Adventures in Suburban Cab Hailing

I’m writing this from a suburban Starbucks. You can find me here every other Monday night, killing time after my therapy appointment. Aside from a Bertuucci’s and a depressing old Dunkin Donuts, it’s the only option. I started seeing this therapist before I moved to Somerville and kept seeing her afterwards because her office wasn’t far from my job. Even now, post-employment, she’s good enough that making the fortnightly trek out here is still worth it to me. That said, the prospect of the Starbucks wait always gets me a bit down.

I used to take a taxi to make an earlier train out of Beverly proper, but I refuse to do it anymore. The reason is simple: the taxi service’s dispatcher is a complete and utter idiot, not to mention a total sourpuss. I base this on a year’s worth of experience trying to negotiate rides out of her.

For starters, she never knew where I was calling from (I was calling from North Beverly, well within the service range). I’d give her the address, obvious landmarks, and any other information she requested. No matter what information I give her, the cabbie invariably wound up in the wrong spot, telling me after I’ve found him (I never had a female cab driver with this company) that he went where the dispatcher told him to go.

Then, without fail, her time estimates would be off by a factor of at least two. She’d say fifteen minutes, and it would turn into forty. When I’d call back to see if something was wrong, she’d inform that the cabbie was on the way and that she wasn’t responsible for traffic (of course she isn’t, but the thing is, these cabbies aren’t going far and the traffic at this time of night isn’t heavy. It just doesn’t take that long to cross town).

“Don’t worry if it’s going to take a while,” I said once, trying to be helpful, “Just tell me the right time so I don’t have to freeze, standing outside waiting for the cab.” It didn’t work. Once when I called to get a taxi to take me to work after I missed my ride, she forgot all about me. After four reminder calls, a taxi finally showed up an hour later, and I had to share a cab (but not the fare).

The last straw, however, occurred four weeks ago. Aware that it would take forever to get a cab, I called an hour in advance of when I needed it but didn’t tell the dispatcher that. “Fifteen minutes,” she said, after we haggled over the pickup spot yet again.

I was sitting in a spot where I could see the taxi pull up, so I wasn’t worried. Fifteen minutes turned into thirty, and then thirty-five. Even though I had time, I called, just to be sure she hadn’t forgotten about me again. “Yup. He’s on his way. Should be any minute now.”

Thirty-five minutes turned into forty, and then into forty-five. I called again. “You said fifteen minutes. It’s been forty-five,” I said. “Can you tell me when the taxi will be here?”

“He’ll be right there.”

Fifty minutes turned into fifty-five. And then into an hour. By this point, I really needed the taxi to get there, or I was going to miss my train. I called again.

“Listen. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE! It’s not my fault the cab isn’t there yet. He’s stuck in traffic!”

“Is there an accident?” I asked.

“No.”

“Was the cab driver in Boston? It only takes a half an hour to get here from Boston.”

“No. He’s stuck in traffic. It’s not my fault.”

I’d had it. “What traffic? This is Beverly. You don’t get that kind of traffic at eight around here. And you are responsible for giving plausible wait times. I need to catch a train, and now I might miss it because the cab driver has taken four times as long to get here as you told me he would. So, again. When is he going to get here?”

“It’s. Not. My. Fault.”

“Whatever. Just please send someone in the next five minutes, or don’t bother.”

Finally, the cab driver showed up. He’d just gotten the destination. I made my train in seconds flat, vowing to never talk to that surly dispatcher again.

So here I sit in a suburban Starbucks, biding my time before the 9:23 train arrives. It might mean an extra hour out of my day, but an hour spent not dealing with that nasty idiot is an hour well spent. Besides, I earned $25 in Starbucks money for evaluating a Web site last week, so my latte is free.

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When That Might Not Be That

Wednesday found Roommate and I having a drink or several (hint: I awoke to my contacts glued to my eyes) at a local bar. Before things took a turn for the drunkish, however, I turned around from my seat and spied someone familiar, and he spied me.

I’d gone out with him once about three years ago, after months of mutual profile checking on an Intewebs dating site. We had met up at Lucky’s in Fort Point and had ourselves a good conversation over food and beer. He was creative, interesting to look at, and seemed like a decent fellow. There was just one thing: about half-way through dinner, a couple of his stories started sounding rather familiar. I realized that he had dated a friend of mine, semi-seriously, for a few months. Nothing bad, no hard feelings about the breakup, they remained friends, blah blah. I didn’t think it would cause an international incident with my friend, but still.  A little weird.

I had just broken up with someone not long before our date, and I was going to be leaving for Italy in a week or so. The timing combined with the potentially awkward situation didn’t leave me too keen on starting something with him. Then right after I got back from Italy I started talking to this guy, and things got serious rather fast. So that was that with that guy.

