24 November 2014

[24] transport

When I got on the bus this morning, a man offered me his seat. I thanked him but said no, partly because I was standing in the well in front of the rear door, which allows one to lean back and practically sit on the bar along the wall behind the lower section of the bus. It's downright comfy.

I put in my earphones. Then suddenly I looked over at the guy who had offered me a seat. 

Keeping in mind that I am the worst judge of age ever, he was probably about my parents' age. Now, I appreciate a chivalrous gesture. It's very considerate, and I like considerate. But when the person offering me a seat is almost at an age that I would offer him a seat? 

Battle of the manners on the bus.

...

I've taken to walking home. 

I could get on the bus, and I did when I was carrying my old computer, and I do when I have to take files home. It is just too much weight on my shoulder. But now I have a new, light computer, and I am not currently taking files back and forth. 

And so I walk. 

I walk in sprinkles of rain, like today. I walk in bitter cold. I walk in biting wind across the water. I have my phone in my pocket so that I can whip it out and take photos when things are pretty, but by the time I walk across the bridge at the end of the day, it's usually almost dark.

If I had a good camera, I could take a picture of the cars on the highway, all melding together into long lines of light.

But I don't. So I take pictures when I can, and when I can't, I put in my headphones and walk into the rain and wind, headed home.

23 November 2014

[23] putter

I slept too deeply last night, the kind of dead-to-the-world that happens when you are overly exhausted or getting sick or maybe both. When I first woke up, it was sunny outside, and I reached over from under the covers to open one set of blinds and let the light stream in.

But then by the time I got up, it was raining. Not just Pacific Northwest sprinkling, but really raining. It got very dark outside. There may have even been thunder, which is really unusual here, but I can't be certain because I was in the shower and there was noise of water.

I have pretty much settled my mind that I will do nothing today. My throat feels scratchy. It's almost Thanksgiving. It rained most of the day. That seems like excuse enough to do nothing but putter: clean my room, do the dishes, put the fabric shower curtain back up after my roommate washed it yesterday. 

So that is nice.

...

Last night, I came home from walking to the store, and my roommate's friend was in the kitchen making ice before they left for a party. She spilled some water on the floor as she put the ice cube tray back in the freezer. "Oops!" she said. She took a towel, threw it on the floor, and rubbed it around with her shoe. 

Then she folded it and set it back on the counter.

"Did you just use that towel on the floor and then put it back where we might use it?" I asked. "What if I dry a dish with that?"

"It'll be fine once it dries," she said.

That is... not my opinion of the situation at all. 

We finally persuaded her to drop it over there on the floor so that the next time one of us does laundry, we can throw it in. 

[22] choices

It always surprises me to go to events with law students and find that they have questions and I have answers. It feels like just yesterday that I was in law school. But suddenly when I describe my experience, it spans almost seven years. Seven years is positively respectable to be in a given field. 

Even stranger is when I think about the fact that it's been almost seven years since I've been to Africa.  That seems impossible. This is the longest I've gone without a trip to the continent since my dad and brother and I returned to Liberia in 2000. 

I guess I didn't realize, when I decided to try practicing law in the US, how trapped you become. Between the hours and the pay (neither of which I've ever managed to arrange in the proper manner, namely manageable hours combined with a reasonable salary), I have barely left the country since I started working as a real lawyer. And going to Africa, which is now an extra four hours of flying further than it was from the Midwest, is even more prohibitive. 

What they don't tell you is that a real lawyer job of the save-the-world type means that every time you take a day of vacation, there is someone panicking because they can't reach you and their life is on the line.

When I first started this work, I used to take real vacations: I didn't check my email. I didn't check my messages. 

By year 3, I had figured out that things are a million times worse when you come back if the email has gone unchecked. I haven't been completely free of it since. 

And many have been the weeks when I worked over 40 hours between Sunday and Wednesday so that I could take Thursday-Tuesday off, only to come back and work more than 40 hours from Wednesday to Saturday. 

Saving the world is a lot of work, and it turns out that it never ends. 

It also keeps you from seeing the world. There is a whole world out there, and I'm not seeing it. I was once on track to get my countries-visited numbers up near my age, but I've fallen behind. 

It's that very adult discovery: you can't have everything. I can't be an accomplished, experienced lawyer in this field while also being a world traveler. I have to choose. We always have to choose.

21 November 2014

[21] nighttime in the rainy city

Nighttime in the rainy city: the buses only come every half an hour, and the signboards for the express buses say things like 6:44 am or Monday 6:10 am for the next scheduled arrival. 

Instead of waiting, I walk through the drizzle. I skirt the big puddle that collects on a central corner when it rains hard. No matter how accustomed we are supposed to be to rain in Gone West, the drainage is never good enough. There is a car coming through the puddle, and I think it's going to splash me, but the light turns amber and it stops just before the spray gets to me.

Everything is yellow lights reflecting on wet pavement, except the white lights of the gas station and the neon outside the strip club. 

I am tempted to walk all the way home, but there is a long expanse of bridge in between that I don't want to walk alone this late. 

Instead, I wait for the bus in a bus stop with a homeless woman on one set of seats and a cardboard pizza box on the other. A few minutes in, a city worker in a vest comes by and asks if the pizza box is mine. When I say no, he picks it up and throws it away. 

The bus that comes says "Garage" on the light up board on the front, but when it stops, there are people on it, the little board by the door starts with the right number, and the driver calls out the number I need. 

