Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Commuting

After living in the UK, I felt like I had a sufficient handle on public transportation.  Buses, walking, an occasional Tube ride (if I was visiting London), more walking, random cabs, and did I mention? Walking.

My brief visit to DC last Spring Break only bolstered my confidence. I totally got this whole Metro thing, I thought smugly to myself, stepping cleanly off the Blue line. I bet I don’t even look like a tourist. No fanny packs here! And once I moved to DC, I proudly joined the ranks of young professionals who complained about their commute.

“It takes me an hour from my front door to the door of my office,” a friend told me, clearly frustrated. I can relate – 3 years of being able to literally roll out of bed in my sweats, tie my unruly hair into a knot, grab a notebook and pen and traipse the five minutes across campus to class (sometimes through snow! Oh the agony!) have instilled some bad habits in me.

Those happy habits suffered a swift death on my first commute to work. It took me 2 hours. And I was definitely not wearing sweats.

Since then I’ve managed to shave off about 20 minutes of my commute. Actually, I try to make it a game – how efficient can I be today? If I stand near the doors in the very last car on my first line, I can zip out quickly and beat the rush to my second line. If I walk quickly in the morning, I’ll catch my first line in time enough so that I don’t have to wait 10 minutes for my second line.

Yeah, I mentally brag to pretty much everyone who dares to complain about their measly half hour or even 40 minute commute, my commute involves a 20 minute walk, 3 different lines and at least an hour on the metro, and then a 30 minute bus ride. As a clearly gay man told me on a bus recently, “Oh God, honey that’s awful!”

Not that I was telling random strangers about my adventures commuting. Actually, my Metro line had a track problem, and so they off-loaded everyone at Reagan National Airport and bussed us to Braddock Road. On a Monday morning. During peak rush hour. It was joyful. Envision angry crowds of well-dressed, frustrated people pushing, elbowing, using briefcases as shields, and other sorts of professional mayhem.

I was lucky. I was commuting to a suburb and managed to load onto a shuttle bus fairly quickly, where I stood awkwardly in the aisle for about 15 minutes with a handful of other people, including my gay friend.

People commuting into the city had more trouble. The lines for their buses were…ridiculous. I’m struggling to find a better word. One woman had to wait 47 minutes for a bus!

Hmm, try this. Envision a crowd of young Twihards (I don't get it either) waiting for the debut of the last Twilight film, where Edward and Bella (their real names escape me) have personally promised to show up and kiss each person on the cheek.  Then envision that crowd being told that Edward and Bella have decided not to come after all.  Then lose all the vampire paraphernalia and teen hormones, age your audience a few more years, and add briefcases. Yay – instant crowd chaos.

I snapped a pic on my phone, but this isn't it...still
working on getting it from my phone to the computer.
This photo taken by Gordon Withers, special to We Love DC

Actually, I thought it was grand fun. My week isn’t complete unless I have an unintended adventure. 

Oh, and I thought this was funny -- would that we could all commute this way!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Job, New Adventure

As I hinted in my last post, some pretty cool things have been happening in my life related to the job search. But first, let me clarify – by “job search” I mean “another-internship-search-because-one-internship-still-isn’t-enough-to-actually-get-me-a-real-job search.” However, because I’ve graduated from college and passed through the obligatory “summer internship” phase, it is no longer socially acceptable to admit that I am STILL an intern, so I will from now on be referring to my internship as my “job.” 

[Note: when I get a real job, I will refer to it as my “job-job” so as to avoid confusion.]

Let me warn you: searching for internships, ahem, I mean, jobs, requires a lot of research.  I spent countless hours on the Internet, wading through what seemed like endless pages of foreign policy think tanks, non-profit job boards, and various magazines and journals.  I solicited advice and contacts from friends and relatives. I sent out emails. I tweaked my resume about 3,004 times. I wrote cover letters like it was my own personal superpower.  Step back, Superman! CoverLetter Lady is here!

Eh, just doesn’t sound the same.

Anyways.  To my shock, I actually heard back from several organizations within a couple days. And then, BAM WOW, I had interviews set up.  In no time at all, I was going to those interviews.  And I was professional, articulate, and (surprisingly) not a bit nervous. [Harassment from random and determined creepers tends to take your mind off things, as I discovered near Farragut West.] I was actually proud of how I represented myself.