Or it was until about seven months ago when I ran into him again at a coffee shop just as I was leaving to go to a job interview. For someone I went out with once, years ago, I certainly remembered a lot about him. And it so happened that he remembered a lot about me. We chatted briefly, and I learned that he had been living in Somerville, not far from me, for a year or so. I had to run off to my interview (in retrospect, I probably just should have sat down and had a cup of coffee with him), so we said our goodbyes. And, again. That was that.

Until Wednesday, that is, when I saw him at the bar. He walked over, and reintroduced himself, unnecessarily. I reintroduced myself, unnecessarily. Looking confusedly at Rooommate (we’re great roommates, and one of the reasons for that is that there ain’t a snowball’s chance in Hades for anything like that happening), he raised his eyebrows, asking if I was on a date. I shook my head and said smiling, “No, he’s my roommate.”

We had a short conversation, but one long enough to make us wonder why we wouldn’t want to try hanging out again. “We should get a beer or something sometime,” I said to him.

“You’re right, we should. After all, we are neighbors.”

He went back to his seat, and Roommate and I went back to our drinks. On his way out the door, the guy came back, and handed me his e-mail address. “We should hang out sometime,” he said. I agreed and gave him my phone number.

The next day, after the fog had cleared, I pulled the little slip of paper with his e-mail address out of my purse. What the Hell, I thought, and I sent him a quick e-mail. And yesterday afternoon he called, leaving a message asking me if I was free that night. I wasn’t, but I left him a message saying that I was game for getting a drink sometime.

So that just might not be that.

Two Years

Today marks two years since I moved here from Essex. Earlier this morning I got a reminder of why I made the move. I had stopped off at my favorite caffé en route to an appointment to evaluate a Web site and had pulled out my book, The Phenomenology of Perception, by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, to read over my espresso. Not a lite read, nor a short one, but I’ve figured that if I don’t have time to read philosophy now, I’m never going to have it.

“So, are you reading about a hundred pages an hour?” this old guy asked me, winking at the size of my tome.

“No, not this one,” I said, smiling.

“That’s a fascinating one. I’ve read Merleau-Ponty.”

“You have? That’s great.”

“I read it in the original French. It took me forever.”

“It’s going to take me forever, even in translation,” I said.

He went back to his political debate with a couple of friends, and I went back to my book. When I read a book, any book, in public in Essex, people looked at me like I’d put on airs. Here, I can talk to people in caffés about philosophy. A much better fit.

When I left, I said goodbye to the man. “Have a great day,” he said. “Good reading.”

Sassy Is: Wondering What the Hell to Do about Her Facebook Account

“Are you on Facebook?” Nearly every friend I have has asked me this question in the last year. The answer is a very hesitant “Yes…” followed by qualifiers like, “I haven’t completed my profile yet,” or “I haven’t logged in in ages,” or “The whole thing just overwhelms me.” My friends give me advice for how to manage my Facebook life, and I always tell them I’ll follow it. And then I don’t.

The reason why it overwhelms me can be summed up in two words: high school. My parents sent me to a tiny (my class at its height had nineteen students) Christian school where my life was a living hell from fourth grade on until I went to college. The school discouraged honest intellectual thought (I actually was taught creation and creation only in science classes, and history was referred to at times as “His Story”), and from the time we were but little children, teachers taught us that we were essentially sinful creatures and that without a “solid grounding in biblical values,” we would be lost to “The World.” Our bodies were our mortal enemies, and teachers spanked us when we did something out of line. We girls were taught that we were to submit to our future husbands and that the only reason for us to go to college was to either become teachers or suitable “helpmeets” for our husbands. Girls who got pregnant were expelled.

I never fit in at this schoool. My mind was an active one, and skepticism came naturally to me. Although I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, engage in fornication, or admit to anyone but me that I wasn’t a Christian until after high school, my inner rebellion must have triggered suspicion from teachers and fellow students (not to mention my parents, who treated me as though I was just chomping at the bit to do all of these things at once, every second of every day).

In such a stifling environment, I went from being a happy, friendly popular kid to a sullen, painfully shy outcast. It did not help matters any that I had a woman’s body and look from the time I was twelve years old, and between that and what one teacher describes as “wisdom beyond her years” (along with the slam, “I hope she isn’t ‘Worldy wise’”), boys stayed away from me. Until my senior year, when some other classmates realized that our school was a bizarre and unhealthy place, I had nary a friend. It truly amazes me after that experience, two of my closest friends are from that school. Even still, we didn’t become close friends until we went away to college.

Those two friends, however, are it. Except for a couple of reunions, I haven’t seen or spoken to most of my high school classmates since 1991. And that’s fine with me. High school was a long time ago, and I have moved on. I wish my fellow high school classmates nothing but the best in their lives. That doesn’t mean, however, that I want to be friends with them on Facebook.

