Jan. 16th, 2012

balinares: (sadface)
2011 was a good year for me as far as writing is concerned, in the sense that some got done, and some even got shared.

The entirety of it was done on the train. Which is not exactly a great writing environment, as you may guess, but beggars can't be choosers. Writing at home has... just not worked at all, not since the kids were born. So, on the train it is, as poor an environment as it may be. First, you gotta find a seat, one with a tray, which has unfortunately not always been a given. And then, there's the fauna.

You get the chewer, who plops down next to you and then masticates loudly in your ear for the whole goddamn trip. And the deaf phone user, you know that one. No amount of music through the earbuds plugged right into your freaking SKULL seems to suffice. And then there's the territorial elbower, who will wage a merciless war with you over the armrest for no reason other than they hate you for being there. You can either spend your time fighting back, or give in and try to write with your elbow and shoulder held awkwardly up in the air until the point where the cramps begin. Not a lot of actual writing gets done on those days.

And let's not mention the many, many days when the service was so awful that even getting home at all was an ordeal. Trains this year have been record-breaking terrible. (Coincidentally, the train company has posted record-breaking profits. It turns out they don't have to reimburse you when they cancel your train and leave you stranded.) After consecutive occurrences of a 4 to 5 hour delay on what is sold as a 25 minutes ride, people started to get organized to stage protests. This is unprecedented, and made some noise in the media.

So when, at the end of last summer, they announced that they were going to give the timetables a major overhaul, we were all cautiously hopeful.

The new schedule began about a month ago.

It's not only worse; it's far worse.

My morning train got canceled. In fact, a lot of direct trains got canceled. People are now expected to wait for tiny shuttles to bring them to one of a set of preselected stations... or to outright drive there on their own. Coincidentally, it turns out this set of anointed stations overlaps somewhat with the set of stations where the train company happens to own expensive parking lots.

Since the tiny shuttles are few and far between, I've got to allow for a longer drive to the station, because if I don't and something on the road delays me, I have no fallback. Of course, if nothing delays me then I'll spend that much more time waiting for the shuttle in the cold.

And then there's the joy of waiting some more at the next station down, too, which happens to be, shall we say, somewhat crowded and somewhat unsavory. So you just... stand there, head low in the crowd, practicing being dead. And when the train arrives, on a bad day you have to shoulder other human beings aside if you wish to hope for a seat.

And because the traffic got concentrated on fewer lines that were already overloaded, the frequency of service incidents has gone up.

My evening train, miraculously, is a direct one like before, though it now stops at a number more stations on the way. All told, my daily commute has shot up to somewhere north of 3 hours. A 50% increase from when I started working at my current company.

And the kicker is, the prices have gone up as well at the beginning of the year. People are so pissed over the whole thing that I've overheard some -- we're talking perfectly respectable middle class white women here -- explain how they just fucking stopped buying tickets altogether.

The one reason I've not quit is that I'm basically allowed to telecommute whenever I want, and unsurprisingly, I've been wanting rather a lot more lately.

Oh, and the 'new' trains are ancient models from the 90's -- and in one case, possibly even the 80's. The evening one shambles along and creaks like an old wheelbarrow all the way.

The seats have no trays.

So this is the end of my writing endeavors for the time being.

I'd be lying if I said I'm not taking it hard.

Maybe eventually I'll somehow muster the energy and concentration to resume writing in short bursts despite the worsened conditions. The immediate odds aren't terrific, though.

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Balinares

August 2013

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