Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Mandatory issue

Normally, I don't plug products. However, on my recent trip to the US, I discovered a product that should be mandatory for all ipodiots (see definition in one of my earlier posts).

There's a product called yurbuds, which are "earbud enhancers". I bought a pair for running. They are semi-custom silicone covers that slip over the ear end of earbuds and prevent them from falling out of the ear canal. They also have the added benefit of directing the sound into the ear canal, reducing the volume at which one has to listen. They also prevent the sound from coming OUT and disturbing one's fellow travellers.

This simple invention ( may be a crime prevention tool. Without it, I predict an outbreak of rage-induced homicides in which angry commuters strangle inconsiderate jerks with their own headphone cords. They may even be celebrated by the press as "have a go heroes". So, join me today in petitioning for yurbuds to be required for use on all public transportation and prevent violence.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Back to the grind. And the gross.

I'm very fortunate that although I have a crazy commute, I am also able to work from home when the students are away, so for two glorious weeks in December, my alarm did not ring at 5:30.

I had to travel during the unexpectedly heavy snows. There were people slipping over on the icy, glasslike pavements and busses stopped running. But the trains kept running. I can't figure this out, because they are unpredictable during good weather and frequently late or cancelled due to adverse weather. My personal favourites are leaves on the track and rain. It is England, after all. However, 3 feet of snow was not a problem, and I was grateful.

I travelled to the US last week and was thwarted from reaching the airport for my return journey by a freak outbreak of sinkholes opening in the roads, but otherwise the trip was fantastic. I returned relaxed and feeling quite productive, only to be slapped in the face by the horrible reality of public transportation. Nothing quite says, "Welcome home!" Iike a mentally disturbed person drumming agitatedly on all surfaces of the train and loudly hawking up lughies and spitting them into fast food wrappers.

My first journey back into work was met with a sort of ying and yang harmony. The bus was broken down at my stop and I was nearly late. However, the replacement bus driver was a smouldering Brad Pitt lookalike with dark hair. Good morning. The train was abysmally late and platform changes sent me running up and down several flights of stairs at breakneck speed. But when it arrived, there were 5 carriages. 5!

This morning, missing bus and no Brad Pitt. I did get a coffee, but was put off drinking it by a woman(!) hacking the contents of her lungs and sinuses onto the platform. She was chattering loudly in Mandarin into her mobile while doing it, so I can only hope that it was a culturally acceptable thing to her. Otherwise, she and crazy dude may be the harbingers of a new phlegm trend. If that's the case, I'm moving.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow Surprising

After a blissful 3 weeks of working from home, it's time to return to work. The landscape is covered with a glorious blanket of white and all is silent. Oh, wait. It's because there are 2 inches of snow on the ground and the city has ground to a halt. There are no buses, and I'm getting text alerts that the trains are delayed. I'm supposed to fly internationally in two days and the airports are closed. 

I wouldn't mind if these "freak snowstorms" were a freaky occurrence, but they occur several times over the winter. Every year.Why can't we seem to cope when the rest of Europe plugs along quite happily all year?  Snow chains, all-weather tyres and some preparation on the behalf of public transport and councils: it's not a big ask.