Thursday, October 23

Urban black

Once cold weather starts, the bus is a sea of black jackets, with a few dark browns and other neutrals mixed in. Almost no color.

Last year, this struck me as odd. Then I remembered the stereotype about New Yorkers wearing black. It's not just New York—it's an urban thing in general, for some reason, and the people I'm riding the bus with are urban. Colorful coats are for the 'burbs.

My transitional coat—for chilly but not frigid weather—is an intense color, and I stick out like crazy on the bus. Eyes go straight to the coat.

One time I was sitting in the bus station and this guy sat down across from me and asked, "Is that your usual attire?"

"Not at all. It's my crazy-wear."

Wednesday, October 8

My Gmail address isn't (always) me.

My Gmail address isn't my primary email, but some of you do have my Gmail address.

Gmail has been a mess for me from day one. I constantly get messages from sites where I've supposedly created accounts, emails from people who think I'm their relative or friend, etc. etc. Apparently there are several dozen people out there who THINK that my Gmail address is their own Gmail address, and dozens more who think that my Gmail address belongs to their friend or family member.

At this point, I'm locked into my Gmail—not just because I use my Google account to run this blog and other stuff, but because I'm actually doing some side work for a company that contracts with Google, and I'm required to use my Google account in my interactions with that company.

The other day, someone created a Facebook account with my Gmail. I don't think it was done as an attempt to impersonate the real-world me. But still, someone who hasn't met me offline—such as a company I do work for remotely—could have my Gmail address, look up that account, and believe that it's me. I logged into the account and deleted it, but who knows when something like this might crop up again.

So I just want to go on the record as saying: it isn't me. If you know my Gmail address and you find stuff on the internet that seems to be linked to it, be skeptical. Other people out there are doing way, way more with my Gmail address than I've ever done with it myself.

Monday, October 6

Oh, by "loose layers" you mean, loose layers...

For like 15 years I've been hearing that the way to stay warm is to wear loose layers... And my brain has been thinking, Of course you mean fitted layers, because I'm female, and that exempts me from the laws of thermodynamics, because obviously I wouldn't wear loose layers...

I'm so toasty warm.

Thursday, October 2

Finally been converted

I was a rice-cooker enthusiast for years—couldn't be convinced that stovetop was "just as good."

Well, I finally gave it up and stopped using my rice cooker (at the same top that I stopped using my microwave). Sold the microwave, but I'll give my rice cooker away for free to whoever wants it!

Today at the bus station

Gorgeous hijabi, in a black scarf and abaya no less, carrying a skateboard. I tried not to double take, but I'm sure I failed.

Tuesday, September 30

And today on the bus

I sat down and another rider immediately offered me candy. You know that never happens to you when you're in your car on the highway...

Saturday, September 27

Does somebody have my caulk gun?

I've been going crazy trying to find this thing for months now... only just occurred to me that I may have let someone borrow it and forgotten about it.

Wednesday, September 24

Nice moment on the bus

One of the awkward features of the bus is needing to pull the cord/push the tape to signal for your stop when you're sitting on the aisle.

Option 1, you can reach past the person sitting next to you, which always feels awkward and even rude when there isn't much space. Option 2, you can politely bother the stranger you've been sitting next to in silence for the past 10 minutes and ask them to do it. Works, unless they're totally spacing out/sleeping—which sometimes they are—but even when they're alert, if you're a little bit shy it's not 100 percent fun to do.

Today there was no Option 1—not enough room to reach past without being rude. I had just taken out my earbuds and was gearing up to say, "Excuse me, could you please pull the cord?" to the guy sitting next to me, when he turns to me and says:

"I remember you get off somewhere around here—should I—" [points to cord]

Immediate relief and gratitude! "Thank you!" The man pulls the cord and the bus stops.

It's a simple thing, but it's occasional moments like these that brighten up rainy days on the bus and remind you that you have bus camaraderie. It's so much friendlier than being in your car.

Tuesday, September 23

Remember: don't hang up on 911!

Here in the 919 area code, there's an apparent epidemic of people accidentally dialing 911. Careless fools, all?

Careless fools—and me. I joined the ranks of the 911 misdialers the other day.

Luckily, I remembered the advice to stay on the line and let the call go through. I quickly apologized for my misdial, and the whole thing probably wasted no more than 10 seconds' worth of county resources.

The temptation to try to hang up before the call could go through was pretty strong, though. So remember: if you accidentally dial 911, stay on the line! If you don't, they're obliged to hunt you down and make sure you're not dead.

Wednesday, September 17

Three-year-old boy in Whole Foods

"We have to find soy milk that doesn't have DEET!"

Tuesday, September 16

Actually, getting rid of my car completely changed my life.

Early on in this car-free thing, I decided it wasn't going to be all that big a deal. My lifestyle was car-light compared to the average American's, anyway. I took the bus most of the way to work. I did most of my shopping for clothes, shoes, and home goods online. I used my car a lot socially, so the only thing I thought might see significant change was my social life.

Ten months since I went car-free, I have to admit that I was completely wrong. I say "admit" because part of what I wanted to do by going car-free was show other people that giving up your car doesn't have to mean a big lifestyle change. You can be kind of normal and not have a car! Even here in the Triangle, North Carolina!

Well, turns out you can't. Or at least, I couldn't. Maybe someone else could have stayed the same. But I didn't.

It's like this. Without a car, you suddenly don't have this ability to make super-fast decisions: I'm gonna go to X exact spot, right now. Which sounds like a loss of freedom, right? Your choices are more limited.

