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.

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Adventures in Vacuum Shopping

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I’ve lived long enough to become cranky about one or two things, but I didn’t think that something as simple as buying a hoover this past weekend would be one of them.

My initial problem was accidentally thinking in brand names – the “now pass me a Kleenex, you trollop” or “I Xeroxed my arse at the office party…again” trend of using brand nouns instead of actual, non-trademark descriptors. One of the few ways I had grown up thinking American, forgetting that “Hoover” was indeed a brand name for vacuums, although, according to Wikipedia, isolated only to Blighty.

Carrying out a little recon online proved fruitless. You can check the “in-store only” option and sort by price and check the stock at a specific store all you want, but as soon as you get to the shop and it’s not there, all you can do is try not to roll your eyes at the shop assistant checking stock on their PDA who is genuinely NOT feigning ignorance.  There is nothing anyone can ever do about anything.

So instead of expecting to pay $45 for a simple, sucking piece of plastic, my budget ballooned far beyond $100 and I saw several items of importance drop from my grocery/household shopping list. Who needs food when I could just vacuum up yesterday’s spilt Malai Kofta and drip feed them to myself through the bagless HEPA filter?

Like a child running to her mummy after the bully called her a name she had to look up in a dictionary, I ran straight to the Dyson section and recoiled in horror.

$500 for the same vacuum my Dad just bought? It’s not even a super-fancy high-end one, but he bought it to pick up our adorable fluffy cat’s moultings. It would probably be cheaper to buy a Dyson the next time I’m back home (which, thankfully, is frequently enough to stave off homesickness), and just declare it when I come back through Customs (provided there’s no bloody “agriculture” in it).

A glance of the dregs that were left: something optimistically called “Dirt Devil”, a brand that seemed to festoon every shelf. Horribly dated, bright-red packaging that just reeked of tack, as if they had been accidentally invented by a Walmart drop-out using some McDonalds straws, some empty toilet roll tubes and a fart.

Then there was the leap from mid-priced yet rubbish to disgustingly expensive and uber high-tech – vacuums that NASA could use to hoover up those errant potato chips. Carpet-cleaning sensors, LED thingies, cord-wrapping contraptions and something called HEPA. What is this? Is it that lump of fat that lops over your front bum, but fatter? It was all just terribly confusing business.

In the end I selected something on the lower price end, but still terribly overpriced compared to what I was used to. It had all the bells and whistles, was a name brand (just not familiar to non-Americans), and still had all the extra supercomputer nonsense that apparently my carpet can’t live without.

I figure it needs to be powerful, but now I’m concerned it will pull a Christine and kill me in my sleep.

According to the dry-cleaning delivery man (yes, this exists), and my lovely new neighbours (who recognized the husband by trade), they do not know anyone who owns a vacuum for the very reasons I’ve just spent over 500 words complaining about. I expect I’ll get a knock on my door when it’s time to suck up the post-game Cheetos.

Tipping in America

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A couple of years ago, here in Salem, I called a local taxi company to go from a friend’s house (where I was temporarily staying) to take a few bags of items to a storage space I was renting. The husband and I had moved out of our old place, and the move-in to the new place was delayed by about a month, due to the bathroom ceiling caving in (which would happen every 2 months of our stay there).

I got a surly, abusive cabbie who looked like the bastard child of a pickled-leather-faced Tommy Chong and that slimy clump of hair that you just can’t get out of the bottom of the shower trap. He took one look at my meager collection of bags and declared in a Homer Simpson bitch-voice, “weeiy’re neuuot a moooving cummpany”, despite the fact that my things both weighed and constituted far less than a typical grocery shopping trip. I told him he didn’t have to help but he did anyway, wrestling things out of my hands and explaining that he’d be here “all day” otherwise and he simply didn’t have all day, because his time was as precious as his pretty face.

The whole journey this berk would just NOT shut the fuck up. He continued to complain about the number of bags I had (about 5 and a small Christmas tree in its box), and how, technically, he could charge 50 cents per bag, even if it were groceries, but he was doing me a favour by not raping my wallet. There wasn’t a second of silence without this miserable cunt complaining; I have truly never heard this much bitching and moaning and whinging in my life. And I write a BLOG that is solely based on all the complaints I have about everything.

After he carefully unloaded my things by flinging them on the floor, I ignored what sounded like a smashing noise in one of the bags and fished out the exact cost of the fare. The driver, clearly feeling cheated, snorted out his best indignated, old-fart snort (most likely coupled with a shart) and said, “Nice tip”.

