I definitely have the right friends in my life because no fewer than four of them shared the Cards Against Humanity call for contributing writers on their social media feeds this week. That’s right: if you’re witty enough, Cards Against Humanity wants YOU to create funny-and-potentially-inappropriate cards for their collection. They’ll even pay you to do it.
Obviously I was tempted to apply. Who wouldn’t want to get paid forty dollars an hour to make jokes about Greek yoghurt? Sounds like The Life.
There’s just one problem: I’m not actually all that funny.
This has become abundantly clear as I’ve been working on edits for my latest novel. The last three or so rounds of revision notes have all come back with the same notes over and over again in the comments—all from different people, I might add. Make this funnier! Add humor here! This line needs to be funny!
Gee, I keep thinking. I thought it was.
I’m fairly certain my husband is the only person on the planet who consistently appreciates my sense of humor and laughs at most of my jokes. It should be noted here that his sense of humor is just as bizarre and misunderstood as mine, and sometimes he tries to tally how many of his students actually understand the jokes he makes while he’s teaching. I do the same thing…and neither of our numbers are ever all that high. Basically, we spend a whole lot of time laughing at each other’s jokes to make up for the fact that other people aren’t.
Normally I’m not bothered by the fact that my sense of humor is about five steps away from everyone else’s. Editing this manuscript is the first time where I’ve actively worried that my inability to make jokes others find amusing may hurt my writing career. I can’t write angsty novels about people in deep dark pain for my entire life, after all. I’m not George R.R. Martin.
It’s not that I don’t hit an occasionally good punchline in real life or in my writing. It’s just that funny doesn’t really come naturally to me, and the things I do find amusing tend to hinge more on the sarcastic or punny. Sometimes this works. It’s just not working in my current manuscript, apparently.
(Sidenote: any other 80s children remember when Paula Danziger used to write entire novels in puns? I blame her entirely for my humor problems. Apparently if you binge-read too many puns in your tween years it permanently affects your sense of humor.)
So! I’m on an active quest to become as funny as I think I am. I’m planning an intensive study regarding which of my jokes do get laughs and which do not during the upcoming school year. (I’d apologize in advance to all my students, but the bad jokes were going to happen either way, so this really won’t change anything.) I’m going to pause my recent Dr. Who obsession for a moment—because I don’t think British humor is going to help me curb my sarcasm—and cue up more Melissa McCarthy on Netflix. And I’m going to apply for the CAH job. Not because I think I’ll get it, but because more practice can’t possibly hurt at this point.
And, naturally, I’ll keep writing blog posts that I think are hilarious. If my history is any indication, you won’t think they’re nearly as funny as I do. But you’re still reading this one at 583 words in, so maybe there is some hope after all.
While speaking at a press conference regarding Donald Trump’s call for Russia to engage in cyber espionage against the US, Paul Ryan acknowledged that he must have done something terrible in a past life to deserve becoming Donald Trump’s yes-man.
“I mean, I’m a good person,” Ryan said. “I go to church. I haven’t kicked a dog since I was a teenager. So there has to be something awful I did in a past life. Otherwise why am I stuck trying to normalize this guy’s insane statements every day?”
Ryan also indicated that trying to downplay Trump’s fascist rhetoric is starting to become his full-time job. “Honestly, I just need a nap,” he told one reporter. “The man never sleeps. He even stays up all night tweeting, so I constantly have to be on the lookout for what statement I need to justify next. It’s exhausting. I mean, could someone just lock him in a closet for a few hours? You know, so I could get in a little fishing?”
Long-time Republican voter Mel Sandford sympathized with Ryan’s plight. “It’s gotta be hard,” she said of Ryan’s situation. “Here he is, just trying to hold onto his own power and keep Republican voters from realizing they might be electing a dictator. That’s not easy.”
Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, has no sympathy for Ryan. “Hey, if you back a despot, you spend a lot of time running around trying to convince people they’re not actually that scary,” he recently stated. “I thought about taking on a gig like Paul’s and backing Trump, but then I talked to this guy who tunneled out of North Korea. After hearing the hours he put in for Kim Jong-un, I knew that backing Trump wasn’t going to be for me. That guy had no work-life balance whatsoever.”
Lately I've spending a lot of time thinking about all the things in the world that are terrible. And if my newsfeed is any indication, I'm not the only one.