That’s not to say each interview was a total success.  When the interviewer asks a question (while her partner sits in stoic silence just watching you), allows you to answer, and then just says “Interesting” in a very un-interested voice and jots a note down – is that a good thing? She said “interesting” a lot.  I don’t think it’s a good thing.  Monty Python might disagree, as they seem to appreciate unconventional interview habits.

So I went to a total of about five interviews for three different companies.  Of those three, two have offered me positions.  [This is my blog, this is my chance to brag.] I’m still waiting to hear back on the third (the one with the “Interesting” interviewer and her verbally challenged assistant), but I know I won’t take it.  I know I won’t take it because I just accepted a position with the second company.

The best part? The second company is the job I really wanted.  I mean, I really really wanted it. Very badly.  As in, I called everybody and their mom to tell them I wanted it. And then I called everybody and their dad to tell them the good news when I got it…meaning, I posted it on Facebook.

So, new adventures to come! I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Non-date that Was. (Or at least tried to be.)

There have been a lot of pretty cool updates in my life lately, mostly related to the job search now that my internship is almost over.  Unfortunately, those stories will have to wait so I can tell you about this other, slightly more hilarious story.  (As I’ve been promising this story to a good friend, I don’t think it’s fair to make her wait any longer.) Sorry in advance for the length of this post, but I love story-telling.

So a couple weeks ago I was at church with two friends. It was crowded, as it always is because it’s a great church, and so I scooted down my row to make room for people on the other side. I scanned the two guys I would be sitting next to: young, crew cut, muscular – definitely military.  We were fairly close to Barracks Row (where the Marine Barracks are located) so I figured these guys were Marines.  I was right, turns out.  Anyway, the guy closest to me starts chatting, and we share a few lovely minutes discovering that we have a surprising amount of things in common. 

As the church service goes on, I silently debate with myself. He’s nice. Maybe I should invite him out to coffee? I did that all the time in college, so it should be fine…it should be normal. Totally normal. Coffee: what normal people do. Would he think it’s a date? It’s not a date. I’m just being friendly. I don’t know anyone in this city, it would be nice to have a friend…Etc, etc, endless psycho-babble that girls deal with looped over and over again…

The service ended. Mr. Marine turns to me. “It was really nice to meet you!” he says warmly, and we exchange names. Let’s call him Jay.  By this point I’ve decided to go out on a limb be totally normal and invite him out to coffee.  He seems a little surprised, but suggests that we go grab some ice cream right then. 

“Sure,” I tell him, “just let me catch up with my friends and let them know.”

I hustle outside and find my two friends (who are married and have lived in DC longer than I have, and thus know way more than I do about this place) and quickly explain the situation.  “Niiiiice,” my guy friend says, giving me a high five.

“Good going,” my other friend sarcastically scolds her husband. “Jay just saw that high five.” 

Crappity crap. What to do in awkward situations? Pretend the awkwardness doesn’t exist. I meander over to Jay and his friend and smoothly invite the friend along for ice cream, too.  After all, this is not a date. This is a friendly friend-thing. I’m just trying to meet new people in DC.

“Ummmm,” Jay’s friend says, looking at me and then looking back at Jay, “yeah, actually, I have to go do that thing.”

Jay: “What thing?”
Jay’s friend: “That thing with Mike. You know, Mike. My buddy from [insert impressive military acronym here].”
Jay: “Oh, right. Okay.”

Oh, right. Okay. This situation just got a whole lot less awkward.  Ignore the awkward, I chant to myself as we pull on the door of the nearest ice cream shop.  The door was locked – apparently they don’t open til 11 on Sundays – so we turned away. Fortunately, not two seconds later a woman blew through them and hurriedly waved us inside.  “We can open early for you two!!” she gushed.  I may be imagining the gushing.

But I don’t really think so, because after we got our ice cream and after she cheerfully rang us up, she practically sang out, “Will this be on one bill?”  There may or may not have been winks involved.  

“Um, sure,” Jays says, looking at me and slowly pulling out his wallet.

