Watch Where You Stand; Watch Where You Sit

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Whenever I visit Paris (quiet, you; it’s ridiculously cheap to visit from the UK), I understand that sometimes we might be driving through the wrong parts of the city on the wrong days. Namely, most weekdays before noon in any of the non-Elysee-containing Arrondisements. Once I was waiting for a taxi from Montparnasse to Clignancourt and realized there was no way in hell I was going to find any room to sit on the edge of the pavement, because the streets were literally lined with trash. Boxes, bins and bags of it, but still, a putrefying parade of other people’s waste.

Yet that still wasn’t as revolting, unsanitary, unsafe or full of morons  as every single trip ever on any MBTA train, buses, or worse still, one of their subway trains. Or, as I like to call them, “Steel Caskets of Death Operated by Failed Alcoholic Carnival Ride Operators”.

On the Green Line no-one can hear you scream. Well, they can, they just don’t give a shit.

Avoiding the Filth

Consider it an achievement if you’ve alighted a train without getting one of your possessions soiled, given that you and about a hundred other commuters are squeezing together like sardines into one rigid, steadfast crowd, ready to see who can shoehorn themselves onto the train first, through the ONE open door on the train. If you are boarding at North Station, quadruple that figure and prepare to erase any lingering traces of claustrophobia by using the “flooding” technique. Try to ignore the fact that you are being flanked on all sides by several people, some of whom may have recently relieved themselves of explosive diarrhea (and not washed their hands afterwards), and they are getting closer and closer to you as you board the train.

Notch this achievement up to an outstanding feat of excellence if you complete your journey with your cleanliness further unscathed. You will pass by several empty two and three-seaters, each mottled with a rainbow-coloured assortment of stains. If you find that you have no option but to sit near one of such stains, you can make a guessing-game of it. Was it milk? Mud? Coffee? Dog faeces from someone’s shoe? Try to avoid looking down at the window, because if those rusty, smelly vents don’t trigger a nascent case of trypophobia (click at your own risk), then the sheer amount of dirt,  dead flies and other people’s dead skin on the windowsill (or between your seat and the wall) will take you on the wild ride that is mysophobia.

Your seat is guaranteed to:

  • be riddled with stains
  • have the handles (leather straps) ripped off
  • feature the high-end solution for cracked leather – duct tape that is in the same colour family as the seat (red for red, blue for blue etc)
  • If it’s not any of the above, go ahead, take a seat. But it’ll be broken. Sunken in, like you’re sitting on a rock.

Don’t forget to hold your breath when passing through Lynn, for the mechanical stench of purgatorial souls, industrial grease and nail salons will haunt you long after the train has even rattled its way through Swampscott.

Bear in mind also that the exposed pipes, metal bars and various steampunk also-rans that greet you on your way in/out are caked in spectacular amounts of grease, oil, and general dung of an unspecified nature.

Dealing with Inconsiderate Twats

When boarding the train, remember that it doesn’t matter if you are an elderly lady on crutches or a heavily pregnant woman. You will be sealed helplessly into a crowd of your fellow commuters and they will step on the backs of your feet or almost knock you off the non-railed platforms (an accident waiting to happen) at North Station just to get the edge on getting one of those non-soiled seats. Luckily, those are often the same morons who completely miss the train car closest to the station’s waiting area and all cram into the second one. The first car is almost always less full because of the impatience-fuelled incompetence of these dopey sheep.

If you are unfortunate enough to sit next to someone who doesn’t realize that there is someone sitting next to them, and who stretches out their arms and legs across the seat barrier, either say something or reassert your claim to that side of the legspace/seating space by inching over. Just don’t be all passive-aggressive about it. Or failing that, you could just take a photo and make them feel really uncomfortable about the fact that their foot is far closer than socially acceptable to your knee:

“You selfish space-hogger! Can’t you see your foot is well over the barrier? How much closer do you want to get to my satchel?”

