Posts Tagged ‘cantankerous’

What’s up with crazy old guys on the subway?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

This post definitely undercuts my distinctly pro-rail post from yesterday, but I’ll go with it anyway:  what the hell is going on with crazy/creepy old guys on the subway?  (In this case, I’m referring to the “T” Red Line in Boston between South Station and Kendall, but I’ve experienced this in San Francisco as well).  I occasionally come across an unbalanced lady or younger person, but 9 times out of 10, it’s an old guy.

Today, it was a pushy dude who was exiting the Red Line at South Station just as I was entering.  The MBTA “turnstiles” are not really turnstiles — they’re half-duplex gates that allow either one person to enter (after inserting their fare ticket or activating their proximity card) or one person to exit (after activating a sensor).  Also, there’s a massive freaking row of them at larger stations — South Station definitely counts as one of those.  So, I put my card in right as this guy is heading toward the turnstile from the other side.  Card is in.  He walks up.  He seriously waves me aside, with the ol, “move aside”.  Now, I’m no expert, but I was there first (witness card already inserted), and there was an open exit RIGHT NEXT DOOR.  I told him I was there first – he just insists, no I wasn’t, and walks on through.  Whatever.  Point is:  crazy dudes apparently get their way.

A couple weeks ago, it was this older fellow who got on at Park Street as I was heading to South Station.  It was about 5:30.  The train was completely full of people.  I always stand, because I don’t like having to try to find a seat, I don’t like sitting in questionable cleanliness, and I don’t like the social awkwardness of continually wondering if I need to offer up my seat to someone who appears may need/want it.  The older guy gets on, and immediately starts rambling about how nobody will offer up their seat.  Keep in mind that if a person were to get up, there would be no place to actually stand — I was already completely squished next to someone as I stood.  So even if a person wanted to offer their seat, it wasn’t completely obvious as to how that was logistically possible.  Also, this guy wasn’t ancient.  At most, he’s in his late 60s.  Also, he seemed to be in good enough health to shove me aside as I was standing there (again, there was little room for him to maneuver, but somehow he found a way), as he sought out a seat.  As he muttered on and on about how there was a “thousand dollar fine” for not offering up your seat (not true — though there are reserved seats for seniors and disabled persons that may fit his description, those were already full with seniors and a couple pregnant ladies), his bitching finally guilt-tripped a lady into awkwardly giving up her seat for this guy.  Real classy, taking a seat away from a lady.  Now, I don’t know this guy’s medical condition, but he sure seemed fit enough to force his way through a crowded train.  Also, his would-be protocol that all the people on a full train should get up and offer their seats up for re-prioritization at every stop is completely inefficient.  The Red Line breaks down and stops enough without those kinds of problems.

Another example that stands out in my mind is this older guy who frequently gets on at Kendall and off at either Charles/MGH or Park Street.  I see him all the time.  He wears full-on ear-covering headphones, and he reeks of urine.  Granted, he most likely is homeless, but the crazy part is the talking-to-himself aspect.  I’ve been on the train w/ plenty of seemingly homeless people.  They might hit you up for money, but they don’t all just start having a conversation with themselves.  But again, if it’s a crazy person talking to themselves on the train, it’s likely an old dude.  He’s not the only one, by far — he’s just the one I see most regularly.

More in the “creepy”, but not annoying, category would be the mid-50s guy who got on at Park Street going to South Station 3 weeks ago or so.  Unlike the annoying/unhinged fellows who usually are rather unkempt, this guy was fairly well groomed.  Recent haircut, clean clothes, just another commuter on the T, right?  Wrong.  Dude has on an older, yet clean and free-of-holes, “Hanson” fan shirt.  (Not just the word “Hanson”, but one with the faces of the members of the band — not to be confused with the hockey-playing Hanson Brothers, who rule — shouldn’t they face off in celebrity deathmatch?)  I didn’t even know they made those shirts in adult sizes.  And this wasn’t some sort of modern-hipster-douchebag type ironic thing (“check out my Pabst shirt!  I’m so clever!”) — or if it was, nothing else about this serious, slightly-past-middle-aged guy gave that away.  This shirt didn’t look like something he bought recently, but had had for years & lovingly cared for.  All with the long-locked, slightly-female-looking mugs of the Hanson boy-band on the front of his shirt.  Utterly, utterly creepy.  And no, it’s not about it being guys — if he had a “Hannah Montana” shirt on, it would be equally creepy.  Who knows, maybe there’s a Hannah Montana shirt-guy on the Green Line.  What am I saying — of course there’s a Hannah Montana shirt-guy riding the Green Line.  He’s probably wearing it on the way to the concert, at the Garden.

Anyway, I love the public transit system here in Boston, and if I have to put up with the crazy-ass old guys, so be it.  But once in a while, I do wish they could tone down the crazy.

Amazon “super-saver shipping’s” bizarrely variable latency

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Generally, I love Amazon’s free super-saver shipping.  Amazon’s customer service is great (I’ve had to return things a few times, and they were always good about it), and the prices generally are tough to beat.  What I don’t get is the reasoning behind (and the implementation of) the following clause regarding super-saver shipping:

Please note that your order may take an additional 3 to 5 business days to ship out from our fulfillment center(s).

I always use super-saver shipping.  For the most part, I don’t need stuff in a hurry, and it’s not worth spending $5 to $10 on shipping to get it faster.  And actually, most of the time stuff winds up shipping out a day or 2 after I ordered it, not 3 to 5 business days.  However, I do notice that on more expensive orders ($200 or more, usually), the delay is always in that 3 to 5 business-day range.  How do they actually implement that?  Do they have some sort of daily queue, and cheapskates like me get put in the back every day, and if they don’t get to you, they don’t get to you?  And if so, how come cheap stuff gets shipped out quickly, but expensive stuff takes longer — different warehouses with different queues?  I mean, hey, it’s free, I’m not complaining — but I am curious how this works.  And I’m also curious how this is cheaper.  It sure seems like it’s just an artificial, added delay to my order, and I’m tempted to believe this is meant as a way to punish me into paying for shipping next time.  (They have my order history, obviously — do they look at that and try to profile me?)

This might all seem like crazy conspiracy theorizing, but marketing really does work like that.  Wal-Mart pioneered this sort of stuff — they watch inventory closely, they watch what gets bought together, and they micromanage sales and discounting to maximize correlative sales on higher-margin items.  Supermarkets do this on an inter-trip (rather than intra-trip) per-person basis with “loyalty cards”.  People are regularly either being actively coerced with their shopping habits, or the marketers are looking to take advantage of what they observe to be correlative habits.  I’m going to keep buying stuff on Amazon with free shipping either way, but I do wonder if any such advanced techniques are in use here.