I put a stop to that faster than a crazy cat lady adopts a new stray. “No, no! I can pay!” Really, people. We are friends being friendly on a strictly friendly non-date.  Geesh, can’t a guy and a girl just hang out without any strings attached? And without people assuming that strings are attached? It doesn’t have to be so stupidly complicated.

So. We eat our ice cream and walk around and chat. I finish my ice cream in about 5 minutes, given that it’s about 115 degrees outside (how I wish I were exaggerating), and we meander over to my neighborhood. Jay requests some air conditioning at this point, and I lead the way to my favorite coffeeshop, Ebenezer’s.

We grab some water, but honestly at this point I’m ready to go home. I’ve enjoyed hanging out with Jay, but I’m feeling wilted and tired, and to be honest the conversation has been a bit of a struggle. It’s just not flowing very well.  Jay remarks on my apparent exhaustion, and I use that to try to wrap things up. He offers to walk me back to my place, and I don’t really care one way or the other so I let him do what he prefers.  He prefers to walk me home. Which I think is really sweet. (And it’s broad daylight, with lots of people walking around, and he’s been a perfect gentleman thus far, and we met at CHURCH, so I’m not too worried about him being an ax-murderer or anything. Plus I don’t think he’ll remember where I live.)

I don’t want to be rude, so I invite him in for some water. (Because it’s still 115 degrees.) We’re still chatting, sitting at my kitchen table, and I’m still trying to figure out how to politely get rid of him when he says, “Oh, are these your movies?” He has spied my modest collection, which I left lying on the table earlier.  He begins flipping through them and comments on his favorites.  “A Few Good Men, that’s a good one,” Jay remarks.

“Yep, it’s my favorite. Classic. That and Hunt for Red October,”  I return.

Jay looks like Christmas has come early. “Really? That’s my favorite!” Oh dear. I can hear it coming…and I reeeeaaaallly don’t want to watch a movie with Jay. I want him to leave so I can take a nap.  But Jay is not reading my body language.  “Wanna watch a movie?” he asks.

No Jay. I don’t. Not only because I’m tired and I’m done with this coffee/ice cream/walk/thing, but I don’t have a couch.  I don’t have a TV. I just moved here, and I have nothing.  I have a futon that unfolds into a bed, but happily it is currently holding the stuff of my roommate’s friend, whos’s visiting for a while.  “Umm, gee, Jay, I don’t really have anywhere that we could watch it.”  I diplomatically and politely explain the lack-of-couch thing.

“Oh, no worries,” he says, and then he keeps talking. About what, I’m not quite sure.  I try to look like I’m paying attention, but I’m not sure how successful I am.  At one point, Jay grabs my hand and hold it within his own. Having not completely paid attention, this action startles the daylights outta me.

Holy WTF???!?! I think, and nearly snatch my hand back, but then Jay says, “That’s a really beautiful ring. Where’d you get it?” My vanity momentarily takes over, because I really do love this ring – I bought it while abroad in the Middle East, as a little token reminder of my months abroad, and I wear it all the time.  It’s pure silver, since silver is so cheap there.  But then I am freaked out again and slowly draw my hand back from his.

No worries! God gave us two hands! So Jay reaches over to grab my other hand and asks about that ring, too.  I explain the much less exotic story behind that one (my Dad bought it for me as a college graduation gift) as I try to wonder on what planet he thought it would be cool to grab my hands and continue holding them on the pretense of asking about my rings.

Jay: Wow, so that graduation ring is really beautiful…is that a pearl? It must have been really expensive.
Me (thoroughly bizarred-out by now): No, it was about 10 dollars.

At this point I need to get this man out of my house.  I strongly hint that it’s getting later in the afternoon, I’m really tired, and I still have some stuff I want to get done. He doesn’t pick up on this. I don’t know why.

“Yeah,” he stretches in his chair, “I’m really tired too…I could use a nap as well.” He looks up at me, and I think I know where this is going, but I am still in shocked disbelief so I just stand there like a little fool with her metaphoric mouth hanging open. 

“Could I just crash here?” he asks nonchalantly.  

