I have spent many years traveling on a graduate student’s budget. Travel was – and is – my preferred way of handling the Christmas holidays, which would rank second after the week-that-shall-not-be-named (aka this one) on my list of least favorite times of the year, except for the fact that my travel tradition actually makes it one of my favorites. (At least, in those years when I can afford to travel.)
Traveling for mental health is my way of flipping the script on what would otherwise be a traumatic time of year, but given that I spent years making an income as a graduate student that didn’t quite leave me destitute – but also didn’t qualify as “comfortable” either – I never got used to the luxury of rental cars. I have never rented a car in any city that had viable public transit. I’ve had my fair share of ridiculous moments trying to navigate unfamiliar transit as a result, but I can’t at this point imagine ever renting a car in a transit city after so long getting by without one. Why pay eighty bucks for parking when I can pay ten dollars for a day transit pass?
I certainly can’t imagine renting one in my own city. I never learned to drive here. We had a car when we first moved, but the lack of street parking, the prospect of “parallel parking” if we ever did find parking, the feet of snow dumped on cars in the winter, and the extortionary private garage parking fees required to avoid dealing with any of the former quickly led to us giving it up. Even for the brief period that had a vehicle, we never drove to any popular tourist locations.
My Partner’s grandparents were traveling with childhood friends who had moved to another Southern state as part of an annual get-together tradition, and their stop in our city was one among several on the East Coast. (I continue to be amazed that there are people in this world who have maintained friendships for more decades than I have been alive, but this, like young marriage, seems to be the norm in the South.) Their hotel was outside the city because hotel costs are possibly the only thing more disproportionate than parking (or rent) in our city. They asked us to show them around, and we (naively) assumed they meant by subway. However, they were not comfortable using public transit, even with locals to personally shepherd them from Point A to Point B. They seemed convinced that the subway would be unsafe, dirty, and unreliable.
Continue reading “Subway Sociology #7: Weed Out the Weak”
Did I ever mention that I am an irony magnet?
This is an important baseline state of reality to establish for new readers who might otherwise question how my Partner and I, specifically, ended up being the second and third of (hopefully only) three residents of a large urban city stuck explaining the intricacies of Pokemon Go to a drunk “friend” supposedly hiding from his “ex-girlfriend” at our table at Shake Shack while thousands of gaming confederates across the country caught their Bagon unaccosted during Community Day.
Since that drunk “friend” specifically requested “cover” while he snuck away to the nearest subway entrance, our experience thus represents the sixth valid trial of my subway sociology experiment. My original hypothesis was that the line I take to improv is statistically “weirder” than nearby lines. My current tally of blog-worthy baffles runs 4:2 in favor of the line in question. Suggestive, but not at all statistically significant, especially when properly controlling for my own frequency of line ridership.
My Partner, however, wishes for me to note that I have potentially overlooked two additional hypotheses worthy of testing: a) my irony magnet superpowers extend to subways and b) there are statistically higher rates of oddball experiences on all subway lines (as well as in general) whenever I am nearby. He pointed out that my having previously mentioned hydration drinks being advertised on public transit as hangover remedies without actually describing any real-life interactions with their target audience could be construed as daring the universe to offer me up a live specimen. Irony. Magnet. (He also suggested, after he had finally forced our “friend” out into the wilds again, that I should refrain in the future from being the one to nab seats for the two of us even in a crowded fast food joint well over its listed capacity of 131 people. The risk of my irony powers kicking in is just too high whenever I’m talking to strangers for even a minute…)
Continue reading “Subway Sociology #6: I Seat Drunk People”
First, for those wondering. The bad news is that I don’t have a new job quite yet. The good news is that that is because the interview process keeps getting longer each time I go through it. I’m not finished with it yet, but I’m also not out of the running yet, either. There are more stages than I expected. I’ll be making that longer commute at least one more time before I can determine if I’ll be making it permanent.
I’ll use that “at least one more time” as a chance to gather more data for my current hypothesis that one particular section of the subway line that I would need to take as part of that new commute truly has a higher likelihood of entertainment value than the earlier sections of the same line that I used to take daily. I find that, including this post, I have now written about the actions of my fellow passengers – and/or other ads and experienced events – five(!) times. These points of data make a beautiful line (bonus points if you are now singing that song along with me), and, for a would-be daily rider who is also a data analyst, a beautiful new series for my blog. I’m retroactively subtitling the previous four posts about commuting “Subway Sociology” entries #1, #2, #3 and #4.
