Wednesday, December 30, 2009

226 – Random Rants as I Return to the Real World

After a week off, I found myself returning to the salt mines today. The bus/train shuffle on days like today totally blows. In the time I waited for the bus to show at the stop by my house I could have driven into my office. Ditto for the time I spent on the platform waiting for the train once I got to the Dunwoody station. This week is always VERY light on the traffic front..and lots of my personal time could have been saved with the use of a personal vehicle. Insert – sigh- here.
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Though I have no idea how I did so, I’ve somehow downloaded John Mayer’s Pandora playlist onto my Iphone. Oddly enough, most of what he’s got on his list; I’ve already got on mine. His selections and the order in which they played stirred my emotions…specifically; I was reminded that of late, I miss having a significant other in my life. Hell, at this point I’d take an insignificant other.

Anyway, Heart of the Matter by Don Henley came on…I prefer the India Arie version but this was fine too…and that got me thinking about forgiveness. Something I struggle with. Something with which I think my whole family struggles with. The person I find hardest to forgive most of the time? Me. I think in 2010 I’ll take a lesson out of the Rhianna tattoo handbook and rather than berate myself for bad choices I’ll subscribe to the theory that when things don’t turn out as we had planned/hoped, we opt to see that there is “Never a failure, always a lesson.”

From there, Frank S. came on and I thought about how long it’s been since I fell asleep with a smile on my face thinking about a boyfriend. About how long it’s been since I’ve woken up in the morning just counting the minutes until I could see him again. I am starting to worry that I am incapable of having those feelings…should I ever embark on another relationship. Will I remember how to do this when the time comes? Is it like riding a bicycle?

And then Steve Ray Vaughan came on…and I was transported back to August 1990 and the driveway of my friend Mike. We had just started our senior year of high school and while I waited for him to come out to the car, DC101 announced Steve Ray had been killed in a helicopter crash. I wasn’t a big fan at the time, and really, I don’t have any idea why I even remember the announcement. But for some reason I do. And today, I thought about all the things that Steve Ray has missed since he left us in 1990…and I realized that while my life might not be the one I want, at least I still have one. And for that, I am more grateful than I can ever adequately express.
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What’s that ugly orange color sprouting up all over the City, you ask? Why it’s the Tennessee Volunteer fan base invading for the Chick-fil-A Bowl!

Yes kids, they have arrived. They were in full force today at the Colony Square food court. The good news? That god awful orange stands out in a crowd…so you can easily avoid them. The bad news: they don’t know where they are going or what they are doing…and they are in no sort of rush to figure it out.

Reminds me of a joke my friend John used to say:
Why do Tennessee fans wear orange all weekend?
Because they can wear it huntin' on Friday, to Neyland Stadium on Saturday, and to pick up trash by the side of the road on Sunday.

I am sure as the week goes on I’ll start seeing a dearth of VT- ers in town for the game. And they too have a hideous orange associated with their school. (My favorite VT joke: You can’t spell conVicT without VT!)

Really, this IS the Orange Bowl folks….intentional or not…it’s the color du jour at this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. Orange you glad to know that?

Monday, December 21, 2009

235 – My Top 10 Christmas Movies

As has been previously stated, I am not so much a Christmas fan. I am more of a Groundhog Day/Halloween kinda girl. I guess I just prefer holidays that don’t illicit mass gatherings of family. Christmas is oftentimes too pressure filled for me to enjoy it. You rush, rush, rush to get everything done, to see everyone, to get to all the parties…and then, when all is said and done, you are left feeling exhausted rather than enriched. So, I’ll take a Groundhog Day brunch with a game of croquet any day over packed malls and traipsing around in the snow. And don’t even get me started on decorating. Yawn.

I do, however, enjoy my movies. So this morning on my way in, I decided to draft Cari’s Top 10 Christmas Flicks.

WARNING – this will be far from the traditional list. I’ve not seen most of the Christmas Classics…and I am most proud to claim the title of, “The Only Person on Earth Who Has Never Seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’”. Fact – My freshman roommate in college was from Indiana, PA - hometown of one Jimmy Stewart - and her grandma actually knew him..and I still won’t watch it. (And also, I saw Ferris at 31 Flavors last night…)

Without further ado, here’s my list of personal favorites in the Christmas genre: warning – there may be some spoilers!)

