Archive for the ‘commuting’ Category

Dog and Books

March 6, 2008

Meet my puppy, Leo. He’s pretty much the best dog ever and everyone who knows him agrees.
he’s my been my buddy this week while my mom is vacationing in california visiting her friend. leo and i have the house to ourselves for 10 days. so far its been really nice, except that i have to drag my lazy ass out of bed 30 minutes earlier to walk and feed him. but just look at that face! he’s so worth it. so its been nice living by myself again. go work, take care of the dog, pay some bills, buy some groceries, cook some food, do some laundry, wash some dishes – all on my own time. manny was able to spend a few days here which was nice and we cooked up some amazing chicken burgers with salsa. thankfully, its been a pretty uneventful week, with the exception of this minor commuting crisis that i was able to avoid because my awesome supervisor let me leave early and my awesome friend gave me a ride home.

anyway, I’m still getting through Working which is the most fascinating book I’ve ever read. its people taking about their jobs. we hear from policeman, firefighters, various factory workers, miners, maids, janitors, car salesmen, bank tellers, secretaries, professional sports players, housewives, flight attendants, stockbrokers, truck drivers, accountants, and a whole lot more. it was published in 1972 so the jobs have changed a lot since then but the issues are still the same. basically, you should read it. my favorite part was the section on bureaucracy. some employees of a federal government anti-poverty program were interviewed and they really spoke to the frustrations of working in a huge government machine where divisions and agencies are constantly reorganized and restructured but NOTHING is accomplished. one program manager got in trouble after they found out she was getting involved with union organizing. they took away all of her responsibilities but couldn’t fire her because she was a high ranking employee. so they gave her a paper to write about the economics of poverty which was due in 6 months to keep her busy. but she kept organizing for the union during her work hours and every time someone came into her office she had to shove all of her union papers off her desk. and she didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it. she would write the paper a few days before it was due because she knew nothing would ever be done with it. she said:

It’s extremely frustrating. But, ironically, I’ve felt more productive in the last few weeks doing what I’ve wanted to do than I have in the last year doing what I was officially supposed to be doing . . . When you do something you’re really turned on about, you’ll do it off-hours too. I put more of myself into it, acting like I’m a capable person. When you’re doing something you’re turned off on, you don’t use what talents you have. There are a lot of people in our office who are doing very, very little, simply because their jobs are so meaningless.

Some of these jobs will appear meaningful on paper. The idea of the antipoverty program is exciting. But people are stifled by the bureaucratic decisions and non-decisions. When you’re in the field and get into sticky situations with politicians, you can’t count on your office to support you. You’ll be punished. (p 346)

You know when someone says something and expresses how you’ve been feeling so much better than you could, and all you can say is “Yes! Whatever she said, I feel.” Yeah, as a government employee myself, what Ms. Lilith Reynolds said sums it up for me. There’s really nothing else to add.

documenting NYC commuting culture

January 15, 2008

So, my family is obsessed with modes of transportation, specifically public transportation systems, specifically trains. Whenever I came home to New York from college in Massachusetts on the Amtrak my father and my uncles sat down with me and asked me all the details of my ride, even though I took the same train home every time. How many stops did it make? How long did it take? When did it switch from diesel to electric power? How long was the stop over at New Haven?

Similarly, they want details of every subway ride that I take in New York City, particularly if it involves going into Brooklyn, their hometown. Since the subway lines have changed in Brooklyn over time they do not know the Q, N, or F trains. They know the Brighton Line, the Sea Beach Line, and the Culver Line. They know the IRT, the BMT, the IND. My grandfather worked as a subway car repairman at the Coney Island yards, and one of my uncles just retired from the MTA after 30-something years and was honored with the highly-coveted Lifetime Unlimited MetroCard. My father and his 4 brothers collected Lionel trains when they were younger and now my dad has enough trains to take over the entire living room when he puts them up at Christmas. He also has a collection of tokens that he will never throw out.
I guess its in my genes, but I find the subway culture, and utilization of public transportation in NYC so unique and worthy of further study. More people use public transportation to get to work in NYC than in any other city in the country. I don’t even know what it would be like to go to work in car, by myself. I think I would get lonely. I do almost all of my reading on the train. When you are commuting by train, yes, it’s crowded. Sometimes people are rude and pushy and downright nasty. Sometimes trains break down and get stuck. But there is a sense of camaraderie, that we are all in this together. Sometimes on Mondays I think, too bad its Monday and I have to go back to work; but then I look around me and realize so do all of these other people.
Anyway, the real reason for this post – a reporter from the NY Times is going around commuting with people and documenting a new commute route each week. I love it; it is so good. I want this to be my job. Read it here.
For more information on subway culture, read Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York by Randy Kennedy, which is a collection of essays from the former NY Times Column “Tunnel Vision” about the people who ride the subways, live in the subways, and work in the subways.