One hypothesis is that this more-northerly-than-I-previously-commuted section of the line just has more interesting passengers in general. The null hypothesis, in turn, is instead that I have just needed more distraction from my own brain while riding this particular section of the subway – and thus have been more inclined to notice the fascinating actions of my fellow passengers while riding the rails – than while making other trips. I’ll need more data to truly determine, but, either way, my fifth unofficial/first official foray into subway sociology was a welcome distraction during what would otherwise have been a solid hour for the bully-in-my-brain to psych me out before my last interview.
It takes a lot of confidence to do anything other than stick headphones in your ear and avoid eye contact with fellow passengers on a subway. It takes a unique level of confidence to do double duty during your commute and incorporate your daily workout into it as well. Yet, one of my fellow passengers on the way to my last interview had the brass balls – er, brass bars – to do just that.
Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #18/Subway Sociology #5: Mixed Martial Arts”
“Wobbly out in this weather when I know I will fall over? I’m very dedicated to my art, ok? Now offer me a seat on this train before it’s you I fall onto…”
Amtrak preemptively canceled some Acela routes and other regional commuter routes in advance of the snow this weekend. City transit authorities are posting their standard “expect delays on above-ground routes.” In addition to keeping us abreast of their plans to keep us safe – albeit possibly not on time – during the winter weather, both agencies also seem to be touting themselves as the solution to all the city’s partying needs lately.
On the way to Improv today, I saw ads introducing several bus and train operators who “skip the party, so you don’t have to.” I’m guessing several other class members also noticed the recent uptick in public transit emphasis on how their employees ensure we can have a good time by working while everyone else is playing. “Partying” was a prominent theme in our montages today.
There’s nothing more thematically appropriate for that inevitable first time I sublux something on stage and fall over than during a scene in which the administration of a “party school” with a name one letter off of the Ivy League discuss how to improve their image. This was a class, not a live show, so people stopped scene work and asked about me. I almost wished it had been a public show, though, as I doubt I will ever again get such a gift of a scene to play off a sublux and associated fall as “intentional” than during that one.
With a class, it’s…well…as awkward to bring up EDS in advance as it is to sublux something on stage. I’m in the dual position of both performing in indie shows with a troupe, but also simultaneously being a student. I have to actually graduate from the theater’s comedy school if I ever want to audition for anything solo, and graduating to each next level requires not just an instructor thinking I am ready in my performance capabilities, but also having missed no more than two classes out of any session. The Crisis of 2018 ensured that I wasn’t in the position to even contemplate that kind of attendance commitment for the past two sessions, so I never even bothered to register. I also fainted just before the first class of this current session and thus missed its very first class. So, no guarantees I will make the attendance requirement this time around either. My indie troupe – who are all now graduates – didn’t drop me when I got behind last year. I could conceivably have had my first onstage sublux happen during a real performance, with a team who have been warned in advance to just keep going and use the exquisite thematic timing to heighten, heighten, heighten.
But, as with last week’s hair appointment, I don’t typically get that lucky when introducing my diagnoses to new people. Explaining how I occasionally fall over – and to just give me a minute to see if I can reorient my own joints before treating it like a big deal – is still just…awkward. I never know how to respond to the sort of excessive solicitousness that people offer immediately after they first see me faint or pop a joint.
Continue reading “Improv #13/Subway Sociology #4: Party Poppers”
CW: mentions of an attempted robbery on New Year’s Eve that did not result in any injuries or financial loss. Mentions of past acute traumas, including a threatened mass shooting, that I have experienced, fortunately also without injury.
Does acute trauma add to the mental trauma load if you’ve already experienced the 9th Circle of Hell? I know that every experience of abuse – past and present – in the 9th Circle of Hell has been one more piece removed from the fragile Jenga tower of my mental health. I know that 9th Circle of Hell trauma compounds, but should I count non-9th Circle of Hell trauma? Does something that I would definitely call traumatic if it happened to others – but that will never take up residence in my nightmares because the price of that mental real estate was set too high by the 9th Circle of Hell – count as part of my “trauma narrative?”
I read a post recently from a blogger with a severe trauma history who witnessed a guy open-carrying a gun in a coffee shop. She was triggered, but she had her coffee there anyway. She had to ask if she should have left or if she was overreacting. Go through enough childhood trauma and your perspectives can get very skewed on things. I commented that the statistics on mass shootings in the U.S suggest that it is wise to leave such situations as soon as it is safe, and maybe even to hang out down the block to call 911 if shots are heard. I almost added that I am very wary of guns “even though guns aren’t a part of my trauma history.” Then I stopped and realized I might be being an idiot. I do have a prior scary history with guns, though I don’t think it is contributing to my PTSD symptoms. I briefly considered writing a future post about whether it is possible to be “triggered” by something while thinking you were unaffected by an event. Then I promptly forgot about it, because ADHD, until my Partner was on the receiving end of an attempted robbery on New Year’s Eve.
