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imagine in your mind

maura @ 5:26 pm

Last Friday I went to a conference in Manhattan and had what can only be described as an epicly cruddy commute into the city. I left in (what I thought was) plenty of time to make it to the keynote speaker and walked the 7 minutes or so to the subway station. And then I waited, and waited, and waited, the platform getting more crowded as time progressed. After I’d been in the station for about 20 minutes a train finally pulled in, and of course it was much too crowded for anyone new to get on. I waited some more, maybe 5 minutes or so, and was just about to leave the station when another train pulled in, similarly crowded. So I walked upstairs and out to the street and 2 blocks up the hill to the other subway station. Paid my fare (again!) and got on a train (thankfully of standard rush hour person-density) that arrived a couple of minutes after I got there. Of course that train was the wrong train for that line, temporarily rerouted because of a sick passenger or somesuch. Three stops later an announcement came on that the train was switching back to its original line, so I had to get off and switch trains again. I waited a normal amount of time for the next train which then proceeded to move slooooooowly (“please be patient”) through the next several stops, before finally getting up to normal speed once we were in Manhattan. I had to switch trains (planned, this time) one last time before I got off at my stop and walked the 10 minutes over to the conference.

Total commute time = nearly 2 hrs for something that should have taken me 1 hour at the most.

While alternately moving through the various stages of transit-related frustration or reading on my phone (thank you, Instapaper) during my trip, I also started thinking about the relationship between travel and time. Time while traveling (by non-self-powered means) is different than time otherwise. The MTA bends time, forces it to collapse or expand, making you so far yet so close, or so close yet so far. At one point on Friday I’d spent 50 minutes and 2 subway fares to get to a station that’s a 30 minute walk from my house.

What makes me grumpiest about transit delays is that it always seems like they happen on the one day when I need to go somewhere by a specific time. But of course having somewhere to be is a prerequisite for a delay; it wouldn’t be a delay in any real sense of the word if it were optional, a part of standard or normal life.

Car delays (= traffic) are numbing, probably because I hate car travel and feel guilty whenever we drive anywhere. But with a subway delay my brain goes into calculation overload, like the alterna-Astrid on Fringe. Should I change to another line? Which would be fastest? Of course the system is rigged against me because I don’t have access to all of the data points at once. What if I change to another line and that line has delays? Will the walk through the station to switch trains be faster than just sitting here waiting for this train I’m on to finally move? Those sunk costs can be difficult to overcome.

Ultimately it’s all about splitting timelines. What happened to that version of me at the original station, the one who waited for a train to come that wasn’t overfull. Where is she now? And did she get to the conference in time to hear the keynote speaker?

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a little ranty

maura @ 9:45 pm

It’s my blag, I can rant if I want to! Today I had to take the subway both ways to work because of the rain and some big deadlines. Dear fellow straphangers, here are the inconsideratenessess (is that a word?) from today’s commute, please refrain from them in the future:

In the morning I stepped onto the platform just as a train was coming in, which is lovely. But then I walked onto the train right after two very tall men who walked onto the train and just stood by the door, all but blocking additional entry (I squeaked by with an excuse me and minimal touching, go me!). Now I’m as big a fan as any of the standing in the doorway subway strategy, esp. on shorter trips — it fits with my whole standing desk ethos. But people, if you want to stand by the door you should be the *last* person to get on the train, otherwise you’re just blockage.

This evening I got down to the platform only to hear the dreaded message “because of a stalled train at …” I waited 15 minutes and by the time the train came the platform and subway cars were packed. After waiting patiently for the car to disgorge its passengers I hopped on the train and tried to eke out a bit of personal space. I ended up getting a seat next to a rude person, yay! The kind of person who has a seat next to the door and a free seat next to themself and doesn’t scootch over to make it easier for someone to sit in the available seat, which means that everyone just sort of stands around and looks at the seat until someone finally climbs over and through everyone’s legs and backpacks to sit in the seat, thereby giving everyone a bit more room. You’re welcome.

And the final blow: when the subway pulled into my station I nearly didn’t make it off the train in time because someone was holding onto the horizontal bar over my head and would not let go as I struggled to move past him and under his arm. The train was stopped! No bracing with grab bars required! Sigh.

At least today didn’t feature my #1 top rude subway behavior: standing in front of the turnstiles while digging through a bag or pockets to pull out a Metrocard while others pile up in a line behind you, Metrocards at the ready. Seriously, please stop it.

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nothing’s coming to mind

maura @ 10:11 pm

In the past 2 days I have ridden 4 subway lines (in order: G,* 7,** Q and 5) and traveled to 3 CUNY campuses for 2 great librariany programs (and 2 meetings). Yesterday was a program on information literacy assessment at LaGuardia Community College, and today was a program on critical pedagogy and library instruction at Brooklyn College. (And in between I had 2 meetings at the Graduate Center, where the wifi is not locked down + the cafeteria always has something tasty for lunch.)

* The G used to be Gus’s favorite train when he was wee, for obvious reasons. The logo is a pleasing spring green, so I like it too.

** Gus used to <3 the 7, too, when his favorite color was purple. I love it because it goes elevated in Queens and passes by an incredibly beautifully graffitied building.

It’s so strange the way my brain reacts to new knowledge sometimes. These programs were both incredibly engaging and thought-provoking, and usually afterward I’d be working things out in my head or scribbling (really typing) down some half-baked notes + ideas sparked by all of the good stuff I heard + thought about. But I think that the close proximity of two highly interesting + relevant (both work-relevant and research-interest-relevant) talks has overloaded my brain somewhat. The wheels are spinning a bit, but nothing coherent and no urge to write it down.

I think my brain is temporarily full. Maybe stuff will percolate out tomorrow or later. In the meantime, Sherlock Holmes will help empty it out a bit, right?


¿se siente mal? podemus ayudarle

maura @ 12:56 pm

Woah, long time gone here. I’ve been busy — got pulled in on a big project @ work, fun but time-intensive. And then there was the sick, oh yes, the sick. Gus had the stomach flu, then I had the stomach flu, then Gus had the stomach flu again. Good times.

I’ve missed you, blag! It’s weird, I’ve really felt pangs of longing lately for some time, any time, to write. That’s positive, right? that I really want to write these days, so much so that I’m frustrated when I can’t.

Good thing, too, because I got my bloggy wish. What girl doesn’t need 3 blogs, I ask you? (I don’t want the trackbacks so I’m not going to link them — y’all can cut-n-paste ’em if you’d like.) You can find me blagging 1-2x/month about library stuff on the Association of College and Research Libraries’ blog at And I made myself a blog on the CUNY Academic Commons (another project I’ve worked on this year) for general higher education and instructional technology thoughts as well as stuff specific to the CUNYverse. That one’s at

Last week I had a meeting in Manhattan. I do love my current (walkable!) commute, but it’s fun to have the chance to ride the subway over the bridge sometimes, too. There’s always something new to see — like last spring when I kept thinking, “what the heck are they building on that pier?” and it turned out to be a waterfall.

Right now there’s this cool underground art between the DeKalb Ave stop and the Manhattan Bridge. Brightly colored images are painted on the walls and when the train goes by and you look out the window the supporting tunnel girders make it look like one of those old timey spinning wheel animation things. The internets remind me that’s a zoetrope (thank you Wikipedia!).

(Ooh, it’s called Masstransiscope, see article + video in the Times here!)

Also when I ride the subway I remember that I really want to learn Spanish. It’s so tantalizing to read all of the Spanish signs and almost understand them. Someday there’ll be time, right? I suppose I could give up some blagtime, but I think I’m more attached to blags for now. Sorry, Spanish!

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