Commuting adventures between Tacoma and Seattle.

Category: Personal Space

Spring is Here

The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, the grass needs mowing, and a whole new crop of bike douches have found their way to the 1502.  String a couple of days of reasonable weather together and the inside of the train turns into an unmanageable snarl of aluminum tubing, chain, rubber, carbon fiber, and a moose knuckle or two.

Certainly, there is room for one more.

Our usual peloton from Team Douche isn’t going to like it.  So many brand new bikes straight off the showroom floor, freshly oiled chain and gears, not a speck of dirt or wear, fancy bike shoes that still smell like Big-5 Sports–immaculate machines in the hands of people who will one day wonder what the hell they were thinking when they bought this thing.

These newcomers have a thing or two to learn about bringing a bike onto the train.  For one, they’re not dressed appropriately.  Rolled up jeans?  Cargo shorts?  Come on, you need sponsors!  Secondly, there isn’t nearly enough discussion about last weekend’s race, the new gearset they’ll use in their hill climb this afternoon, or the angle of the thingie where the forks meet the handlebars.

We’re all familiar with the question: “Do these pants make my butt look big?”  No, the pants don’t make your butt look big, but that bike makes you look like a douche bag.


I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll…Just Need to Sit Down Here a Moment

Remember the old codger who plopped down between me and The Fonz and ended up knocking The Fonz onto the floor?  Well, he found himself a seat this morning without forcibly displacing any other riders; Lebeau won’t like it, though.  Getting to this seat was a bit of an adventure for the guy; I remember it as if it were a meal ago…


Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here.

I’m standing there playing Words With Friends while waiting for the train, The Scarecrow wandering feverishly and randomly around the train platform, when I hear some labored breathing approaching.  I didn’t look up, assuming it was probably just The Scarecrow doing his morning calisthenics, or masturbating, or both.  As the breathing gets closer, it really sounds like the “breather” is in distress.  I look up and see that same old codger from before, wobbling down the platform, bent over about 30 degrees struggling to make it over to where I’m standing.


Poor-Man’s John Wayne

He’s hugging the wall of the Freighthouse, hobbling along like William Boyd in Hopalong Cassidy, reaches out for a railing, then leans on it casually while trying to catch his breath as if to say, “What? I’m just standing here leaning on this rail like a goddamn boss.”  It was all he could do to get from the door to this spot on the platform–about 30 yards–and he sounded like he had just run the sprint of his life.  Standing there leaning on the railing was too much for him, so he ended up sitting down on a curb.  Was he going to pass out?  Man, who could tell?

At about this time the train pulls up, and this guy works for Sound Transit counting passengers, so he’s got to get his ass up and over the the doors.  I instinctively step aboard when the doors open, sit down, and pull out my laptop.  I look up: oh my god he made it!  The old codger covered the 15 yards between his seat on the curb and the doors of the train, but it sounded like it nearly killed him to do so.

He dumps himself into Lebeau’s seat and spreads himself out across the two seats in that space–he really needs a rest.  If anyone needs the extra room, it’s this guy, but he comes off completely oblivious to the people around him who have nowhere to sit, just like last time when he was sitting where the bikes go, and when his ass shoved The Fonz out of his spot.  This old dude should probably have a handicap parking sticker on the back of his Sound Transit ID badge to let people know how lucky they are not to be performing CPR on him right now.



Napoleon Dynamite?  No.  Leprechaun Kryptonite.

Came upon The Scarecrow this morning as he was skulking around the perimeter of the train platform.  He came out of the shadows at one point to see if a pair of doors were unlocked on the Freighthouse building, then tried a couple of other doors nearby.  This is a habit for The Scarecrow he must test each nearby door to see if it’s unlocked.  What he’ll do when he finds one unlocked is unknown.  He’s like a Vampire with a knotted rope, or a Leprechaun with a pile of scuffed-up shoes.

Getting on the train, he pulled out a classic: unnecessarily crowding his way through the door in a mad dash for the seat nobody really wants, but he must have, or die.  Try to imagine an empty train (or nearly so), and a line of three people ahead of The Scarecrow–I’m in third position.  When the doors open to let people on, the line of people climbs aboard one at a time UNTIL it’s my turn.  At precisely this moment, The Scarecrow makes a dodge to the right and rushes forward so now we’re both climbing through the door at the same time.

LA Riot

Ball cap and baggy jeans, official uniform of looters in LA.

As he pushes past me, like a looter surging through a broken window and into a TV store after the Rodney King verdict, he speed-walks to his favorite spot: the single-seater corral next to where the bikes go.  He smugly plops down into his seat and props himself up like some kind of royalty.  Such satisfaction has never been known in these parts.

