April 01, 2008

The Scene of the Crime: Iâm Getting Paid For This?

Today I left the apartment at 10:57, coffee mug in hand, for my 20-second elevator ride to my studentsâ 11 AM seminar.

I spent a couple of hours brainstorming with the students about research paper topics about which they are far more knowledgeable than me. This is unsurprising, since most of them are econ and politics majors, and I only sound like I know about economics when Iâm talking to other humanities people.

I came back to my apartment, which is essentially 1/3 of a hotel room, and had lunch.


Later my friend the Graduate Fellow (henceforth GF) from Irvine and I went to the bookstore and we got maps for our trip next weekend to Philadelphia. Sheâs got an actual conference to go to there; I just want to go see the city. So weâre splitting hotel costs and cheap bus fares. She called the hotel in Philadelphia to change her room from one large to two small beds.

âNo,â she said on the phone. âThere isnât an extra person staying. I justâneed an extra bed. Forâmedical reasons. Oh, you've removed the $20 extra person surcharge? Thank you.â

Then the law student from UCLA came over to see who wanted to go for late-night ice cream because itâs so warm and beautiful outside. The guy who lives in the apartment next to mine is a Community Advisor (henceforth CA) here in the Center, knows everything and everyone around here, and loves ice cream. So we walked over to Larryâs Ice Cream in Dupont Circle, which he claims is the best ice cream in the city. They were closing when we got there just past 10, but when the owner saw the CA through the window, they stayed open for us.

âWhat do you want?â the owner asked the CA.

âOh, Iâm doing great,â the CA said.

âWhat?â the owner asked.

âIâm great. Didnât you ask how I was doing?â the CA returned.

âI donât give a shit how youâre doing, my friend,â the owner said. âI asked what do you want?â

âOh. A cone with Oreo cookie ice cream,â the CA said.

âThatâs more like it,â the owner said.

I got Oreo ice cream too. UCLA got Reeseâs peanut butter. As soon as we left with our cones, it started raining on us, fast and hard. We ran back to the Center in the warm rain, cones dripping all over the place. I finished mine right as we got back to the Center and the rain stopped.

Tomorrow I have another study day at the Library of Congress and then we have Poker Night.

Oh, and I got myself a present this afternoon: I broke down and got a fucking camera already. Because I am a Luddite and a latecomer to technology, this is exciting. Because I am a Luddite and a latecomer to technology, I'm still figuring out how to upload photos. I rationalized the purchase thusly: I was eventually going to spend the same amount of money on disposable cameras and film processing as I would on a low-end digital camera, without the benefit of zoom or, you know, picture quality. And evidently CVS is none too quick at the photo processing, because when I dropped my first disposable full of pictures off yesterday, the trainee clerk said, âUm, I think your picture CD will be back Wednesday.â

âWhyâd you tell her that?â the manager asked. âYou know itâs until Friday.â

âReally?â I said.

âYou want these pictures?â the manager said.

So I have almost a weekâs worth of updating to do, but itâs waiting until my pictures come back so I can remember what the hell I did. Nighttime tour of monuments; cherry blossom festival; Library of Congress; Georgetown; beer and darts; lots of getting lost.

Iâd like to point out that technically Iâm working right now.

Posted by katie at April 1, 2008 08:19 PM

I love how surly everyone is in your stories. Even though I know you're not in New York, all bitchy customer anti-service remarks get translated in my head into heavy New York accents. I'm really enjoying it.

I still wanna come visit you sometime. I'm reluctantly acknowledging that right after the quarter ends is probably not going to be a good time for me, as I will need to be frantically tying up 40-odd sets of graduation paperwork including one belonging to the student assistant who keeps my shit together and will be getting out of here precisely at the end of the quarter. But maybe sometime before then?

Posted by: Dianna at April 2, 2008 09:35 AM

The personalities here range from surly, in customer-service personnel, to brusque, in the white-collar professionals streaming down the sidewalks at all times. I've already established myself as the neighborhood crazy lady because I make eye contact, smile and say hi to people when walking, hold doors for people, and habitually offer my seat on the Metro to the elderly and infirm. One thing I'm learning is how to tell instantly where someone's from. If they're sort of timid and clutching their fanny pack tightly on the Metro, they're a German tourist. If they're friendly, mannered and outgoing (but not running for office), they're from California. My DFH said, when he moved to California, that he was instantly struck by how rude everyone was. I genuinely have no idea what he's talking about.

