In my last essay, I said, and I quote, "if someone offered me a job right about now I sure as heck would jump at it." Well, ask and you shall receive, I guess, because two days after I posted that essay, someone did offer me a job. And I did indeed jump at it, starting the job, in fact, the day after I got the offer - which I got the day after the interview. Interviewed on Monday, started on Wednesday - you could have knocked me over with a feather, it happened so fast.
The new job is why I haven't updated the site for the last couple of weeks - and I apologize for that, but I'm dragging my ass up to San Francisco and back every day and I just haven't written. Mea culpa, but honestly, the commute is a bit of a bear and I'm just now getting into some sort of rhythm.
Yes, the new job is in the city, and I live in the suburbs, which means a daily trip on the public transportation system known as BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit - a name that I take issue with because the system neither rings the entire Bay Area nor is particularly rapid some days). I drive to the station, which is about a mile from my house, take the train into the city and then walk about 6 blocks to the office. In the evenings, of course, I reverse the trip. Door to door a one-way trip takes a little under 90 minutes.
3 hours commuting time every day sounds pretty nasty, I know, but it's really not that bad. I can read on the train and it's less of a hassle than fighting traffic and paying for parking. Since I catch the train at the start of the line in the mornings, I always get a seat. I try to catch the 7:24 am and when it pulls out of the station I have to admit to feeling a little thrill. I think it's because by the time the train pulls out, I've settled into my seat, have my book in my hands and my headphones on, and it sort of feels like my living room is on the move.
I must have some sort of attractive quality though, because more often than not someone else plops themselves right down next to me even when there are completely empty rows elsewhere in the car. I've even had people move from seats that had nobody else in them to my seat! I don't understand it at all. Why sit next to somebody when you could sit alone, even just for a stop or two? And why sit next to me? I'm not going to let you read my book over my shoulder if that's what you're looking for. Actually, the thing that really knocks me out is that these people who sit next to me constantly fall into a deep, snoring sleep regardless of whether it's morning or evening. I feel like the Human Sominex - sit next to me and SLEEP! I can't abide snoring from people I like, let alone from complete strangers, so why has fate decided that snoring BART riders should constantly plague me?
I can only assume that it's a karma thing. In a past life I must acted on my current life's ever-present temptation and just gone ahead and slit the throat of a snoring person and now I'm back on the planet to work through my snoring intolerance.
On the BART train.
At first I thought I needed to develop what my father always referred to as a "BART face". This is very simply defined as the face you make that discourages people from sitting next to you on the train. It usually consists of nothing more than looking like you're in a particularly bad mood - I'm not talking about rolling your eyes into the back of your head and flaring your nostrils for hours on end or anything. You just have to look… pissed off. My Dad's BART face was very effective because he can scowl with the best of them. Plus he's a big guy, and he can look intimidating. I, however, am an overweight woman in a Disneyland jacket. Not so intimidating. I mean, nobody is intimidating when they have Mickey and the gang embroidered on their jacket, ok? If I try making a BART face, I just wind up looking like I have gas.
Actually… if I was thinking about sitting next to a person who looked like they had vicious gas, I might rethink the choice, so that may, in fact, be the way to go.
The BART face can be useful in many situations in the city. Folks tend not to hit you up so often for spare change or directions if you look like you'd snap their heads off if given the chance. And the ability to stare down oncoming traffic is a talent I think anyone who has spent time in the big city will appreciate. San Francisco was just named one of the most dangerous places in America for pedestrians, and I'm quite willing to back up that claim. It's as if obeying the normal laws of traffic is optional, so the onus is on those of us on the sidewalks to figure out a driver's next move - the drivers themselves are definitely not considering such things until the last possible second. It's a game of chance every time, and not terrifically relaxing.
On the other hand, there are some benefits to working in the city. The entertainment value of the many and varied lunatics who live and work here, for example. Last week I watched a very clean and sensible looking man walk down Market Street holding a banana like a cell phone and talking into it. Seriously. And this wasn't an actual phone disguised as a banana, either. It was a genuine piece of fruit. As was the man, clearly. I'm still not sure what to make of it, but if I had to hazard a guess, I suspect that the guy worked in the financial district, had just had a look at his portfolio, and became completely unhinged.
To the surprise of exactly nobody, countless people wander the streets having seemingly insightful and meaningful conversations with themselves, but it's the few who are having violent arguments with the multitudes in their own minds who unnerve me. There's a guy who sits at the corner of Harrison and 3rd who has been having an on-going disagreement with himself about Iraq for the past week. He holds both the opinion that we should and should not be there, you see. I know this because he shares his philosophical debate - loudly - with all of 3rd Street. I'd feel sorry for him, but he's so passionate about it that he seems to be enjoying himself.
The visuals on the streets of the city give me a kick sometimes, too. One of my long-time favorite reminders of the absurdity of the world comes in the form of newspaper vending machines. They offer your run of the mill newspapers, of course - The Chronicle, USA Today, etc. - and often there are real estate magazines and local entertainment papers available as well. But the one periodical that never fails to make me laugh is a "gentleman's magazine" offered on just about every street corner. It usually features a buxom woman in a bikini on the front, promising excitement and (excuse the pun) titillation inside. The name of the magazine? Is "Yank". Yank Magazine. The complete and utter lack of subtlety absolutely kills me. It's like the publishers are saying, "Look, there is only one reason for this magazine to exist and we totally know what it is, so let's just get on with it, ok?"
The really strange thing about Yank is that although I never actually see anybody purchasing it, the bins that are full in the morning are often empty when I pass them in the evening. It's as if invisible masturbators roam the streets of San Francisco collecting reading material.
Oh God. Don't let's think about that any longer than we have to, OK? It's giving me the heeby-jeebies.
So far working in the city still seems like a very adult thing to be doing (and I don't mean "adult" in the same way that the publishers of Yank mean it). The very concepts of "taking the train", "working downtown", and being "in the city" feel remote - grown-ups take the train into the city so they can work downtown. Me? I get on BART and listen to Will Smith's Greatest Hits while re-reading The Alienist. It's hard to feel like a grown-up while listening to "Parents Just Don't Understand". It's tough to feel like I'm commuting when I'm having fun. I enjoy the ride and the walk and just being in the city a lot. And I'm so much happier working at the new company than I was a few months ago at the old one. I don't know how long this honeymoon phase will last, but until it starts to fade, I'm just going to go with the pleasure I feel.
Maybe that's the problem with my BART face. I just look too content to be intimidating.
- KNP April 28, 2003