There are plenty of things that suck in the world right now, but there are also an awful lot of things that don’t, and I'm tired of spending so much time talking about the first category. So today I give you: FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK and FIVE THINGS THAT YOU DO NOT SUCK AT ALL. Choose your own adventure, if you will. Should you choose to be mired in depression and sadness, read the top section. Looking for a little more brightness in your day? Scroll on down.
Peace and love, everyone. Or hate and despair. Whatever floats your boat.
FIVE THINGS THAT SUCK
1. Rapists who get less jail time than a dude selling a bag of pot, just because they’re white and well-off and the judge apparently had some kind of mental breakdown that day and decided rape isn’t actually a crime, not really.
There’s not much more I can say on this that hasn’t already been said better or more acutely by others, but I’d very much like to repeat one particular point. It bears repeating everywhere and in all the places. This is from the Huffington Post article "I'm Not Defending Rape, But...." by Tawny Engleman. Well said, Tawny.
It’s the ultimate first-world problem, folks! Aw, shucks, I have enough money to buy a house. Woe is me! Seriously, though. Have you ever actually bought a house? You know, without a million dollars to spend in cash? Between securing pay stubs and worrying about basement flooding concerns and trying to figure out school systems for the children I don’t have but future buyers might, I’m starting to wonder why any of us own anything at all. Ever.
3. The last week of school.
If you’re a teacher, I mean. I don’t suspect students are all that about upset by the last week of school. And if you’re never been a teacher during a Last Week of School, I’ll just share this so you get a snapshot of what you’re missing.
4. This election.
Forever and always this entire election for all time until all human beings cease to exist. Even then, future species will find our remains and discuss how much this election must have sucked.
Recently, children's authors Kate Messer and Phil Bildner were both uninvited from school visits they were scheduled to do. In Kate's case, the school was concerned because her most recent book deals with drug abuse issues, and in Phil's case, it seems that he may have offended some people in the district when he recommended the book George, about a transgender child, to students in the district. In other words: adults have decided kids need to be sheltered from the world and are doing everything in their power to make that sheltering happen.
If this election has proved anything, it’s that the last thing we need to do is prevent our kids from seeing the world around them as it exists and thinking critically about what they see.
FIVE THINGS THAT DO NOT SUCK AT ALL
1. This view.
The husband found a new fishing spot, and last weekend I managed to proofread an entire manuscript there and re-outline another one. Because how could you not have fantastic productivity with this view in front of you? I love summer. Summer does not suck one bit. Nor does Colorado, and you should certainly visit if you never have.
2. #ReadProud month!
I love any excuse to find new books. If you’re looking for suggestions, check out Julia Ember’s blog, where she’s hosting a challenge and giving away prizes. I’m not participating because I can barely seem to remember to eat this month, but I’ll catch up with the rest of you in July.
And if you’re looking for #ReadProud suggestions, I’m currently giving high kudos to Stand Off by Andrew Smith. I actually thought it was better than the book it sequeled, Winger, and how often do you like the sequel more than the original? (And yes, “sequeled” is a verb. Because I want it to be.)
Love this #ReadProud badge from Julia's blog.
Cats do not suck at all. Especially mine
2. The Stanley Cup Finals!
What speed! What stamina! What rookies doing decidedly un-rookie-like things! I went into the playoffs fairly neutral, as neither the Avs nor Habs made it in this year (*sniff*), but these days I am completely on the Penguins bandwagon. You go, Phil Kessel. Get that Cup before some Toronto fan steals you back under the cover of night and you never see the likes of a playoff season again.
1. A woman being nominated by a major party to be the president of this country.
I will never argue that Hillary Clinton is the perfect political candidate. Nor that Bernie Sanders is. But less than one hundred years ago, women in this country couldn’t even vote in a presidential election. Or any election.
This momentous occasion was brought to us by so many people throughout history who petitioned, thought, worked, and lived for the moment when a women could be considered as the next leader of the free world. This moment deserves to celebrated, regardless of your political opinion.
Whatever your summer plans, I hope they're filled with things that Do Not Suck At All. Happy June, everyone.
So, BookCon! BookCon was last weekend in Chicago. To be perfectly honest, I had very little idea what I was getting into when I signed up to go. But hey. Can’t go wrong attending any convention with the word “book” in the title, right?
