The Woodley Park Jaywalker

I worked at the Cinecave last night as extra staffing due to a couple of film events we were having – and we got slammed at the concession stand, a position I started out dreading and have finally begun to embrace. Because we were over-staffed, and because I was one of the first people of the night in, I got to leave a bit earlier than usual, a treat I fully enjoyed. I Metroed home, and took the escalator out of the Woodley Park station. As I waited for the pedestrian light to change to cross Connecticut, a tall guy in front of my stepped off the curb and crossed the street. Traffic had stopped, but that damn pedestrian light still displayed a red hand.

A police officer was on the other side of the street. I know him by sight but not by name, and he’s frequently in that “downtown” Woodley Park strip along Connecticut between Calvert and Woodley. During the day, when I’m trying to cross as rush hour is gearing up, he’s great about getting into the intersection to ensure that pedestrians can cross safely and without fear of being run over by drivers who’ve failed to understand that the red light means stop and the crosswalk is not a parking place (temporary or otherwise).

Anyway, I am a big fan of the do not invite trouble onto yourself theory, which is this: don’t jaywalk when there’s a cop right across the street and you’re an easy ticket. I don’t actually know if it’s called jaywalking if you’re in a crosswalk but don’t have the light. Whatever it’s called: don’t do it. I stopped in to Manhattan Market for some milk (yum!) and when I came out the officer and the jaywalker (or whatever-you-call-it-er) were talking, but the officer’s ticket pad was in his hand.

Yesterday morning, the DC blogger U Street Girl was involved in an accident: she was walking to the Metro when she was hit by a bicyclist. In her Twitter feed, she adds “and yeah, the accident was totally my fault, I didn’t have the right of way. bicyclist and bystanders were very nice.” A few months ago, DC blogger (and MPD officer) A Girl and Her Bike was involved in a confrontation with an SUV driver while riding home (it has a mostly happy ending?)

I guess what I think we could all use a healthy dose of is this:

1.) We are not <a href="Immortal (it would be cool to have the swords though)
2.) We are not invulnerable
3.) In making DC’s streets and sidewalks safe, we’re all an important part.

I will freely confess that I am a fairly frequent jaywalker. I will then clarify that I am a frequent jaywalker at 6:20 in the morning after I’ve checked and ascertained that there’s no oncoming traffic. Even so. The rules of the road – the crosswalks and the lights and the pedestrians and the bicyclists and the drivers – let’s all just look out for each other, yeah?

I will still, and always have, an absolute desire to scream loudly at those who fail to yield the crosswalk to me when I have the right of way, and to wonder, amazingly, what the average lifespan of some of these cyclists I see is. But there’s a difference between aggressively claiming one’s right of way, and just putting yourself – and others – in harm’s way. Let’s just be careful out there, yeah? Unplug your iPod, raise your eyes, be safe.

From The Bookstore to The Cinema

It’s not every day your first day at your new job earns you a mention in The Washington Post, and yet, that’s exactly what my first time at my new part-time job following my departure from Borders got me.

That’s, okay, not entirely true. I got my new part-time job and started it while I was still working my final week at Borders, and I worked both of them — plus my full time job — for a week. That was an exhausting week. And it wasn’t my first day that got me a mention in The Post, it was my first full day working one particular aspect of the new job. Anyway, here’s the article:

(Famous but not above the law: The theater lobby bar denied Hart a glass of chardonnay because the 67-year-old couldn’t produce an ID. Yes, really.)

There’s a 100% ID policy, and he didn’t have an ID. He was totally cool with it, but he did clasp my hand and implore that I see his true age in his eyes, and, yes, I realized that he was way over the legal drinking age, but the simple fact is, if I served him alcohol without seeing an ID, I would have been fired. He was totally gracious when I explained this to him, but his handler/wife/whoever clearly didn’t give a hoot if I got fired or not — she also did not have an ID and apparently could not for the life of her understand why I wouldn’t pour her a wine.

There’s a lesson here, but I don’t think it’s about the arrogance of celebrities. I think it’s about the arrogance of celebrities’ wives. In any case, the managers comped him some drinks, I kept my job, and all was well.

Plus, now I have a really cool story to tell whenever anyone starts giving me shit for not selling a drink to ‘em without seeing their ID.

The Regulars

Not counting the bus driver, there were three of us on the RideOn bus this morning. I work with one of the other passengers, and I know the third by sight – I know if he’s on the train when I board, that I’ll be catching the 7:02 bus and can kiss any chance at the 6:52* goodbye and adios. We have the same stop, too, but I walk south and he walks north. The driver mused, on that long shot to the office park, “Where is everybody today?”

Most of the regulars from when I started this bus ride have left. That was just about three years ago (yesterday was the third anniversary of my move to Washington, DC, so to be specific, June 18th will be my third anniversary of the commute). There are still a few I recognize from the early days. On days when I’m early enough to catch the 6:42 bus, the first of the day, nearly two-thirds of the passengers are nurses traveling three blocks to a nursing home. Often, on the 6:52, I talk with Tony, who works in one of the government offices here and lives just a couple of blocks from me. He’s about twenty years older than me, and he’s had this commute for a long time, too, although I can’t remember how long.

Lyria also had this commute. She told me her name was supposed to be Lydia but something went wrong filling out her birth certificate. She’s Puerto Rican and, when I knew her, she had thick black hair tied back into a ponytail. I took her out to dinner at Meiwah back in the fall of 2009, then walked her ten blocks home and gave her my sweater to wear. One day, sleeping on the Metro heading back into DC, I felt a tap on my knee and it was her, passing through the train to get to the front car, moving from car to car at each stop, just stopping to say hello very briefly. She splits her time between DC and Puerto Rico, and I rarely hear from her – on occasion, she’ll send me a Gchat and we’ll talk for a few minutes. She tells me she cut her hair recently. I still can’t believe she said yes when I asked her out on a date.

There are others whose names I’ve forgotten. Some ride other buses and I see them on the train. This bus, the one from Grosvenor, used to cost twenty-five cents. Then the economy tanked and Montgomery County raised the fare to match the other routes. I flaked off of it for a while, but eventually came back. There are two black woman I see on the train, but rarely on the bus, who were regular riders before I was. Both of them came in to the Bookstore at some point: at the registers, one asked me, “Hey, don’t you ride the __ in the morning?” The other was looking for a dictionary for her son who was about to enter high school. We talked about the bus, and then we talked about our works, and then I had to get back to work.

My routine every morning is roughly the same: I wake up ten to fifteen minutes before my radio turns on (6:40), which turns on ten minutes before my alarm goes off (6:50, for those of you who can’t add ten to 6:40). WTOP is the cue for Tippy to start meowling and jump up on the bed and walk right up to my face and sniff my eyes (weird, right?). Then she curls up and settles down in just such a manner that I get full-on-nostril contact with cat ass stench, which is my cue to turn to the other side of the bed and ignore the tail thumping up and down against my cheek. Sometimes I’m actually out of bed before the alarm, sometimes I hit the snooze. I’ve usually gone ahead and put my clothes for the day out on the table the night before. I stagger into the shower, get dressed in my living room/library/dining room/media room/studio/etc., and head out the door.

I almost never see anyone in the hall. I more commonly see an early morning runner heading out of the lobby. I cross the street in front of my apartment after a cursory glance to the left, and then to the right. There’s not a lot of traffic at this time, and I walk down the alley that runs from the front of my building, parallel to Connecticut, for a block. Here’s where I see my first regular of the day: an African American guy with headphones whose cords are wrapped in blue tape. Sometimes he’s far enough ahead of me that he gets across Connecticut before the light changes and takes the elevator down while I’m still waiting to cross. Sometimes we walk to the elevator together, in silence. When we do go down on the elevator together, and descend that final escalator to the platform, he goes left to catch the train downtown, and I go right to catch the train to Grosvenor or Shady Grove.

Sometimes I wait at the elevator with a woman who I think is about my age, with brown hair. We acknowledge each other and I let her on the elevator first. I always let everyone onto the elevator first, but don’t think it’s chivalry: I’m a strong believer in the FOLO rule: the first person on the elevator is the last person off the elevator. Hence, if I am the last person on the elevator (and at this time of morning, that’s never more than four people), then I will be the first person off.

The elevator is a full half block closer to me than the escalator. And since the station is like five or six stories underground, and since I’m usually running late, I just prefer to take the elevator. I almost never take it coming home, though, especially since I like to stop by the corner market at the top of the escalator for anything my kitchen is short of.