Safety Issues

I had the misfortune of taking a rush-hour train from downtown Boston to Fenway. As my 6 or 7 so-stop journey progressed, I found that I was slowly forcing myself towards the back of the train, as more and more sweaty denizens inserted themselves into whatever tiny space was remaining, or, failing that, simply lopped their body weight onto the nearest two or three passengers and just used the physics of other people’s centres of gravity as a prop-up to keep from falling over.

The problems don’t even start there. Here is the breakdown of travelling on any of the outbound Green Line trains during rush hour:

  1. Stand on a poorly-ventilated platform with crowds of hot (regardless of the outside world’s temperature), angry, impatient, smelly passengers. Try to avoid getting hit by the condensation dripping on you from the ceiling. Why? Because that’s other people’s sweat mingled with the previously evaporated piss from the tramps who were here earlier, and maybe a bit of rainwater that leaked in from above.
  2. Wait for at least 15 minutes. Give up any hope of getting relief from one of two fans (yes, fans!) on the whole platform.
  3. Hear the computer voice announcer say that the train is now approaching.
  4. Hear the computer voice announcer say that the train is now arriving.
  5. Ten minutes later, the train has actually arrived. Fight to the death with other passengers to squash yourself into the bowels of the train car.
  6. Even if there’s not enough room, stand on your tiptoes with your face against someone’s moist armpit and push against the crowd in the hopes that someone might let you crowdsurf your way in.
  7. Even if the conductor explicitly tells you that if you can’t get in then get off because the doors need to close, instead do continue to make room for yourself by shoving other people like dominoes. If there’s even an ounce of space left, you can make someone else choke on it.
  8. Ignore the signs and announcements that say “DO NOT LEAN ON THE DOORS”.
  9. Proceed to lean on the doors.
  10. When it’s time to disembark, don’t say “excuse” me. Just push your way out. Strength is your ally; use it liberally.

As soon as I realized I was as far back as possible without travelling through time, I thus realized I wasn’t going to be able to disembark at my stop. I also didn’t want to push past the profusely sweating man in front of me (he was wiping trails of sweat from his head and still felt it was feasible to embed himself into the heaving mob of B.O. dischargers who had already successfully triumphed over the HVAC system).

So I waited for what I hoped would be the one stop that would trigger a complete exodus (a la Park Street), which was thankfully, the next stop, although then I had to battle damp, disoriented and rude passengers to get onto an escalator, which, through logic that only the MBTA can defend (they can’t), was the only way out of this hole.

In Which Direction Will Your MBTA Vehicle Tilt Today?

It matters not one jot whether you are travelling by bus, train or subway. Prepare yourself for the ride of your life by adapting the rules of swimming and theme-park-ride-going-on:

  • Don’t eat an hour before travelling
  • Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes
  • Hang on for dear life

Trains will almost always teeter at some point on the tracks, and if you’re really lucky, they’ll do it really slowly, right before a stop, but always without any warning whatsoever. Which means that half of the passengers are already standing in the aisle queuing for the one door that opens to the outside world, and now they’re trying to hold their balance as the driver tries to fashion the train into Gulliver’s Longboard. It’s often because there’s a train on the adjacent tracks, and your train is tilting to tip its hat to his brethren bucket of bolts. Once the other train says “O HAI” then you’re on your way again.

Buses are constantly in-flight, and have no time for your feet to make that important transition from non-moving pavement to moving bus, let alone to your seat. It takes considerable skill to master, so don’t fret if your face smashes into a pole on your way to your rock-hard, plastic, urine-befouled seat. Consider it a form of “plebian P.E.” that will equip you for all that marching you’re going to do against the 1%.

Subway drivers are even less considerate of how gravity affects humans. Riding one of these things is akin to stumbling onto a fairground ride without any kind of working harness (i.e. most of Salem’s Hallowe’en carnival rides). After you’re confident that the rotting metal coffin you’re on won’t crumble before you reach your destination, and after you can stomach the smell of the brakes, the stickiness of the floor and the manic-depressive output of the HVAC system, you can focus on avoiding any part of you touching any of your fellow passengers with demonstrable hygiene issues.

