Saturday, January 14, 2012

For Your Safety and Comfort...

Do you ever have those things that come up in your life that just happen again, and again, and again, and again...until you just have to scream "OKAY!  I get it.  I get it, already.  What is it that I'm supposed to learn here?  Is there a lesson I'm missing?  Something I'm supposed to learn?  Because I'm obviously missing the point."  Maybe there isn't a lesson.  Maybe this is just a "life is going to add small complications to show you how much you can handle," type thing.  Or maybe a "life is just going to add little stressors to get under your skin for the fun of it."  That last possibility there might be it.

I have lots of those little things right now.  (Don't we all?)  But the biggest little thing that is getting under my skin and is set to send me off the deep end is transportation.  Oh, transportation.  "Ah yes," I hear you thinking.  "Everybody hates sitting in traffic."  And I do hate sitting in traffic.  But let me tell you a story here.  The story of me getting to work these past 6.5 months.
If I were to drive from my house to work at 2:30AM on a Sunday morning, it would likely take me about 35 minutes.  That's not a bad commute at all.  35 minutes is perfectly reasonable, respectable commute.  However, I never drive to work at that time, so it takes me anywhere from 1 hr 15 mins to an 1.5 hours.  Sometimes longer, if I'm lucky.  But that isn't the end of the commute.  I can't park at the building I work in...nope...lowly interns are not lucky enough to get a parking pass, so I need to park at a different building, then take a shuttle up to my building.  Shuttles run every half hour, so if I have a client at 9, I need to get to the shuttle by 8:30 to get to my building at 8:45, which means I have to leave my house between 6:45 and 7 to make sure I leave enough time to park on the 53rd level of the parking garage* and walk to the shuttle before he puts it into drive at 8:29 to step on the gas and leave any stragglers in the dust at 8:30.  I'm not kidding.  Marcus** waits for no one.

So, when I realized this would be the case back in July, I decided I would take the metro to work.  It takes me 15-20 minutes to drive to the metro, 30 minutes on the metro, and deposits me right across the street from where I need to be.  Perfect, right?  No traffic, I can sit and read, no need to worry about missing the is beautiful.
July through September, I took the metro.  Some days, it was a piece of cake.  It was quick, smooth, clean, calm, environmentally friendly, and totally not sketchy.  Perfect!  As I continued taking the metro, though, my life became considerably more...interesting.  Of the multitude of incidents I could share, the two that stick out are as follows:

1.) The infamous chicken incident.  Coming home from work one day, I was sitting on the train in the station, waiting to go, with a handful of other people.  Just as the train was about to leave, a man boarded the train.  "What the fuck is your problem?" he asked of me and the woman across from me.  "Fucking bitches."  I looked out the window at the wall, and the man found a seat several rows in front of me, facing me. 
"For your safety and comfort," stated the recording on the train, "your safety is being monitored.  Please be mindful of MTA's prohibited acts.  Individuals eating, drinking, or playing electronic devices without headphones are subject to arrest."

I wondered, not for  the first time, whether the train was actually monitored as the doors closed and we began to move.  As I continued watching, the man pulled out a box of fried chicken from the Popeye's on the corner and proceeded to pull out a piece of fried chicken in each hand.  The train swerved slightly and he leaned, dramatically, nearly falling over as whatever drug he had recently ingested began to take a stronger hold.  He dropped the chicken from one hand and picked another piece out of the box, taking a bite, and then dropping that piece, too.  He then began searching, blindly, on the floor for the chicken, unable to see it right next to his foot.  The train leaned again and he fell heavily onto one side, saw the chicken on the floor, picked it up, and resumed eating.  Humming, grunting, and making loud, exaggerated chewing noises, I feel comfortable speaking for everyone when I say we were all sufficiently grossed out, and some of us were pretty freaked out.
Two women, one with a baby, got on the train at the next stop and, unknowingly, sat down in front of Chicken Man.  Having sufficiently finished one piece of dropped, picked up, gnawed on, and dropped again chicken, he did the only natural thing one would do when you are holding a chicken bone on the metro.  He put it on the back of the seat in front of him.  The entire train seemed to collectively hold its breath as the mother in front of him put the baby up on her shoulder.  And the baby, being a baby, did the only natural thing a baby would do when it sees a chicken bone right behind its mother's shoulder within reach.  I'll leave what happened next to your imagination.  I mean, you could be reading this while you're eating dinner, right? 

