A look at relationships, personal growth, & living/working in the 21st century.

Posts tagged ‘personal space’

Transitory Thoughts on Urban Transit

A SERIES ON PUBLIC TRANSIT CULTURE / Parts 1 & 2: Entry & Slow-Dancing

Part 1: Entry
Let’s begin with some transit-type mayhem of the pre-boarding type – the turnstile. The turnstile can be seen as gatekeeper to the next world, as a portal from the usual urban landscape to the realm of transit utopia (I’m being optimistic-please bear with me). While turnstiles mediate entrance to the trains, commuting via bus involves a looser entrance where the human factor comes into play given a driver controls bus entrance (to be addressed in an upcoming post).

On a recent morning commute, as I approached the turnstyle, I saw a man standing almost directly in front of the fare-card slot. I then had to decide whether to: a) just step around him, which would involve invading his personal space, or b) say excuse me and wait for him to move from my path. As I approached, planning to dodge him without speaking, he said, “Would you put me on the train please?” I made momentary eye contact, and then, sparing him my less-than-civil thoughts, silently walked past him (option ‘a’). He didn’t appear at all phased by my indifference and appeared to be readying himself for his next target. I know the dangers of assumptions, but this ambulatory man, of my race, looked ‘disabled-by-choice.’ The economic times may be hard, but this gentleman’s approach to panhandling left me less than sympathetic toward him.

Part 2: Loss of Personal Space – a.k.a. Slow-Dancing on the El.
When I arrived at work one recent morning, the office manager said, “How are you?” I responded with what I see as the obligatory, “Fine,” and then added, “but I think I just slow-danced with six people on the El.” To explain, the El is what many Chicagoans call the train. This form of public transit has below ground, above ground/elevated (hence the term “El”), and ground level tracks. On some of its elevated tracks this train traverses the Chicago river. But more interestingly, on other routes it travels UNDER the river. Sorry, I digress. Back to the commute. So, on the morning in question, I stepped into a standing-room-only train car to begin what is usually the 10-minute portion or final leg of my 30-minute commute. And, to clarify, not only were all the seats occupied, but open standing space was non-existent. I ended up near one of the doors surrounded by other standing riders. I was able to extend my left arm to grasp a pole – not that this was necessary since falling down was not an option given my body was practically enveloped by the bodies of other riders. With each acceleration or slowing of the train, I tried to brace myself with my left (non-dominant) arm, which was closest to a pole. However, given my arm was almost fully extended, I realized I had little leverage. I finally resigned myself to my sardine-like reality. This situation left me wondering why the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) has not put more thought into reducing the stress of such unpleasant, yet apparently inevitable experiences. My commute left me haphazardly packed in the over-crowded train car. I felt like a cheap, knock-off cell phone accessory thrown into a bag of similarly tacky items, packed by an uninterested bagger at a discount store. So, why can’t the CTA attempt to make its often tightly-packed riders feel packed in a ‘special’ way? Why can’t cramped riders’ feel they were ushered into a transit vessel more similarly to the way a certain fruit-named company places its technology products into well-designed, aesthetically pleasing packaging? Sorry, again I digress. The point of this is that there is simply almost no accounting for the riders’ personal space needs while on public transit. Further, CTA trains and buses both include seating facing the center aisle. Some very recently introduced new CTA train cars have even more aisle-facing seating. Sadly, using such seats is a set-up for getting stepped on if you have adult-size feet. Once again, there’s no accounting for the personal space needs of many Americans.

Public transit need not be uncomfortable. My experience with public transit in northern European countries (Denmark, Holland, and Sweden) has been pleasant in that passenger space and comfort seems to have been at least amongst the list of top-ten priorities for transit vehicle designers. Trains were spacious, silent, and offered a smooth ride. Maybe we can learn something from our European friends about moving people economically AND comfortably.

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Turnstile image courtesy of http://www.wikimedia.org

Somebody, please – help me be a better puppy parent

I think I need help being a better puppy parent.  We have a 9-month-old puppy in the family, Rex, a male Beabull (1/2 Beagle & 1/2 English Bulldog).  He really doesn’t ask all that much of me.  However, lately he’s let me know many times that I’m falling short when it comes to giving him the attention, love, holding, etc., that he wants.  Rex lets me know I’m not attending to him properly in multiple ways.  There’s the ever-so-subtle, very sharp, puppy bark.  The barks may be few, such as when something happens to capture his attention, or the barks can be many – unending until I give in, stop whatever I’m doing, and let this almost 40-pound dog pretend he’s a lap dog.  Then there’s the lengthy whine, often high-pitched, piercing, and one which makes you wonder if your neighbors are now certain you have begun the nightly beating of your dog (kidding, of course).  Who would have thought so much drama could be communicated by a whine.  If these methods don’t work, Rex gets really creative and finds new and better ways to be annoying, destructive, or just amazingly cute, all of which are done to capture your attention.