We both recovered from the fear within hours, but I wonder – given that other post – if that’s completely accurate, or if we’re just a bit too numbed from the 9th Circle of Hell to respond normally to things that should shake us up for a few days. The robbery wasn’t successful – or I guess very successful – but threats were involved. My Partner did take them seriously until he was able to get into a place with others around to not take them seriously anymore. It was a scary situation while it was happening, even if it ended ok. What is considered “normal” for recovering from acute scares – as that other blogger similarly asked – if your baseline isn’t Hell?
We were heading home from dinner on the subway. Our subway system isn’t accessible in many places. In some places, it’s only “accessible” if you get off at a stop on a line close by, take an elevator, and walk through an underground ramp at a gentle grade that can handle a wheelchair at least a block to the other station. The alternative to walking a block is to have to climb what I unaffectionately refer to as “Stairs of Death.”
Continue reading “Subway Sociology #3: Of Subways and Cigarettes…”
TW: Talking potentially triggeringly about someone else talking definitively triggeringly about the Kavanaugh hearings.
I talk very loudly at times. It’s an occupational hazard of ADHD. In hindsight, I’m sure that I have said things about things that have happened in my life loudly enough into cell phones in various public places and on various forms of public transportation – possibly even this summer – such that my coastal co-commuters have formed firm impressions that the 9th Circle of Hell is not the sort of place they should put on their tourism bucket list. On a few occasions, they may even have had to awkwardly share a train home with their crying stranger.
I’m thoroughly oblivious to the volume of my voice, especially when I’m upset. To the best of my knowledge, though, those unwitting unease-droppers only learn that the 9th Circle of Hell is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place. They don’t know the details of why it is so horrible, both for my safety and for theirs. I don’t share any specific details of lived traumatic events over cell phones. 1) Who would I be talking to on a cell phone that I trust that much? The only person I share those things with – besides the entire Internet, of course – is my Partner. If I’m on a train, he’s probably no more than an hour away from hearing more detail than he ever wished to have seared into his brain about the most recent horrible thing inflicted by that place for the next three hours, so a tearful warning to brace himself is probably sufficient for the phone call. 2) It’s hard to be anonymous when I yell a lot. ADHD. It’s not just for interrupting. It’s for interrupting obnoxiously enough that the whole room takes notice. 3) Most importantly, I may be fairly oblivious, but I have learned what triggers are and why overly detailed accounts of trauma shared in unexpected spaces might inflict on others the kinds of PTSD episodes my boss so charmingly calls the marker of a “difficult working style.” I’m still uncertain if PTSD or some other spoon-sucking diagnosis will eventually cost me my job, but taking someone else down at the same time seems like forfeiting to the 9th Circle of Hell without so much as a fight.
Given that I am generally as oblivious and audible as they come, I find it – surprising – that I still have more subconscious self-decorum then the presumably neurotypical know-it-all I shared an evening train ride home with tonight. The guy – dressed in what I presume still qualifies as generic early 20s hipster while proudly manspreading across three seats – was boasting loudly to his cell phone partner about how sensitive he was for recognizing that sexual assault survivors might be re-traumatized by what they had heard during the hearings today, how he had taken up the mantle of explaining to his less-enlightened male friends exactly how prevalent sexual assault was, how there are many reasons why women might not come forward, and how he considers himself an ally. Good on him and all –
– except for that bit where he explained all of these things by shouting them into his cell in a train car populated enough to be carrying at least a couple of survivors, based on his own quoted statistics?! He then illustrated his point about how certain words and phrases that don’t register to men can trigger women by offering a play-by-play of the Kavanaugh hearings today in the same booming voice.
Continue reading “Subway Sociology #2: Triggersplaining”
I just came back from a business meeting in another state. A small group of us went. We stayed at different hotels, and we agreed to meet up half an hour before the meeting to make sure no one was late. The meeting was in a city with good mass transit, so my boss encouraged us to take the subway to get to our meeting. It would be “less complicated” and cheaper.
I had a terrible, no good, very ADHD time getting there. First, I got lost on the way to the train. Big surprise!? Then, the train readers weren’t taking credit cards because of a malfunction, and I never carry cash. Using cash means I can’t track my spending on my statement, which is a recipe for frivolous ADHD spending. The only ATM around was one that needed a branded debit card to enter before business hours. Guess who isn’t a Bank of America customer, and thus couldn’t use her own debit card to unlock the doors of the 24-hour ATM? I was on the verge of panic when a passerby finally took pity on me and unlocked the door with her card.
Continue reading “Subway Sociology #1: Showing Ini-$h*!-ive: Business Meetings with IBS and ADHD”