Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Reasons Indie Bookstores Rock My World More Than a Dancing Paul Rudd Gif

Hi, guys! Today, I read the following essay live at Brooklyn's BookCourt in celebration of Independent Bookstore Day, and thought I'd publish it here, too. YAY BOOKS!

Yeah, I know--that's not technically a book. But it IS a purple corduroy jumpsuit, so act impressed.

I came a little... late to reading. When the subject comes up, I usually blame this on my early education, which mostly took place in a Hobbit hole of a Waldorf classroom outside of Austin, Texas. Day after day we sang songs and leapt off of tree stumps and wove rough cornhusks into the sort of dolls the Blair Witch might have hung on her Christmas tree. But we didn’t learn to read.

My parents, who both then and now took pride in their impressive and eclectic home library, read to me often, but I much preferred it when they made stuff up. For a number of years in the early 1980s for example, I forced my father into an episodic tale of a princess trapped in a castle cellar with a family of trolls—a sort of proto-Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I begged any adult I could find to tell me “boo-boo stories”—which were detailed accounts of every time they had ever been badly injured, and one memorable babysitter made Ronald and Nancy Reagan the protagonists of his improvised tales, sending them to fantastical places like outer space, or the vaguely R. Crumb-inspired “Big Butt Island.” But I still did not learn to read.

The turning point came when I left the rustic embrace of Rudolph Steiner and transferred to a local public school for first grade. I was placed into the slowest reading group, but showed such promise that my teacher decided to move me into a different class. Unfortunately I didn’t understand at the time that this was a compliment, and so when she attempted to bodily remove me from my desk I responded with my first—and, so far, only—attempt at fisticuffs. As penance, I was forced, finally, to learn to read.

It’s become cliché to describe a relationship with books as “a love affair,” but in my case I think it’s distressingly accurate, as almost every romantic flush or fallout I had with a partner, I had with a book first. As a child I would lie in bed with them, figuring things out, slowly burying us both in a pile of cracker crumbs—which still my signature move. As an adolescent I experienced alternating, hormone-fueled bouts of euphoria and crushing betrayal. To this day I cannot forgive Louisa May Alcott for letting that little bitch Amy March end up with my Laurie, and I let her know it with some extremely emphatic graffiti on the spine of my dog-eared paperback. As an adult I tend to treat my books not unlike Jeff, my husband of 8 years: they’ve all been read and re-read, over and over, their contents known but no less precious. Their dust jackets don’t fit like they used to, but I don’t make them feel bad about it, just like they don’t make me feel bad about the fact that I sometimes fall asleep while reading them.

But I suppose the end of the similarities between my books and my men is that I prefer to buy the former whenever possible. I love and value libraries, but I have trouble following their rules. I’m not great with due dates, as evidenced by the book on the Emperor Tiberius that I took out in fifth grade and returned on the way to a friend’s Sweet Sixteen. I fold down the corners of pages to mark my place. I bring books to the beach, staining their covers with smears of sunblock and filling their spines with deposits of sand that will later sift out into my sheets, comingling with the cracker detritus. And I still occasionally feel the need to express my feelings in the margins. So with all due respect to Dewey and his decimals, bookstores are clearly where I belong. And at the risk of seeming like a total suck-up, I’ve taken it upon myself to list for you the five reasons that I think independent bookstores should be considered national treasures.

1. They’re romantic

It’s a scientific fact that there are only a handful of jobs you’re allowed to have if you’re one of the leads in a romantic comedy: dog walker, architect, kindergarten teacher, cupcake chef, florist, special needs veterinarian, suspiciously well-paid magazine writer, and independent bookstore owner. So it stands to reason that the likelihood of meeting your soul mate in one is high.

It is here that I will confess to not having any bookstore memories interesting enough to spin into a single story today, and that is because all of my bookstore memories involve me, standing alone, waiting for someone who looks like Idris Elba or Ethan Hawke to make meaningful eye contact with me from across the room.  This has never happened, unfortunately. It could be my palpable anxiety, it could be my wedding ring, or it could be the fact that the book I’m conspicuously reading is never Anna Karenina or even Lolita, but inevitably one of the salacious autobiographies by erstwhile supermodel-cum-reality star Janice Dickinson.

2. They’re beautiful

Carefully curated and lovingly decorated, most indie bookstores I've visited make big box stores look like one of those shipping containers where Dexter killed his victims. Truth.

