August 10, 2005

Commitment to civil-rights activism tested, found wanting

You may have noticed my current inability to keep up with even a super-easy two-day-a-week comics schedule (although I still have three days! We'll see how it goes). It's mostly because I've been experiencing massive levels of burnout on just about every front. I worked over 60 hours at Cargo last week, had another 12-hour day yesterday, and have about 60 hours of freelance work that I need to finish over the course of the rest of August, plus actually filing the taxes that I got an extension on in April, plus remembering to socialize with people so I don't go crazy, plus trying to finish recording some songs while Rose is out of town (it's easier to work on recording when I'm the only person in the apartment), plus work on the inchoate article I'm trying to write about the recent NPL convention, plus plus plus. It's hard to stay in good spirits, or, indeed, focus on any of those things at any given time when the need to work on all the other ones is looming.

I did manage to wake up early enough to run this morning, and it felt great to get some exercise after a week of really. Intense. Sitting. Did the first 2-mile lap in 15:30 and the second in 18:10 with some walking; 33:40 overall, 8:25 per mile average. A decent time for my first run in over a week.

Running in the morning is good for me not merely because, you know, exercise is good, but also because it short-circuits my usual morning loop, which involves me sitting down to check my e-mail and then idly surfing the Web for far too long and then ending up running late for work. So even with a few last-minute oh-crap-I-forgot-something moments involving running back up the stairs for this or that, I got out the door at 9:20, which is the time I generally need to leave by in order to get to work at 10:00 or at least near enough that I can claim on my time sheet that I arrived at 10:00.

Oh, but there's always an "except" when I tell a subway story, isn't there? Yes. I got to the station just as a train was pulling in, but I couldn't speed through the turnstile and run down the stairs as is my wont, because my Metrocard had run out. Well, them's the breaks, I thought, and I turned to get a new Metrocard from the machine -- except all the machines were sold out of monthly Metrocards. They only had single rides available. Naturally, it offends me to have to pay two dollars to get on the subway when I'm only going to be buying a monthly Metrocard later in the day anyway, so I stalked out and started the long walk to the other entrance, where the token booth is. (This involves crossing over a highway via a pedestrian overpass, so it's more time-consuming than your average two-block walk.)

When I got there, I was startled and underdelighted to see that our station was being manned by three policemen, one of whom wanted to search my bag, and the other two of whom wanted me to let him. I did -- because what was I going to do, buy my Metrocard and then take another five-minute walk back to the other end of the station, where, for all I knew, terrorists were entering willy-nilly, what with the total lack of police presence there? (Perhaps the city assumes that terrorists would be confused enough by our American-style revolving-door turnstiles to be rendered helpless and unable to enter the station.) When John Law was done shining a flashlight at the altogether-too-many heavy notebooks and folders and whatnot in my backpack, I slung it over my shoulder without zipping it, since I was just going to be getting a book out of it momentarily anyway. One the cops helpfully pointed out, "Your bag's open." "Yes, I know," I grumbled, mentally adding, "because I just watched it get searched, duh."

The train ride itself was perfectly pleasant, though! I ran into Doug Gordon and we traded book updates (his comes out on New Year's Day) and stories about our copy editors. And the rest of my ride was taken up with reading more of the not-yet-published-but-it's-coming-out-much-sooner-than-Doug's-book David Rakoff essay collection, which is absolutely hilarious, and I would say that even if he hadn't written one of my blurbs.

Posted by Francis at 01:18 PM in Subway

I am intrigued by this as well. There is a manned (front of train) and unmanned (back of train) entrance to my faster-than-thou C train. You know, the "C". Travels under the Financial District, Port Authority, Penn Station and the like (not to mention the always convenient transfers to other points of interest).

Anyway, I too had an expired card, however, I had to go to the front entrance because the back has no vending machines. That, and it is a rank, pee-scented rape chamber just waiting for deviance.

So there were plenty of cops at the main entrance, but a hundred yards or so back? Nothing.

I swear, if someone blows me up on the f-ing subway before I finish Harry Potter, the geniuses behind homeland security are gonna have to deal with a world of pain when my ghost comes after them.

Posted by: Tom at August 10, 2005 03:51 PM

Six paragraphs -> one comment (before mine).

Yesterday, one sentence -> 13 comments.

What does that mean?

Posted by: Orange at August 10, 2005 06:37 PM

Saying less gives other people more room to talk? People love librarian action figures more than they love having their bag searched? Dunno.

Posted by: Francis at August 10, 2005 08:06 PM

My life is always massive amounts of everything (work, books, puzzles, unwatched TiVo, whatever). Overwhelming, but never boring.

I haven't been searched, but it occurred to me walking through the Columbus Circle station yesterday that there were an awful lot of people there and how would anyone know if one of them had an explosive device. That's what we get for living in a target.

Posted by: Ellen at August 11, 2005 12:07 AM

"Underdelighted" -- now, that's a word that needs wider currency!

I'm not so worried about terrorism, even when I am in NYC (mostly because I'm a fatalist) but I wish wish wish that people here in the heartland would shut up about us "being a target." Dude, it's the Midwest. They. don't. care. Might as well accept that being the second city (shut UP, LA) sometimes has a upside.

Posted by: Erin at August 11, 2005 07:51 AM

Almost everything done for "security" post has been done not to make things safer but to give people the impression that they are being protected. You can't put a package weighing more than a pound in a mailbox, you get searched in the subway, you have to get to the airport earlier than ever before. The hope is that people will assume because they are being inconvenienced that this means they are being protected. So arbitrarily searching people only at certain entrances completely fulfills the purpose of the searches; to make people feel something is being done.

Feel safer now?

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