As it turns out: RIGHT.
BookCon was amazing and intimidating and fun and terrifying and all the other important adjectives that should describe any great life experience. For me, this year’s BookCon will go down as….
1. The time I gave out about a bazillion rainbow-colored hockey pencils.
2. The time I signed lots and lots of books and met readers from all over the country, including the fantastic mother-daughter team who came wearing THESE SHIRTS.
This is apparently what my face looked like when I first caught a glimpse of the line "spread those pages, baby."
3. The time I shipped home a giant poster of my own face after the publisher gave it to me, because ego, and also what better souvenir is there than a giant awkward picture of yourself trying not to look awkward? (And has anyone figured out how not to look completely awkward in a head shot? If so, I'd appreciate a how-to guide.)
4. The time I met so many amazing authors, including…
Julia Ember, internet and book guru extraordinaire. Also brilliant author of UNICORN TRACKS, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for so long now.
Audrey Coulthurst, whose fantastic sense of humor makes me want to read every book she ever writes. First up: OF FIRE AND STARS, which comes out in November. Here’s a picture in which two –hursts hung out.
Mia Seigbert, who also writes books about gay hockey players! I cannot wait to read JERKBAIT. Naturally, we battled with hockey pencils. Then I think she tried to talk me into becoming a Devils fan? Didn't stick, but points for effort.
Leigh Bardugo, who is super kind and told me how excited she was that my teacher friends are getting students into SHADOW AND BONE. She even signed something for one of said teacher friends.
Sherman Alexie, who I quickly fangirled all over. As one does. It’s basically just a miracle I didn’t cry as he signed my copy of WAR DANCES.
Matt de la Pena, who I accidentally met at a different event the next day. After reviving my inner fangirl one more time (she was so up to the challenge), I got to listen to him read from his amazing picture book THE HOUSE ON MARKET STREET.
5. The time I realized that no matter how often I feel like a failure as a writer, I am incredibly lucky.
I’m lucky that Elizabeth North, Anne Regan, and all the rest of the fine folks Harmony Ink Press took a chance on publishing my books in the first place. I’m lucky to go to places like Book Con where people who love the written word as much as I do want to drool all over books with me. I’m lucky to meet readers who actually want to read anything that I put on a page.
Writing isn’t a perfect business, and it sure isn’t an easy business. Three days out of seven I wake up and wish I’d gone into accounting. But then I get working on a solid chapter and I think holy crap, I can’t imagine how this life could get any better.
And then I get to go to places like Book Con and hang out with other people who love writing and reading as much as I do, and somehow it does.
So maybe Book Con will mostly go down as the time I remembered to be grateful for everything I have. Especially on days when being grateful is hard.
And it will definitely go down as the day a FedEx worker and I had an intense conversation about the facial expressions teenagers make when they see West Side Story for the first time while she boxed up a three-foot tall picture of my face and prepared to ship it across the country. We agreed our favorite verbal reaction is this: “But they’re fighting…so why are they dancing?”
Then she packed my face into the box and Book Con was over.
I already can’t wait to go back.
Recently I was asked to appear on a local cable show to discuss my books. I’m always thrilled to talk to one of the five people who’ve read my work (hi Mom!), so I gave myself a quick self-five in celebration and said yes.
Normally I’d spend at least five days working myself into an appropriate panic about a public appearance like this, but life has been busy for the last few weeks (writing deadlines, trying to eat all the cheese in Italy), and I wasn’t able to give this TV appearance too much thought until the morning of filming. So this past Friday morning I found myself with a mere seven hours to work up an appropriate panic attack.
I started with the old stand-by, worrying frantically that I wouldn’t know what to say or that I’d say something stupid. This fear didn’t hold as much water as it has in the past. Of course I’d say something stupid; I’m human. But I’ve improved my stupid-to-nonstupid ratio drastically over the past few public appearances I’ve made, so all signs suggested I’d at least be able to nod and say “yes” at the correct times.
I quickly moved on to being worried about what to wear. And this, naturally, led straight to the question that’s been panic-inducing for me since high school: do I look fat in this?