3. They support the community

Shopping at an indie bookstore is basically like joining a CSA, only you learn new words and don’t have to pretend you know what to do with three pounds of kohlrabi.

4. You can meet authors and observe them in their semi-natural habitat

[Imagine me doing an offensively bad David Attenborough impression] The American novelist stands nervously at the front of the room. While this species feels quite at home behind a keyboard in its unmade bed, interrupting its writing approximately every ten seconds to tweet about how hard it is working, in public it can appear standoffish and even vaguely nauseated at the prospect of reading its work aloud to mammals other than its house pets.

5.  They’re REAL

I’m no saint; I don’t buy everything in a physical store, despite my fantasies of being the kind of person who could bike around the city with a baguette under one arm without being instantly killed. I have, I’ll admit, fallen into Amazon k-holes on occasion, emerging confused and temporarily blinded.

There’s a disassociation inherent in online shopping—you click a few buttons and enter some numbers, but you have no memory of seeing or touching what you’ve bought, and so when the box—seventeen times the size necessary for its contents and filled with enough bubble wrap to clothe Lady Gaga for the coming winter—finally arrives, you have no idea what it is.

There’s something wonderful about holding a book in your hands, feeling the weight of it. You don’t have to judge it by its cover, or by its misspelled, all caps one-star reviews. You can judge it by more intimate factors, like the font choice, whether you might slip a disc carrying it in a shoulder bag, or what kind of Zoolander face the author is making in his or her photo.

There’s also something lovely about buying it from a real person, a person who’s working there either because they’re very passionate about books or because they’re hoping for a meet-cute with a quirky but unbelievably attractive dog-walker played by Paul Rudd.

Both of which, I might add, show incredible character.


Some of my favorite local(ish) indie bookstores, in no particular order, are: BookCourt,  Oblong Books & Music,  McNally Jackson Books, Greenlight Bookstore, Community Bookstore, and R.J. Julia Booksellers. Rhapsodize about yours in the comments, or just share more gifs. I can never have enough gifs; they truly are the gifs that keep on gifing.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Continuing Ed For the Post-College Decades

17th Grade (Ages 22-23) 

  • 4 Tax Exemptions: Trying Not To Screw Yourself
  • Dividing Utilities Between Seven Roommates, One of Whom Is Unemployed And Runs The A/C All Day: Math For The Post-College Years
  • I Don’t Care What You Say Anymore, This Is My Life: Billy Joel Lyrics For Everyday Use
  • Philosophical Rationalizations For Living With Your Parents
  • Chutes & Ladders, Hold The Ladders: Navigating The Entry-Level Job 
Supplies needed:
  1. Unchecked narcissism and feeling of entitlement
  2. Crate of Cup O’ Noodles and the cheapest hooch you can find
  3. Empty savings account
  4. At least two forms of government-issued ID 
22nd Grade (ages 27-28) 

  • Student Loans And Credit Cards: How To Pay Them Off Without Selling Drugs, Or Your Eggs
  • But Where Will My Amps Go? Spatial Geometry For Cohabitation
  • Who’s The Boss? How To Survive a Management Job You Are In No Way Qualified For
  • Unreal Estate: Someone, Somewhere Will Probably Let You Buy Property
  • Out Of The Shot Glass, Into The Wine Box: Late Twenties Drinking Made Simple 
Supplies needed:
  1. Gnawing sense of unease
  2. Lease co-signed by no more than one other person
  3. At least one piece of framed wall art
  4. A 401K you don’t understand 
27th Grade (ages 32-33) 

  • 50 Shades of Gray: Understanding Your Changing Scalp
  • Literally Anyone Can Create Another Human Being With Frighteningly Little Effort: Parenting For The Emotionally Unprepared
  • Yes, You Need A Will, Even If Your Net Worth Is Negative
  • People Who Became Wildly Successful At The Age You Are Right Now And How To Discredit Them
  • Metabolic Betrayal: Physiology of The Early Thirties 
Supplies needed:
  1. Chilling realization that your mother had already had three kids by this age
  2. A checkbook you rarely use but balance anyway, because if you don’t you fear that Suze Orman will somehow know, come to your house, and beat you unconscious with a stack of savings bonds
  3. A pet, plant, spouse or small child you are responsible for keeping alive
  4. Preventative wrinkle cream 
35th Grade (ages 40-41) 

  • It Is In Fact Mathematically Possible For You To Have A Child Who Is In High School: Beating Denial With Simple Algebra
  • There Is No “I” In Comb-Over: Embracing The Hair You Have Left Without Shame
  • Identifying The Celebrities On The Cover Of Us Weekly, Especially If They Were Born After You Turned 25
  • Grape Expectations: Oenophilia For The Over-40
  • Menopause or Meningitis? Fun With WebMD 
Supplies needed: 
  1. Suspicion that you have Benjamin Button disease and are in fact aging in reverse
  2. A gimlet eye
  3. Coupons for “family-size” sundries
  4. At least three sets of keys that open who the hell knows what
To be continued...