10 – Elf
When this first came out, I wasn’t a huge fan. Upon subsequent viewings (courtesy to the almost constant showing of it on USA/FX/TBS) it’s grown on me. Amazes me how Will Farrell can project such wonder on his face. The scene where Buddy confronts fake Santa is classic (You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don't smell like Santa). As is Buddy’s attempt to ride an escalator for the first time. A new Christmas Classic indeed.

9 – The Holiday
A chick-flicky Christmakka treat. Two strangers trade houses over the holidays to get away from their lives and the associated drama therein…only to create new and different dramas on the other side of the globe. Great cast, strong writing and lovely locales. And Iris’ speech about getting over someone and on with your life is just so heartbreaking…and true..that it burns. This is a two week life swap I’d love to emulate in my own life….except I don’t think anyone is clamoring for a visit to Sandy Springs. Or the whopping 711 SF that is the Chez Cari.

8 – Trading Places
Philly at Christmas. How that town got the nickname The City of Brotherly Love is beyond me. People there aren’t always the jolliest souls. Plus it’s usually grey there all winter long…which makes it cringe-worthy, if you ask me. However, the tale of a Richie and a Con Artist swapping places…and then taking down the bastages responsible for their reversal of fortune.. is wickedly funny. If I even think, “Looking good, Billy Ray!; Feeling good, Louis!" I go into a fit of hysterics. (sidebar – how odd is it that kids today think of Eddie Murphy solely as the voice of Donkey from Shrek? From RAW to Shrek? Am I the only one saying WTF?)

7 - Home Alone
While wildly far-fetched, this story of a forgotten boy and his acceptance of his situation always makes me smile. Kevin and I have a lot in common. We are both the youngest of large families. We were both scared of the basement at one point. And I’ll be the first to admit I, too, often wished everyone would go away and leave me alone when I was little. I know I felt, “This house is so full of people it makes me sick!” on more than one occasion. (Point in case – I actually lobbied to go to boarding school…unsuccessfully, I might add). Even as an adult, I (every year) consider not traveling home for the pandemonium that is my family Christmas. But in end, I’ve yet to miss one. And I guess because like Kevin, I realize that someday I might really be all alone..and it might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

6 – While You Were Sleeping
This movie came out in the Spring of 1995..and I saw it in July at the theater.  Talking about staying power at the multiplex. Perfect timing as I needed an escape from both the brutal summer heat and the brutal breakup that was on the cusp with my then soon-to-be ex-college boyfriend. Another very well written, superbly cast movie. From Grandma down to fellow Mass Transit worker, the cast hits this one out of the ballpark. Even the guy in the coma pulls his weight. My favorite line in the movie? “If you can fit in my jeans, I will kill myself!” The case for head trauma has never been more appealing.

5 – Die Hard
It’s beginning to look like chaos at Nakatomi Plaza! NYC cop comes to LA for an estranged family Christmas… and instead has to battle some cash crazy terrorists who’ve crashed the Nakatomi holiday party. And he does this while barefoot. Witty banter, Reginald Veljohnson and the effective use of "CHRISTMAS IN HOLLIS" by Run-DMC make this a seasonal must see! Favorite line (and it’s not the one you think…) –“Nine million terrorists in the world and I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister.” Pennsville is proud Bruce Willis!

Now this is where it’s going to get hard kids….any of these four could actually be number one on any given day….all depends on my mood. Needless to say, this is the most fluid part of the list.

4 – Christmas Vacation
Oh the good, old fashioned family Christmas! With booze. And tears. And insensitive guests. And lest we forget, the Squirrel. Riotously funny. And the details, my God! The use of the Wally World punch bowl set for Egg Nog? Genius! Whenever I am channel surfing and come upon this gem, I have to stop and ride the Griswold Christmas wave. Thank god they didn’t listen to Rusty and head to Hawaii for the holiday.

