Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lost in Transit-ions

I needed to a university-related meeting today, which was held at one of the downtown tech hubs. In theory, I fully approve of the hub meetings. It gets the department associated with cutting edge movements in tech, and gets us out and into the community, a constant necessity for an academic department. In practice... well, the hub is 10 km from my house, and 7.5 from campus. Now, granted, I'm already on campus, so that's a reduction in transit time right there. But I still have to travel on the bus from campus to hub, and then back again to teach my class. Even at a conservative estimate, that's over an hour of transit time, and bus transit time at that, which, subjectively speaking, is much longer than normal time. Any time I go for such a meeting, I'm essentially giving up half the work day for it. Now, I'm not complaining against the meeting/associated project in the slightest. My participation there is killing multiple birds with the proverbial stone: I'm getting involved in digital projects, which is a career development goal; I'm getting experience in group projects, which is a professional expansion goal; and I'm thinking creatively in ways neither the dissertation nor blog quite hits, which was unexpected (me being jaded and such), but welcome.

I just wish it was a little closer.

At today's session, I showed up a half hour early (another peril of being dependent on bus schedules), and went to a nearby coffee shop. After the meeting, I was left with an extra bit of refuse to dispose of. There were garbage cans all over the place, but... No, I thought. No, we will recycle this discarded coffee cup. We will be part of the solution! And so, I slipped it into my bookbag's side pouch. (And sidenote: is it odd that a business-tech space doesn't have any recycling oriented capabilities? Perhaps it's evidence that business doesn't care about carbon footprints. Or a metaphor for how a focus on the virtual and electronic blinds us to the excesses and materiality of the Real. Or maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.) I didn't have much luck in the downtown area, either, and time was marching on, so I decide to hurry up and catch my bus, and worry about it on campus, where recycling locations are many and plentiful. But now I'm hurrying to make the bus, and cross the street before the light changes. Half way across, I feel, physically feel, the empty cup slide out of its pouch and hit the ground. I debated briefly, then decided that retrieving cup might be an act of good karma, but it wouldn't be an act of good sense. So I abandoned it to its fate. The real kicker is that the bus drove right past that street after I got on it, so I got to see the cup one last time, rolling forlornly back and forth. So in my desire to recycle, I went from depositing the cup in a proper garbage can to abandoning it in the street.

I am not part of the solution. I am the problem.

Last: The bus trip itself was significantly long enough for a reflection on bus etiquette. In our transit system, the bus seats are two per side of the aisle. And I have nothing but contempt for people who strain to occupy two seats (with a bag, or something) while others are standing. Yes, I understand that it's mildly uncomfortable to sit with the bag on your lap. And yes, it's always a game of personal space Russian roulette when you go on the bus. But frankly, I think that anyone who chooses (or, all right, is forced into choosing) public transit has an implicit social contract to be considerate of others while in that public space. Of course, the seat mate issue does bring with it a myriad of challenges. Such as, in my case, the complicated negotiations that must occur when the person with the window seat must get off the bus before the aisle seat person, as in my case. There's a number of visual clues you can offer, ranging from sitting up in a very expectant manner to physically standing up and plowing through, space be damned. In this particular case, I merely glanced at my fellow passenger. He glanced back, stood up, and I nodded appreciatively as I exited. A silent simpatico of social solicitude.

If Foucault really wanted to understand power relations, he should have spent more time on a bus. (This is my equivalent of all those academic papers on airline travel. Write what you know.)

Later Days.

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