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

9am-5pm, Stuck at Home With Your Sick Child


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

National Lampoon's Puerto Rican Vacation

So I'm going on vacation tomorrow. We all are, but it's really Jeff's vacation--because fall is his busiest season, by the time Christmas rolls around he's like 68% dead inside and at least 89% dead outside, so for the past two years he's combatted Seasonal Affective Disorder by throwing his Amex at the tropics--but he's been kind enough to invite me and Sam along. What a sucker.

See, it's a proven fact (by Jeff) that I ruin all vacations by picking fights on the first night. This was true when we went to Paris in 2005, for reasons that I have since repressed, as well as on our honeymoon in 2007, when I became so irrationally angry at not being able to speak any sort of semi-coherent Italian to our waiter that Jeff had an actual panic attack.

I also attempted to make tomato sauce from scratch, which ended so horribly Jeff continues to mock me about it to this day, but he has yet to seek an annulment so you tell me.

It is also a proven fact that our child, while undisputedly the light of our lives and mostly sweet and charming (note: mostly could mean anywhere from 10% to 90%, as he is currently three years old, which as it turns out is way more terrible than two, but I guess whatever genius came up with that phrase [sub-note: genius in this context means "asshole"] must have been too ashamed to modify it once she realized her mistake), ruins vacations by preventing us from relaxing during every moment that he remains conscious.

I swear I'm not trying to complain about going to the beach in January (except for the obvious re-shuffling of Bikini Season to follow directly after the Eggnog Equinox, which seems patently unfair), but it must be said that a vacation with a child or children no longer conforms to the definition of the word as you previously understood it. Kind of like "sleep" or "abdominals."


While I'm going into this next week with expectations and low as my tolerance for rum-based cocktails and direct sun exposure, I'm eternally grateful to the brave man who is taking his Terrible Three and Temperamental Thirty-Four--a.k.a his permanent carry-on baggage--on a holiday.

THANK YOU, HONEY. I promise not to attempt any Spanish or so much as *touch* a vegetable. Maybe ever.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Ode to Funny Women (or, My Fey-kspearean Sonnet)

Shall I compare thee to a Tina Fey?
Thou art quite funny, though not as talented.
Or perhaps you’d rather I say Mindy K.?
Whose one-liners reflect your lowbrow taste...
Miss Dunham’s brilliance seems unfair,
And makes you hit the wine a little hard;
Amy P.'s the queen of guts and flair
That Emmy voters cannot disregard!
But thy eternal Tina shall not Fey-d,
(That pun’s a stretch, but cut a girl some slack.)
Nor shall your tweets make people throw you shade,
Even when of your book deals thou dost yak.
So long as peeps can read, or T can V,
So long live women who write great comedy.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stop Trying to Make New Year's Happen! It's Not Going to Happen!

Ah, New Year's. So full of hype designed to make us ring in midnight feeling strangely empty despite the gallon of cheap champagne we have literally just consumed through a spangled funnel.

I've always felt that in using New Year's Eve as an excuse to stay up late binge-drinking, we as a species are setting ourselves up for feeling bloated and cranky on every single January first, which is kind of like spelling your name wrong on the first page of the SATs. It just... doesn't bode well.

I tried to get Decembuary 0 to happen for awhile, but now I think I'm just going to start the new year on January 2nd, after I've digested the fifteen brunch bagels I used as my inaugural 2015 meal. And I urge all of you to do the same.

New year starts tomorrow. Fuck this noise.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

We Need To Talk About DJ Lance... And Other Petty But Very Specific Complaints About Children's Television

Watch enough TV with a young child and a few troubling lifestyle changes will occur.

First, you will learn all of the words to all of the songs, indelibly and against your will. You’ll find yourself humming them during idle moments and then rush to the bathroom, staring intently at your bedraggled reflection in the mirror as The Map's voice from Dora the Explorer rings in your ears and you begin to really identify, on a deep level, with pretty much all of the characters from The Shining.

Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance. This is Caillou.
Next, you'll develop strong attachments to some shows and passionate antagonistic relationships with others. This may result in a serious throw-down with a friend who thinks Steve from Blue's Clues is "a creepy eunuch," or rolls her eyes when you call out James and Gordon for being "the Assholes of Sodor."

Finally, you will begin to watch with the gimlet eye of the jaded adult you are, and thus will amass enough material for at least three senior college theses about gender roles in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or Daniel Tiger's maddening inconsistency with regards to wearing pants.

I realize that no one's hang-ups are the same, just as all snowflakes are unique and all Yo Gabba Gabba! songs are tuneless earsores, and so I can only speak for myself. With that said, here is a list of personal grievances, based on Sam's most beloved shows:

Yo Gabba Gabba!

Yo! So can we just all agree, from the outset, that DJ Lance Rock is in some kind of home for the mentally ill? I mean, he walks out into a blank white--possibly wall-padded--abyss with his “magical boombox” and then proceeds to anthropomorphize a tribe of tiny, plastic neo-Teletubbies for his own amusement day after day. He probably could have been a subplot on American Horror Story: Asylum if he wore more muted colors (and if you ask me, that big white crying dildo Gooble is way scarier than Chloe Sevigny with no legs).

I won't go into my issues with the characters' random genetic mutations, because I have discussed vented about that at length. Nor will I attempt to decipher the reasons why my child is terrified of the drawing segments in which Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh pretends to be Bob Ross, or why all of Biz Markie's Beats of the Day mostly sound like him straining to climb a flight of stairs. I'll just count myself lucky that Sam has recently jettisoned the Gabba gang in favor of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who are much more violent but not prone to speaking in falsetto.

Thomas and Friends

On the Island of Sodor, ruled by the aristocratic, conspicuously earless blowhard Sir Topham Hatt, if you are a train and you are not "useful," then you might as well blow your own boiler out and end your, and everyone else's, misery.

OK, fine, I get it, they are trains. They're machines and they're supposed to work tirelessly without emotion. But in the world of the show they also have feeble, human-like brains that yearn to be chosen for a "special special," which they then invariably fuck up by not following the rules to the letter. This drives home the takeaway lesson from Thomas and Friends, which is: You are only special if you are useful, and you are only useful if you do not question authority.

Dora The Explorer

Hola, Dora! Hola, Boots! Time for another treacherous jungle adventure while your absent parents bake culturally relevant desserts?

No, kidding, actually I kind of love this show, even with its flaws. Like, the fact that the Map song is literally just him braying "I'M THE MAP I'M THE MAP I'M THE MAP I'M THE MAP" over and over. Or that Dora's adversary, Swiper the Fox, essentially teaches children that their primary concern in life should be that someone will try to steal your shit. But good news: You can just be all, "NO SWIPING" in a loud and authoritative voice and then they'll slink off, vanquished, so that you can continue on your way with the aid of any number of tools from your backpack, which--given the fact that at any moment it may be carrying four sets of snowshoes, rollerskates, bongo drums, or a trumpet--likely weighs twice as much as you do.

We made it out alive again! Excelente!

Blue’s Clues

I have complicated sexual feelings about Steve*, and I also legitimately think this show does a good job at simple, nonpatronizing toddler education, so I will admit to a bias. However I have trouble with the fact that a bedside table and bar of soap can talk, and yet the titular character, who is a mammal, and therefore at least possessed of vocal chords, cannot. You know, I could even deal with the soap thing except for the fact that the NEIGHBOR CAT CAN TALK, TOO. That is some Goofy/Pluto shit that I cannot and will not abide.

*The main complication is that I am married and he exists in 1996. 

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Since I'm already on the subject, let's talk about inconsistencies, Daniel Tiger. Let's talk about the fact that while you joyride that trolley around the Land of Make-Believe, doling out helpful and developmentally-appropriate behavioral tips, you wear no pants.

Shoes, check. Pants, meh.
Now, I am not a pearl-clutcher when it comes to nudity. One of my mother's favorite stories revolves around me, at age three, streaking past my Catholic grandmother and pretending to take a dump on the hardwood floor, just to freak her out.

Also, it should be noted, Daniel's pantslessness seems to be an inherited genetic trait:

Apparently it only affects the Y chromosome.
No. My issue with Daniel's drafty fashion choice has to do with what he wears to sleep at night. And yes, I realize I'm giving this way too much thought, but how--HOW--can you look at this:

...and not go blind from irrational rage?

