the keeping up of appearances

Today I arrived at the bus stop to find newspaper all over the ground. My initial thought was “that’s unfortunate.” There are a few little newspaper machines around the bus stop, several of which are free local rags, so this isn’t a completely unusual event. It was colder last night, so I imagine someone used them as blankets and slept on the benches under the shelter. Alpharetta doesn’t have much in the way of homeless, but any sort of shelter and free ‘blankets’ will get found by those who need them on a cold night.

I noticed some of the edges of the papers were charred, so I looked around to see where someone had lit a paper on fire, and found a small, black pile right where the bus stops to load passengers.

I road around on my bike for a little bit, like I always do, slowly circling the area. 7 or 8 other people stood under or around the shelter, waiting for the bus like they do every morning. But I kept thinking about the paper. Not really sure why, perhaps cause it was all over the place, but it being there just sorta annoyed me.

I thought about picking it up, but a few thoughts kept running through my head, giving me pause.
1) If I pick this stuff up, will I look like I think I’m better than everyone here?
2) Are other people not picking it up cause they don’t want to look smug?
3) Is it kinda tragic that many people might want to pick it up, but don’t because they don’t want to look preachy?

That was one line of thought. The other line was more judgmental, thinking that if I had passed this group of people and saw all the paper lying around, I’d think to myself, “Gee folks, not one of you can take 2 minutes and pick up a little trash?” I think like that a lot. It’s one of my least favorites traits.

But how could I think that if I was not willing to pick it up myself?

But then the biggest point: I ride my bike to work every day. If I start picking up newspaper off the ground, am I gonna look like some super tree-hugging hippie? I certainly don’t want that. Plenty of people associate bike riding with dedication to the environment. I do it cause I’m cheap, gas is expensive, sitting in a car for an hour sucks, and riding a bike is fun. Sure, I believe in stewardship, but I’m not gonna stop eating meat and switch to single-ply toilet paper any time soon.

Finally I just thought, “The only way I’m gonna shut my brain up is if I pick this crap up.” So I put my bike against one of the newspaper machines and started picking up paper. I felt like a kid that got pantsed in the lunchroom. I was sure everyone was watching me, and they all knew what my favorite super hero underwear was now. I tried to just get paper around me, like I’m not putting a ton of effort into it. You know, “I’m just doing this ’cause whatever, it’s not like I need to pick up paper.” The same way the cool, mysterious guy is about dating girls.

But the paper was dispersed perfectly to lead me along the entire length of the bus waiting area, picking up every sheet of newspaper. By the end I had a heaping hand full, and I had walked past every person standing there. As I stood up to head for the trash can, an older woman looked at me and said, “That’s so good of you.” My first thought was, “If it’s so good, why didn’t you do it yourself?” Again, quick, judgmental thoughts, not my favorite. I just smiled and shrugged. I was too nervous about how I was being perceived to have anything real to say. My options were “I’m not a crazy tree hugger!” or “I’m just anal, that’s all.” or maybe “If it’s so good, why didn’t you do it yourself?” As you can see, none were good answers, so I’m glad I had enough self control to not say anything. Looking around I saw that the trash can was all the way back by my bike, so I had to walk the gauntlet again, every set of eyes judging my choice of Spider-Man over Superman.

Now, I didn’t post about this to brag or anything. It was a minute and a half of effort, nothing worth even a “that’s so good of you.” I just find it weird that I often find myself over-thinking these kinds of situations. I literally become embarrassed when I want to do something that I think is good. Don’t get me started on offering a woman your seat on the train. You’d think it’s a simple “of course.” Well, trust me, it’s somehow become and incredibly complicated dance that often leaves me feeling like I’ve insulted the woman I was trying to be nice to.

Or I’m just completely insane. That’s always an option too.

the crazy guy on the train

One of the fun things about riding mass transit is that you occasionally get to interact with the mentally unstable. I remember when I had first moved here, my friend brought his girlfriend up and spent the weekend here. We decided it’d be neat to take the train into the city and see the sights. Not 15 minutes into the train ride, a woman walked onto the train talking about how she had Bill Clinton’s baby, and the priest wouldn’t give her back the thousands of dollars he took. “Welcome to Atlanta” I whispered to John.