3 – Better Off Dead
For the better part of my existence I’ve been utterly draw to John Cusack..or more correctly, his characters..and this movie is the reason why. Sure, I saw and liked Say Anything but for me it all really started with Better Off Dead (or quite possibly, Sixteen Candles where he played Brice). The story of a freshly dumped semi- outsider and how he copes a) with his heartbreak, b) his crazy and out-of-it family, c) a devilish paperboy and d) all the other trials and tribulations of his high school existence. He likes Salisbury steak frozen dinners…so naturally, his mother buys him a CASE for Christmas. He gets in a drag race with Howard Cosell obsessed Japanese brothers. And he “skis on one ski.” Lane Meyer, you are the man. And I think Beth still rues the day she let you go.

2 – The Ref
This movie puts the FUN in dysfunctional. Denis Leary in his most frayed rope role yet. Forced to take a couple hostage to get himself out of a jam, he soon discovers they bicker all the time (Great, I hijacked my f(*&^ing parents.) And then he finds out the the rest of the family is to join them. And let me tell you, when the rest of the gang (in-laws, kid, siblings) arrives, these folks make the Manson Family look like the Waltons. As my dad would say, there is a lot of “rough language” in this one, but if you can get past that I promise you will howl with laughter, “I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you. Your husband ain't dead, lady. He's hiding.”

1 – A Christmas Story
The quest for the bb gun. The flagpole scene. The Easter bunny outfit. The Bumpus hounds. A few glimpses into why I and so many others love this movie. But for me, there is another reason. I saw this movie with my Dad in 1983 over Christmas break. My father was about the same age as Ralphie Parker during the era in which the movie is set. I remember hearing my father’s laughter in that theater like it was yesterday. I remembered thinking for the first time that my dad wasn’t always my dad. That he too had in fact been a child once. I got to see what my father at 10 might have looked like and he got to relive some memories from his youth. And we both walked out of the theater with sore stomachs from laughing so much. Dad’s not the movie buff I am so it would be 15 years before we went to see another movie together. And that one was Titanic….a story that his father (my grandfather) remembered hearing about as a five year old who just happened to be the one who brought in the newspaper the day the story ran.

This will be my last post of the week (unless I have some worthy tale from my air travels over the next few days) so I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas/Kwanzaa. May we all find comfort and joy in our own unique ways!

238 – Happy Hour Train Ride

There is something special about a Friday evening commute after a short Happy Hour. One vodka tonic and one Sweetwater 420 after Happy Hour commenced, I found myself being dropped off at the Arts Center Station for the homeward journey.

As luck would have it, the North Springs train rolled in just as I got to the platform. And so as we weaved our way northbound, I was in a very relaxed state. It was almost as if the rocking motion of the train was lulling me to sleep. And while the car traffic was brutal, even the red taillights provided a festive nature to what I am sure was a typical Friday nightmare-ish commute.

Given that the traffic was so bad, that the bus invariably wouldn’t be on time as a result of said traffic, and the high number of folks traversing the roadways, I opted to walk home from Sandy Springs this evening even though it was a little darker than normal. Safety in numbers and all that, you know.

With my Pandora set to Holiday Music, a crisp chill in the air, and lightness in my step, I guess you could say I was walking in my own winter wonderland. Even if I am not really a fan of Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

239 – A Different Route on a Different Day

Tonight I had to haul my cookies to my hairdresser’s for a much overdo trim and chat session with the best hair guy in the world, one Mr. John K.

I plotted my route with the precision of a military offensive. And fortunately the trains and buses rain like clockwork. And let me tell you, the 5 from Lindbergh is one popular route.

I naively thought I’d get the chance to sit and finish my book. Yeah, not so much. It was standing room only by the time I boarded. But hey, at least it was where it was supposed to be when it was supposed to be there.

Praise the lord and pass the offering plate…I made to my appointment with about 10 minutes to spare!

John and I chatted about music, his experience running a half marathon recently, Glee, my recent realization that I miss that feeling of being excited when I see someone (translation, I need a boyfriend, stat), Jake Gyllenhaal, holiday plans, our wild families, and finally, what we plan to do (or avoid) New Year’s Eve. And when all was said and done, my hair looked fabulous as it always does when John works his magic and I felt sufficiently caught up on all things John.