20 November 2014

[20] lift

I was walking to the post office the other day when I saw a guy in a motorized wheelchair who could not get up enough momentum to make off the street and onto the sidewalk in a place where an old road and weird angle made the approach particularly steep. 

I had my hands full, but I stopped and tried to find a solid piece on the back of the chair where I could help push. 

I was useless.

There was a couple coming the other way, past middle-aged and a little bedraggled. It's a common corner for people who are house-less, and they probably were. 

The man motioned me out of the way and physically lifted the chair onto the sidewalk, motor and all. 

19 November 2014

[19] upgrade

Does anyone really understand how a hard drive works? I don't. I like to imagine it as a little cd in there, whirring away, writing information in little arcs that are not contiguous, and then when you defragment the disc, it re-writes all the information as one long spiral. 

But I have no idea, really.

This is relevant only because I bought a new computer that has flash memory, which apparently never needs defragmenting.

I know. The immediate reaction of all concerned is, "Aren't you broke? How did you afford a new computer?" and the answer is that, at some point, not having a functional computer was costing me more than using some of the money in my work account that I've been saving for taxes, and replenishing it when I get paid for the Major Work Event I just did.

It took me half an hour to boot up my old computer this morning. I stepped away for a second before it was fully functional (it was at the try to open a program, computer freezes, walk away to get a glass of water, come back, computer is still frozen stage), and it restarted itself, meaning another half hour of waiting.

I have to make a living, guys. This can't go on.

Besides corrupting all my files and refusing to allow quicktime to exist and crashing every time I opened an adobe document longer than five pages (i.e. all the time) and being so slow and freezy that I wanted to throw it sometimes, my old computer also had a non-functional shift key on the left side. I was forced to use only my right hand to capitalize things. Which is unfortunate, because that is my golf elbow/nerve problems hand. My ring and pinky fingers have been numb for weeks. 

It also didn't help that the enter key was dying. I had to hit it hard, repeatedly, with the same golf elbowed hand. 

So I bought a new computer. 

This, right here? This typing that I am doing right now? This is delightful. 

I am having to re-train my brain to use both shift keys, though. Right now I somehow have started using the left shift key for letters typed with my left hand and the right shift key for letters typed with my right hand. (I think I may have been using only the left shift key before it broke, to spare my tingling right hand fingers?)

18 November 2014

[18] utensils

Whenever my roommate happens to be home while I am preparing my sweet potato for microwaving, he shudders to see me holding the potato cupped in my hand while I stab at it with a knife so the steam can escape. 

My real problem, though, is not the knife. It takes so little pressure to puncture a sweet potato that even if the knife slips - and it has - I do not damage my hand.

No, the real danger is the cheese grater. 

I used to grate a hole in the knuckle on my right thumb every time I grated cheese onto a salad, which was every day the first time I lived in Gone West. I finally figured out how to hold the cheese so as not to grate the knuckle on my right thumb sometime after this post, so approximately 3-4 years after I bought that cheese grater. I have a permanent scar on the knuckle of my right thumb from years of grating off the skin.

I mostly manage not to grate a hole in the knuckle of my right hand these days, but I did it yesterday. It's been bothering me all day.

Tonight I used a different cheese grater because my usual one was dirty and, now that I live in a place where the prior roommate left without taking her stuff, there are four cheese graters at my disposal. Somehow, I managed to well and truly slice open the base of my thumb with a grater that is sharpened in both directions - i.e., I can push the cheese across it and then pull it back, grating in both directions.

It's fine-ish. I managed to salvage the flap of skin that I grated, and it's protecting my flesh right now. 

I need to watch out for the kitchen utensils, though.

PS. It is 10:35 pm, and someone in the apartment below me is practicing the electric guitar. Not cool, neighbor. Not cool.

17 November 2014

[17] suit

I am forbidden to shop, my sister tells me. (I can't afford it anyway.)

But there was a niche in my clothing that needed to be filled. Despite the fact that I have a job that requires the wearing of professional attire on a daily basis, there is a difference between professional and professional, if you know what I mean.

Maybe you don't know what I mean. 

What I mean is this: I wear dresses most days, and when the occasion calls for it, I put on a jacket over my dress and ta-dah! Professional.

This is significantly different from wearing an entire suit.

Back when I used to wear full suits, they were mostly trouser suits, I think (although maybe I only ever really owned one or two?). Now I am not a trouser fan. Now I am a skirt girl.

So there was a significant gap there: no full suits (except one whose trouser hems have fallen out, rendering it too long. I need to hem them or get them hemmed).

In between, I moved a number of times, and in the process I got rid of a lot of clothes. Some of the things I got rid of were the shells that I used to wear under suit jackets before I discovered dresses. They were mostly a little small, it seemed, because I gained some weight (see: stress, heartache). I am not one of those people who is going to keep too-small clothes on the chance that they someday fit again.

Only now I have lost some weight (see: stress, heartache), and I could have used those shells. 

But! They are gone. And I had rewards certificates for b@n@n@ repub1ic, so I got myself a black skirt that alllllmost matches my suit jacket, and a shell in a neutral color. In total, they cost me $5, thanks to sales and discounts and rewards. 

Now I can walk confidently into the situations that really do require a full suit. I am hoping and expecting that there will be a number of them, soon, and I am ready.