Like most American women born after the popularization of Vitoria’s Secret, I am constantly confused regarding how I am supposed to feel about my body. As near as I can tell, I have three options:
1. Get incredibly thin and then everyone will love me and think I’m pretty.
Yes, this idea has occurred to me before. Frankly, though, my body type doesn’t go for this option this as easily as some others. Also: cookies.
2. Be proud of my body the way it is, eat what I want, and don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.
I want to go for this one. It seems like the healthiest option from a self-confidence perspective. But I’m not sure that eating everything I want to eat is actually going to allow me to live past the end of The Simpsons. And when Amy Schumer tried this, Hollywood basically took away her lunch. (Luckily she’s Amy Schumer. Lunch won.)
3. Worry about getting strong and toned, not thin.
I recognize that this is probably the optimal choice for a variety of reasons. But it also requires me going to the gym every time I say I’m going to, which is hard when you already have two jobs and a cat and a husband and other things. And then there’s the cookie problem. And hubs just perfected his homemade pasta recipe, sooo…yeah.
By the time I’d run through all three options, all while standing in front of the bathroom mirror and examining my thighs to determine if they looked any more cottage-cheesy than the last time I looked, I’d certainly worked up five days’ worth of panic. I couldn’t go film. I couldn’t be on TV, not even local access. People would see that I look like I eat lunch! People would realize I don’t always go to the gym when I’m supposed to! People would realize I don’t actually love my body just the way it is!
After quickly hyperventilating, I spent a quick shower contemplating an article I recently read where “real women” posed like the swimsuit models from the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Like any glutton for internet punishment, I’d foolishly read the comments on the article. Some of them were ecstatic, lauding all the women featured and calling them beautiful. Some were angry, calling out other commenters on basically encouraging obesity and, therefore, unhealthy lifestyles. And from what I could tell (although I did stop reading due to nausea, so who knows), not one commenter mentioned that the original models weren’t exactly the picture of health themselves.
In a world where there’s so much noise about body image, it’s no wonder I struggle with how I’m supposed to look and how I’m supposed to feel about my body. It’s no wonder so many woman—and men—struggle with eating disorders, weight issues, and food issues. It’s no wonder commenters on the internet are at war over this topic. It’s no wonder the media saturates us with images and words purporting competing ideas on what the ideal body is.
Did I come to some kind of epiphany that day about body image that carried me through the television shoot? No. I did the TV spot, had fun, and I only worried about how I looked once every seven minutes or so. I’ll call that a win. But this morning, as I putting on my own bathing suit to go for a swim at the rec center, I thought about the models who pose for Victoria’s Secret. And the women who posed for that accompanying article. And I wondered if the answer to being happy with my body and my life is a balance of equal parts gym time, cookies, and not worrying what anyone else thinks.
But that’s a balance that’s often easier to imagine than to strike.
First of all, you need to know one thing: I really, really like food. Really. I watch TV shows about food when I’m not eating. I take leisurely strolls through Costco on the weekends just to try the samples. I’m on a constant personal mission to find the best chile relleno in Colorado.
And pancake. And pizza. And Pad Thai. And pretty much every other food group one can eat.
So the other night, I was doing what I do best and plowing through some cheap Chinese food. All was fine until a few hours later…when the toilet and I suddenly developed an impromptu and highly necessary relationship.
I’d been betrayed. Likely by the cheap Chinese food I had once so loved.
I woke up disgusted and discouraged…and brainstorming. Odds were I had just cleared my system of, well, pretty much anything that might have been in it. And food certainly wasn’t sounding very appetizing. Maybe this was the perfect time to try something I’d been thinking about doing for a while: a 24 hour fast.
I know, the idea sounds crazy—especially if you've ever met me. But hear me out! I’d always heard how fantastic short fasts could be for exorcising your body of its toxins and rejuvenating your metabolism. I hadn’t eaten anything in thirteen hours at this point anyway, so all I had to do was get through the next eleven hours. And how hard could it be to go without food for eleven hours? People did it all the time for religious reasons. Health reasons. How bad could it actually be?
Below you’ll find the rambling thoughts and roller coaster of emotions I experienced during my eleven hour period of not eating. I’m warning you now: it isn’t pretty. And most of it sure isn’t logical. But it’s definitely…well, it’s something all right. I’ll let you decide for yourself.
And yes, I’m well aware of exactly how many times I used the word “pancakes.” Highly, highly aware.