And you will need all the self-discipline you can muster, because these trains take wildly sharp turns, with each car appearing to be fastened together by some giant leaking, festering accordion. If you don’t slam face-first against one of the doors, you will be knocked against any of the inexplicably-placed steps (steps? In a subway train??) while trying to grab one of two poles in existence, taking care to look for a cold spot, where you know someone’s sweaty palm hasn’t just been resting.

By the time I  saw sunlight, I was a changed woman. Someone tried to smile at me and I wanted to impale her with my umbrella that it turned out I didn’t even need that day because the weather forecast was wrong. AGAIN.

American Politicians Say The Darndest Things…

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I can’t imagine what would happen if you took a Republican politician, knocked him in the head with a tin of Quality Street, shoved him into the back of a white transit van and let him wake up in Brixton Academy with his thoughts rigged to magically voice themselves over the tannoy. Or maybe SoHo. Or Brighton. Or Tooting. Or anywhere else in the UK, really.

Searching YouTube, I began to type “stupid things republicans say”, but the auto-search, ever so intuitive, finished it off with “stupid things republicans say about black people”.

After this, what else can be said to make my point? Surely, it speaks for itself. But wait – there’s more. Republicans have a known track record of saying idiotic, purely moronic, chillingly uninformed things, statements that cannot be believed to come out of the mouth of a leader elected by millions of people.

Today at work, I was speaking with a colleague and asked him just how politicians can get away with saying the things they do, such as actually favouring a ban on abortion, opposing gay marriage and still showing signs as clear as day that they are still an horrifically racist nation who took over 200 years to elect a president who can actually pronounce other countries’ names correctly. Although, naturally, this talent brings out some of America’s finest imbeciles. (also see: here and here).

No British MP in their right mind would pass legislation forcing women to undergo ultrasounds before abortions, or go on Sky News and ask gay people if they can stop being gay. You’d never, ever, ever hear David Cameron telling BBC News 24 that Gordon Brown marched with the EDL (like this twat), or William Hague telling the House of Commons that he believed that global warming is a hoax.

The outrage is both believable and to be commended. As a permanent outsider, I cannot fathom what happens in these people’s brains to compel them to fart out such utter nonsense. Avoiding clear facts on fetal development stages, greenhouse gases, CFCs (which are NOT “natural”), free radicals in the ozone layer and common fucking sense, one can only sit and watch Fox News in amusement as these politicians dishonor the memory of Abe Lincoln by running around spouting hate speech like racist chickens with their heads cut off.

Are they caricatures? Are they doing it on a dare? Are these honestly real-life, non-actor human beings who are actually allowed to walk around not only saying these things on the streets and on television, but using these dangerously feeble-minded views to gain votes so that they can have a go at running the country? Free speech be damned; Orwell needs to sort the lot of them out.

No wonder Abe shirked it all and became a vampire hunter.

Squirrels Ate My Hob Nobs

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Last year, my mother sent me a box of treats, just like one of those care packages I used to read about in Archie comics. She knew it would take about a week to get to me, but was so excited about the fact that, after 2 years, I could finally eat these beautiful things:

After about a week and a half, it finally turned up outside our front door (we had the middle and top floors of the building – there was only one other tenant on the ground floor). It felt light. I opened the box to find a lot of empty packets of Mini Eggs, and a large multipack bag of Mini hob-nobs that was empty, save for one little intrepid packet that had made it through, hiding in the far corner. Turning over the box, I saw a pretty violently-picked hole through the couple of inches-thick cardboard (and sellotape), and assumed that maybe it had been damaged in transit.

Nope. My husband assured me it was squirrels, as he pointed to our front garden that was now strewn with the carcasses of those little blue packets.

Those little shits.

I had to explain to my surprisingly upset mother that I did manage to get one tiny bag of chocolate hob nobs, but the greedy little bastards had devoured the other 19 or so packets and 3 entire bags of sugary chocolate. I kept hoping they’d come back, especially after a trashy dog-trainer with two giant, ill-behaved dogs moved in downstairs, but they never did. Thankfully, they didn’t grace us with the traces of what I can only hope was some truly bowel-shredding squirrel diarrhoea.