Even now, years later, I am speechless.

He seriously  thought that after all that, after all the abusive unpleasantness that he put me through, he expected to be rewarded  in the form of a fucking tip?!

I was not rude to him; I held my tongue and kept apologising, though I’ve no idea for what. This arsehole, who probably complains that us “young people” feel that we’re so entitled to everything, is actually worse than the standard service industry mentality of “I’ll do my job to the bare minimum, and expect massive, humungous tips for doing so”. He was rude, unfriendly, manhandled my packages (shut up), did not shut the fuck up, and was thoroughly unpleasant in any way. It left me hoping that the cab would suddenly burst into flames so I wouldn’t have to hear this piece of shit talk anymore. And yet he still expected a tip on top of that.

And therein lies the problem with tipping. It’s now become expected of apparently big rich fat cats like myself (on a temp’s crappy wages) to just fork out AT LEAST a quarter of the total fare/food bill/haircut/bar bill/colonic irrigation to these poor, underprivileged plebians who make more money than I do. Never mind the polarized view that many nobodies like myself are also trying to get by. I have no idea what cab drivers make, whether or not they’re self-employed, what fees/bills they have to take care of to do their job. I don’t give a shit!

I have to pay to get to work (train plus sometimes the subway),  I pay for my work clothes and every other work-related expense with zero reimbursement or expectation for my business partners to cough up some spare change – even if I do a great job on a project that’s seen by tens of thousands of employees. I accept the fact that I’m a poor schlub on very low pay, but I derive some job satisfaction from doing my best work and seeing it pay off. Just not with money.

Everywhere I go, I feel as though I am being ordered to tip; otherwise you are a greedy, selfish bastard. Many times I’ve felt like going to my local to grab a beer, but I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m one of the fucking 1% if I can’t afford the cost of a pint and a half to include the apparently minimum-accepted 25%.

From the server’s side, the argument is that they often make less than $2 per hour and getting tips is their way of compensating for such a meagre wage. So instead of pitting the servers and the customers against each other, why not recognise the quite clear point that it is the employers themselves to whom everyone should direct their ire? Instead of feeling forced to pay up the discrepancy between the actual wage and a fair, decent wage, how about making an organised go at tackling what appears to be fair trade violations in the developed world?

Countries like Japan and most Western countries aren’t accustomed to tipping. You might think they’re cheap bastards, but people in the service industry in these countries, and definitely the UK, make at least minimum wage per hour anyway. Without tips. I’ve read arguments online saying that servers need tip money to feed their families and pay their bills. What I don’t understand is why this burden should lie with the customer, and if the customer can’t meet it, or chooses not to, then the server “remembers” the bad tipper and will probably rub their arse hairs in their food.

I tip mostly out of being polite, because it’s a small city, and everyone knows me, so they can’t really be a jerk to me. But with boorish thugs like the cab driver, I don’t feel obliged to tip – I feel bullied into doing so. I have no issue with tipping, but I can’t understand why people have accepted it to be the norm over here as opposed to a gratuity to be left in cases of exceptional service. Not every single time. If the original concept of tipping were being adhered to, that would indicate a high level of customer satisfaction, because everyone would be really, really happy with their doughnut or their cocktail or their bucket of chicken. But the US isn’t even in the top 20 in the Satisfaction with Life Index (yes, this exists).

I have been in the service industry. Not as a waitress or a bartender, but as a lowly retail worker. I never got a tip; I never even got a bonus. I then worked in a call centre (same deal), then moved onto working in the civil service (tips? hahahahaha) and then finally a temp office job with most likely no future and definitely no bonuses/tips etc. I know what it’s like to be on the other side of a conversation in which it doesn’t matter how wrong or right the customer is, and even if you agree with them and let them get their way, they will forget about it ten minutes later and you will spend the rest of your day resentful and disgruntled.

So to consider the idea of tipping as a social obligation is disappointing, because the only incentive to do your job to the bare minimum standards is to get an “reward” for it on top of a paycheque that is criminally low, but just socially-accepted as a form of punishment for the worker, the consumer, but not the proprietor/owner/politician. Way to go, Capitalism.

 

When did this entitlement-due-to-embarrassingly-low-server-pay become such the norm? When did it become mandatory to tip not for a job well done, but for parts of a job done near-adequately that didn’t result in car crashes or food poisoning? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about the fact that the wage is so low to begin with, instead of just expecting that gap between their pay and minimum wage to be filled by the customers? Why not challenge/examine the very foundations of this massive con (where all are concerned)?