I am so impressive right now. I haven’t eaten anything yet…and I’m barely hungry! This is amazing! I’m going to be so proud when I finish this. I bet my skin glows and my body finally finds ideal metabolism and I never have to diet again! This is totally going to be worth any pain and struggle I inflict upon myself.
*Finally does such actual internet research about fasting.* Hmmm…so, I’m not supposed to be drinking this Vitamin Water Zero thing, huh? Well, it has ZERO calories…and vitamins…and it’s water…so surely that doesn’t count. I mean, I need some kind of taste to keep myself from remembering that I’m fasting. So I’ll drink Vitamin water and water and tea (no sugar or milk, obviously). Yup. This is totally going to work. I’m going to be fine.
Yoga people say fasting is great. I haven’t gone to yoga in a while, but maybe this is the way back into a life of better mind-body connectedness. I should definitely find a new yoga class tomorrow.
*Looks at Pastry Crisp wrapper I carelessly left on the couch last night* You know…pastry crisps are only 100 calories…NO. NO. You said you were going to do this! You will not fold! You will not phone this one in! Ignore that pastry crisp wrapper! You’re better than that!
Is my hand shaking?
I’m feeling lightheaded, too, but the internet says that’s totally normal. I just need to remember that you can actually survive for weeks at a time without food. I don’t NEED food right now. My brain just wants my body to THINK I do. I’ll just sit here and distract myself with work. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. More work.
*Watches Gilmore Girls* Suki and Michael are so funny together. I love when she doesn’t put the proper amount of blueberries in his pancakes…you know, those pancakes look good. It’s been awhile since I had blueberry pancakes. I could really go for some blueberry pancakes. IHOP has all you can eat pancakes right now, I think…NO! NO AGAIN! STOP THIS! YOU DO NOT WANT PANCAKES! After you conquer this Everest of yours, THEN you can have pancakes. Then you can have all of the pancakes you want. The pancakes will be a great reward. Look forward to it. Pancakes tomorrow and no earlier.
You know what sounds good right now? Chinese food. That leftover Chinese food in the fridge. Wait. WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? Do you not remember what that Chinese food DID to you last night? That Chinese food is what got you into this mess! Don’t do it! Just don’t do it!
*Still watching Gilmore Girls* That dinner they’re eating looks great…I wonder what it is. Probably something fancy, like goose. Goose sounds good right now. I’ve never had goose before, but I bet it’s great. Or duck. Duck would be nice too. Or some very fancy chicken….I should probably turn off the TV, huh? Or possibly stop watching an episode of The Gilmore Girls that’s so centered on food. Which probably means I need to stop watching The Gilmore Girls altogether…nah, I’ll just power through. Wait, did Sookie just say she has pumpkin hands? Pumpkin sounds good right now….
My stomach is growling. Loudly. Like, super loudly. And this Vitamin water is boring. Is this fast really worth it? Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Food is GOOD for you. People are supposed to eat food. Otherwise, they STARVE. That’s what I’m doing—starving myself! WHY AM I DOING THIS?
Stay calm. You can do this. Remember the goal: cleanse the body. Rejuvenate. Connect body and mind…or something like that.
Boy, I have NO energy. Even writing this is hard right now. I’m going to have to go back and rewrite everything once I have, you know, calories in me. Because nothing fruitful or useful is NOT going to happen today, that’s for sure. I don’t understand how people do this consistently! Why would you ever want to go a full day without eating pasty crisps? Why? What did the pastry crisps ever do? It makes no sense.
Walk through the kitchen carefully…carefully…no, don’t look at those granola bars. You’ll only hate yourself later. Pretend they’re not there!! Sure, it might SOUND like your husband is chewing in the other room, but it’s really mice. Or termites. Yeah, termites. That’s it.
So, if a fast should be 24 hours, I can end it right around 8 o’clock and eat right before I go to bed. Right? So I don’t have to go to bed hungry? That’s only 7 more hours. I can go seven hours. Or wait…am I supposed to go all the way until TOMORROW MORNING? Isn’t that more like a 36 hour fast? Seems a little extreme. Is that even healthy? *Googles best length of time for a fast.* What?! People fast on nothing but water for TEN DAYS? WHO DOES THAT? Seriously, what do they do—lock themselves in cabins and avoid humanity for ten days?!