He's wearing PAJAMA PANTS.

....but why?


The only time my mom told me to not wear underwear was when I slept. She told me my vagina "needed to breathe." (This nugget of wisdom, as you may imagine, was confusing for a nine year-old. Did that mean my tie-dyed long johns were suffocating my nether regions? And was that somehow worse than potentially being bare-assed in front of fire marshals in the unlikely but still totally possible event that my poster of Jonathan Knight from New Kids on the Block posing with a shetland pony combusted from sheer sexual energy and caught our house on fire? But I digress.)

Daniel, I think Mr. Rogers would agree that we need to teach children that--if there must be a choice--pants should be worn during daylight hours.

Also, please tell Katerina Kittycat to stop saying "meow meow" after every third word out of her mouth. We get it, she's a fucking cat.

To be continued... probably.

Friday, November 7, 2014

My Fupa, Myself

Whenever possible, I like to post my holiday roundups at least a week later when no one cares.

Or, maybe I just didn't want anyone to see my Fupa.

You see, "Fupa"--in addition to being the acronym for Fat Upper Pubic/Penile/Orange is the New Black's Poussey Area--is what my son calls the pink, beflowered, butt plug-shaped member of the Yo Gabba Gabba Gang:

She also has a FUPA, if we're being honest.

Months and months ago, Sam decided that he wanted to be Muno, the character I often describe to friends as "the big red dildo cyclops." It's possible that I have a psychological problem in which I can only see children's television characters as they relate to sex toys, but seriously, you tell me:

Let us not speak of the bumps.

It was fine. After all, I grew up in a family that said "partner" instead of "husband," lest I be poisoned by heteronormative sexuality as a toddler. If my kid wanted to dress like one of the extras from the Disney ride version of the Caligula orgy scene, he was free to be you and me.

But then I made the mistake of asking, "What should mommy be?" I guess I was hoping he'd cock an eyebrow, think for a minute, and then answer, "a young Karen Allen." But instead... well, you know how this ends.

This costume doubles as the adult-sized onesie I'll be wearing for the next six months.
I have to hand it to Sam, this was actually the most comfortable costume I've ever worn, hands down, and the pockets were deep enough for the nips of whiskey I needed to consume on our trick-or-treating trail in order to maintain some semblance of dignity.

Happy Halloween, from my Fupa to yours.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hall to the Ween

I'm not a big Halloween person. Even though it's a holiday that celebrates candy, my favorite food group, I don't particularly like going out of the house in costume. Yes, I live in New York, where you're likely to run into pantsless people wearing fright wigs even when it's not October 31, but I've always liked to walk the streets anonymously; despite what my social media accounts might suggest I really don't like drawing attention to myself, in the flesh, in public. Hence some recent "costumes" that could be normal clothes, like my Around the Way Girl of 2009, or even my pregnant hillbilly of 2006 (in retrospect, it could also have been Kate Gosselin):

When I was wearing a coat, I just looked like a hugely pregnant person with bad hair.

It wasn't always this way. I used to go whole hog. When I was five, I was the only girl in my kindergarten class to cross hetero-normative lines when I cross-dressed as Peter Pan:

In 1992, I was a kind of Medusa-lite witch, only to be upstaged by my sister, in what now seems like offensive brownface, as a Hershey's Kiss:

Even when I was fifteen, and arguably far too old to be trick-or-treating, my BFF Adri and I went as undead Ernie and Bert (note the homage to my former unibrow):

Looking through some old photos to find these memories of Halloweens past, I also discovered that I often found myself in accidental costume throughout my youth.

For instance, I was amazingly ahead of the trends when I went as Lily from Modern Family just months after my birth:

Kidding, I don't have two dads--the one on the left is my uncle.

Or how about my risque take on Teen Mom at age six?

Or my political statement when I recruited some friends to go as the Symbionese Liberation Army that same year? (I will also accept: young Sarah Palin.)

At my friend Betsy's wedding in 2008, she and our third Butlerette Ellaree helped me achieve my look as a cast member of Little People, Big World.

And one night after a few too many glasses of wine while watching ANTM, my friend Beth and I raided Jeff's and my wig collection to create an imaginary Simon and Garfunkle-esque duo composed of Aileen Wuornos and Clara Bow.

Even right now, typing this, I'm basically dressed as Randy Quaid in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, unwashed and grizzly, wearing a robe and knee socks. (All I need to complete my costume is to yell, "Shitter was full!")