Needless to say, the mother caught on and took care of baby, glared at the man behind her, and continued her conversation with her friend.  The man, almost completely gone, but still aware enough to know that the Mama in front of him was pissed off, did the next, completely logical reaction.  He took another chicken bone in his right hand, reached forward with his left, grabbed the back of Mama's shirt, and dropped the chicken bone straight down the back of her shirt.  And with that, he fell over completely, dropped the box of chicken on the floor, and did not sit back up. 
Mama, of course, screamed, jumped up, and did the "get this chicken bone out of the back of my shirt" dance.  If you've never seen it, you'll know it as soon as you do.  It's pretty unmistakable. 

2.) While going to work, a man with a weed whacker got on the train.  This wasn't just any weed whacker.  This was a BIG weed whacker.  He got on the train, just like the woman with her groceries, the man with his briefcase, and the kid with the backpack and sat down. 
The train on this particular morning was crowded and, a second later, someone in an MTA uniform popped her head in.  "Uh uh," she said, motioning to him.  "You can't get on here with that."

"Then how the hell am I supposed to get to work?" he exploded.  "I've gotta get to work and you can't stop me."
She motioned again.  "Off.  That has gasoline in it.  Can't be on here.  Figure it out."

The man exploded again, but got off the train and walked over to the trashcan, unscrewing the gas tank.  He began dumping the gasoline into the trashcan and, as soon as Uniform Lady looked at him, walked over to the track on the opposite side and acted like he was going to pour gasoline on the other track.  She ignored him and continued walking.  He closed the gas tank and got back on the train.  I rode to work with a pissed off man wielding a weed whacker muttering his discontent under his breath sitting in front of me.  Obviously, he was not some infamous Weed Whacker Train Killer I had not yet heard of...but in the moment, I wasn't so sure.
"For your safety and comfort," came the announcement, "this vehicle is being monitored..."

At any rate, after a few of these incidents, plus a few too many sketchy guys trying bad pick up lines and refusing to leave me alone, I decided I was done.  I finished out the month on my pass and decided to start driving to work.  Week 1, Day 1, I see a pedestrian get hit by a car 3 cars in front of me.  A couple nurses jumped out to help and the police arrived shortly after.  I don't know what happened with that.

Week 1, Day 3: I drive into The Building I Park At and park.  So far so good!  I go down and wait for the shuttle to take me to The Building I Work At. (These shuttles are private shuttles just for my organization for the safety and comfort of people--particularly interns--to get to and from the myriad of locations).  It comes right on time and I get in.  It had been a particularly stressful week at work, and it was my colleague's birthday, so I had made cupcakes and was trying to balance my purse, the cupcakes, my jacket, and climbing into and out of the shuttle, so I sat in front.   I was the only one there, aside from PK, the driver.  "This is easy," I think.  "This is totally going to work out.  No chicken incidents, no weed whackers, no bad pick up lines...I got this!"
PK**, the shuttle driver gets in.  "How you doin'?" he asks.  As an aside, there were issues with PK I had heard about from other interns.  PK asking personal questions, asking for money, asking where they lived, what types of cars they drove, if they were married...these things had been reported to our training director about a week before.

"I'm good, PK.  How are you?"  I know PK from riding the shuttle between buildings when I have to go other places for meetings.
"I'm jus' fine.  Those look good," he says, eyeing my cupcakes.

"Want one?" I ask.