I’ve finally accepted that in my relationship with Rex, he’s the ‘giver,’ and I’m the ‘taker.’  Oh sure, I make sure he’s fed, bathed, walked, etc.  But he’s the one always offering unending affection and unconditional acceptance.  My moody self can be flighty as the wind – loving one minute and an iceberg the next.  Now don’t get me wrong, neither of us in this relationship is without his faults. So, lets look at Rex’s shortcomings.  He has that Beagle stubbornness, which can really try your patience.  When he picks up a scent he likes, his ears turn off, his eyes focus only on whatever has captured his interest, and I become non-existent and irrelevant.  What about dogs being pack animals, what about my being the ‘alpha dog’?  All of that goes out the window when Rex smells something interesting. Apparently, I’m just the ‘means to an end’ for Rex.

Rex has that cute Beagle face, you know, the big brown eyes, floppy rounded ears, and the ever-sniffing nose.  Everywhere we go, people respond to him and seem to immediately adore him.  Women always smile, often stopping whatever they are doing to pet him.  I’ve seen women walking, even romantically strolling, with the one they love, pause and react to Rex’s presence.  I’ve seen women stop their conversation, release the hand they are holding, to speak to me and say, “What a cute dog.  Can I pet him?”  I wish I had half of my dog’s magnetism – animal or whatever its origin.  I often see men doing the same, commenting on how cute my dog is, saying it in their most masculine tone of voice.  I often don’t get it – Rex is just a puppy.  I grew up in a household with pets (cats & dog), and when I was a pre-teen, we had various creatures in (guinea pigs) or outside (a rabbit) the house.  I know the attraction of household pets.  However, what is it that happens when you walk a puppy down the street causing others to go out of their way to get some ‘puppy time’? I just took Rex out for his last walk of the night. I planned to get him, do the deed, and get back in – you know, a clandestine manuever. Wouldn’t you know it, we were mobbed by dogs and people in the elevator. When we got outside, other dog owners, not content to just enjoy the companionship with their own dogs, began with the questions, “What a cute dog – What is he, a boy or a girl, What’s his name, Isn’t that darling,” etc., ad nauseam.  I guess you’d have to have an extraordinarily ugly or viciously mean dog to be able to take a walk and be left alone.  Don’t get me wrong, many times I get a real kick out of the attention, but, at other times, I just wanna be left alone.  Do I sound jealous of all the instant love and affection Rex gets?  You bet your dog biscuit I am.  Anyway, Rex is worth his weight in gold.  And if you have a dog, or even a cat, I’d bet you’d say the same about your pal.

It’s ok to hug your mother – It’s not ok to hug the mail carrier!

We’ve all encountered and/or known those people-the people who are a little too loose with their emotions. The stranger in church who takes full advantage of ‘Love thy neighbor.’ The person who, seemingly at the Pastor’s suggestion, hugs you way too hard and for far too long. The wedding guest who cops a feel while giving the bride a congratulatory hug. Just because you’re an invited guest, it doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to get your grope on.

And what about those TSA people who snap their latex gloves gleefully as they prepare to legally molest you? I thought the full-body scanner, by providing a peep-show view and risking the health of the travelling public, would eliminate the need for frisking. And why, by the way, must I hold my hands above my head, with my fingers in diamond-shape, for the scanner to work? Are we travellers just being made the butt of someone’s joke? Yesterday, for the first time, TSA staffers even asked that I remove papers from my pockets. It did take me back to my elementary school days though. I felt like when the teacher demanded to see the note I had written the pretty girl sitting in front of me. Hopefully body-scanning technology will be an improvement in safety measures. Last time I flew from Miami International, the TSA man seemed to enjoy loudly announcing to me that my luggage had tested positive for explosives.

Federal buildings create another opportunity for GED recipients, I mean Security staff, to potentially get to second base with those of a higher social class.

Maybe I’m too uptight about these things-too firmly entrenched in the priceless value of one’s personal space. If you’re reading this, Mr./Ms. TSA employee, Security professionals everywhere, please don’t take offense to my attempt at humor, but please do proceed doing your job with respect and gentleness. Not everyone thinks it’s a turn-on to be felt-up by strangers.

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