When I joined Facebook, at the behest of one of my high school friends, I listed only my college and graduate school, hoping to avoid the alumni of my high school. I tested the Facebook waters gently. My real name is a very common one, and so I didn’t post a picture, thinking that it would keep most people from finding me. I filled in my religion as “Agnostic,” not meaning that I still held out some possibility of the existence of the Christian god, but instead that I was not willing to rule out the existence of a spiritual world beyond the physical one. My limited profile done, I friended the one high school friend, and a few other close friends, and figured that if that went well that I would then fill in the rest of my profile and join the wonderful world of Facebook in earnest.

My plan didn’t work. I logged back into my Facebook account the next day and found that I had two friend requests from high school classmates. Not wanting to be rude, I accepted their invitations, and that’s when all hell broke loose. I’ve gotten invites from so many alumni that I’m afraid to check the account again.

Here’s what I don’t understand about Facebook: Why do these people want to be my “friend” now? We weren’t friends then, and I highly doubt that we would be friends if we were to meet up again in “real life.” That’s OK. I have no need for these people’s acceptance now, and I’m sure they are doing just fine not knowing my relationship status, what I do for work, or how I pass my time. I’d rather let them fade gently into my past than have to contend with their strange offers of friendship in my present.

All of this is to say that I’m in a bit of a quandary. There are people I’d like to keep in contact with on Facebook, including old college friends, and friends I know now whose updates would amuse me. I know that a presence on Facebook can help me professionally. But I don’t want to rehash high school over and over again. I don’t want invitations to join “All the Christians on Facebook.” I don’t want to read endless updates from people who spend all day doing quizzes and finding Easter Eggs. I already blog, twitter, meet dates, e-mail friends all day, and network for jobs online. Even if I didn’t have this dilemma, I think that adding Facebook to the mix could send me over the edge. So what to do?

I’m not sure, but I’m beginning to feel like I need to make a decision. I suppose if I do want the benefits of Facebook, then the most honest thing to do would be to “un-friend” those high school classmates I no longer wish to know, and restrict the activities of a few others. As one of my real friends said, anyone who knows me well already knows about this weird chapter in my life, and that their presence in my Facebook life doesn’t reflect on me. So maybe I should just bite the bullet and jump in. Or, maybe I should just delete my profile and disappear.

What about you? Do you have people crawling out of the woodwork of your past to request your friendship on Facebook? Are you one of those people who goes looking for everyone you ever knew? How do you handle your Facebook life?

Play Ball! How I Became a Red Sox Fan

WHOOSH!!! As the sound of fighter jets flew over my apartment, my heart leapt with joy (and fear—those things are deafeningly loud). I ran to the window to see those four planes head straight toward Fenway Park to do a fly over, marking Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox. I called my dad to tell him I’d seen and felt the planes, and we talked baseball for a few minutes as the ceremony continued. Ted Kennedy, looking weak but happy, threw the opening pitch to Jim Rice, and for once, the political divide between me and my dad didn’t matter. Even my conservative dad couldn’t begrudge an old liberal the chance to toss a ball. Sadly Dad had to get back to work, and so we said our “Go Sox!”s before I settled in with a cup of coffee and my knitting to watch the game.

People are often surprised by my love of baseball. Even here where almost everyone at least claims to be a Red Sox fan, I don’t fit the baseball “type.” I’m not athletic. I hate sports bars. Jocks bore me. I own nary a piece of Red Sox merchandise. My tastes tend toward “culture.” I could care less about any other sport going, but baseball just makes me stupid happy.

It wasn’t always this way. Although I’d been a fan as a kid, growing up with Yaz and the Boomer, my baseball fandom pretty much ended with the 1986 World Series. My dad had woken up my mom to watch what should have been the final out of the Series. “Oh, Mr. Sundry,” Mom said, rubbing her eyes, “these are the Red Sox. They are going to find a way to blow it.”

Sure enough, the ball went trickling through poor injured Bill Bruckner’s legs, and the dreams of a Sox win went with them. All my mom said was “See” to my stunned father and me. As I watched her pad off in her nightgown back to bed, I thought to myself that maybe my mother was right about just this one thing (I was thirteen at the time, so my mom was pretty much wrong about everything). And that was pretty much it for me and baseball for a long time. The next time the Sox made the Playoffs, I busied myself kissing my boyfriend’s neck, trying to distract him from the game. He didn’t appreciate it.

