OK Google, Where Am I?

This morning, I decided, entirely on a whim, to take Link light rail all the way to work.

As I stood on the platform at Capitol Hill Station, reading a book on my phone, a message popped up. It was from Google. It said: “Travel time to work: 8 minutes (via southbound I-5)”. There was a little glyph of a car next to the message.

I get unsolicited weather reports from Google constantly, but that was the first time I had ever received an unsolicited traffic report.

My first thought was: How does Google know where I work?

Of course, I immediately knew the answer: I’m carrying a smartphone with a GPS receiver in my pocket.

I wasn’t at work, though. So, not only did it know where I work, it remembered.

My next thought was: If Google knows where I work, and is able to give me travel information, why doesn’t it notice that I’m inside a light rail station? Why is it giving me driving time?

Still, I was kind of impressed. Google remembered where I work, saw where I was, and decided to tell me how long it’s going to take me to drive there. It didn’t, however, remember that I have never, ever, driven to work in all the time I have owned my smartphone. (I would have been truly impressed if it had seen that I was inside Capitol Hill Station and voluntarily told me when the next train was due.)

By the way, Google: Even if I were to drive the two miles from home to work, I wouldn’t take that convoluted detour down to the freeway, only to exit a quarter-mile later, just shave a minute off my travel time.

Google entertained me while I waited for the train to arrive.

Morning Encounters

On the mezzanine level of Westlake Station this morning, I saved a couple of tourists from taking the wrong elevator. I pointed them to the down elevator. As I headed down the stairs, I saw them both tap their ORCA cards. So, maybe they were locals, heading out of town, and not tourists.

As I was waiting to cross 3rd Avenue, I was greeted by a group of Native American men. We all agreed it was a beautiful morning. One of them asked me what time it was, and I told him. He said, “Thanks, brother!” The light turned green, and we all went on our way.

I seem to get greeted by groups of Native American men a lot. Maybe it happens to everyone. Maybe I look vaguely Native American. Maybe it’s my ponytail. Maybe it’s a coincidence. I don’t know.

Fan On The Bus

I stopped off at the Downtown Post Office, on 3rd Ave, on my way home today, and bought stamps.

Then I walked over to Target, on 2nd Ave, and went shopping for a fan.

Our current living room fan is dying. Not only is it taking minutes for the blades to start turning, but the blades will occasionally stop turning while the fan’s in use. We’ll be sitting at the computer, and begin to wonder why the apartment is so much warmer. Then we’ll turn around and see the fan had stopped turning. If we change the speed, up or down, it usually starts turning after several minutes.

It was a cheap fan that we bought on sale at Rite Aid. Actually, it was the second fan we bought at Rite Aid – we had to return the first one because it was broken right out of the box. It served us a few years.

The one good thing about that fan is that it came with a remote control. We don’t have to walk across our tiny living room to turn it on.


Whether or not I bought a fan at Target today depended on the size of the box it came it. Would I be able to carry it home on a bus?

I found a fan that looked nice. I carried up the aisle, then back again. I was satisfied that it was portable enough, so I carried it downstairs to the Check Out and bought it.

It was pretty much essential that I caught a 47 home today. I had no problem carrying the fan box under my arm, but I didn’t feel like carrying it too many blocks. I carried the fan up to 4th Avenue. At 47 arrived in 4 minutes.

Walking onto the bus with a fan box under my arm reminded me very much of a book I’m reading (which I’ll reveal soon).

Several of my coworkers were concerned about getting home today, with May Day parades scheduled Downtown. I found exactly the opposite was true. The streets were clearer than usual. The 70 I caught up 3rd Avenue actually made it through three consecutive green lights. I’m guessing the demonstrations must be in another part of town.

Train Delay, And Movies

Starting at 5:43 this morning, I received a series of texted Transit Alerts. First: Link light rail is interrupted by a blockage on the tracks. Then: Link is not serving the northbound platform at Othello Station. Use the southbound platform.

Then: Link is not operating between Rainier Beach and Columbia City. Alternate transportation is being provided. Then: Link is back to serving the southbound platform at Othello Station, but not the northbound platform.

Finally, at 6:38: Link light rail has resumed normal operations at all stations, with service delays.

I rode the 47 bus to Westlake Station. The southbound platform was jammed with people and suitcases. Two northbound Link trains came and went, and I remembered this morning’s text messages. Several southbound buses came and went, and I remembered that I don’t have to ride light rail – anything moving through the tunnel will take me to Pioneer Square. (I’ve become used to seamless, reliable light rail service.)

I began making my way up to the front of the platform. Then a southbound Link train arrived. It was a 2-car train, and it was packed full. I managed to find a space inside, near the door.

If I’d trusted my initial instinct, I would have had a seat on a bus rather than crammed into the aisle of a light rail train.

