Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sara Vowel, you narrative enchantress.

Because of you, I missed my bus by about 15 seconds, chasing it down the street wildly waving my arms.

This is really funny because I was listening to you quasi-criticize public radio (and say what you want about Garrison Keillor, the man knows how to tell a story) at Illinois Wesleyan University before you took a question asking if you drive and I thought, “Drive. No car. Bus. Soon. Maybe now. Gotta go,” as I ran from the hall.

As quickly as I could walk/run in clogs, I made my way to downtown Normal, where I missed my transfer by about two minutes.

I would have to walk the entire 2.8 miles home in the dark and cold. And I hadn’t even worn a coat, although I had a warm sweater because, despite evidence provided in this blog and elsewhere, I am not a total idiot.

And then I started thinking about how Sara Vowel talked about walking around Washington, D.C., after dark, about how she felt muggable and how a murdered person is often judged by the contents of his pockets. Abe Lincoln had two pairs of glasses and a knife.

I had 75 cents in my pocket, saved from bus missing. I had a bag with my wallet, cell phone and New York Times Sunday Magazine, although this is not usual. My regular bag is of the diaper variety and contains about 15 pounds of diapers, cups, bottles, spare pants, hair gel and a host of other objects that vary from day to day. One day it's WD40. The next it's three apples.

I like to mix it up.

That would be a more accurate portrayal of my life, I think.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Taking, or wasting, my time?

I went to speak to a Lincoln College class last night about my no-driving experiment. They read my Grist story, talked about it, and had a few questions.

Mostly run of the mill stuff. Why would I do this? (Got me?) What were some bad experiences I had? (How come nobody ever asks how awesome it was?) What did my girls think? (Carolyn likes buses, cars, trains, walking, riding in the stroller, going to the grocery store, going to the library, getting ice cream, going to the doctor. She hasn't learned to hate anything yet.)

One student asked about the value of my time, something I hadn't really considered. She wondered the value of spending two hours going to Meijer, and even said the car can be a good place to bond with your children, if only you turn off the radio and talk to them.

I've been thinking about this for a full day, which is why I'm a writer and NOT a public speaker (Off the cuff not my strong point. Strong point? Rambling). I do a lot of things that don't have value in society. I spend hours wandering my neighborhood. I bake things I could buy. I sit in thought a lot.

It's discouraging, thinking about how productive I could be. There are all kinds of ways to waste time. Listening to NPR (or Dr. Laura!). Watching television. Blogging. Sleeping.

When I was trying to decide about a two-hour bus trip versus an hour driving trip, I thought back to living in Washington D.C. At one point, I had an hour commute by car each way. Another time, I had the same commute by train.

Hands down, the train was a more valuable experience. I could read the paper (by read, I mean do the crossword puzzle). I could sit and think. I could work. I couldn't do anything of those things in a car (anybody sitting in District traffic knows coherent thought isn't an option).

So, maybe some view a bus trip as a waste. The greater the number of activities, the fuller a life? But I hate to think I’m viewed by the value of my hours, or how many things I can cram into a day.

My time is worth only time. Nothing more.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Kmart cafeteria.

It's not the nicest place in the world. I'm less confident about the tables being wiped down and the cook's hands washed than even your lower-tier fast food restaurants. Your Hardee's. Your Blimpie subs.

But I settled in and tried not to think about the table germs as I ate lunch yesterday. The store cafeteria really is a kickback from a bygone era. I remember getting jello at the Woolworth cafeteria as a child, but I haven't eaten at one in years.

Why now? Well, we took the bus to the Kmart plaza to check out the pet store. Carolyn, having read about a boy who goes to see snakes, loves the pet store. She even says so. She says, "I love going to the pet store."

So we were pretty disappointed when there were no snakes, and it was lunch. McDonalds was just a few hundred yards away, but the walk would have taken us through the parking lot and across a road. So we looked on, hungry for chicken nuggets but unwilling to brave the dangerous walk.

It's just another thing. So we spent half the money, ate half the calories and went back outside to wait for the bus. It was pretty uneventful, as bus trips go.

And as far as I can tell, that's awesome.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Back on the bus.

It has been a looooong time since I got on a city bus. Actually, ever since the college student fiasco.

Anywho, I took the bus home from the library yesterday, and it rocked. I got my favorite bus driver, Rod. He saw me coming, asked if I was going his way (to which I nodded) and he let me on early so I wouldn't have to wait in wind and cold for him to come back around.

I read Carolyn a book. Penny didn't make a peep.

There was just a single incident. Carolyn let out a lord-help-me-I'm-being-stabbed-and-pinched-repeatedly scream, which made every single person turn to us. One guy even commented on the pitch of her scream.

In her defense, I was pretending to be a lion and she was pretending to be a kitten. I think it was an appropriate response.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Who knew I was this smart!?

In college, I got a D in economics. And not the kind with a plus behind it.

Not really my strong point. I'm more from a bitter-but-loveable ilk who would rather get in a fist fight than balance my checkbook.

So why is it that I instinctively know Americans are spending too much mc-flippin' money. Is it the miles of 5,000 square foot mansions? Is it the retail strips rich with construction and minivans?

Who knows. But Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the current generation need to stop spending so much money. or they're going to totally screw future generations. Medicare and Social Security? Who needs those??

"Bernanke said a 4% cut in consumption by the current generation is necessary to avoid a 14% cut in the future."

So parents are worried today about carseats, crib bumpers, food allergens, fancy preschools, the competitive edge and how cool their daughter's jeans are. Why isn't anybody worried about their future? Isn't saving a little extra worth it if it keeps little Jenny from turning to the streets or little Timmy from the needle? Well, anyway, don't we want their lives to be better from our own?

Oh wait. Sorry. I know the answer to that one.

But Bernanke put it best today when he said:

"These numbers shouldn’t be taken literally but the basic lesson is surely right--that the decisions that we make over the next few decades will matter greatly for the living standards of our children and grandchildren. "

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What's greener? Using low energy products or no products at all.

The New York Times had a piece in it's Sunday paper about building green.
It talked about how more people are interested in that route, but also how it's more expensive, more time consuming and more likely to result in mistakes.

What caught my attention was the family profiled for the story. They said it was important for them to be "conscious of the impact we have on the environment" while adding 1,000 square feet to their house. That's more square footage than our entire first home and more than half of what we currently have.

Now, I'm not an environmental scientist, or any kind of scientist, or really very good with numbers, but I do know that it would have been more environmentally sound to not build a room the size of a house. The idea of buying a more environmentally friendly world is kind of funny, if you think about it.
Maybe poor people should start holding seminars on how being within arm's reach of another person won't kill you. Maybe.