And then, in the true Christmas spirit, John was kind enough to drop me off at home when we were all finished so I wouldn’t have to brave the cold and dark and ride yet another Marta bus. I’m lucky to have him as a hairdresser…even luckier to have him as a friend. In this season of miracles, I count this one as not only a miracle, but also a blessing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

240 – The Wind Beneath my Skirt…the lesser known follow up to The Wind Beneath my Wings

A 20 degree temperature swing in a single day can present a bit of a wardrobe challenge. Never fails…I always wear a skirt the day a) the temperature falls like Tiger’s approval rating and b) the wind whips up and makes walking without flashing a challenge. If only I had weights I could attach to my skirt hem…then I wouldn’t have to worry. Or maybe I should go back to what I did in 2nd grade when I wore skirts…I wore shorts underneath them. What can I say, I was unwilling to NOT go on the jungle gym or slide into second base just because I had a skirt on.

One the way home, I had a special guest star pop up. As I disembarked at Sandy Springs I happened to look across the track and see my friend Watkins waiting for the Southbound train. So of course I had to wave and say hi. Fortunately, he knew it was me because if he hadn’t realized who I was I perish the thought of how embarrassed I’d have been. Anyhow, we shouted pleasantries over two set of tracks for a few minutes to catch up. He and his lovely wife are headed to Knoxville for Christmas; I extolled about my impending trip to the Metro DC area. We discussed NYE plans (are you going to the game? No. You? Me neither). It was a nice surprise to see him. And I must say, shouting MERRY CHRISTMAS over two sets of train tracks just seconds before his train rolled in finally got me in the Christmas spirit.

Maybe because I actually meant it?…that is until I started the walk home and again had to worry about that damn skirt.

241 – My Mother once said that since I liked to read she was never worried that I’d be Lonely.

I’ve no idea what that means, but that is Joan for you.

So my blog entries of late on here have been rather subdued. I can only attribute this to the books I’ve been reading on the train and bus. They’ve sucked me into their stories much like Alice when she went down the rabbit hole. I’ve not noticed things because I’ve been wrapped up in these tales. Which is great for making the commute fly by..but makes it hard to observe everything else going on around me.

I’ve burned through eight or so Charlaine Harris books since mid-November. Additionally, I’ve finished two books by Nicolas Sparks (why can’t we ever get a happy ending from that man?!); a book about Mary Bennet (as in Elizabeth Bennet Darcy’s sister) written by Colleen McCullough (author of The Thorn Birds) and another book comprised of two short stories that I got at Publix a week or so ago.

Needless to say, I’m almost out of reading material, so if anyone has any suggestions for good books to read as we move into 2010, please let me know. Other than Neal Stephenson and Cryptonomicon-ish works I am fairly open to all genres.

Monday, December 14, 2009

244 - Friday Funday

So the commute Friday rocked. The train came right into the Arts Center station as I made my way down the escalator....and the bus was waiting at the Dunwoody station when I got there. I was home in less than an hour! (this takes some of the sting out of the other hellish days I encountered last week.)

Bad news is my home computer monitor has gone on strike and I can't get it to work. (This is why the Friday post isn't showing up til Monday.) In my attempt to fix it, I managed to break my desk. That's right, trying to move it by myself resulted in me pulling the back panel out of one of the side panels.

Fortunately, I was able to rig it so it didn't come crashing down. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure Clapton tickets as the screen kept crapping out. And I am super pissed about that.

Anyway, my computer is very old and very slow and this monitor issue is the straw that broke the camel's back I think. Looks like I'll be braving the crowds the day after Christmas to secure a new, faster laptop. Wasn't in the budget but if I can find a good deal I can make it work...and eat cereal for a few weeks to make up for the expenditure.

Until then, there will be a short lag in post time. And I am sure you are just crushed to hear that.


Friday, December 11, 2009

245 - I Got Lucky Today

Ok, get your mind out of the gutter.

A friend was kind enough to pick me and transport me to a meeting at the crack of dawn...and then later, give me a ride home from one of the few holiday parties that was held last night in Midtown.

And given the super cold temps I am forever grateful!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

246 - A Tale of Two Commutes

AM - Are You Pulling a Plow?

I want my usual morning driver back. (See post 248)

This new AM guy is for the birds. He's got zero personality and drives about as fast as syrup making its escape from a maple tree in Vermont...in the dead of winter. Seriously that bulldog that rides the skateboard on YouTube goes faster than we do in the morning. It's madness.

