I Heart Commuting


Yesterday was the last day of my long commute from Sunnyvale to the city… at least for a while. On a good day, it would take an hour in the morning, and 90 minutes on the way home. On a bad day, it could take more than 2 hours each way. But most days, I tried not to think about it or I’d get depressed.

After a particularly bad commute day (like when someone decided to park their car on the tracks or my Muni bus ride got stuck in Giants traffic causing me to miss my bullet train), I bought this mug in an effort to bring some humor to the daily grind and hopefully cheer up some of my train-riding companions in the process. Most people got the joke, but I’m sure there were a few who just thought I was plain crazy.

Sure, it was nice to have all that reading and editing time or space out time to transition from work to home and not have to fight traffic in my car, but a long commute is a long commute no matter how you slice it. Carl never quite understood why I dreaded it so much until recently, when he had a conference in the city and decided to join me on my daily train and Muni bus ride. I was secretly hoping something would go wrong so he’d see why I sometimes came home in a foul mood. I know that was wrong, but it actually happened. Our Muni bus got stuck in traffic, and we missed the bullet train and almost the train after which was 30 minutes later. We ended up getting off the bus and running in the rain to catch the train. He finally understood why I was so exhausted every evening when I came home. Commuting is full of anxiety – if you don’t leave the office exactly at 5:05pm, you don’t get to the bus stop in time and you miss the train, and all is lost.

I did have some memorable moments though. Here are a few stand-outs…

1. I fell asleep on my way home on the train, and woke up just as the train was pulling out of the Sunnyvale station, expressing south to San Jose. This was a day when Carl was picking me up from the train station so we could zip over to our couples group. As I woke up and realized what happened, I looked out the window and waved, saying, “bye Sunnyvale” and made the humiliating call to Carl that I missed the exit and was heading 25 minutes south. Oops.

2. After racing to the train for my commute home, I received the depressing news that there had just been an accident on the tracks. This could mean a 4-hour delay. So myself and 5 others decided to take the matter into our own hands and share a cab back to Sunnyvale. During rush hour, this is about an hour drive. The funny part is that my new Indian friend who coordinated the taxi ride assembled a group of all Indian people and me. I wondered how I made the cut and if she new the other guys sharing our cab. She said, “No. But since they were Indian, I figured they all lived in Sunnyvale.” She was right…. and she has been my saving grace on many commutes home, even giving me a ride to my house during the uncomfortable last month.

3. I got to know another Muni driver who became my buddy. Jose used to be one of my Muni drivers when I lived in the city, so we recognized each other right away. We shared stories about our pets and families, and then he got moved to a different route. I recently ran into Jose when we were both passengers on a Muni light-rail going through the city towards Union Square. He lit up, took my hand and kissed it, and was so pleased to see me again. I told him I was pregnant and he said, “It’s about time.” I just laughed.

Now, as I await the arrival of Baby H, my biggest commute is to the couch to rest and possibly read a parenting book. I plan to retire the mug for a while.

Gravity

While I’m editing at work, I often have one of my Pandora stations running in the background. A song kept coming up in rotation on my Swell Season station (another amazing band).  It would stop me in my editing every time and I’d click on my Pandora to see who was singing. Sara Bareilles. Her song “Gravity” showcases her amazing talent – gifted songwriter, pianist, and voice that clearly transports me from my clicking away at my computer keyboard.

I was recently telling my friend Kate about my new discovery. As soon as I said her name, she said, “Oh, I know her.” You know her music? “No, I know her. I’m friends with her sister and spent Thanksgiving with her family.” Since that conversation, Kate and I have been trying to find a date to see Sara in concert… which we did this past Thursday night. (Yes, the preggo went to a concert at 7.5 months pregnant. Tell me you’re impressed. The babe was definitely dancing around a lot during the event.)

So… here’s a plug for Sara. If anything, download her song “Gravity.”

Black Tie Outings with the Bump

Don’t let Carl’s orange tie fool you. This past weekend we went to a black tie optional wedding at the Fairmont Hotel in the city. Thankfully, a friend loaned me a stretchie black dress to fit the bump. And folks, I think we have a dancer. Ever since dancing the night away at the reception, the bambino has not stopped dancing inside of me. I know this should be a beautiful thing, but it still kind of freaks me out in a sci-fi sort of way. Am I alone in this? I even had a strange Poltergeist dream the other night. Help.

