Saturday, August 04, 2012

I still can't access Blackboard or other university services, although my work email seems to be working. I'm not having any other problems with my Internet connection -- AOL, gmail, facebook, blogger all fine so it has to be a problem on the university's end. Maybe because of the extreme heat? IT Services says to allow up to two business days for response to the online help request, and I called the help desk, but they are closed weekends and evenings. Trying not to panic...

Bob is making (what he alleges) will be a quick stop at the tower -- the governor is no joke. (Enough said, as it is not my story.) We have an ozone advisory -- and it is just so freakin' hot out there. Weed whacking can wait. I'd allocated today to working on grades. So now is as good a time as any to share a couple of stories that are mine. Let's call the following a travelogue gully brook press style.

1) TMI on the West Bound Train:

I originally drafted this post on July 29 while on the train. I love to write on the train, so I located an old journal book (August 1, 2001 - June 5, 2002) that still had some blank pages and took it along. I get motion sickness if I try to read in a car, but this doesn't happen on the train so I also brought my Kindle.

I am taking the train to Buffalo for a few days. Name censored's court date (one of many) for her divorce is tomorrow and I am going with her for "moral support." We are just now pulling into Utica so there are about 3 1/2 hours to go. The train is fairly crowded though not as bad for me since Amsterdam (when my seatmate got off). It has been a lot more pleasant since then, not because of my seatmate (who was fine -- unobtrusive, she even complimented my Kindle cover and asked me where I got it [I responded "amazon" and thought "duh"]) but because the woman sitting behind me talked nonstop to the unfortunate soul who was sitting beside her. He is still aboard. I am not sure where he is coming from or going to, but she acted as if he was completely lacking in knowledge about NYS -- all parts of it. She kept pointing out landmarks, such as the State Capitol.

She'd grown up "downstate" (as she called it), had lived in Syracuse because of a now ex-boyfriend and currently lives in Dallas where she owns a house and the standard of living is marvelous. She was on vacation, visiting a friend in Amsterdam. She told him more details about her life than I know about some people I've known for years. I learned all this in a span of one hour -- imagine how much she told the guy who I assume was sitting with her since NYC. He told her he was single -- although he is wearing a wedding band (?), which she noted.When I got up to get my water bottle out of my suitcase, I was surprised to see a balding middle aged man. His voice sounded younger. I assumed the same of her just based on her immature conversation, but she'd already disembarked by then so I didn't get a look.

He remarked to her that he can't stand small cities, sneering at Schenectady in particular. That led to motor mouth telling him all about the culture of Dallas -- opera houses and symphonies and the like. What came into my mind was cultural deprivation v. cultural difference: That this pinky-in-the-air definition of culture is inherently classist and racist.

The guy has been silent since she left the train, thankfully. It is wonderful that texting has made audio cell phone chatter disappear!

Later: There is an incredibly needy young woman in the seat across the aisle, going from Amsterdam to Syracuse. She has done nothing but ask the conductors for assistance -- even to use their phones (yet she does have some sort of tablet). Everyone on the train has about 20 devices each: smartphones, tablets, ereaders, laptops, mp3 players. We are more connected than the borg in STNG (dating me? It is not a reference I'd ever make to students).

2) How My Ameribag Almost Turned the Case from Civil Into Criminal:

I went with my friend (of 46 years) to a court date. I was reluctant to bring my pocket book -- I am always afraid I will leave it somewhere, I was wearing a suit, my pocket book is heavy, it was hot and I didn't feel like carrying it. Also, once when I was at the airport seeing a friend off I was permitted to accompany him into the passengers only area. This meant I had to go through the scanners. My pocket book caused all sorts of problems and eventually security had to go through the contents. I don't remember what triggered the problem but I do recall what an ordeal it was. I have been carrying an Ameribag from LL Bean for many years. I am on my second one. I stuff it full of crap until I can't take it any more, and then I (sort of) go through it and weed it out. This airport scanner incident was at the point where it was full -- could spark a new television show, "pocket book hoarders."

I should have gone with that feeling of reluctance and left my trusty Ameribag in the car, but I had a journal with me for taking notes and would need a pen, plus I was uncertain whether I'd have to show ID -- so I didn't. Entering the court house, my pocket book went through the scanner once, twice, three times. After the third failure, the officer said, "ma'am, do you have a change purse in here?" "I have a wallet that probably has change in it," I responded. "Can you take it out and we'll run it through separately?" "Sure," I said, and I removed my wallet -- which is a miniature Ameribag, in the same condition as the big version. I had to jam my cash, IDs, plastic, haircut appointment cards and some stray ATM receipts back in to zip it. Baby Ameribag went through the scanner, no problem. Mama Ameribag still did not.

He handed me the bag and said, "do you have a lot of keys in here?" "Yes, I do. Probably a couple rings." (In addition to many that are worthy of carrying, I have several that unlock things I no longer own and some that I have no clue what they unlock.) I pawed around in the bottom of my pocket book and grabbed the key rings. He took the bag and ran it through the scanner again. Still no dice. There was a long line of people impatiently waiting at this point. Employees? Lawsuits and divorces? Criminals? Who knows.

He held up my bag. "Do you have something like a Swiss Army Knife or multi-tool in here?" Suddenly I remembered. Gulp. "Yes, I do." My brother gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago and that's where I keep it. Where else would I keep it? I laughed, tried to make light of it. My friend was laughing hysterically. I dug around in there some more and produced it. He told me that I would have to surrender it and could have it back when I left. I had to fill out a form (and that was the only time I needed my ID). Luckily, on the way out, I didn't forget to retrieve it and return it to Mama.

3) Calling Bloomberg to Police the East Bound Train:

The train on the way home was packed. I'd expected to have two seats to myself for part of the way so I could sleep -- I was so sleep deprived I planned to relax my standard of always being on high alert and in control of all situations and steal a few Zees. Well, that wasn't the case at all. There was a woman with a boy who looked about 10 and his teenage brother, and I ended up sitting next to the teenager for the whole ride. He was polite enough -- we exchanged a few words here and there and a sentence when we got to Albany and I was getting off, but he was a fat kid who spilled over into my seat and he was eating something constantly. His mother alternated between rummaging around in a bag at her feet and reaching across me to hand him a stream of pudding cups and soda, and reaching across me to retrieve her coffee from his tray when it was his turn to hit the cafe car for a hotdog and cheese board.

Along with sleeping, writing in my journal was out of the question, so I finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I'd read quite a bit on the west bound train, and had about half left for the return ride. It was OK, but only OK. It started out strong (except for the repetitive sentence fragment writing style) but became more ridiculous and less engaging over time, and I really disliked the ending.

Beautiful Lake Erie

4) I Just Hope It Didn't Contaminate My Tomatoes:

Once I got home from my trip, I was so tired! I planned to sleep in on Thursday, but Bob woke me up early in the morning because there was a news report that we were under a "shelter at home" advisory. That means stay inside, turn off A/C and fans that take in outside air, close windows and don't exert yourself. That reason was because of this fire at a factory near 9H in Ghent that recycles transformers. It's pretty far away in Columbia County, but the advisory was for a 15 mile radius around the plant. I did stay inside all day, sweating (figuratively and literally) with the windows closed until they lifted the advisory at 2. I watched the press conference and I have no idea whether to believe them that no PCBs were detectable in the sampling. I didn't sense any smoke when I went outside for about five minutes with the dogs, but have I mentioned how freakin' hot and humid it has been? It was hard to tell if there was a slight odor or if I was being suggestible. I'd say one thing is for certain, the burned site is a brownfield, and if I lived closer and drank well water I'd be worried.

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