odd, but maybe that's just me. I blame our crappy and still often racist public education system, but it's only been 53 years since Rosa made her brave stand (or in her case, sit), and already you are at the back of the bus again? And by choice? Weird.

Don't Trust the Web Site
Believe me, figuring out how to correctly enter the bus stop address to satisfy the extremely persnickety King County Metro "Trip Planner" web site is hard enough, (no you gullible fool, just entering the street address is not good enough, you have to guess at what the Metro Bus web algorithm calls that stop), but wait, there's more! The buses listed as being right for your destination may not be your only options! It took me a few days to realize that not only can I get on the 101 to connect to the 301, but also the 106, 150, 174 and 194, which is good to know, because sometimes the scheduled bus you are waiting for never shows up, and sometimes it is full up and blows right past you while you jump up and down screaming at the rapidly disappearing rear advertising banner. All I'm saying is that my first week I almost missed the last connecting 301 to my neighborhood and came very close to spending the night living off bugs and pity in the Northgate Mall Park n' Ride.

The Bus Driver Hates You
Potential bus commuters, get a bus pass, because shoving archaic paper money and coins through the little slot just holds up the line. I myself am still guilty of this crime because Girl Kid keeps telling me she can get a cheap pass through her work, but so far, no pass and no love from Mr. Bus Driver. Plus I can tell they get sick of all the stupid questions—I mean how many times in a row can you reply, "Yes, this bus goes downtown" before you develop a nervous tick? Based on this morning, I'd say about seventeen.

All in all, and despite the questionable humanity to be found thereon, taking the bus is actually okay. It's turns out to be faster for me than driving, and I can read Mr. Book whilst in transit, so in many ways it definitely beats grinding my way up I-5 developing my loathing for my fellow man based solely on their driving habits.

[As a side note, the idiots that designed the three freeway lanes that converge into one just before you merge with the main line below the Washington State Convention Center need to be found, killed, dug up and killed again. And the people who weave in and out of those two "merge left" and "merge right" lanes on the outsides of the one through lane to supposedly get there faster need to be dragged out of their cars, covered in honey and duct taped over an ant hill naked a dawn. Seriously, if you all just stayed in the through lane, we'd get past that four block area in three minutes tops, instead of the 25 minutes it can take on a bad day.]

Yup, as long as you have an easy connection, the bus is better, gross guy picking his scabs and all. Just don't forget your book.

• • •

And Some Movie Reviews In A Minute or Less
And yes, I know you have already seen most of these, but in case not:

Ironman: It's out on DVD or still on screen at The Crest in Seattle (say "Hi" to Girl Kid, who her coworkers call "Tree"), and there's nothing wrong at all with Robert Downey Jr. having mega fun. Just because of him, and Ben Stiller notwithstanding, I'm looking forward to Tropic Thunder. Robert Downey rules.

Indiana Jones And The Crystal Snooze: Oddly boring, and totally preposterous. Hey, um, Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Lucas, I know they made refrigerators pretty beefy in the 1950's, but there is no one, no matter how studly, who could hide in one and still survive being blown out of a house by a nuclear bomb. Even if they were not immediately vaporized, they'd be turned into Spam by the two mile joyride through the air. And then when Indy gets out and looks at the blast and doesn't immediately die of radiation sickness? Please, what a crock. Plus, Harrison Ford really does look like my dad now, and that was a bit distracting. Oh yeah, "spoiler alert!" Guess what? I'm not even sorry I ruined it for you. You are better off doing something more uplifting and useful with your evening, such as drawing elves on your toes with a Sharpie.

The Dark Knight: Holy Crap Batman! This movie is completely awesome and the "magic trick" with the pencil will blow your mind. Poor overdosing Heath Ledger will surely suck all of the awards out from under every living actor next year, and you know what? He deserves it. What a performance. It's not often you can overshadow the dreamy yet mysterious Christian Bale AND the yummy yet-also-can-act Aaron Eckhardt, but poor dead Heath blows them away. Sad, poignant, wonderful, go see it. Oh wait, you already did, twice.

Encounters At The End of The World: Okay, here's one you haven't seen I'll betcha, but you should. It's the latest from my secret passion, German nihilist documentarian Werner Herzog, over whom I have been totally bonkers since I first saw Aguirre, Wrath of God. Plus, it's about Antarctica, and I'm am nothing if not obsessive about all things remote and icy. I think I've mentioned that I lived in the Yukon for four years a long time ago. Beautiful underwater scenes, assorted science-y misfits in love with their jobs, a woman who can stuff herself into carry-on luggage, people stumbling around with buckets on their heads in a simulated whiteout exercise, and suicidal penguins. You've got to see it.

Mamma Mia: Okay, I admit it, and I'm not proud—I had fun. In my defense, there is never anything wrong with Merle Streep having a good time, and boy does she enjoy herself here. I didn't love it, but I did like it, plus I cried at one point, proving beyond all doubt that I am in fact a girl. What a sap. Also, there is nothing wrong with Stellan Skarsgard's naked butt, is all I'm saying. I may be middle aged, but he's kinda yummy. Oh yeah, and Pierce Brosnan cannot sing his was out of a paper bag, which for some odd reason cheers me right up. There are of course lots of ABBA songs, which which are in fact infectious in an "ohmygod my brain is melting" sort of way, as I'm sure you know unless you have been living on Pluto since the 1960's. Take your mom.

Well, that's it for now. Stay yummy my reader, stay yummy for me. And Mr. Herzog, if you happen to read this some day, please know that I'd happily do your dishes until the end of time, (which after 17 years as a single mom shows the depths of my devotion). Call me.


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