Muni Moment with the Bump

I guess it’s becoming quite clear to the world that I’m pregnant. No longer are people staring at my bump and wondering if I’ve developed a beer gut or if I’m expecting. I’m clearly pregnant. When I boarded the Muni bus to the CalTrain station on my commute home, there were no seats available. An old woman looked at me and said, “Do you want to sit down?” Wow. That’s a first. (Loving the prego perk.) I told her I was fine. “No, really, do you want to sit down?” she insisted. I complied and as soon as I walked over, an older business man sitting next to her shot out of his seat so I could take his.

The old lady looked me up and down, proceeding to tell me about the 23 grueling hours of labor she went through when she gave birth to her daughter some 50 years prior. She said it was so terrible, that she vowed never to go through with it again.

Wow. Thanks for the unsolicited not-so-helpful story.

I was warned that events like this would happen, so I was prepared to take her story and let it go in one ear and out the other. Fortunately I was spared from her rubbing my belly too. But I’m sure that day will come.

Speed

My friends keep reminding me that I’m not going to be able to keep the name of this blog for long if I don’t start posting some things about the city. Even though I now live in the “burbs” I do still spend most of my waking time in the city each day and have had countless city experiences to blog about. But alas, I have not made time. Here’s to more city posts!

I do still ride the Muni bus every day, and while I practice my Mandarin and Spanish (as I’ve almost memorized the recorded messages that repeat on a never-ending cycle), most of the time my Muni rides are pretty uneventful. Except for last Tuesday.

My friend Kate and I boarded an express Muni bus during rush hour for our commute to small group in south San Francisco. The bus was beyond packed. The kind of packed where you don’t know who is touching or bumping into you. While standing, we held on to the metal bars above our heads and planted our feet firmly in a surfer’s stance for balance. We cruised passed Union Square and the city streets, and soon made our way to the 101 on-ramp.

Hold on a minute. We’re going to stand up while riding on the freeway? No comments about seat-belt laws here, but truly, I felt like we were in a scene from Speed. I had never seen the freeway from this vantage point before, and let’s just say, I was kind of excited. (I think it’s been too long since I’ve been on a roller coaster. Thrills come really easy for me.)  So, while holding on with one hand, I decided to snap a picture of Kate and I on this crazy adventure. And this is how the picture turned out.

Now you don’t believe my story anymore, do you? Oh well.

There is Sun!

sunsetThe Summer has now begun in San Francisco. I survived another cold and foggy June – August, and I’ve finally put my scarf and beanie away and dusted off the flip-flops. I had to take this picture of a sunset in San Francisco, to prove that the sun does shine in the city. Carl is always surprised by this fact, but it’s true. It’s no Sunnyvale, but when the sun chooses to shine up here, it’s glorious.

I actually took this picture on my way to Trader Joe’s the other night. I’ll miss this view from my house! For those of you who don’t know, I work really close to the the Trans-America Building – the skinny, pyramid-shaped building in the background. It’s true. I “heart” SF.

The Urban Garden

gardenWho says you can’t have a garden in the city? Thanks to our upstairs neighbor (who created two great planter boxes), Wendy and I are now farmers. We’re growing zucchini, tomatoes, and pumpkins…. and possibly one red pepper plant (still not sure if it will make it). This whole gardening thing was kind of an experiment, evidenced by the pumpkin plants that are taking over our yard. I guess the seed packet was right when it said to plant the pumpkins on a hillside, 8 feet apart (not 3 inches apart in a 6-foot planter box). Oops.

marketHere we are at the farmers market at the Ferry Building on Saturday. No plans to start selling our produce just yet, but I can say we have a greater appreciation for all things home-grown.

Muni Moments

Picture 4

Ever since I started riding the Express Bus to work in the morning, I’ve become familiar with the different drivers who arrive at my bus stop at different times – 8:15, 8:30, 8:45. The express route is the esteemed route for all of the seasoned drivers, so most of them have paid their dues through years of service. There’s the sweet, skinny Asian man who always packs in the bus to the gills and lets you stand with your face practically smashed up against the windshield.  If you can fit your body on this bus, you’ll be dropped off at your stop with a smile and a “Have a nice day” as you walk down the steps. And there’s the grandfatherly, plump, older Hispanic man who always says “Good morning” when I walk onboard.