On another note, how come when I try to upload photos it keeps telling me that the files are too big? They're just the regular JPEG format files that they automatically saved as when I downloaded them from my camera. Do I need to be saving as something else?

Also, is it giving you trouble when you try to post comments?

Dude, come out and visit! Let's brainstorm about when.

Posted by: katie at April 2, 2008 10:12 AM

Comments: I can't seem to sign in from the nicely-formatted click-on-comment-on-CH page. But I can sign in from the stupid click-from-main-Incas-page comment page, so I've been doing that. Perhaps it's time for more over-our-heads technical dickering?

Pictures: I forgot, they come out of my camera at some outrageous size and I use Photoshop to shrink 'em to 640x480. I think you can even do that in Paint, actually, if you don't still have your h4xx0r3d Photoshop. Then they should be small enough to upload.

I've concluded that stereotypes about who's rude where are like accents, in that it is absolutely impossible to see the issue from anyone else's perspective. Those outrageous Minnesota vowels will never constitute an accent from the point of view of someone from St. Paul, and Californians' smiley eye contact will never redeem them from rudeness in the eyes of someone from Virginia who's expecting I don't even know what. I can't possibly know what, because I was not raised in that incredibly specific definition of proper manners.

To be fair to the DFH, though, he has far nicer dinner manners than I. So perhaps he does know what he's talking about.

Posted by: Dianna at April 2, 2008 11:17 AM

I've found, since moving to New York, that people here are differently polite. What I mean is that there's a sort of code of behavior here that people enforce through all manner of pushing, shoving, harrumphing, and gruff manner. From my experience in DC, there's a similar code of behavior there (Stand on the right! Walk on the left! If you stand on the left, people will feel free to walk right over you!). This could be interpreted as rudeness.

Another way to look at it is as a set of sub-judicial laws. It would be silly for the DC government to actually pass and enforce a law requiring people to stand on the right, walk on the left, with fines for left-standers (of course, it'd also be silly for them to ban food from the Metro, and they went ahead and did that, anyway). Still, stand-right walk-left works, it makes things run more efficiently. People are better off for having the rule around. So it's evolved as a de facto rule of conduct and when you break the rule you get punished through acts of rudeness.

When you get past the superficial gruffness, I've found New Yorkers to be far more nice and helpful than Californians. They've been much more likely to help out if you drop your bags, to give directions, to stay open late if you come in at the last minute. It seems like there's more of a sense of community and a wilingness to help each other out than there is out West.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at April 2, 2008 12:45 PM

Success! Not a great picture because of glare, but success nonetheless! A photo post is forthcoming.

Posted by: katie at April 2, 2008 02:19 PM

Just kidding. It's actually not a great picture because it's dark. But it's there!

I'd like to point out that what you're looking at is costing me $1150 a month. And that's a twin bed. Zach, does that sound more like New York?

Posted by: katie at April 2, 2008 02:51 PM

11-fucking-50? Tell me that includes board and every utility you could possibly imagine.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at April 2, 2008 05:45 PM

It's actually almost exactly like a hotel in that all the apartments automatically have water, heat, power, garbage, that's paid for by the building. Only no continental breakfast -- for my 11 fucking 50 I have the privilege of feeding my damn self. Oh, and the closest store is Whole Foods, which I love, but where an ounce of quinoa and a chicken breast will set you back 20 bucks.

I take it from your response that this is not even reasonable by New York standards?

Posted by: katie at April 2, 2008 07:22 PM

Well, it depends on the neighborhood. Also, I have a skewed perspective. I live in a really nice neighborhood in Manhattan, but I'm in a university-owned apartment so I get subsidized rent. That said: I live in a two bedroom with a full bath, big kitchen, living room, and a guest room. The apartment's furnished. I have a reasonably big bedroom. I pay $850/month, so between my roommate and I the total rent for the place is $1700/month. That includes all utilities plus access to the university's ethernet for internet.

I'm about to get kicked out of university housing, and I'm looking into non-subsidized housing. The places I'm looking at in Brooklyn and Queens are all 1 or 2 bedrooms for about $1300/month. If I were looking in a nice neighborhood in Manhattan, I doubt I could even get a studio for less than $1600, and that's probably on the low side. So, yeah: Your place would be reasonable by fancy Manhattan standards, but unreasonable out in the boroughs.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at April 2, 2008 07:37 PM