Look at the unions for TFL in the UK – if they can get 43 days’ holiday, triple pay on Bank Holidays and almost £45,000 a year for just sitting and pushing and pulling a lever, why can’t the unions marshal that quintessential American violent anger and put it to good use where the rights of service industry workers are concerned?

As a foreigner from a country where tipping really IS tipping, it remains both baffling and infuriating to me. Luckily, there are some helpful hints in the odd coffeeshop here and there. The first time I found myself in a tipping situation was when I was in a hotel in Hollywood and a nice man brought up some room service. Despite the fact that this was before I met my husband, this isn’t what you think it is.

This was where I was staying at the time. I ordered some food for room service, and decided to pay in cash. Because I’m very, very awkward in situations with people, I thought that the sooner I tipped this strangely quiet man, the quicker he would leave and I could just sit with my food and watch TV in a place where I didn’t quite understand the language. The bill came to $17, and I gave what I thought was a $5, but as I was handing it over I slowly realised that it was a $20. Yes, I had paid $37 for a $17 meal.

The quiet hotel man couldn’t stop his eyes from bulging (seriously, it’s not that kind of story) out of his head and stammered, “do you want me to get you something else? some vodka, maybe?” I’m not sure why he offered me vodka. Had I mentioned it previously in some sort of jokey conversation-starter? Would he bring it from the hotel bar or from some private stash he’d nicked from all the mini-bars? Somehow I found myself saying “no” to an strong drink of unspecified origin with a strange man and retreated to the cold, limp (…..) congealed wheat-nest that was my vegetarian pasta, which probably could have used a pint of vod to give it some taste anyway.

At that point in time I could afford to accidentally tip like an overprivileged moron. But now that I’m out of uni and no longer mooching off a brilliant GBP to USD exchange rate, I now have to get in line with my useless dollar-paycheque and start living life in a sensible, non-student fashion. And part of learning how to spend is basically taking the price of anything – absolutely anything – and tacking on 25% so you don’t feel like a cheap bitch. Much different from the UK, where tipping is actually…tipping.

 

The Fear of Turning on The Heating in Massachusetts

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Last night, I had a dream that my roommate had a bulbous, rubbery, steam-powered, steam-emanating steampunk clock hanging on the wall. It looked a bit like an Adipose. I was so freezing cold that I decided to carefully take it down and put it on the right-hand side of the air mattress. I was fully aware that the steam might have been dangerous, but in the dream I was so cold and my sinuses were so congested that I didn’t care. It took a minute for me to get the thing to stay upright (it was kinda floppy – shut up), then I lay back down, pulled all four blankets over my head and tried to enjoy the heat.

What felt like seconds later, I woke up, feeling cheated that this dream had everything depicted exactly to the letter, from the placement of that one Target bag with the various toiletries, to the colour of the air mattress. I woke up to a leaking face (eyes, nose, soul) because the drafts were actually gusting through what looked like a window, but wasn’t acting like one.

I had placed the air mattress directly in front of the radiator, thinking that the closer I’d be to the heat, the warmer I’d feel. This is wrong. The radiators are directly under the window, which blows in cold air much faster and at much greater volumes than that tiny little radiator can eke out. So not only do they cancel each other out, but the window’s cold air takes the radiator’s heat, bitch-slaps it, insults its mum and then leaves a flaming bag of dog poo on its doorstep.

My roommate keeps the thermostat at 61F. I assumed that was a large number, but still never having bothered to learn the conversion from Celsius in my head, I thought nothing of it and went to sleep. Only I couldn’t.

I recognize the difference of warmth between sleeping on a soft, thick mattress at knee-level and sleeping on a plastic air mattress (while still extremely comfy) at Talus-level. And I have fallen sick(er?) again, so maybe I’m not the best gauge for temperature. But I recall staying with her for a week or so a few years back – same time of year, same air mattress – and I was nowhere near as cold. In fact, it’s colder here than where I was before, and I was moving from there to escape the cold!

I wondered why she kept the heat so low when in England, most people I know keep it between 18-20C (64-68F), or even up to 21C (70C) when it’s extra cold. I thought it might have been because she grew up in a colder climate than this (gorgeous NY state mountains), but my husband, who has lived in New England his whole life, always dictates that we try to keep it maximum 68-70F.