Well, these people all seem to disagree about whether you should stop at 24 or shoot for 40. I guess I’ll see how badly I want pancakes at the 24 hour mark. Odds are I’ll want them pretty badly, though.
Ten minutes later: Well, I’m definitely not waiting until tomorrow morning. No way. This fast is right at 24 hours, no matter what. Then there will be pancakes. All the pancakes in the world. With lots and lots of blueberries.
Well, only five hours to go. Just five hours. I can do this. I absolutely can. Maybe I’ll watch a movie…that’ll take up two hours. And it’s not like I have the energy to get off the couch anyway. The internet says some people do this everyday?! How is that possible? How do they interact with other like normal human beings?!
A NAP. That’s what I need. A NAP. When you’re asleep, you don’t notice you’re hungry! That’s why they call it breakfast, right? Because you’re breaking a fast you didn’t know you were on! I’ll take a nap.
Or I could turn the movie back on. Or find a new book to read. Or do a little more walking. Gently, of course. There are plenty of things to do. Maybe I should go to a yoga class right now—it might clear my mind.
Or I could just sit here. Turn the movie back on. Think about…what I’m going to eat after 24 hours is up. Those pancakes still do sound REALLY good. That diner not far from here has pretty good pancakes. We could totally go eat there. I’m definitely getting pancakes…but their California benedicts are pretty good too…no that’s probably too heavy for right after a fast. Wait, are pancakes too heavy for right after a fast? Hmmm. I should probably stop fantasizing about the food I’m going to eat in 4 hours and 27 minutes, huh?
I’m going to have to edit soooo much of this.
I don’t look any skinnier yet. Why don’t I look skinnier? I HAVEN’T EATEN IN A WHOLE TWENTY HOURS. Why isn’t this working?
Just go for a walk with hubs like he suggested. Surely nature will take your mind off your hunger. You like nature. You like walking.
*Plans dinner menu with hubby during walk*
I’m so excited that hubby and I planned the dinner menu for tonight! Now that I know he’s making pancakes…and they’ll be ready exactly when this stupid fast expires…
I can do this. Only three hours left. Only three hours left. Just a movie and…well, a TV show? Oh, good! Pitch Perfect is on. Surely all the vomiting will help me lose my appetite.
WHAT WAS HUBS THINKING LEAVING THAT MINI-WHEATS BAG OPEN?!? CLOSE THAT IMMEDIATELY. Don’t cave. They’re just mini-wheats. Just mini-wheats. You don’t want to give up over mini-wheats…
Okay, Pitch Perfect helped a lot! We’re almost there! Just a few minutes to go…less than an hour!
Stop counting the minutes. That won’t help at all. Read! Or something!
Only 24 minutes left.
Only 23 minutes left.
*Counts every single minute until time is up*
*Flings self into kitchen*
So there you have it. My encounter with fasting. What did I learn, you ask, because you are an incredibly thoughtful person who wants to ensure my experiences are all meaningful and fruitful?
Well. Clearly, I learned how much I like pancakes. And that “hangry” is not a great color on me.
The whole experience definitely got me thinking about the myriad of people in the world who don't have enough to eat. While I certainly didn't grow up rich, I've always been one of those lucky people in the world who's never had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. Doing this challenge highlighted exactly what hunger does to your body and your state of mind.
I'm starting to think every teacher should try something like this once--just so we all know what our students are feeling and thinking when they didn't get dinner the night before or breakfast that morning. Of course they're short with us. Of course they're cranky. Of course they're having trouble concentrating.
And most of them don't have pancakes to look forward to when time is up.
Let’s clear up one thing first: I am the ultimate law-abider. You know, the kid who never used the markers if the teacher said not to even though her seatmate totally did use the markers and get away with it. The teenager who never smoked or shoplifted. I am a rule-follower. Mostly because I believe in rules that are logical and clearly there for the protection of society…and partly because it seems to be in my nature, which contains a heavy dose of Fear of Confrontation.
But every now and then, even I, the ultimately compliant citizen, will bend the rules just slightly. In the past this has generally meant drinking when I wasn’t quite 21 yet (hey, I grew up on the Canadian border, where 18 worked just fine, thank you), and the occasional speeding ticket. But lately I’ve taken to a new method of civil disobedience.