I don’t know what caused the delay – signal malfunction, car running a red light, or something else. Whatever it was, it wasn’t big enough to make the local news. It doesn’t really matter. It was handled swiftly, I was kept informed, and I wasn’t late for work.

Meanwhile, I’m on a Wes Anderson kick. His films are beautiful and thoughtful. He has a unique, immediately recognizable style.

At the moment, Moonrise Kingdom is my favorite Wes Anderson film, with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in a close second. I loved The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Fantastic Mr. Fox didn’t grab me, unfortunately. It was lovely to watch, but I just didn’t get into the story.

I haven’t seen either The Royal Tenebaums and Rushmore (yet).

Nice Bag

I’ve been riding Link light rail home quite a lot this week. On Tuesday, I rode it home because my hold on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou had arrived at the Capitol Hill Library. I rode it home on Wednesday because I had an appointment with my chiropractor.

It’s not that I need a reason to ride light rail. It’s just that, unless I have something to attend to up on Broadway, it’s more convenient for me to ride the 47 bus home.

I rode it home today. We’d watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou last night, and I had two more Wes Anderson DVDs – Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox – ready for pickup.

I trained a new employee at work today, who actually didn’t need much training, but I had to start work early, and, of course, leave early.

Two Fare Inspectors boarded the same car as me at Westlake Station this evening. The one who checked my ORCA card also complemented me on my Cthulhu-patterned bag. He then told me that he has a cat named Cthulhu. (I didn’t tell him that I’m not really into the whole Cthulhu mythos – I just like the design.)

I dropped off one Wes Anderson DVD at the library, and picked up two more.

We’d both seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou long ago, but, it turned out, we’d both forgotten most of it. I loved it a lot. I listened to someone’s YouTube review today – he had an interesting view that the whole movie was actually narrated by Steve Zissou, who, the reviewer pointed out, is an unreliable narrator, which explains the movie’s fantastical elements.

Poles, The Next Day

It’s actually very rare that I see a trolley bus in Seattle lose its poles. So, to be inside a bus while it loses its poles is remarkable. To be inside two buses, losing their poles, in one day, as I was yesterday – that it was blog-worthy.

Today, I experienced the opposite effect.

I caught a 1 bus up 3rd Avenue this evening. At 3rd & Union, we were stopped by a crew doing something on the overhead wires. As our driver waited for a signal to proceed, I saw a 47 bus passing through the intersection, moving up Pike. I was going to miss it.

While we waited, our driver lowered the poles from inside the bus. (That is so cool!) Just as he switched the motor over to battery power, a wire worker signaled for us to proceed.

I exited the bus and walked around the corner.

There was a 10 (a trolley bus) in the middle of the stop, with nothing ahead of it. I don’t know what was going on.

That 47 (another trolley bus) I’d seen earlier was in the center lane. It lowered its poles, and pulled around the 10. The driver got out as passengers were boarding, returned the poles to the wire, returned to his seat, the light turned green, and we proceeded.

The 10 was right behind us. Whatever it experienced didn’t last long.

A New Bus Schedule

There was a Spin bike in the rack inside the Link train this morning. I wondered if someone had picked it up a station to have transportation from their destination (not a bad idea), or if someone had dropped it off there (a bad idea).

I caught a 7 bus up 3rd Avenue this evening. The driver had an odd pattern of speeding up and slowing down – in places where trolley bus drivers don’t typically speed up or slow down. Then I remembered that Metro started a new service schedule last Saturday, and I realized that there were a lot of new drivers out there.

(There wasn’t any change to my morning 47, so I’d forgotten about the service change.)

Just as she pulled into the stop at 3rd & Pike (the last stop for the northbound 7), our driver lost the poles (pulled them off the wires) and she coasted into the stop.

I got to the stop at 4th & Pike. Just as I started to check OneBusAway, I saw a 47 bus approaching.

The 47 loaded its passengers. The traffic light turned green, the lane ahead was empty, so the driver floored it. I thought to myself: “He’s going to lose his poles speeding through the switch ahead like this.”

And he lost his poles.


The 47 bus didn’t show up this morning, again. I didn’t receive a text alert about it, again.

I walked up and over to Olive Way, and just missed a 10 bus. OneBusAway told me I had a 10 minute wait for the next 10 bus. So, I continued walking up to Capitol Hill Station, and rode Link light rail to work. I got to work on time, as always.

When I boarded Link, a guy was getting a lecture from a Fare Inspector, because the guy didn’t have a ticket. The Fare Inspector also gave the guy directions on how to get to King Street Station.

I’ve filed a complain with Metro, again, about not being alerted when the 47 doesn’t show up.

The last time I filed a compliant, Metro told me the 47 hadn’t shown up because they had no available drivers. They also advised me to sign up for text alerts. This morning, in my complaint, I referenced both of those things.

