Tag Archives: I’m a lost toy

in which I zip to a Swedish furniture store

Most of the last week of my life has consisted of me putting together furniture.

In the past week, I have put together a bed, a lamp, an end table, a mirror thing with a stand, and a bookshelf1. I have learned a lot about putting together furniture in the past seven days. Primarily that I do not enjoy it.

But my total room makeover project is coming to a close. I am starting to feel awesome about the new digs, and no longer sleeping on the floor on thin mattress like a heroin addict, so that’s good.

I decided to wrap up Project “Make the Corner Bedroom Liveable” with one final grand adventure – a trip to Ikea, the Swedish Walmart, meccca of the under-budgeted home improvement project.

There is no Ikea in Boston. There is, however, one in Stoughton, which is a thirty to sixty minute drive depending on traffic and aptitude of driver. And since I really wanted to go to Ikea, I thought it would be a great idea to grab myself a ZipCar and go. Zip on over, if you will.

Along for the ride was my friend Marx, so named because we discovered we are both white Mormon girls from Utah after she courageously announced her faith in the middle of a presentation on Karl Marx2. Marx agreed to come along and serve as navigator, as long as she got some Swedish meatballs and disassembled furniture out of the trip.

And so, tonight, at 6;00, we picked up our ZipCar, which was named Darold.

At approximately 6:06 pm, while trying to make a nineteen-point turn out of the parking lot against a cement wall, a horrible realization struck me.

Friends, I am a terrible driver.

Miserable. Hopeless. Shocking. Simultaneously sloppy and petrified.

In the six minutes it took me to figure out how to start the car3, I realized I have never driven in any state other than Utah. Never driven in any city other than Salt Lake. Never driven in downtown Salt Lake. I also do not drive on highways, and rarely drive a stretch of road that is not the one between my house and my old high school. I’ve also only ever driven two cars in my entire life. Of the three cars my family owns, I’ve been behind the wheel of one.

Suddenly, this seemed like a terrible idea.

I did not mention any of this to Marx. I hoped this would help her keep a cool head and rational state of mind. Because that would make for at least one of us.

So here I was, driving in a strange city, in the dark, in a car that was not mine, with a license that has not been used since it was renewed4.

It was easily one of the top ten most stressful experiences of my life. There were times I actually had to turn off the heat because I was sweating5.

And yet somehow, by some strange act of the God of ZipCar or Thor6, an hour later, with the neon blue and yellow sign above us glowing like a beacon of hope, we had arrived. And I was only honked at three times7.

And a set of storage boxes and a floor lamp later, I am home. Safe. Alive. And slowly, gradually, unwinding.

  1. Even though I do not, as the UPS guy asked me, have a “big strong boyfriend to put it together for me.” Feminism FTW.
  2. This may be the greatest thing that has ever come out of a reading of Das Kapital.
  3. How I wish I was exaggerating.
  4. A pink haired picture to boot.
  5. When we got out of the car, Marx said, “My feet are freezing!” And then I felt bad. Though not as bad as I did later than night, when she said, “Can you drop me off at home so I don’t have to carry my new area rug on two trains to East Cambridge?” And I had to say no, because if I didn’t have her, there is no way I would have gotten Darold the ZipCar back to where he needed to be one time.
  6. Who is not Swedish, but I think I get points for being Scandinavian.
  7. And only swore once. I was really controlling myself because Marx is a much better and more sensitive person than I am.
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in which i experience public transporation hell

So the Boston public transportation system and I sort of got off to a rocky start yesterday.

Which was certainly unexpected. Having lived where I have lived and ridden all the various buses and trains and donkeys I have, I thought that Boston public transit would be a synch. And it definitely should have been. But it was not. Instead, it turned into one of the more traumatic days of my life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s back up to yesterday morning.

According to my memory, I had orientation for school on Thursday. So I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me on Wednesday to go into Boston and map out my route to school. You know, just to figure out how long it would take.

So around ten o’clock, I headed to the bus station to catch the bus to the train staiton that would take me into the city. And I waited for a bus.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And forty-five minutes later, there was still no bus.

I have since learned that, here in Lexington, busses come once every hour. Which is sort of bad news if you miss it and are on a tight class schedule like I am going to be.

So after waiting for the bus for forty-five minutes, I thought “Maybe I’m in the wrong spot. Maybe I need to go to the main station instead of standing by a little side post on the side of the road half hidden by a garbage truck.” So I start walking there. Only to have the bus drive past me and away. Which means I got to wait another hour for another bus to come.

But I got there. Two and a half hours later I was in Boston, at the school, buying books and walking around campus1. Then, around two o’clock, I decided to head home, because I was sort of tired and had spilled something on my dress. So I caught the train/bus home. Which also took forever. I ended up again waiting for the bus, all the while trying to coax my practically dead phone into working for just a few more minutes.

Then, just as I walked through the door of my home here in Lexington after an almost two hour commute, I got a text from my mom that said, “Enjoy your orientation dinner tonight.”

So as you may have guessed, I had the day wrong for my orientation. I had spent weeks innocently thinking that it was on Thursday, when in actuality, it was Wednesday.

Let’s do the math, shall we? At this moment, with busses that only come once an hour, it would have taken me two hours to get to Boston. Orientation started at six. It was no four thirty.

Which was all a bit not good.

Oh, also, I had a phone with about twenty-two seconds of battery life left.