At the foot of the escalator, on the platform, I turn so that I’m walking south. I walk from under the mezzanine overhand and proceed to the second bench on the right. When the train pulls in, I will walk a tad more south so that I board the train car that stops just before the bench. On the train, depending on seating availability, I will walk to the middle of the train. The doors here will open right at the Grosvenor escalators. Generally, seating isn’t an issue at this time of the morning. No matter how crowded the train is, the vast majority of the passengers will exit at Medical Center.

There was this woman I used to encounter fairly regularly, out walking her dog. I don’t know what kind of dog it was, I’m not good with species. It was a big gray dog, the type that looks like it could be equally friendly or dangerous. This dog didn’t like me one bit: it would start barking, which I think kinda confused his owner. Maybe the dog could smell my cats on me. Maybe it just didn’t like the cut of my jib. I have seen neither woman nor dog for quite some time, although now that I think about it, I do go to work later now than I used to – I used to be up and out of bed early enough to catch the 6:15 RideOn bus from the Bethesda Metro when I was in a “who can get to work earliest” competition with a now departed colleague.

He still stops by sometimes, and we catch up. He’s a big Abraham Lincoln buff and is involved in a historical group. You wouldn’t think there’d be political maneuvering in a history group, but as in all things, there are. I gave him a poster of The Conspirator I acquired from my part-time job. In addition to Lincoln, he’s a big fan of motorcycles. He works now in sales for his son’s company, and gets to travel quite a bit. We used to sit across from each other in the cube farm, but don’t picture tall rickety cubicle structures: the walls are white-painted plywood on a metal frame, about four feet tall. It’s pretty tasteful for a cube farm, as things go.

* This is not necessarily a bad thing as the woman who usually drives the 6:52 consistently misses my stop and responds “I didn’t hear the chime! Did you pull the chord?” when those of us making that stop holler “That’s our stop!” Yes, we did, and it made that really loud “STOP REQUESTED” at like volume fifty.

The Long Walk – Saturday, June 11th

Yesterday I resumed my Long Walks. The weather’s been a killer, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve had a car, so I’ve been more interested in going for Saturday morning drives as opposed to Saturday morning walks. Hey, y’know, when you don’t usually get to see the city by car, it’s a fun change of pace.

Anyway, my plan was to start very early — like 6am — and go for a 13 mile walk. That didn’t actually happen. I didn’t wind up getting out of bed until 7:30, thanks to the not-so-new-anymore part-time job where I was until past one in the morning (despite a promise to be released at 12:15. Ah well. Stuff happens. It’d be more palatable if I could listen to my iPod while doing the closing dishes).

Let me just add here, that during my walk, where I sort of try to zone out to music, the sounds of the city, and the deep morose pits of my thoughts, I found myself coming back to a recurring theme: fuck Borders. Yeah, fuck you non-book loving assholes who fucked the company up the ass, closed a store I enjoyed working at, and cost me a lovely two-mile forty-minute walk home on working weeknights.

Then again, they never gave me a raise, and the new job did. Huzzah? Yes, I believe so: HUZZAH!

I got out the door a little after 8am. I made my way west to Wisconsin Avenue, then continued straight across for 37th Street. My plan was to walk directly south to Georgetown University. Sadly, I failed to account for the Russian Embassy that blocks off southbound streets west of Wisconsin, so I had to loop back on my trail, and walk down to Glover Park before picking up 37th.

Once I hit Georgetown, I went east. The sky started looking ominous, and I considered aborting my walk and catching the bus home. But the sun poked back out, and I kept walking.

I went southeast, intending to get up to Capital Hill. I didn’t quite make it. By the time I got to Penn Quarter, I was starting to think about catching the 96 bus home from the Hill. So I decided I wanted to make sure I’d be able to finish my walk on my, y’know, feet, so I turned north and headed for home. I stopped at the U Street Farmer’s Market and bought a turtle bar from WhiskedDC. It melted a bit in my bag on the way home, but I put it in the fridge and had it later and it was mmm-mmm-good.

Leaving U Street, I stumbled into Meridian Hill Park. I’ve heard of it, and seen pictures, but I’d never been there before. It was a pretty incredible park, and all of those stairs! Holy crap my aching legs. There’s a statue of Joan of Arc mid-charge — except she’s, uh, missing her sword (it was apparently stolen in 1978).

Google Maps put my walk at 9.8 miles. Given some of the detours I took to get around the Russian Embassy, and because Maps picks the direct route from place to place while I enjoy zig-zagging a bit, I myself think it was a tad closer to 10 miles on the dot. I was three miles short from my goal, but that’s okay. I got home, my feet hurt, my legs ached, and I took a well deserved four hour nap.