I’ve been riding on the Light Rail at the discount fare. Yeah. For real.
The Light Rail is the commuter train in the Denver area. I don’t live in Denver, and I try to take the Light Rail into the city whenever I can. You know—save the environment. Not to mention the avoidance of parking fees and difficulties. But here’s the thing about the Light Rail. It’s four dollars a ride. ONE WAY. As in almost twice the price of the subway in New York City.
Listen, I’m not made of money here. And I really do try to support public transportation whenever possible, but FOUR DOLLARS A RIDE? It’s highway robbery.
Plus, I still have my student ID from grad school, which I’ll occasionally use to grab cheaper movie tickets or clothing discounts. So, I figured, why not do the same with the Light Rail?
Since it opened almost a year ago, I’ve been unapologetically buying the discount ticket to ride the Light Rail. And until Friday, the dudes who check the tickets really didn’t seem to care. One guy, ONCE, mentioned that I should start buying the full-fare ticket, because my age actually made me inelilibigle for the discount. Other than that? No one cared. I had a ticket, I wasn’t freeloading, and I’m quiet on a train. Everyone’s happy, you know?
So. There I am, listening to Pandora, minding my business on the way to a Very Important Meeting of some kind. Fare Checking Dude stops by, and I’m all yup, got my ticket right here, guy.
Only he gives me the stink eye and asks me for my discount ID.
Which is so no big deal, because I carry my exhausted (and expired) grad school ID with me at all times. So I flash that at him.
And he starts lecturing me.
I figure he’ll check the ID, confirm that I am the person on the grad school ID, ask me to get off the train at the next stop and buy the correct fare, and then go about his business. Only NO. He takes my poor ID away and moves down the crowded train car.
At which point I start to realize I am actually in Some Kind of Trouble here.
“Um,” I call out, “I have the extra two bucks. Sorry I bought the wrong ticket. I can just, you know, give you the two bucks.”
The train stops, people get off, and he comes back over. “Don’t do this again, ma’am. Next time it will be a fine of $106.” And then he holds up the little electronic thing he carries around and it FLASHES A SMALL LIGHT IN MY FACE.
“Um, excuse me. Did you just take my picture? Did you just take my picture?” Never mind that I’m having a pretty solid hair day, here—when did this become legal? When did it become legal—never mind polite—to give the mainly-law-abiding citizen no notice whatsoever before you basically subject her to a mugshot?
“I did. Here’s you’re warning. Remember to buy the correct fare from now on.” He hands me a ticket and hops off the train. Probably avoiding the scene that I was definitely about to start, if I could manage to quiet my Inner Person Who Hates Confrontation long enough to do so.
And there I was: me and my headphones, along with a ticket that said NO PROOF OF FARE.
Okay, so several things are bothering me about this encounter. One, the general lack of compassion and fairness of this guy. He could have let me hop off the train and buy a new ticket. He could have warned me that he was about to take my photo and explained why. (Which I still do not know, by the way.) Instead, he was a general a-hole about the whole thing. And I get that Light Rail Cop is probably not the most enjoyable job on planet Earth. But really? Is this how we’re encouraging people in Denver to use public transit these days? Please excuse me while I buy another vehicle.
Then there’s the fact that my ticket says NO PROOF OF FARE. For some bizarre reason, this is greatly bothering the Law Abider within me. Dude, I totally had a fare. It was the wrong fare—but it was a fare.
But what is possibly bothering me most of all is that I seriously don’t know that I can continue to ride the Light Rail after this encounter. Not just because this officer was a total dick, but also because $8 a ride is a lot. And CO isn’t great on public transit, so financially I have to support ownership of a car every month. I believe the world and our environment need more public transit, and I want to use public transit whenever it’s truly viable for me to do so—but $8 a ride on top of covering my car repairs and insurance ain’t all that viable. I mean, parking in Denver is less than $8 a day.
The lesson here, kids, is simple: if you’re going to buy the discount fare when you ride the Denver Light Rail, be prepared to possibly have your picture taken with neither your permission nor a smiling face. And if you’d rather not be subjected to a surprise mug shot, plan to spend $8 to go a grand total of nine miles.
Denver, your reputation for being environmentally-friendly? Way to stick a giant hole it in.