I told Metro that there were about a dozen people at my stop this morning, relying on Metro to get them to work. I asked that the next time their drivers don’t bother showing up for work, at least let us know whether we should keep waiting or seek out another route, because we want to show up for work. I told them that I want this service repaired.

I told Metro that I’ve been signed up for text alerts for years. I’ve signed up for alerts for the 8, 10, 47, 49, 60, the streetcar, and light rail, and that I receive timely alerts for all of these – except the 47. I told them I want to know why I don’t receive alerts for the 47.

(I forgot about the 43 in my compliant – I also receive text alerts about it.)

My complaint this morning was angrier in tone than my previous one, but I was in a bad mood.

Light Rail Rides

I was waiting on the platform at Westlake Station this morning when I saw a guy in a leather jacket with a cool Bela Lugosi movie poster sewn onto the back. I had an urge to photograph it, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I could just ask him, but how would I explain why I wanted to photograph it?

The guy in the leather jacket was among a group of people with suitcases, obviously waiting for Link light rail to take them to the airport.

I decided that he was in a public space, and I was taking a photo of the station. Besides, you don’t wear such a large decoration if you don’t want people to notice it. I figured that as long as I cropped people’s faces out, and I framed it so the jacket was part of the overall scene, it would be OK. I took the photo holding my phone vertically, so it wouldn’t be so obvious that I was taking a photo. (Later, I cropped the photo horizontally.)

The train arrived, and I went through the same door as the leather jacket guy and his friends. As we passed I said to him, “Nice jacket!” He nodded, but gave me a blank look. Either he didn’t hear what I’d said, or he didn’t speak English.

I hardly ever ride light rail home these days. Link has become more of a tool than a toy to me, and that’s a good thing. With the addition of Capitol Hill and University of Washington Stations, our light rail system has increased its usefulness, and I no long feel that I need to support it. I am pleased to see the system grow.

Link light rail gets me from Pioneer Square Station to Capitol Hill Station faster than the 47 bus gets me home, but it also gets me farther from home. I discovered, long ago, that the time it takes me to walk home from Capitol Hill Station is exactly equal to the time I spend waiting to transfer to the 47 at 4th & Pike, so I get home at the same time with either option. So, unless I need to be on Broadway, to pick up a book at the library, or food at QFC, or I have a chiropractor appointment, I’ve been opting for the shorter walk home.

Maybe when the weather becomes more pleasant, I’ll opt for a light rail ride home more often.

Snow, Here Or There

It started snowing on Capitol Hill last night. It wasn’t enough to cover much more than the grass, the tops of trees, and the tops of parked cars. Neither one of us seemed motivated to go outside and play in the snow. I don’t know if it was the measly amount of snow, or a feeling that the season was over, or what.

We woke up this morning to the same amount of snow. There wasn’t any more accumulation, nor had much melted away.

My office tends to close down in “inclement weather”. The same goes for Phillip’s office. I couldn’t imagine the amount of snow on Capitol Hill could close either office down, but Seattle is known for its microclimates. It could be snowing there, but not snowing here.

I went to the SDOT traffic web site – the “SDOT Travelers Home Page”, they call it. Traffic cameras showed bare streets in both Downtown and the U District. (Isn’t the internet wonderful?) Our offices would be open.

A coworker sent me a text message, asking if I’d heard whether our office would be open. Apparently, they had an inch or two of snow, south of Seattle. I sent them a screen shot of a traffic camera a few blocks from our office. Our office would be open, and we’d both be coming in on light rail. Neither one of us would be getting a snow day today.

Phillip left for work, heading up the hill to catch the 49. I left a few minutes later.

I didn’t trust the 47 to show up. (I can’t shake the feeling that Metro is still trying to kill that route, and will use any excuse to disrupt it.) So I walked up the hill, taking the less steep hills since sidewalks had patches of ice here and there, to Capitol Hill Station, and rode light rail to Downtown.

The streets were oddly empty when I left work this evening. I kept looking at my watch, checking to see if I was actually leaving work at the right time. I guessed that a lot of people had taken a snow day today.

I caught a 70 bus up 3rd Avenue, to the stop at 4th & Pike. OneBusAway told me a 47 was due in 2 minutes.

A trolley bus turned the corner from 3rd, into the bus stop. Its sign read “To Terminal”. The only time I see buses turn from 3rd like that, they turn out to be a 43. Except those 43 buses are always diesels.

The driver of that mystery bus sat at the stop, behind a 10, with the doors open. He was studying the schedule card intently.

Then he changed the bus signs to read: “47 To Summit”.

Obviously, that driver had come directly from the bus station as a last-minute addition to the 47 route. So, maybe, Metro cares about the 47 after all.