Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bus woes and my favorite podcasts

Some days you win, some days you loose.  Some days you drive to the park and ride, the bus arrives within seconds, it makes one stop, heads to the city of my workplace, I get off at the first stop, walk onto the light rail, which takes off immediately, then I end up comfortably at the front door of my office building, dry, room temperature, not even breaking a sweat. 

Then there's days like today.  Today was my "late" day (class at 10).  I'm about to walk out the door and realize I'm running three minutes late, which makes all the difference with the bus, so I decide to hold back and take the next bus.  This gives me time to finish drying my hair.  Last night was the first Phish-concertless night since last Friday.  Although I wasn't attending DURING the work week, on Saturday we had a mishap with the bus and didn't get home until 2:30 AM (just in time to make some dinner and go to bed at 3).  Sunday through Wednesday morning I was waiting up for Dave and John, one night having to pick them up, other nights, being in bed, but not quite sleeping when they returned.  This staying up past my bed time, yet still having to work caught up with me and I nearly lost my mind on Wednesday, so I decided to go to bed early and sleep in. 

I drive the two miles to the park and ride, get there exactly on time, wander to the bus stop, and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Was the bus early?  Did I miss it by seconds?  Finally, about 45 minutes after the bus I usually take, my bus pulls up.  It is very full and I grab one of the last remaining seats in the front.  (Sitting in the back occasionally involves my using a barf bag).  We stop at three more stops, each filled with pissed off people who then have to stand for the 40 minute bus ride.  The bus driver never offers us an apology or an explanation as to why he is 20 minutes late.  Finally, a very angry woman asks him why all of us are going to be late to work.  He tells us that the handicap door got stuck open at one of his first stops and they had to send another bus.  Okay, I'll forgive him. 

We get to our destination and I jump off the bus and start wandering towards the light rail, that seemingly wasn't there yet.  Turns out, this late in the day, the light rail is only a few cars long and it was there, hiding behind two buses!  As soon as I spot it, I start sprinting with my rolly bag in tow.  I get to it, push the magic button, the doors open, and seconds later, we're taking off and I'm the only person from my packed bus to make it.  A quick stop at the office, a sprint to class, and I arrive only five minutes late, but severely out of breath and looking somewhat crazy. 

On my commute home, I manage to miss the light rail by about 10 seconds and was left waiting for 15 minutes until the next one.  Let's add this up. 

To work
10 minutes to park and ride
30 minute wait for bus
40 minute bus ride
1 minute sprint
5 minute light rail
5-10 minute jog

Return trip
15 minutes waiting for the light rail
5 minute light rail ride
2 minute walk to bus
40 minute bus ride home
10 minute drive home

That's 2 hours and 48 minutes of commuting.  Of course during the day I also spend 30 minutes walking for each class I teach (15 minutes there from the office, 15 minutes back.  This will change December 8 when I get a new office.)  I've definitely had many more good bus experiences than bad, but when they are bad, they are very noteworthy:  waiting in the snow and below zero weather for an hour waiting for a bus, the bus not showing up on the day of my current-job interview and my having to drive during rush hour, riding a bus who had chains on and decided to keep them on down the interstate, and many more.

Now, my intention here isn't entirely to complain to you.  Clearly, it's my fault that the only job I want is in a city that I don't want to live in, and that I live with someone employed in the city we DO live in, and I'll deal with it. 

While I'm spending a good portion of my life commuting, I get a lot of time to think.  Some people read on the bus, but this makes me nauseated as hell.  I occasionally am able to work on the bus if I'm sitting in front and looking up every few seconds.  This means I spend a significant portion of my day listening to my ipod.  Rather than listening to the same tunes over and over and over again, I listen to podcasts.  Without these, I would have lost my mind long ago. 

Here are my favorites
1.  This American Life-- an hour of pure bliss, usually three stories on one theme, but they only put out one of these a week, and I've already listened to all of the old ones I can get my hands on, so I save these purely for Monday mornings when I need it most.

2.  Radiolab -- this is a sciency podcast that dives into a topic in one of the most entertaining ways I've heard.  It is very professionally done.

3.  Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (your escape to reality)-- this podcast helps you think like a true scientist.  They analyze the latest science news stories and through listening, you learn how to go through life not being duped by stupid stuff with no evidence to back it up.  (Homeopathy is a big scam.)  They are also pretty funny.

4.  NPR Culturetopia-- this is good filler on new books, movies, tv shows, etc.  Recently, they've started doing happy hour podcasts with the most hilariously flamboyant men talking mostly about TV shows.  Now, I don't actually watch TV, but yet I find this commentary positively grin inducing.

5.  NPR On Science-- this is like a voice version of the science daily website.  They summarize the latest science news in a way that makes it accessible to scientists outside of a specific field.  However, I wouldn't recommend this to people who find NPR-type talking boring.

6.  TED talks (ideas worth spreading)-- If you've never listened to these, go back to the very beginning.  The older ones are the most inspiring.

7.  Get-it-done-guy's quick and dirty tips to work less and do more.  These are short, 5 minute, well-scripted comedic blips on ways to make your life more efficient.

There are a few Celiac/gluten-free podcasts, but thus far, none that I'll listen to on a regular basis.  Keep in mind that all of these are all free and available through an easy search in the iTunes store.  

I've been dying to get a book on tape to listen to, but my one shot at it got me a super boring read and I was uninspired to go back for more.   Plus, if not through the library, then usually not so free. 

What are your favorite podcasts?  Any I should check out to get me through my next commute?  I'm all about learning while commuting!

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