My indifference toward baseball would have likely continued if it hadn’t been for an autumn evening in 2003. I’d just arrived in Massachusetts to start my recently ended job, and I had been staying with some friends of friends in Salem. These guys were hardcore baseball fans, and apparently the Sox were having a great year. If I ever wanted to sit in the living room, I needed to be able to tolerate baseball. Despite myself, I found myself rather charmed by the sloppy looking Sox. They just looked like they were having a good time. That didn’t mean that I was interested in the game. Or wasn’t, that is until that fateful night.

We were at a party in West Gloucester. We’d had beer. Somehow the party wound up becoming two parties, with women dancing to cheesy pop music in the kitchen, and men drinking beer on the porch, listening to Game Three of the series against Oakland on a hand-cranked radio. However much my sister and I love to cut a rug, the music was a bit much, so we decided to join the guys on the porch.

I don’t know if it was the beer, the October air, the romance of the hand crank radio, or the general collective tension surrounding the game, but it took only a few moments before my sister and I were hooked. No one needed to tell us to shut up, because we were listening intently to the broadcast. The game was close, and error filled. It went into eleven, nail-biting innings. At one point, when the tension became almost unbearable, my sister and I looked at each other. “Oh no,” we said together. “We care!”

“I want them to win!” shrieked my sister.

“Me too!” I cried.

The injured Trot Nixon stepped up to the plate. Magically, or so it seemed to me at the time, he hit a game-winning homerun.

“TROT!!!!!!!!” all the guys yelled. Sister and I joined them, “TROT!!!! YAY!!!!!”

From then on, Red Sox fans we were. Now would we have become fans had the Sox had a mediocre year in 2003, I can’t say. But ever since that night, I’ve loved baseball. I might not have truly felt the heartbreak after Game Seven against the Yankees in 2003, or deserved the happiness I felt in 2004 and 2007, but I don’t care. My dad loves it that his daughters have crossed over to the dark side (my mother feels betrayed). It gives us something to talk about, even when other current topics make us quarrel. Baseball’s a game that brings an arch conservative and an ardent liberal together to rejoice in Opening Day.

So, yes. I love baseball. That the Sox won today makes me stupid happy. Play ball!

Big Brother Is Watching You Pee

Last night Fresh Hell and I descended into the Cellar in Cambridge for some tasty grub and satisfying brew. We had ourselves a delightful repast and then decided to then head over to the Plough and Stars. Before leaving the Cellar, however, I needed to visit the loo. There I learned this:

Big Brother Is Watching You Pee

Great. Not only can Big Brother see into my living room, but now he’s also watching me pee. Looks like Killroy is too. Perverts.

I think this little addition is best sung to the tune of the Who’s Christmas song in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original version, not that Jim Carey abomination):

Shut Up Doris

After yucking it up over the grafiti, Fresh and I wandered over to the Plough and Stars, where we enjoyed the sounds of the Cranktones. The best part is that today, I’m no worse for the wear.

The End of the Boston Globe?

UPDATE: Save the Globe or bury it? Check out this post from Universal Hub.

Whoa. Late last night, after an evening consisting of watching Milk and Vicky Christina Barcelona and eating ice cream, I logged into my Twitter account to see if anything interesting had happened. Well, something had (sorry, Manuel, I’m delighted that your broadband is up and running, but I’m talking about something else). Universal Hub had twittered about the impending demise of the Boston Globe. According to the post (and the Globe‘s own Web site), unions have 30 days to agree to $200 million in concessions, or the Globe’s parent company the New York Times will leave us with only the Boston Herald for a local paper. These concessions would come on the heels of the decimation of the Globe’s newsroom staff, a wound that has cost the paper so many subscriptions (including mine) that its viability has been in question for years.

There’s no question that the Globe is a shadow of its former self. I cancelled my subscription years ago after Tom Oliphant left, and my Sunday paper of choice has become the New York Times. I tend to get my local news from WBUR. When on the rare occasion I’ve picked up the Globe in recent months, the poor quality of the paper has left me disappointed. I check Boston.com regularly, but I cannot say that I think it’s a critical news source. So in thinking about the future of the paper, I can’t say that I would support it in its current form. I’m part of the paper’s problem.

And yet. I believe that newspapers provide a crucial role in a free society. We need professional journalists to investigate and report on our communities. Television, radio, and the Internet do not lend themselves to the in-depth reporting that made papers such important sources of news for so long. However much blogs have become a way to learn how we regular folk view the world, we are not accountable for our reporting, or for our opinions. Nor do we have the time, resources, or training to uncover stories the way news room journalists can.

For these reasons, I would truly hate to see the end of the Boston Globe. Those in charge of the paper have precious little time to figure out how to make the paper relevant again. The answer isn’t that stupid g section, or the elitist Boston Globe Magazine. It’s in excellent reporting and insightful opinion. It’s in covering local news in the way that only a newspaper can. Changes are necessary at the Globe, and I can only hope that they make them before it’s too late. Especially since I hate the Herald.