So I got on the first bus I could, then used my remaining battery life to call my roommate, The Other MT2, who works in Harvard Square. I left her a panicked message to the effect of, “I know we don’t know each other well enough for me to be asking you for this yet, but could you pleasepleaseplease give me a ride from Harvard Square to Fenway so I can get to my orientation dinner?” TOMT was not crazy about driving on the other side of the river at rush hour, but she agreed3.

So TOMT and I navigated the crazy strange streets on the other side of the river, and, by some strange, bizarre, amazing miracle, I walked4 into orientation at six pm exactly.

And frankly, it sucked. There was hardly anyone from my program there, dinner was awful, and the dean spoke for literally less than five minutes and then it was over. I was there for less than an hour and a half, and it was sort of a joke.

And then I had to fight public transportation yet again.

And for the record, the trains are stellar. They are awesome. The busses make me want to swallow a box of nails. And so I arrived at the bus station about 8:15. And you can probably guess the next part of the story.

I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited for an hour and a half.

No bus.

And then this little man came up to me and said, “Are you waiting for the bus? It stops running at 8 pm.” And then he vanished as strangely as he had appeared.

So here I am, in the darkness, at a sketchy bus station, alone, with no phone, in the dark.

And then a miracle happened. A really nice woman offered to give me a ride home.

And yes, I saw the stranger danger videos as a kid, but she had three teenage kids and a dog, and she was a Harvard doctor, and I probably would have gotten in a car with a guy with a ski mask and chainsaw at that point, I just wanted to be home so badly. But it was not a family of serial killers. It was a family of nice people who helped me, and who, it turns out, live only three streets away from me, and gave me their phone number and said to call them if I had problems again.

And so I arrived home, cracked a diet coke, turned on Doctor Who, and collapsed into a miserable, public transportation-hating heap.

And that is the story of me spending pretty much an entire day on public transportation, which would make any sane person want to jam grape fruit spoons into their eyes.

  1. I had this horrific Mr. Bean moment where I was walking down a hallway, and suddenly from the other end of the hallway, a processional of people in caps and gowns started coming towards me. And I had nowhere to go. So I just walked through the center of some weird graduation processional.
  2. Nickname derived from the fact that she has the same name as my sister, the MT.
  3. Can we all take a moment to appreciate the awesome kindness of TOMT for doing this? Because seriously.
  4. Okay, sprinted
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in which i give what sound like made-up directions, and take the wrong stairs.

If I was to describe to you my walk to work, you would probably think that I was giving you directions to the setting of a children’s fantasy novel, or laying out an absurd practical joke of which you were about to fall victim.

The location of the WBEZ office, which headquarters both NPR in Chicago (which I work for) and one of Chicago’s premier public radio stations, is in an incredibly bizarre location for such a professional establishment. It is located near the end of Navy Pier, also known as Chicago’s best tourist trap, where the thrills are cheap, and the food is not1.

If I were giving you directions to get to the WBEZ office, it would include real instructions such as “As you walk along the pier, go past the House of Mirrors, past the pirate ship, turn left at The Billy Goats Tavern, and if you hit the lighthouse, you’ve gone too far.”

Really. It’s the most unlikely place for a public radio station to be located2.

Once inside, the WBEZ building is not a particularly complex one. But I’ve never been good with directions. Today, I won a small victory when I managed to find the mail room all by myself after only being shown where it was twice, and discovered a new secret door out onto the roof terrace3.

So I was feeling rather confident when I decided to try a new set of stairs down from the third floor. I was also feeling rather good about these stairs because I took them yesterday when our staff went in mass together down to catch a cab to the Chase Bank Auditorium, where we do our weekly live shows.

But, as you may have guessed from the fact that I am writing about it, and I only write about things with a good story attached, the stairs I ended up on were not the same stairs as I took yesterday.

On these stairs, there was a sign on the door saying, “WARNING4  NO REENTRANCE.” Which I thought was odd, but progressed anyways. Only to find that these really weren’t stairs, it was instead a really short ramp thing, next to three stairs that clearly did not lead to another floor, and then another ominous white door with a little window, like something out of mental institution. Just as I realized I had made a grave error, I heard the no reentrance door shut behind me, and lock. Trapped.

Cautiously, unsure what I would find on the other side but mostly panicking that it was also locked, I ventured down the ramp and towards the white door. On the other side, I found what looked like the inside of a conference center, with tall ceilings and carpets that brought to mind the print of my bedroom curtains in England5. The whole room was very nice and spanking clean and had velvet ropes over the doors, clearly signifying that this was not somewhere I was supposed to be.

I wandered the halls for a while, clinging to exit signs when I saw them and praying not to run into security guards. The whole place was eerily still, and I felt myself subconsciously begin to tiptoe.

Eventually I found my way out. I still am not entirely sure where I ended up, other than I finally came out in the seating area of a very expensive restaurant6.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and fled back on to the main thoroughfare, vowing to never again to stray from the path that I knew well.

  1. Seriously, everything on the McDonald’s dollar menu costs two.
  2. It’s also just a few buildings down from a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and yesterday I watched a man vigorously try to get his son to eat there instead of McDonald’s. The son was seven, and totally not buying it.
  3. Which overlooks the lake and oh my lanta it is a view that a landlocked kid from Utah will never grow tired of.
  4. Always a bad way for a sign to start
  5. For those of you who didn’t follow my adventures in England, these curtains were barftastic.
  6. But is there really any other kind on the Pier?
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