Hmmm. Maybe I don't need Halloween, after all. Maybe I am one of those people I inch away from on the subway. The More You Know.

P.S. At Sam's request, we are going as Yo Gabba Gabba characters this year. Pray for me. Photos to come!

Monday, September 29, 2014

A-holes on a Train

Amtrak is many things. It is expensive. It is usually late. It is pretty much the only option if you wish to travel in the Northeast by rail and also not be accosted by drunk people on their way back from the beach. But first and foremost, it is a hotbed for assholes.


On a relatively recent summer Sunday evening I was on my way back from a book reading in the Hudson Valley. My train was scheduled to depart at 6:29, but shortly before it was due, the station manager came on the intercom to announce that it had "pulled over to let another train pass" and would be 25 minutes late. The train originated in Montreal, so I tweeted something jokingly detrimental about Canadians. Then I took a series of failed selfies with some meaningful graffiti:

But the train came eventually. It was fine; it was a Sunday night. I mean, we were all just going home to drink the dregs of some past-its-prime rosé and then binge-watch Inside Amy Schumer, right?

Apparently not.

A little before 9 pm, almost to Penn Station, our train stopped north of the George Washington Bridge. due to "police activity." It took about three minutes before the man sitting next to me began intermittently groaning. I wondered at first if he was in labor; the contractions seemed evenly spaced at about two-minute intervals:

Fine, fine, fine--
Nothing, nothing, nothing--

He didn't look more than about four months along, but I didn't want to make any assumptions.

Soon, someone started saying that there was a jumper. As in, a human being who had leapt to their death from a great height.

The immediate reaction was annoyance.

"I don't see anything on Twitter!" the woman sitting in front of me, who I could not see but who I quickly judged to look like some hybrid of Cruella DeVille and Judge Judy, said defensively. "Plus, isn't this like the third one this month?" She was clearly taking points off for creativity.

"Why can't we move?" someone else chimed in. "I mean, the dead body's in the water, right?"

"How long does it even take to move a body?" Cruella DeJudy demanded.

The man seated next to me advanced to transition and began cradling his scalp in his hands.

Within about ten minutes, when the Amtrak conductors could not offer details on the police activity, a man sitting across the aisle took it upon himself to call the police.

"Yeah, I'm sitting on a stalled Amtrak train," he began, in a tone that suggested the train was also located on the Gaza Strip. "They say it's because of police activity, but I want to know exactly what's going on that the train can't move."

Somewhere, I imagined gunshot victims and elderly neighbors collapsing from the July heat waiting on hold, keeping the faith that their call would be answered in order of priority.

"Yeah... yeah... OK. OH. OK, that makes sense," the man across from me said. He hung up and reported to the car, "The body is on the train tracks."

"How is that even possible?" Cruella demanded. "I don't see how that's physically possible."

"That's what they said," the man shrugged.


"Give me the number," Cruella demanded in her raspy voice. "I'm going to put on my bitchface." Something told me it was already firmly secured.

"Yeah, HI," she said brusquely when she reached the police headquarters. "I'M ON A STOPPED AMTRAK TRAIN." The officer, it seemed, was not grasping the urgency of the situation. "Someone told us there was a body on the tracks.... yeah. Right. So what I need to know is, why can't they just move the body?"

Why can't they just move the body? I know that's the first question I jump to when someone has the gall to expire directly in my path.

"Yeah, but how long does it take?" she asked impatiently. She laughed bitterly and hung up. "One to two hours," she reported. "I mean, seriously."

Just then, the conductor walked into the car. "We're going ahead to Penn Station," she said. "No one was hurt."

One might think this news would bring jubilation, or, at the very least, reluctant optimism. But my fellow passengers only grew more disgruntled.

"No one was hurt?" Cruella laughed. "I think jumping off a bridge onto a train track would hurt."

"Yeah, I think you'd probably be dead," the man across the aisle chuckled.

"Nice conversation," the conductor snapped. After she left, the two began loudly conspiring along with my suddenly-recovered seat mate about how to get her fired through a letter-writing campaign.

As I deboarded moments later, expelled into the steamy bowels of Penn Station, I had a few moments, trapped on the escalator behind a herd of enormous wheeled suitcases and their handlers, to reflect on the questionable progress of humanity.

On the one hand, it's possible to ascertain the cause of a transportation delay within minutes through the use of social media and the shameless harassment of law enforcement officials. On the other hand, people are jaded and horrible and we're doomed as a species.

Except for Canadians. They remain, as ever, fucking polite.
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