Crazy People on NYC Trains

Since I returned to NYC, I haven’t had the distinct pleasure of encountering any crazy people on the trains yet, but I haven’t given up hope.  It’s wildly entertaining, as long as they don’t turn violent, and there’s definitely no short supply of weirdos here.

In case you weren’t aware just how crazy they can get, I’ve pulled a few samples from YouTube, for your viewing pleasure:

(Warning: It’s not likely that any of these are suitable to be watched at work or around small children.)

On an early Sunday morning. The girl taking the video was on her way home from the club. At one point, she calls the girl taking the video a whore.
This woman sings a little song about lesbians and “batty boys”.
I think the caption on the video itself says it all.
Sounds like she really doesn’t like her mother, especially her breasts and her ass.
Crazy guy just acting weird.
Guy talking to himself, almost gets hit by the train as it enters the station.

Yup. It seems like this sort of craziness is part of the daily commute.  I’ve seen some weirdos, but not on the train yet.  My favorite was a meth head that was standing still and kept leaning forward until she almost fell over, then jerking back upright, over and over in the middle of the sidewalk near Union Square.  I can’t wait til I have a chance to upload some videos of my own to share!

MTA’s SBS Bus Service Is A Big Step In The Wrong Direction

MTA Ticket Machines for Limited Buses in New York City.

The M15 limited bus is one of the new SBS buses in New York City.  It uses a new system where you buy a ticket from one of the machines pictured above before you board the bus and then you can enter the bus from any of the doors, rather than just the front door where the driver is.  It’s also supposed to have a dedicated bus lane and, though I have no clue how this works, priority at traffic lights.

The problem I see with this is that it doesn’t really save time at all and it wasn’t advertised enough.  I’ve only been back in the city for a little while, so it’s really no surprise that I hadn’t heard of this before having to figure it out firsthand, but other commuters seemed just as confused by the thing as I did, including my mother, who was born here and, after some time away, moved back 17 years ago.  She watches the news regularly but had never heard of this change and it wound up causing an incident on the bus we took this afternoon, the M15 at 1st Avenue and 14th Street.

You see, we showed up at the bus stop and boarded the bus just like any other bus.  The driver sat there and watched us come in through the front door.  He watched my mom dip her MetroCard into the machine and saw that it deducted the transit fare.  Then as she started to walk away, he called her back and told her she needed a ticket from one of the machines outside.  After she had already paid.  To get a ticket from the machine she would have to pay again.  We wound up having to get off the bus.

My question is this: why did the driver watch my mother dip her card and deduct a fare when he knew that wasn’t the appropriate method for boarding the bus?  Why is the card reader even on the bus in the first place if it’s not used for these limited buses?  And what recourse does my mother have now to recover the money taken from her?  None.

The driver gave my mom one of those paper transfer cards and told her to try that in the ticket machine, but it didn’t work, and of course he drove off right away rather than having to continue dealing with the problem.  Not that he could wait around forever of course, with a bus full of passengers, but it still feels like he was trying to evade the problem.

So, in the end, my mom got shorted one fare today.  One fare may not sound like much to some people, but every dollar counts and it’s not just the amount, it’s the principle.  The NYC MTA stole money from my mother today.  That’s bullshit.

Getting back to what I was saying about the process not being any faster, like SBS claims, I believe that it’s all a trick to make things seem faster.  The only faster part about it is getting on the bus.  It still takes just as long for people to get off the bus.  It also takes quite a while to get a ticket.  I haven’t been there during the morning rush hour but we spoke to one lady who said that in the morning there are long lines of people waiting to use the machine to get a ticket, and while you’re standing there in line waiting, you’re missing buses that go by.  So, how is it really making it faster for passengers to start at point A and reach point B?  I also don’t recall the bus using any special lane on 1st avenue, or having some sort of special privilege at the traffic lights.

This whole system just makes things more confusing than they have to be, and it feels like a step backward rather than a step forward.  Seriously MTA, paper tickets?  You know that’s what they do in third world countries, right?  Everyone else in the world is moving towards a permanent prepaid card that you use indefinitely.  You don’t even scan, slide or dip it.  You simply tap it on a panel that reads the chip in the card to do the fare deduction.  You don’t even have to take it out of your wallet.  That’s easy and faster.  Imagine getting on the bus and dragging your purse over a pad to make your payment, or bumping your wallet against a pad before tucking it back into your pocket.  No more fumbling with getting a card in and out of your purse/wallet/pocket.  And you know how the secret inspectors verify that you’ve paid?  They have a handheld device that reads passengers’ cards to show when they last used them and for what bus.  They don’t walk around asking for paper tickets.

One last thing I’d like to mention is the extra costs involved in this venture.  The SBS signs on the buses point out how they use less energy because the buses are at the stops for a shorter amount of time.  That’s all well and good, but what about the cost of all of the ticket machines?  And how is it greener to print paper tickets for every single person for every single ride!!!!!!????  One of the simplest concepts in ‘going green’ is to reduce the use of paper to save forests, not increase it unnecessarily.

The money that’s been wasted on this project should have been used to replace buses with newer, more fuel efficient models, or to upgrade the system to permanent, prepaid tap cards.  As far as this goes, though, it’s a step towards the third world in a city that’s supposed to be the best.

Two Quiet Weeks in Georgia

My blog has been pretty quiet lately, and that’s because I’ve been down in Georgia visiting family.  It’s nice and quiet there, so quiet in fact that the advertisements in the newspaper are sometimes thicker than the newspaper itself.  So… that doesn’t leave much to talk about.  The paper even covered the disappearance of a Ronald McDonald statue, though that is kinda funny.  Somewhere in Columbus, Ronald McDonald is always sitting on a couch, ready to hang out with the person that stole him from a McDonald’s bench.

That’s not to say nothing interesting happened though.  Well, interesting to me at least!

Super WalMart is huge!

We did a lot of shopping!  We did so much shopping, in fact, that I had to pack a box to mail back to NYC.  Thankfully, the shipping cost was less than the checked baggage fee on Delta and it showed up the day after I got back to NY, spending only two days in transit.

Dunkin Donuts ground coffee.

We also did a lot of grocery shopping for big family dinners.  While browsing the shelves I kept finding new stuff that I hadn’t seen before, like Dunkin Donuts having their own line of ground coffee.  I also got excited about stuff I hadn’t eaten since before I left the US, like Toaster Strudels and Fudge Shoppe cookies.

Kadie the cow in Columbus, Georgia.

I finally got a picture with Kadie the cow.  This giant cow used to sit in front of the Kinnett Dairy plant, which has since gone out of business and been replaced by a Best Buy.  The original plan was to remove the cow, but it had been there for so long that the plan caused an uproar in the town and it was allowed to remain standing.  There used to be a baby cow next to it, which is why there are those extra blocks stuck in the ground.  The baby cow was stolen, returned, and is now supposedly in storage somewhere.

Old toys from when I was a kid.

I saw this red box and the wooden toys that were inside it for the first time in years.  That red box is at least 21 years old.  I thought it had been thrown out a long time ago.  The wooden blocks have marbles inside and you have to twist and turn them to get them to come out.

This yard needed some serious work!

I did a lot of yard work.  Raking up these leaves took about 6 hours over the course of two days.  It was hard work, but in a way it was also relaxing.

A real cat named Garfield.

I met a cat named Garfield that thought the perfect place to sleep at night was right on top of my chest, and would purr until I fell asleep.

I had a good time doing a whole lot of nothing on this trip, aside from the shopping I mentioned.  It was all about hanging out with family and relaxing before coming back to NYC to get back to work.  Now that I am back in NY, I have a bunch of errands to take care of and then it’s time to start a new job.

It’s also time to start really blogging about NY!  So, look for that in upcoming posts.

Maybe Laptop Prices in Singapore Weren’t That Good After All?

A long view down an aisle at a Super Walmart.

My aunt’s mother says that if you can’t find it at Walmart, you don’t need it, and you really could live by that.  A Super Walmart has groceries, clothes, electronics, and even car parts and it’s all sold for low, low, sometimes ridiculously low prices.  I remember when I was younger I didn’t like the idea of shopping at Walmart, but that was back before I was spending my own money on the things I wanted to buy.  Now that everything is coming out of my own pocket, I look for good deals over fancy brand labels.

Something Walmart seems to be doing really well at is their laptop pricing.  Have a look:

Laptop prices at a Super Walmart.

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I remember seeing that 278 USD (362 SGD) Acer for sale in Singapore for 600 SGD.  I remember seeing that 298 USD (388 SGD) HP laptop for 800 SGD in Singapore.

Walmart really does have some low prices, and I’m not complaining.

Re-used Commercial Soda Bottles, Philippines Style

Re-used coke bottles in the US, Philippines style.

This is a photo I forgot to add onto the end of yesterday’s post.  I found these in The Fresh Market.  If you look at the Sprite bottles and the Coke Light bottle, you’ll notice there are white rings around them in the middle and at the bottom.  The reason they have those rings is because the bottles have been reused.

I don’t know how they do it exactly in Mexico, but bottles in the Philippines look exactly the same way if you buy them from the many ‘sari-sari’ stores, which are mini-convenience stores.  The factory ships out bottles of drinks and the shop owner either makes you stand at the store and finish it, or pours the drink into a plastic bag, sticks a straw in it, and hands it to you.  This is because the bottles have a deposit on them that they can’t get back until they ship them back to the factory when the truck next arrives.

So, the empty bottles go back to the plant, run through the machines, are refilled and sent back out.  Being run through the factory over and over is what gives them the distinctive white rings.  So, if you’re ever in a 3rd world country and you see that on the bottles, keep that in mind.  It’s not unsafe to consume, or at least I never got sick from it, but I did one time find a candy wrapper inside the bottle, luckily before I had taken a drink from it.

As for why they’re selling them here in the US at an upscale grocery chain, I have no clue.  I can only guess that it appeals to some people’s sense of living more simply, though the fact they’re getting imported bottles of cheap soda from a poor country at a high price in a high end grocery store is a bit … ridiculous.