I then remembered that, during my previous stay with her, she said that her gas bill was over $200 (£127) a month. To get it to just 16C in the winter, she has to pay that muchOutrage! I remember the first apartment the husband and I got, with “new efficiency windows” that were designed to hold in heat so the bills would be low, but the first gas bill I got was over $380 (£242). Converting it to pounds looks like it lessens the blow, but Americans view dollars in the same way Britons view pounds – there’s a 99p store and there’s a 99 cent store. The values are appreciated in the same way. Would you fucking pay almost £400 a month just to HEAT a tiny, tiny 2-bedroom FLAT?

My father lives in the UK, in a 5-bedroom, two-floor home which also has an attic. The rooms are fairly large, and for his gas and electric COMBINED, it comes to less than £80. Yep, utilities are cheaper in the UK.

Here, in the summer, if you have an air conditioner on, be prepared to face up to $120+ a month, and if you’ve got a tumble dryer and washing machine, expect to add an extra $70 a month on top of that. I’ll say it again – this is an outrage!

So why are gas and electricity so expensive in Massachusetts? The first time I rented an apartment here, the landlord said “call Keyspan to set up the gas, and National Grid to set up the electricity”. I just did as I was told and thought nothing of it – had no idea how expensive it would turn out to be. It even gets Martha Coakley mad.

The prices were enough to turn me off the companies entirely, worse so when National Grid ended up buying out Keyspan. Whatever, they bought another company. I’d go somewhere else! It’s the reason that websites like Uswitch and Moneysupermarket exist. Well, I went to a website called MxEnergy, who supply gas in my area, and entered my potential zipcode. I got this:

It’s somehow telling me that my zipcode has already been reserved for another gas company? It was probably a glitch. So I went on the company’s online chat and virtually spoke to a lovely lady called Carolina, who told me this:

So there you have it. It doesn’t matter what energy supplier I choose, the “delivery” will always be through National Grid, because they “own” the lines and meters…?!

National Grid themselves have even addressed this complete lack of choice by spamming search engines with pages talking about how they actually do offer a “choice” of companies. How exactly is it a choice when my money will still be going to the same company? It’s like being given a used pink pacifier to suck on and being told it’s not a pink pacifier, it’s a giant blue gummy bear lollipop.

In the UK, there are a ton of gas and electric suppliers, and they all have to compete with each other to get customers. How do they do that? By lowering their fucking rates. There is also not one company who automatically get “dibs” on all the fucking power lines and meters – it’s the gas company that YOU CHOOSE (at least as a homeowner) to give your money to.

I would like this for Christmas, please.

When a company like National Grid imposes a monopoly of not only gas but also electricity, it’s not exactly a healthy market. And they can do as they like and charge what they like, because there is no-one there to stop them, no-one to stand in their way, and no-one to offer an alternative. They’re sitting pretty. And it doesn’t matter whether you have forced hot-air vents, electric radiators or space heaters or normal gas radiators – it’s still expensive to run, and your money is going to go to the same company. You can pretend it says “My Little Pony Gas” but at the end of the day, it’s a company that’s still owned by National Grid, a company so greedy they had to monopolize both gas and electricity.

In my opinion, 61F (16C) is just a little bit too cold for my liking, but not uncomfortable. You can get used to the temperature – bundle up in comfy blankets, flannel sheets and fleece pyjamas – that’s what the snuggliness of winter is all about. It’s the drafts, though – they’re just so unpredictable. And after the first night here where I killed a huge spider (and thought about leaving its carcass on the wall as a warning to its mates), it’s discomforting to wonder whether or not it was actually a draft.

Typical English repression dictates that if something makes you feel uncomfortable, you must suffer through the discomfort and avoid bringing it up, whether it’s something as small and relatively insignificant as this, or something actually detrimental to yourself (like a shark attack or a deficiency of Nutella). If I want the heat as high as I want it, I’ll just have to get my own place. It’s like when you’re in a car and the person who’s driving gets to pick the music. Although I really hope she’s not hiding some Michael Buble fetish.

Much like healthcare and  higher education, heat is expensive, and rightfully so, because they are all privileges; luxuries, if you will. The easiest way to stay warm over here is to do it on the cheap – fill up on Twinkies, Devil Dogs, peanut butter and fast food to create a snuggly, toasty layer of excess fat. Try to be creative if it’s already winter, so you can put on the weight as fast as possible. You can brush your teeth with milkshakes!