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

I have this bad habit of just leaving mail lying around my apartment, then gathering it up and throwing it into big boxes which I keep in my closet until, at some point, I get around to sorting them into recycle and shred piles. I’m doing that today, and I’m going to need information on home shredding services if you happen to be familiar with them.

Anyway, so I’m going through these boxes, and I’m finding stuff I’m kind of ashamed I missed: like, for example, a Christmas Card from 2009 from a good friend. But then there’s exciting stuff, like my favorite pair of cargo shorts. Clearly, the lesson here is that I need to do a better job of separating my junk mail from my good mail and my mail in general from my laundry.

In one box, I found a plastic bag from Borders. But not just ANY plastic bag from Borders. Inside was a copy of Colum McCann’s LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN. I immediately proclaimed, “I KNEW IT!” Inside the book was the receipt, showing I bought it March, 2010.

I haven’t read the book, which is actually the case with many many many of the titles on my shelves. But back when I was working at Borders, we had an ongoing situation where our elevator would, how do I put this, “malfunction” while customers were inside it. This was doubly problematic as we had no in-elevator-telephone, meaning they couldn’t actually communicate “Help, the elevator is stuck.” So Borders decided to hire a temp to sit in the elevator while the store was open so if the elevator got stuck he could radio to a staff member, “Help, help, the elevator is stuck” and we could go and press the call button, which would result in shocking the elevator to life and opening the damn doors.

This didn’t work so well. The guy who was doing it was nice, but … well, he’d stand by the Floor 1/Floor 2 buttons and just smile at you when you came in with a bookcart just about to the point of overflowing with books to the point you’d have one hand on the grip, and another supporting those top twelve books, and he’d just grin at you and you’d have to say “Uh, up please.” And he’d say “Oh! Yes!” because if I wanted to stay on the same fucking floor, wouldn’t I NOT be in the elevator?

Anyhoodle, that elevator isn’t a nice place to spend a lot of time. He passed out a couple of times, and we blamed it on the air quality. Then he passed out again and we realized he was drinking on the job. Shortly thereafter, the elevator was fixed. But to make a long story short – too late, I know – one day, he wanted to take his hour break, and I volunteered to replace him in the elevator.

Since there’s absolutely nothing productive at all I can do while standing watch in the elevator, I snagged a copy of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN to read while I did my tour. I got about seventy pages in, and it was pretty darn good.

A while back, I was certain I’d bought the book. But when I went to read it, I couldn’t find it on any of my bookcases. So I decided that I was mistaken, or perhaps that I’d bought it as a gift and was just getting myself confused. So I bought it again. And indeed, within like, twenty seconds of finding this copy buried in a box, I’d found the second copy on one of my bookcases.

When you consider my apartment has fifteen bookcases and probably a couple of thousand books, this is no small matter.

Anyway: the long story short is that I have a slightly damaged copy of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN that has returned to me from the dust bin of my junk-mail-laundry-assorted-crap collection. And now I need to find something to do with it, or someone to give it too.

Want it? Tell me your best elevator story.

“If I’d wanted responsiblity, I’d’ve been a dammed sex surrogate!”

There’s a guy going around raping women in D.C. He’s either pretending to be a cabbie, or is an actual cabbie. There seems to be some sort of confusion on this part, or perhaps that’s just me …

… but while people in this city seem to have a love/hate relationship with taxis and their drivers, I just like to pretend they don’t exist: they’re an easy way to flush your hard earned money down the drain.

In any case: there is a movie about cabbies — about DC Cabbies!!!! — I wanna tell you about. It’s one of my favorite movies. I just saw it for the first time like, last month, but it’s rapidly become my absolute favorite film in that short time. Is it a good film? Well, that depends on your definition of “good.” It’s a very very very fun movie, this is for certain. But is it “good”?

Well, Bill Mahr’s in it. That’s gotta say something, right? And it’s set in Washington, DC (as you may have gathered from when I said it was “about DC Cabbies!!!!!”). Mr. T is in it, too. If you’re a fan of Firefly, you’ve gotta tune in to see Adam Baldwin. Gary Busey’s in this too, but don’t let that stop you. He’s got one of the best lines in the film: “If I’d wanted responsibility, I’d’ve been a godamn sex surrogate!”

No, really, he says that.

DC CAB: it’s a pretty awesome movie.