"Yeah," he says, enthusiastically.  I laugh and give him a cupcake, which he eats half of before we start driving.  "That's real good," he tells me.  "If this work thing don't work out for you, you start a cupcake store and let me know where it at, mmkay?"
"Sounds like a plan," I say.  We ride in silence for a few moments as we start driving through downtown.  The streets we take, I have to say, are sketchy.  Adult movie theaters, sex shops, unlabeled buildings with people always hanging out outside of them, and rehab buildings make up the entire street, with a few churches and boarded up buildings thrown in in-between. 

"I don' usually see you in the morning," PK says. 
"No," I say.  "I used to take the metro, but I'll be driving to work from here on out, so you'll be seeing me more regularly."

"Why you stop takin' the metro?" he asked.
"Well," I said, "honestly, it was just kind of...sketchy.  I just didn't feel very safe."

"What do you mean, sketchy?" he asked.
"You know...just kind of...sketchy.  It made me uncomfortable.  I never felt very safe."
"I feel you," he said.  "That's why I always carry a blade on me."  I didn't say anything for a moment.

"Oh," I said.  "Huh."  We stopped at the stoplight across from the XXX Movie Theater. 

"Yeah," he said.  "Don't tell nobody, because I know it's against The Organization's policy, but I gotta have my blade.  See?"  He lifts up his shirt to show me what seemed like a sword size switchblade on his belt/in his pocket."
I say nothing, but my mind starts racing: "PK has creeped out other female interns, and now I am sitting alone in a van in a bad section of the city with PK with a freaking huge knife he won't stop talking about.  What the hell am I going to do?"

So I did the only thing I could think to do.  I sat in the van, listened to him talking about his knife, and I waited.  I arrived safely at my building and went inside.  As I walked into the office, I (for reasons still unknown to me), decided it was no big deal and would not tell my colleagues about the knife, figuring I was just over-reacting.  So, I walked in, and resorted to one of my natural anxiety responses.  I laughed.  "Hey guys," I giggled.  They looked up at me, immediately aware something was off.  "I brought cupcakes!"  I laughed some more.  I turned on my computer and waited for it to boot up.  I laughed again.
"How was the trip in?" asked Matt*, obviously aware that something was weird.  Sarah* and Amanda* turned around.
"It was fine," I lied.  " was weird."  They looked at me, expectantly.  They were used to weird transportation stories, looked forward to them, even, as their morning entertainment.  "I don't think it's a big deal, but..." I told them the story, and they freaked out.  I called our training director, who also freaked out.  Long story short, I got PK fired that day (and banned from The Organization's property) and then had a couple weeks of escorts to and from my car, two shuttle drivers (for safety and security purposes), and increased security at the front of every building.  HR and facilities had to be aware of my schedule to increase security during the times I was in transit as they were worried PK would link his firing to me and somehow target me for being fired.  Kinda made me wish I hadn't given the guy a cupcake.
A few weeks after things had blown over, I got a call from my training director.  "You're not going anywhere anytime soon, are you?" she asked.  Apparently, PK was spotted hanging out across from The Organization's property, they were increasing security, were going to find out why he was there, and I was to remain in the building for the next several hours.  This has completely blown over, I no longer need to feel like I am surrounded by the secret service, and there have not been any PK sightings. 
Starting January 1, I switched buildings, so I need to park in a new place, with a new shuttle, and a new route.  However, there were issues getting my parking pass, so the past two weeks, I've been taking the metro.  In the past two weeks, I saw a drug deal go down, saw a man get chased off the train by men who were trying to get money from him, and sat for nearly 45 minutes waiting underground because there was a man in a wheelchair stuck under the metro.  Nobody knows how he got there.
Starting on Tuesday, I start the new parking situation adventure.  Needless to say, I can't wait*** to see what...adventures are ahead as I take advantage of these modes of transportation in place for my safety and comfort. 
*This may or may not be an exaggeration. 
**Names have been changed.
***This may or may not be sarcasm.


  1. It is so hard to realize what you go through every day of your working life. How much longer will you be dealing with this?

  2. A writer is damn lucky to get so many stories! But stay save. :-)