Only I look back now and see that my choices when I had a car were much more limited than I knew. My mental map of "places I might get in my car and drive to" was mostly a mental map of places I might drive to and buy some stuff. Not completely, but mostly. Even though technically I was free to go anywhere under the sun.

It's a consumer culture. I wince, typing that, because it sounds like an obvious—almost trivially obvious—thing to say. Anyone who's remotely paying attention has already noticed that the United States has a bit of a consumer-culture thing going on. But what "consumer culture" really means is so much clearer to me now that I don't have a magic conveyance that gets me so deceptively easily to all of those money-grabbing places.

I say "deceptively" because the price is so much higher than most people realize. Even I, calculating out how much I might save by giving up my car, came up with a ridiculously low-ball number. Money was part of the decision, but not a big part, because I didn't think the difference would actually be all that big.

Turns out I'm saving three or four times more money than I expected. Add to that the money I've saved by having to put in more effort to go out and spend money, and the savings start to get ridiculous.

Of course, I thought I knew all this before. I thought of myself as moderately anti-consumerist. I wasn't spending on autopilot. I wasn't going to the mall just to "go to the mall." I didn't make grocery trips to get single items. I didn't have television. Etc.

But the numbers don't lie. After I gave up my—fully paid-for, cheap-to-insure—car, I suddenly started making progress on my financial goals. I suddenly realized that I won't have to work until I'm 67 just to make ends meet. I can be in control of my life, rather than being controlled by the need to make a certain income to cover all the expected, middle-class expenses—like a car.

It's not an exaggeration to say that I feel like getting rid of my car got me my life back. Before, I was in the driver's seat of my life—sure. But now I'm standing on my own two feet. Well, except when there's an empty seat on the bus.

Wednesday, September 10

Wow.

It never even occurred to me that the people in charge of transit systems might not actually ride them. Wish I'd stayed naive!

Saturday, September 6

Mistake?

I thought that I might make it to the end of the first summer and realize I'd made a horrible mistake.

Now, granted this was a milder-than-usual summer, but still—it's central North Carolina. It's humid and hot. You can't walk a mile during most of the day (even with dat parasol) without getting seriously annoyed with yourself for ever contemplating said walk.

And I don't regret anything. I am loving every minute of the car-free life. I'm still hoping I'll make it through the next 60-some years without having to own a car again.

But then I think about my parents (who are elderly and don't live near transit). I think about my friends (who have no intentions of ever ditching their cars). Being the car-free family member and friend of car-owning people is always going to be kind of problematic.

I thrived during my first car-free summer, but this still might turn out to have been a mistake. I may not know either way for at least another few years.

Saturday, August 16

Still can't get used to it.

There's service from the bus station to my house every 15 minutes on Saturday afternoons (as of about a year ago).

I'm still stuck in little-town transit thinking where NOTHING happens every 15 minutes on a Saturday. Living in a city rocks.

Friday, August 8

The status symbol of choice

Okay, it's not like my 20-year-old Nissan with bumper stickers all over it was ever really a status symbol.

But car ownership implies a certain economic status. A certain minimum economic status. In a town like this one, it does, anyway. This ain't Manhattan (and it sure ain't San Francisco).

I'd be lying if I said it never bothered me. I wince a little, inwardly, every time I feel like I'm giving off a vibe of "can't afford a car" or "got rid of her car in a desperate bid to make her budget work."

The truth is, ditching my car was part of my five-year plan to get to where I want to be financially. Five years from now, I'll have a status symbol that's way better than a car.

But even then, no one will really know about it. Five years from now, I'll probably still be hanging out at the bus station.

It would be easy for me to say that I'm independent-minded and I don't care what anyone thinks about my not owning a car. And in a way, it would be true. I don't care a lot. But I do care some. I'm not sure that will ever go away.

The loss of the status symbol is definitely worth it, though. Even more worth it than I imagined—both in money and in just plain not having to deal with a car.

Tuesday, July 29

Kids and cars

The website kidsandcars.org has some clever suggestions [PDF] to make sure you don't tragically forget the baby in the back seat on a hot day...

I really do wish everyone would give up their car.

Not everyone. But, you know, a lot of people. Because then everyone would be out and about early in the morning in the summer, and I could do an errand at 6:30 a.m. to beat the heat. Instead (for safety reasons) I'll be doing it at 5:30 p.m. when it's hot and everyone is around.

Thursday, July 24

Giving stuff away on Craigslist

A guy sat in his truck on the street for literally half an hour waiting for a car to pull into the driveway to signal him that I was home. Rather than, you know, knocking on the door or calling to check whether I was there.

Guy wasn't dumb. Stuff like this actually happens all the time. People are SO CONFUSED by the empty driveway.

Wednesday, July 23

Thought for five seconds

about boycotting the bus until they catch Mr. Dipshit Drano Bomb or at least name a suspect...

...then stepped outside my front door. Ninety-seven percent humidity. Nope, I'll take my chances on the bus.

Sunday, July 20

Housekeeping without a chore chart?

Ever since I started living alone, I've used a chore chart—for me, not for any kids who have lived with me—and it works really well.

But then I think about it occasionally, and I'm like, who does that? A chore chart? For an adult?

I'm sure most people probably don't use a chore chart, but then, most people probably aren't on top of their chores, either.

Is it possible to be a normal person who has a full-time job, or kids, or whatever, and be pretty much caught up on your chores without a chore chart?

By "pretty much caught up," I mean 95 percent of the time you don't freak if someone comes over unexpectedly...