What.the.ef.  No, Jay, you cannot “just crash here.”  In case you forgot, I just finished explaining to you how I don’t have a couch. And the futon is in use. And I just met you. AT CHURCH. You think I’m going to happily drift off to the land of sparkles and dreams while there is a strange man in my house? One who could steal all my stuff, or kill me or rape me or who knows what? (Not that I think he would do that.  I think he just wanted…I don’t know, to sleep with me? Or on the floor? My objection about the not-having-furniture thing didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest.)  Sorry, Jay.  Not even in your wildest dreams.  And if you try anything, I know how to defend myself. Because I’m from Montana, and we do justice a little differently. You are warned. (You all are warned.)

At that point I stand up and say brightly, “Well, do you want some fruit for your walk back to the Barracks? Or some water? Really, take the glass with you, no need to return it…”  Haha, no, I just offered him some fruit, which he declined.  I gave him directions back to the Barracks, and he came over to hug me goodbye.  Except it was one of those a-few-moments-too-long, hands-lingered-on-my-waist kind of hugs.  And he tried to look deep into my eyes.  I escaped, and showed him the door.

“It was really nice to meet you, A,” he said.

“Yeah, Jay, this was…interesting – I mean, it was nice to meet you too.”

I swear to you, I only wanted coffee as friends.  Given that we met at church and only knew each other for a grand total of three hours, I figured I was safe in assuming that it would be a strictly platonic, normal outing. 

But apparently Jay has a problem with the just-friends, no-strings-attached thing, too.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I want to maim Blogger with a high heel, and other things you may have noticed

So, dear readers, you may have noticed that my blog has transformed a bit. New layout, new URL, new...stuff. Yeah, Blogger and I had a little spat, and Blogger won.

Long story short, I used my school email as the login name for my old blog, but the email listed on that blog was my personal email, and between that and having something called a "Google Profile" (which I should know about since I currently work in New Media) Blogger just couldn't take it anymore. Said something about the two accounts fighting with each other, and there was a constant request to "please logout or switch user accounts" or some such nonsense. Blogger said I had to fix this. I agreed.

Blogger told me to delete one of the accounts. Makes sense, I thought. My school email was defunct and unnecessary at this point, so I would terminate that one and my blog would transfer over to my personal email, rather than my school one.  This made sense to me, because my personal email was still listed as the official mailing address for the blog.

Yeah. Blogger often doesn't make sense. So it locked me out of the account. Oh, this is mildly annoying, I thought. But so far it's mostly funny. As soon as I email Blogger and get access restored, it will make a great new blog post. Haha, laughs to be had by all! Yeah. No. Because the next day, Blogger promptly deleted my blog.
Blogger: Haha! Suck-ah!!!
This momentarily stunned me -- surely not? -- and then it prompted nothing short of ALL CAPS RAGE!!!

I scrambled, had an almost-heart-attack, and frantically g-chatted The Sis.

Me: (Paraphrase) Sister!!!! My blog is gone!!! Can you find it???
The Sis: A, quit freaking out, the link still brings me there.
Me: Oh...But are you SURE??
The Sis: (Paraphrase) Of course I'm sure, it's right...oh shit. 

So. Old blog gone. I angrily huffed over to WordPress and built a new blog from scratch (after a kind and compassionate soul emailed me the content from my old blog that she had ripped from her Google Reader...fantastic friend, fantastic technology. I owe her a hug. But not you Google, cuz this is kinda your fault in the first place). Then I discovered how NOT customizable WordPress is.

Which brings me back here. Back to Blogger. Something I so don't want to do, but it's kinda like riding the Red Line of the metro -- you hate to do it, you know it will break down at some point leaving you stranded and late, but you aren't cool enough to own a car so you have no choice. I'm not flush enough to pay for a customizable WordPress, so here I am. I have no choice.

Sorry, I said "long story short" and I totally didn't mean it.

But now you know why things are a bit different, and also why it says I uploaded 18 new posts in one day. Psh, no one is that good. BUT I promise to make up for my lapse in posting with another entry within the next few days.

Cheers to all your patience, and to my non-existent patience which I am still trying to work on. I hate you, Blogger. And I still want to mangle you with a high heel, because thats about all the use I have for high heels.