PM - I Stand Corrected

So tonight I got to the bus pick up location a few minutes BEFORE departure time. And the bus still didn't show. Today it apparently left early...which is, I guess, a nice change of pace from yesterday when it didn't show it all..or at least not until an hour after it was scheduled to arrive.

Unwilling to wait 25 minutes again tonight in the hope that the bus might show at the appointed time of 6:05, I got back on the train and headed to the Sandy Springs station.

I then walked home. And it was dusk but by no mean pitch black, as I described in yesterday's blog. (I guess the level of darkness I described yesterday was the result of the storm that rolled in)

In any case, made my way home in the twilight and I realized I am much more a sunset person than a sunrise person. If I had my way I'd spend every sunset sitting on a beach somewhere watching the sun sink under the sea..and then look above to stars.

Chances are if I see a sunrise, it means I am coming home from somewhere and I just happened to catch the start of the day. Don't get me wrong, I love the quiet of the mornings but given a choice I'd take a sunset over a sunrise any day of the week.

There is something about sunsets...and maybe someday I'll get to sit still long enough to figure out why I have been, and continue to be, drawn to them. Until then, I'll continue enjoy my twilight walks and ponder.

247 – AHWD - Another Hellish Weather Day.

So tonight I missed the bus by 5 minutes. This is just insult to injury; as now I can’t even walk from Sandy Springs Marta to my house if I miss the bus because it’s pitch black by 5:30. Hurry up December 21st (for those not knowing, that is the Winter Solstice and the days will start to get longer again starting the next day.) Add the slashing rain to the mix and you can see why I opted to skip the evening hike.

But the wait wasn’t too long (or so I thought!) and figured I’d read some of my book while I waited for the 6:05 edition. Gave me 25 minutes of reading time, which I am always grateful for. Score.

You can imagine my disdain when the bus finally rolled in at 6:40 PM. That’s right kids; one hour and twenty minutes after I got off the train I finally had a bus to board. It was cold, it was rainy, and it was dark. And the ride home was so herky jerky thanks to the traffic I almost ralphed. More than once.

I finally got home at 7:06…a staggering TWO HOURS after I walked out of my office in Midtown. I was in my PJs by 7:11. I was not happy. But I did finish a 300 page novel I started on Monday afternoon, so I guess that is the upshot. Of course my ass was frozen but hey, you can’t have it all, right?

248 – Dude, Where’s my Bus Driver?

My usual driver didn’t greet me this morning. My usual driver always says good morning and waits for me to take a seat before he takes off after picking me up. My usual driver often chit chats with the riders as we make our way to the Dunwoody station. He’s very friendly and loves talking about current events..and how crazy folks are in the world. (And as a MARTA driver, I am sure he’s seen a slew of them up close and personal.)

Today, I did not have my usual driver.

Today’s driver was female, disengaged from her riders and was on a mission to get to the station. She actually spoke to the cars in front of the bus telling them to get a move on. This thrilled me as I thought I was the only one who yelled MOVE when some doofus didn’t get his rickshaw moving fast enough to suit me. She might not have been friendly but she was fast…and I’ll take it. If that is what it gets to get me to the station in time for the top of the hour train, she can yodel for all I care.

But it was a weird way to start to the week. My AM driver is the first person I speak to in the morning. Sometimes, he’s the first person I've spoken to since Saturday night…Sundays I tend to hermit crab a bit. Not seeing him there kind of threw me off. And I made it all the way to the office before I uttered two words to anyone. Odd indeed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

251 - 114 days

As of today, I've been at this no car thing for 114 days. (Please note this includes weekends too and thus days that I haven't had to commute..that's why there aren't 114 posts.)

In terms of work, Marta is working out just fine. Sure, I don't like having to strictly adhere to their time tables nor do I care for spending parts of my day in the rain and cold. But by and large, it's not that bad. Even Zipcar seems to have gotten the kinks worked out.

On the personal front, it's much harder. No bus on the weekend means if I go anywhere I have to walk or cab it. Which is fine so long as I stay close to home. A mile walk to the grocery with a $5 cab ride back on occasion isn't too terrible.