Ever since then, I have truly hated the destructive, selfish little beasts. Look at this fucker in the above picture, mooning me today, mocking me, up to something. Usually squirrels politely scamper away in search of a princess to dress but not these American ones. They know.

Last night, I took the rubbish out. Between my nascent cold-producing tissue mountain and the feathers from my Hallowe’en costume, I had managed to contribute to two full bags of trash. My landlady told me to just leave them in the front hall as the barrels were awkward to get to, and she would just put them out. I voiced my concerns about the possibility of the destructive little twats ripping open the bags, but she assured me it would be fine.

Well, this morning, I woke up to this:

The little brats struck again, and with typical American violent vermin arrogance. I was seething. It brought back horrible memories of that grey morning in HobNob-Nam. I never got over losing those delicious chocolate-y oaty treats.

I know I should have been mad at USPS for doing its usual bang-up job and just dumping packages that required a signature onto my downstairs neighbour’s porch (despite the label clearly stating “Apt 2”). But I was genuinely looking forward to those hob nobs, and I can’t even look at a packet of McVities’ finest without thinking of those gluttonous, soul-destroying, biscuit-thieving, morale-crushing, homesickness-inducing little arseholes.



The Smoothie Thief

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Someone at my work is a filthy, thieving bastard.

Look at this beauty. “Mighty Mango”. It even says on the label that it’s good for you. I actually prevented my husband from drinking any of this so I could hoard it for myself. And that could have gone on indefinitely, as the use-by date was sometime in November.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought it into work. It sat patiently in the fridge door, next to countless other delicious-looking pieces of pillageable treats. And yet, Monday morning, I trudge into work, sneezing like a fucking baby panda, very sick and craving some vitamin C, and find that it’s gone.

Who? Really? Why???

I can’t believe that, even in this day and age, we are still doing this ridiculous office cliche. I’m trying to get into the mindset of the fucker who just swanned into the break room (it’s really more of a hallway filled with K-cup boxes), opened the fridge, had a nice look ’round and then just fucking helped himself to my smoothie! I picture him looking a bit like Bill Lumbergh, braces and all, but a bit fatter, older and lankier-haired. He scratches his arse, grabs the bottle, pushes his glasses back up his greasy nose while he squints at the ingredients (all while leaving the fucking fridge open), then finally decides that this delicious mango nectar is good enough to drink for free. And then he just fucking takes it!

And then I bet it’s so good, too good, that he can’t even finish it. Never mind that it’s not even his, and that the actual owner would have drank all of it, and needed it, or that there are starving kids in space, but no, he probably throws this amazing happy tropical serum AWAY. My smoothie. MYY SMOOTHIE!?!!??

I didn’t even know how to bring this up with my manager. So I asked if there was a fridge-emptying schedule other than the one that was posted on the fridge, and she said no. I then pretended to meekly deduce right there and then that someone had nicked it. I made sure to put on my extra sad face (the one that got me a penthouse room “and a cookie” when I had to be transferred from an oversold hotel once). She seemed bemused by the whole thing and jokingly accused her boss (and my boss) of stealing it.

If this was in England, there would have already been a sternly-worded email sent around by a senior manager making this a huge issue. There would have been outrage, and maybe even disciplinary threats.  But I forgot that I now live in the land of the passive-agressive note. I suppose in this country, you defend yourself with guns (since the police are mostly useless), and you defend your food with borderline psychotic Post-its. Unfortunately, the company I work for is fairly conservative.

So how am I supposed to foil this thieving twat? I didn’t think that there was some unwritten rule that stated, “if you keep peering in the fridge and see the same thing for long enough, it’s YOURS”. If I leave a gruesome note saying I sprayed my food with AIDS, they’ll know it was me, because I’m the only one in the office with a zombie eye-popping stress toy and an ever-growing collection of Hallowe’en drinkware.

Maybe I could buy a locked box or just bring in something unappetizing, but I just can’t believe that in an office full of grown adults, there’s somehow a tosser who just thinks he can help himself to whatever he fancies, never mind who the original owner was. Like it’s a fucking free-for-all.

And they call us a “communist country”….!