For months now, near the Sandy Springs station, there has been an interesting ad in one of the tunnels. There is a series of lit posters, that when the train passes, it plays like a small animation. You see some swooshes, and then a Speed Racer logo with a theater release date. It’s kinda neat, but also fairly surprising upon first sighting.

A couple days ago I was sitting on the train, and I watched it go by, and noticed the guy sitting at the window look back into the cabin with a “that was weird” expression on his face. I smiled and nodded my head, with a slight chuckle, as to say, “Yeah, pretty crazy huh?”

The guy had a quick look of shock on his face, and suddenly turned his face back toward the window.

So then I wondered if maybe he hadn’t seen the Speed Racer ad. Maybe he was just looking out the window, turned his head in, only to see a guy staring at him, smiling and nodding as if you say, “I’ll wear your skin as a hat.”

This makes me laugh. It makes me laugh like when you’re in class and you know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you can’t hold it in, and the pressure only makes you want to laugh more.

So let’s recap:
Complete stranger staring, nodding, smiling. Then he starts sputtering short snorts of laughter.

I’ve become the crazy guy on the train.

makes you think

The combination of this article and this picture:

(click for larger, readable version)

really makes me think.

This morning I was driving to work in the pouring rain. I left my house at 7:40am. 1 hour and 20 minutes before I was due at work. At about 8:05, I had traveled two miles. I watched around me as common people broke down and became insane. You know how sometimes you’ll be stuck in a lane of traffic, and the turn lane next to you will be empty, and you’ll watch some jerk speed up it and cut into the line you’ve been waiting in. This morning, everyone was doing stuff like that. And I do mean everyone. I watched a school bus blatantly run a red light. It was just plain chaos.

It was at this point I decided it would be better for me to just ride my bike the rest of the way to the MARTA Bus Station. So I pulled into the parking lot next to me, parked my car, donned my poncho, and headed out on bike. It was raining pretty darn hard, but I couldn’t help but feeling satisfied as I passed dozen after dozen of cars. I couldn’t decide whether motorists thought I was crazy, or if they were slightly envious. Proper the first one.

I covered the rest of the trip (4 miles) in about 15 minutes. So I traveled four times faster on my bike than I did in my car. Perhaps this is what kept me happy as I waited at the bus station, soaking wet from my thighs down.

I look forward to my trip home, though I think I’m kind of impartial to whether its raining or not. I’ll be more prepared tomorrow, so I don’t have to walk around work barefoot all day, but I think this may kill my car’s use during the week. Which just makes one of the points in that article all the more poignant.

unconscious drumming

All through my schooling I dealt with a condition. Constantly keeping me from concentrating, always ensuring I’d be the bane of my teachers’ lives. It never distracted me personally, but it distracted everyone else around me, and it certainly brought things to a halt when a teacher would have to stop class to address the issue.

“Tony. STOP DRUMMING.”

Unconscious drumming. Other drummers understand my plight. It mostly comes when I’m in deep concentration. It aids my thought process. Whether it be a muffled thud of my feet on the floor, or dull slap of my fingertips on the desk, it pretty much drove everyone nuts. Everyone but me. What drove me nuts, was trying to not do it. The amount of concentration it took for me to NOT drum, was twice the amount I would have when drumming.

Maybe this will be my new ex-post-facto excuse for my performance in school.

Today, I sit on the train, eyes closed, relaxing. Alien Ant Farm plays on my mp3 player. Moments pass, and I’m suddenly aware of a pressure on my finger. It’s my wedding ring vibrating against my finger. At the same time a sound comes to my attention. It is a high pitch tinking sound, coming from the direction of my hand. It plays in perfect rhythm with Alien Ant Farm‘s Rubber Mallet.

I open my eyes, and I’m greeted with the stares of four other people.

“Sorry.”

It never ends.