It's getting to see friends that is the real challenge. A fifteen minute cab ride to visit my friends who live 10 miles away is cost prohibitive. So, I don't see them all that often any more. For my friends that live further away, it's even worse.

That said, I still think I made the smartest choice I could back in August. Had I taken on a car payment just as our pay cuts were activated I'd be in the hole every month before I even got my paycheck.

So unless Santa arrives with a free and mechanically well maintained vehicle for me I'm staying on this path. Wonder if he'd give me a ride on his sleigh up to Roswell. Hhmmmm.

252 - Apparently all the crazy people were at the Mall this evening

Dear Perimeter Mall -
I am very thankful you are on the Marta line. Makes my life so much easier. And other than your recent removal of Crate and Barrel, the store lineup is very strong.

That said, you have a serious problem. It's the kiosk vendors.

They have been notoriously bad in the past. On more than one occasion, I've taken to walking through the mall with my cell phone to my ear pretending to have a conversation so they won't pounce on me. I am sad to report it is getting worse.

Example:
After I made a return to a store, I actually considered going back outside, into the cold and dark alone, to cut across the parking lot to avoid these effers on my way to Macy's. After a minute or two of debate I decided that the outside option was probably not the safest bet. Maybe I was overreacting.

I wasn't.

As I started from the Clark' store I was on the upper level and I immediately decided to go down a level as to avoid the Shiatsu massage pushers. Only to then be bombarded by someone who was having a "cash for clunkers" program for cell phones. Huh?

I got past him and some chick hawking lotion and was relatively safe in the food court area...then I made I right to get to Macy's. It was like a live fish had thrown into the piranha tank. I kid you not, they started circling and I swear I heard the Jaws theme playing over the PA system. For the record:
  • No, you can't ask me a question.
  • I am not discussing what makeup I wear with you.
  • No, I don't need to discuss my cellular plan.
  • No, you can't have a minute of my time.
  • And while it was very nice of you to comment about how pretty my eyes are, that will not get me to stop and look at a product that I have no need or desire for. Even I am not that shallow.

This over the top, follow you through the mall behavior has got to stop. I know business is slow but folks, stop stalking the shoppers. We know you are there. We are bright enough to figure out what you are selling, and if we aren't, we as a human race are usually curious enough to stop and found out what all the hubbub is about.

This tirade doesn't apply to the hair girls or the upstairs sunglasses vendor. Those ladies rock...they are always friendly without being pushy. That is the one part of the mall I don't dread while shopping. These other kamikaze kiosk workers make the rest of my visits shear hell.

Once I finally made it to Macy's I stayed there for the remainder of my shopping trip. Fortunately they had everything I needed (and were having HUGE sale) so I didn't have to go back into the shark infested waters of the general mall area. Which is a shame because I may have actually found another deal or two...but it just wasn't worth it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Day, Three Posts

I’ve been remiss about posting this week. What can I say? Having a short week last week spoiled me I think. Anyway, here is the latest:
255 – Monday MondayThe first day back after the long weekend. Uneventful journey to and fro. Still engrossed in my novel so my trips fly by. Have started weaning myself from Pandora..simply because I get so occupied with both forms of media that I wouldn’t even notice if the person sitting next to me were to spontaneously combust. Which is not good (or safe) when riding mass transit.
254 – Tuesday’s gone With the WindFirst day of December so I had to break out my new monthly fare card. This, of course, didn’t work. And I had neither cash, nor my personal Breezecard on me. Oh happy day. I was able to get into the train station thanks to the kindness of a fellow bus passenger who hooked me up when we got to the station. Otherwise I’d have been hitting folks up for spare change at the Dunwoody station just to get to work.
Once I disembarked the train at Arts Center, I asked a Marta employee how I could get a replacement card. Her answer? Travel to Five Points or Lindberg and they’d replace it. Really? And how do you suggest I get there…what with a NON FUNCTIONING MARTA CARD AND ALL? Thanks for the help. Nice to see you have the ability to think outside of the box. Moron.
Anyway, when I made it to the office I found out I wasn’t the only one who had problems with the card. Everyone’s pass had to be replaced so a courier was called to get new ones for us. PTL. Hopefully Wednesday's commute will go better.