Saturday, November 01, 2008

On the Night after Halloween

Tonight, that is. There's nothing special about it being after Halloween. It just sounded appropriately portentious.

Well, inappropriately, I suppose.

I had a plan for the evening. A plan of action. It began with my departure from the eighth and highest floor of the Geisel Library at 5:45, even as the staff had begun to turn out the lights. (It closes early on Friday and Saturday nights. Other days, it's open until 1 AM.) I had therein been engaged in a "study session" with some of my suitemates. This meant, in practice, that I did my Math 20C homework, while the others read, took notes, and edited a video, respectively. The video is especially notable - it consisted of low-quality footage from 3 AM, showing two of my suitemates spraying shaving cream on their room-mate's face as he slept. (That same fellow, Jordan H., was at the session. He seemed agreeably amused about the whole thing.)

But I departed.

I was amused to find that someone had slipped an advertisement for a bike shop into the space between my bike lock and frame while it was parked. It seemed very appropriate. I still have it. It's not that tempting an ad, but context made it.

Perhaps owing to the distraction of the bike-shop ad, I found myself with little time as I headed back to my suite. I considered dropping off my backpack, but time was very short, and I decided against in the end. Laden with my backpack, which held
- 20-pound laptop. (If I recall correctly.)
- Wireless mouse+USB dongle.
- Power cord+brick.
- Notebook
- Calculator
- and misc. supplies,
I turned back just short of the suite, reversing my course for part of the way to my final destination. En route, I had a dreadful realization: my phone's battery was in the red. Were I to contact someone for the return, I would have to rely on my laptop - with its tremendously unreliable behavior when on battery power. (It is spectacularly unreliable. The number of times it's mysteriously gone to sleep or - worse - simply shut itself off, on 80+% charge, cannot be held on one hand.) But I am ever intrepid - thus my middle name, "Fearless". (Nicholas "Fearless" Feinberg. You've probably heard it before.) I continued on, undeterred.

Also I had some sort of plan to charge my phone via the laptop, forgetting momentarily that I would have needed to visit the suite to get the requisite connection cable. Whoops!

At last, as the sky darkened overhead, I arrived at my next waypoint - the bus stop. It was 6:00 PM.

There were a number of other people there. Some of them seemed to have come from my final destination, but they ended up taking another bus, which soothed me. It was a long wait. I spoke to a girl there, a senior, who was rather more experienced in the ways of public transit. (This was the first time I'd taken a bus in years, maybe the first time ever that I'd taken one on my own.) In questioning her, I learned that I was indeed at the correct place, and that the bus would indeed take my bicycle. (This was reassuring.) On the minus side, the bus, contrary to the infallible schedules I'd referenced online, had come about ten minutes earlier, and wouldn't be back for at least twenty minutes. So, I waited.

There were a number of guys waiting at the same bus stop, each with an iPhone, playing a game called "Cube Runner". They tried to beat each-others' high scores, with occasional instances of foul play being perpetrated. I'd already seen this game - one of my friends played it. I was forced to link him to CUBE. Remarkable that he hadn't already seen it.

Across the road waited a couple. One of them wore an XKCD shirt, the one that I own. I'd passed him on the way to the bus stop, and gave him a thumbs-up. He gave me a strange look.


Finally, after over twenty minutes of waiting, the bus arrived: Bus 30. (I'd seen it go by the other way, picking up the XKCD couple. They weren't on it when it returned. Unsurprising.) I put my bicycle on the front, having some difficulty with it. I was rather worried that it would fall off, understandably. I was last on the bus, though not by a large margin; the bus driver didn't bother to check my ID, instead smiling at me and offering some conciliatory words. (He had likely been watching as I wrestled with my bike.) I spent the ride watching my bike and alternately worrying that it would fall off (this worry diminishing as the ride continued), worrying that I would miss my stop, and listening to a strange conversation going on behind me.

It had something to do with sentries and encasements that one of the conversationalists - though only one - would agree was "baby blue, baby sky blue." Pretty strange.

By the time I got off the bus, about ten minutes later, it was fully dark. As I hadn't returned to my suite, I also had no light for my bike; I rode around very carefully in the busy parking lot at which I had arrived, hunting for my two destinations. I had little luck. Turning back from my first hunting place - this being a fairly large shopping mall, there was a large area to search, and the signage was unhelpful - I ambushed a scooter-riding fellow who was travelling in the same direction, asking where the local Chipotle was. He told me that it was near the Ralph. "Aha!" I might have cried. (Though I didn't.) "Both of my goals, in one place!"

Also, there was a gigantic, glowing church (?) in the distance. It looked exactly like the castle in the Disney logo. Very strange.

I traveled through the busy, dimly-lit parking lot for several minutes, circling the Ralph's. I reached a dead-end without finding the Chipotle, and nearly despaired. Had my informant been in error? I turned around, back-tracking - and there was the Chipotle for which I had quested! I had missed it on my first pass due to the oblique angle at which I passed it, I surmised. The time was 6:40 PM.

I locked my bike to the railing outside the Chipotle and entered. I ordered my ordinary meal and ate in the ordinary way. It was delicious and tasted - perverse though that may sound - just like home.

It soothed me.

Afterward, at 6:55 PM, I unlocked my bicycle, mounted it, and rode all of twenty feet before I reached an entrance to Ralph's. (I hadn't realized that there was a door on that side.) I re-locked my bike and ventured in. Ten minutes later, I emerged, brandishing the goods for which I'd come: deoderant and a pack of socks. (I'd actually come looking for deoderant and another item, but I ended up getting socks instead. It made more sense at the time.)

This was a moment of decision. For I had planned the trip out - finding bus schedules online, much good that it did me in the end - but I had not planned the trip back. I knew not the bus that would take me back where I came - were there even one - so I set out, in the dark, on my bicycle. I would traverse the obstacle that had deterred me earlier in the day, as I tried to make the trip entirely abicycle. I would pass through...


(Like a hill, but it goes down instead of up.)

En route, I encountered some people holding signs at a stop-light: "Say No to Proposition 8!" One, a woman, asked me if I wanted more information. I told her I'd already voted against it. We high-fived.

Then the light changed, and I was off. Thankfully, the lights favoured me on the down-hill section; I gained a pretty good head of speed, passing another bicyclist who'd been caught at a later light. I would need it; for, though there were thankfully no lights on the climb back up, it was still a long and unpleasantly steep slope. The speed I'd gained on the downhill was quickly lost; I geared down to my 1-1, practically crawling upwards. A swaying light came from behind me; I surmised, correctly, that it was the bicyclist I had passed on the way down. As I, panting, crested the top of the terrible dip, I called back to her, "Am I breaking your wind nicely?*" (This, of course, at my achingly-slow 5 MPH.) She agreed that I was.

At the next light, we spoke briefly. I learned that she was a fellow student; interestingly, an exchange student, here from exotic England. She had a light, but no helmet; I'm not certain which of us was less safe. (I'd spoken with one of my room-mates when I biked up to the library, several hours ago - apparently, he'd worn a helmet at home, but didn't here because he "never went that fast." After that, we had a discussion on good hills to descend for high speeds - he promised to show me one I hadn't gone down. I didn't recognize the irony at the time.)

And then, finally, I was home; tube socks and deoderant triumphantly acquired.

Joy and joy everlasting!

*I phrased it poorly; I blame borderline exhaustion.

No comments: