Winter.

This entire thing is kind of ironic, given I live in southern California, and everyone knows the joke about winter here. However, when I search for excuses as to why I haven’t written a post in almost a month, that is the only one that I come up with.

It’s winter, such as it is; the season is taking its toll.

I hope everyone will bear with me patiently until the sun comes out again. (I need others to be patient with me, because when this sort of thing happens I’m less capable of being patient and gentle with myself.)

Winter.

Basic bus etiquette.

While these things seem like common sense, one of the things that I’ve learned while driving the bus is that common sense is anything but common, unfortunately. So I wanted to suggest a few things that will make everyone’s day run smoother.

Most of these are drawn from my experience as a bus operator, but they’re widely applicable no matter where you take the bus. They’re applicable whether you take the bus every day during your commute or only once in a blue moon going out somewhere.

Posts out there that discuss etiquette on public transportation come mostly from the point of view of being courteous to your fellow riders, but it’s important to be courteous to the bus operator, too. Wherever you are, they are just trying to do their job; that includes collecting fare and dealing with passengers all while driving safely and watching out for hazards on the road. It can be a lot to deal with all at once, and discourteous passengers just make it more challenging and a lot less pleasant.

Have your fare ready.

Riding the bus, have your fare ready when you step on. Have your card out already so that you can tap it, or have the exact change for your fare. Pay your fare quickly, and then step further into the bus so that the rest of the passengers can continue boarding. If there is a line of people out the door of the bus while one person fumbles through their purse to look for change, it holds up the bus.

If you don’t have your fare ready, let the operator know, step inside, and let everyone who does have their fare ready pay. Doing this allows the bus to keep moving. Which brings me to the next point of public transportation etiquette…

Don’t use speakerphone.

Especially, especially at the farebox. Speakerphone is useful for a lot of instances, but when you’re getting on the bus and having a conversation on speakerphone, it broadcasts your business to everyone else on the bus. Moreover, continuing to have a conversation on speakerphone while paying at the farebox is just downright rude. Additionally, it means you are likely to be focused on your conversation and miss any instruction given to you by the bus operator. In fact…

Don’t play your music on speaker.

At all. Just don’t do it.

Wear headphones! Always wear headphones. By wearing headphones and keeping your music at a low, reasonable volume, you can both block out the noise of the bus— after all, buses are big vehicles full of people and that can be really noisy— and you can be considerate of those around you.

On most public transportation systems, loud or disruptive music is not only rude, but it’s additionally against the rules. It’s posted, and that means that you’re really better off obeying it. If your music is too loud, other passengers and the bus operator are all within their rights to ask you to turn it down. And if someone does ask you to turn it down, it’s to your absolute advantage to listen.

Don’t smoke at the bus stops.

Putting your cigarette out right before you get on the bus or right as the bus rolls up to the stop means that I’m holding my breath trying not to cough and simultaneously trying not to breathe in the smell of cigarettes. Not only that, but in some cities smoking in public places is illegal and carries a hefty violation fine. Lastly…

Let passengers exit first, before boarding.

I’ve entirely lost count of the number of times I’ve pulled up to a bus stop, opened the doors, and people just barge straight in. Meanwhile, there’s someone trying to exit the bus who now has to wait for people who just got on, and it’s the equivalent of a traffic jam in a narrow road.

When the bus arrives, wait a minute and let people exit before boarding the bus. By waiting, you actually save time and help the bus continue on schedule. Although the common rule should be that you board through the front doors and exit through the rear doors, there are instances in which this doesn’t work out, especially when the rear doors of the bus are a little farther from the curb, or open into bushes or uneven ground. Potentially, the person trying to exit through the front door could be elderly or have small children with them. Whatever the reason, it all basically comes down to this…

A little bit of courtesy goes a long way.

And if you’re uncertain of something while you’re riding the bus? Ask the bus operator a question. I might not know the answer, but if I don’t, someone else on the bus might.

 

Basic bus etiquette.

A note on mortality.

Content note: this post talks about car accidents, and about death.

Every so often, something happens during my day job that is important enough that I want to talk about it.

Today, nearing the end of my second bus run, at what was supposed to be my next stop, there was a car accident. I was running a little bit late, as often happens by the end of the route, and there was traffic backed up a few blocks. Then we heard sirens, and as I got over the bridge I was able to see why. The street was blocked off with police cars, emergency vehicles everywhere, and to describe it as initial chaos would not have been inaccurate.

One brief detour later as I was starting my last bus run of the day, I found out from passengers who were getting on the bus that a minivan had sideswiped another car, and run up onto the curb, ending up between the bus benches and the building. I found out that he had hit a person, although I didn’t find out the specific details until the end of the day when I was able to search for it and find the news article linked to above.

The bus benches he ended up at were the benches of the stop I mentioned, where most people get off of the bus. Quite likely, the only reason that I was not there when it happened was because I was running late. If I had been running on time. Well, it’s the sort of speculation that you can get lost in, the sort that is not good for a person.

Most of the passengers I picked up at my first stop had seen the accident. They were shaken. Many of them got off their previous buses at that stop, or walked by it minutes before the accident happened. Hell, I was shaken.

But part of the job driving the bus is to be able to project the air of calm and reassurance that is necessary in times like this. It took me a bit to manage. It’s the first time where I’ve had to be the adult in the room, so to speak, and in and of itself that is a difficult thing to do. To reassure people that they were going to get home safely. To reassure them that it was going to be alright— whether or not I necessarily believed it at the moment. And something that one of my passengers said stuck with me.

He reminded everyone on the bus to hug their loved ones when they got home.

It’s a message that seems only appropriate and more than just appropriate but necessary to pass along. Hug your loved ones (and that can mean your family members, or your friends, or anyone you care about) tonight, or in the morning. If hugs aren’t your thing, tell someone you care about them, and reach out; anything at all to make that connection. Don’t put it off because you never know what might happen tomorrow. It sounds trite most of the time, but then an accident like this happens and it suddenly becomes real.

Los Angeles is a big city, with a lot of traffic accidents and a lot of fatalities every year*. It’s easy to continually view it in the abstract of statistics and numbers on a page, things that you hear about on the news. It is entirely different when these things happen right in front of you and become part of the fabric of daily life.

For me, writing this is my way of coping with what happened. Plus, I have tomorrow (I guess at this point, tomorrow is now today) off of work in order to relax. Then on Sunday, it will be back to driving the bus.

*I looked up some statistics while I was writing this post in order to try and get a better grip on how much ‘a lot’ is, most of which you can find here (for California) if you are so interested.

A note on mortality.

Becoming myself.

The significance of names has been on my mind a lot recently, as I’m waiting for the last steps of my legal name change and for everything to be official. A week from this coming Monday I have the court hearing that will hopefully be confirming my name change. It’s coming up so much faster than I expected it to. And then I will have the last few pieces of paper with which I will finally become myself.

I never liked my given name (from hereon out referred to as my deadname*), growing up.

Besides the name being very heavily female gendered, it is in Hebrew, and difficult for most anglophones to pronounce properly. I spent my early years at school as a litany of mispronunciations and people wondering why I couldn’t just be okay with them mangling my name into whatever they thought was best. Yet as much as I disliked it, I disliked it even more when they mangled it. I think that is because by mangling my name they gave a sure sign that they didn’t actually care about my opinions, my wants, and my needs.

Online and in person, one of the clearest earlier memories I have is of the series of other names I tried on, in an attempt to find myself. I don’t remember what they were specifically, but I remember the process. This was both in physical space and as soon as I got online in late elementary school. The latter enabled more freedom. It enabled me to have a space where no one knew I was just trying on the name and no one knew anything about me. Or as the saying goes, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

I first started going by Rowan online when I was fourteen— or possibly fifteen. It was a while ago and my mental timeline isn’t the clearest. At that point, it wasn’t much different than any other nickname I used online; unlike the others however, it stuck. I didn’t just keep cycling through other names after that, because the name Rowan became a part of my identity.

When I was eighteen, on a whim, I introduced myself as Rowan at a gathering where most of the people present had never met me before in person. It’s the first time that I remember introducing myself and not having to explain myself ten times over and wait while people tried to grasp the concept of my name. When I got home from the gathering, I continued going by Rowan. Unlike that first weekend, though, most of the time people in my daily life deadnamed me, whether on purpose or by accident. It was a slow process to get to the time where most people knew me by my chosen name rather than my deadname, to get to a point where my deadname only haunted me through the hassle of paperwork and my mother’s occasional mistake when she was angry at me.

Jobs, school, doctor’s offices, these were the places where my deadname haunted me and followed me. I’ve spent most of my adult life arguing that the words on the piece of paper do not make something my name. Most workplaces have told me that until it’s on my license and other forms of identification, they just can’t call me by my chosen name.

Even at my current job, I have ended up going by an initialised version of my deadname instead of trying to remind people day in and day out that my name is Rowan. Rowan isn’t the name that is in the computer, so the world tells me that I can’t expect other people to call me by it.

Without the piece of paper that I will be getting from the legal name change, work— and the world as it is right now— does not afford me the dignity of choosing the name I go by, the dignity of self-definition. The dignity to move past the person I was to the person that I am now. I am lucky in that for the most part, this deadnaming is in spaces where it does not put me at risk of harm or violence, but that does not make it hurt any less to be so obviously disrespected. So perhaps it is for that reason amongst the many others that the upcoming name change feels so momentous.

This is me asserting myself, that I am exactly who I say I am.

*deadnaming is the process of referring to a trans person by their birth name as opposed to their chosen name. It comes with the implication that the name given at birth is somehow the person’s “real name” and that the name gone by now is fake, or otherwise less valid.

Becoming myself.

On ‘happy holidays’.

It’s that time of year again, the end of fall and beginning of winter, and the time of year where there’s Christmas music on in the stores that was on before Halloween let alone before Thanksgiving. The time of year where people make a fuss about the design on Starbucks holiday cups, since that seems to be becoming a pattern too.

Out of all the things in this time of year that piss me off, it’s when people get their panties in a knot over the phrase “Happy Holidays”, insisting that people say “Merry Christmas”.

There are a lot of holidays in December, and Christmas is only one of them. By and large: there is no way to know by looking at a person what holidays they celebrate.

“But what if they’re wearing a cross necklace?”

“But I don’t want to say Merry Christmas, I don’t even celebrate it!”

Sure, there’s a good enough chance of figuring out what holiday someone might celebrate if they are wearing a symbol of their faith. However, it’s still not a good idea to jump to conclusions about people, and any particular symbol can have more than one meaning. “Happy Holidays” is a nice middle ground of a holiday greeting, because it also works even if you don’t happen to celebrate the holiday the other person does. Basically, not everyone celebrates Christmas.

I see a lot of people just throwing around numbers and saying there are this many or that many holidays in December without any citations or references, which got me thinking and falling into the rabbit hole that is internet research.

Within a few hours of research, I was able to find twenty twenty-one! (thank you Kate) holidays in December, across numerous different religions and observances. It is by no means a full/complete/perfect list, and I’m aware of that. The point is that just a little bit of time is all that it takes in order to broaden one’s perspective and acknowledge cultural differences.

So, without further delay, in order of the calendar:

As I said, I’m aware this list isn’t perfect. If I’ve missed something and feel like I should include it, just leave me a comment.

And happy holidays!

On ‘happy holidays’.

Existing in public.

So I was talking to my father this morning. We talked about account privacy and social media and such while we drank our morning coffee, for probably thirty or more minutes.

For me and my father, this is a pretty long conversation. Even more remarkable was that despite our disagreements the conversation remained civil for the entire time.

Social media is ubiquitous in today’s world. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+… Instagram, Snapchat, Vine… there are so many platforms. It’s easy for them to be overwhelming, and it can be hard to figure out where to establish a presence, or how much of a presence to actually establish.

I’ve typically approached this by keeping two Twitter accounts. (I have a Facebook as well, but only because there are some people I know who are only on Facebook.) One is private, one is public. The public one I use to interact with hashtags and big issues, and as my own personal miniature soapbox. The private one I use to talk to close friends, coordinate dinner plans, talk about work and other things which I just don’t want to be in the public eye. And then in between that, I have an Instagram account (which was what started the entire conversation, in fact). I used to put pictures either just on web space, or on Twitter, but this didn’t solve the problem of being able to share the pictures with other people who aren’t on that account. So I made an Instagram account, left it public, and it’s served me pretty well so far.

My father joined Instagram recently as well, and while I’ve gotten to the point where I’m rather blasé about all the public sharing, he really… isn’t. His account isn’t public, and it probably never will be, and I respect that. The idea that I have pictures out there with location tags freaks him out a little bit, and he just doesn’t understand why I would leave the photos out there for the world to see. But at this point, I exist in public.

When I’m at work (driving a city bus), I’m existing in public. It’s not too much of a stretch from that for me, to having pictures where anyone can access them. I’m still careful with what I share on the internet and where I share it— I heard too many cautionary tales when I was a teenager to not be careful. But if someone was going to stalk me, there’s a lot better ways to go about it than using my Instagram account.

Existing in public.