But then there’s the gruff, burly bus driver.

This guy has rules – no crowding, don’t stand in the doorway, don’t cross over the yellow line, move to the back of the bus – and he’s not quiet about it. He’ll bark at you if you’re late, and he definitely won’t stop or wait for you if he sees you running to the bus stop.

Yet for the past year, I’ve just decided to give him a smile when I board, and sometimes he smiles back. I also obey his rules.

The week after I got engaged, I was bursting at the seems to tell everyone I knew, including the burly bus driver. So one morning, right when I boarded, I smiled and told him with enthusiasm, “I GOT ENGAGED!” He was taken aback and said, “What?” I repeated what I said, and he beamed, saying, “Well.. congratulations!”

When I got off the bus, I apologized to him for being so excited about my news. He responded by saying, “Beautiful things happen to beautiful people.”

So, the next morning, as I’m walking to the bus stop I see that my bus has already arrived and I was still a block away. Guess whose bus it was? The burly bus driver’s. Remember, this is the guy with the rules. The guy who barks at you, shakes his head, and will not put up with any tardiness. When I got to the corner, I noticed that he was pulling over. Suddenly, he opened the doors and said, “Come on in sweetheart!” I couldn’t believe it. We chatted it up the entire ride downtown, and I learned so much about him. He’s been a bus driver for 30 years, been married for 45, has a grandson, and is about to retire so he can help take care of his wife who has health issues. I asked him for marriage advice. He just chuckled, and then said, “Well.. just love each other. Communicate. Be best friends.”

Now we know each other’s names, and it’s the highlight of my morning to to ride downtown with Charles. I’m actually making him some banana muffins right now. It’s my mission that he retires with a smile.

Flat Tires Anonymous

I have a confession. I’m a speed walker. If you’ve walked slowly in front of me in the past, you’ve probably heard an impatient sigh in your ear or you’ve suffered a flat tire on account of me. Please accept my apologies, but I really can’t help it. It’s in my genes.

 

Seriously.

 

My mom is a speed walker. My grandpa is a speed walker. And I’m sure there were many more speed walkers tucked away in my family tree. It’s how we’re wired. If we’re going to get somewhere, we’re going to get there fast. We don’t have the hip swivel, arm-pumping thing down (which I duly took note of while watching the Olympics this year), but our feet move just as fast.

 

Growing up, I’d watch my mom sprint from room to room while she cleaned the house and vacuumed, all so she could get it done faster. My grandpa has been known to leave shorter-legged people in the dust, with his mind set on his destination. And me? Well, some of my friends have vowed not to walk in front of me anymore. Their Achilles tendon’s are still recovering from the flat tires I’ve given them.

 

When we’re in motion, it’s not the slow kind.

 

I’ve recently become more aware of my walking RPM. When I lived in the suburbs, my patience would often get tested behind the driver’s wheel when slow pokes would drag along in the fast lane. (Don’t these people know that the left lane is for passing and not site-seeing?) Now that I live in the city, this frustration has transferred over to the slow walkers who lag along with seemingly no destination in sight. They meander in zig-zags, oblivious to the world as they talk on their cell phones so I can’t pass them on a narrow sidewalk. Or they walk 3-across with their friends or colleagues, so passing them is virtually impossible, unless, of course, I want to play “Frogger” in the middle of the street. I don’t know if I should carry a horn with me or cry out with fake labor pains so I can eeke my way ahead of these people.

 

Or, should I just slow down? Now there’s a thought.

 

But before I sign up for a Flat-Tires Anonymous group to help me in this regard, I first want to thank my grandpa for the speed genes he passed down to me. He’s 92, he just celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary (yes… 70!), and he still plays tennis three times a week. And, he’s as sharp as ever. Come to think of it, my metabolism thanks him too!

 

What traits have you inherited from your family for which you are thankful for?

And… here they are. My grandparents who have been married for 70 years, and who are 92-years-young.