Yeah, he really pulled one over on me.  Boy.  That was close.  I humbly submit defeat, dear Scarecrow.  The competition for his seat must have really worn him out, too, because now he is taking a nap–or he’s dead.  Hard to tell.  At least the looters will have a hard time getting into the Freighthouse.

Pardon Me, You’re Sittting On My Friend.


One short line for a man, one giant leap for Scarecrow-kind.

Some days, the weird starts early.  Today the weird started on my walk up the line of people waiting to get on the 1502.

The Scarecrow wasn’t wandering aimlessly around the platform, or hocking loogies, or rhyming random words: he was just standing there in line.  Seeing how this was The Scarecrow, you just know it couldn’t be that simple.

The first thing I notice is there really isn’t a line.  He’s the only one there: a line of one.  Not so weird, you say?  Agreed; every line needs to start somewhere.


My arm is fine; what’s wrong with your face?

The second thing I notice is he is standing back about 10 feet from where the line starts.  He’s kind of hanging around where there should be a line, maybe in third position, but for some reason didn’t want to be up where the first in line traditionally positions himself/herself.  Maybe he’s standing behind a couple of imaginary friends.  What do I know?  I sure as hell don’t want to test that theory, so, being the rational guy that I am, I get in line behind The Scarecrow thinking he’ll take up the slack he left ahead of him.

Well, he doesn’t move up.  So now we’re both standing there out in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the train about 10 feet away from where normal people wait for the train, like we’re friends or something, just hanging out where people also just happen to wait for the train.  Now the Weebles show up and they get in line behind me.  That makes four of us standing there lined up at some imaginary hotdog stand, or whatever it is The Scarecrow has in his head.


What we didn’t hear is Momma Lovell’s 13-minute love affair (Apollo 13?) with a DRY hamburger patty took that long because it had the size and texture of a truck tire.

As The Weebles approach, Momma Lovell starts talking about her lunch from yesterday.  She scarfed down her lunch in 13-minutes.  What did she eat, you ask?  A hamburger patty….a DRY hamburger patty.  Not sure what’s more sad: she knows it took her 13 minutes to eat lunch, or that it took her 13 minutes to eat a DRY hamburger patty.

If I Only Had a Brain


A battle of wits between THE Scarecrow and My Scarecrow would end in mutual surrender.

Today one of The Weebles is sitting in LeBeau’s spot with the Loogie Hocking Zombie.  I glanced over just now and see that he’s wearing cloth gardening gloves to keep his hands warm.  The gloves are a little too big, so the ends of his fingers look all floppy and broken.  Looking at his face, he is napping (or pretending), then it strikes me…he looks and acts exactly like Ray Bolger, THE SCARECROW (aka. Chang Wang Woe) from The Wizard of Oz.

It’s positively uncanny the resemblance, behavior, everything!  MY Scarecrow is more of a “Scareperson” though, if we’re being totally honest.

From here on out, LHZ is The Scarecrow.  It fits perfectly!

“I’m too big for this seat.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a first.

A new guy gets on the train and slowly wanders over to the empty seat between me and The Fonz, backs up and sits down.  Clearly, there is not enough room for this guy, but he sits down anyway, leans back and crinkles up his shoulders in a very cramped-looking posture.  Then come the words that none before him have had the courage speak: “I’m too big for this seat.”

He says this in a quiet self-realization, a little sad or disappointed that he is not a malnourished asian woman who could enjoy this seat all the way into Seattle.  Indeed he doesn’t want to sit there wedged between me and The Fonz for the next 30 minutes.  He gets up slowly, sadly, and climbs the stairs in search of greener pastures up-top.

The way he said “I’m too big for this seat,” was haunting.  His tone was as though he was yet again disappointed in himself, like that time he asked out that average-looking girl in high school and she turned him down, or the time he didn’t get the bland job he was after.  It was like he had failed in some way pursuing something anyone else would get right, and hadn’t surprised himself at all.

Sweet Talkin’ Cheek-to-Cheek


The king of No. 2.

Our friend, Loogie Hocking Zombie, knows how to charm a woman.  Maybe he’ll include these techniques in the book he is writing.  I had no idea the path to Momma Lovell’s heart passed through a Honey Bucket…and just her luck, LHZ knows a lot about Honey Bucket, the company, and every intimate detail about how they are cleaned, who cleans them, etc…  This conversation topic is apparently so successful for him that he’s also using it on Grandma Munster (who, for some reason keeps trying to shift the conversation onto another subject).

In the event you’ve been trying to find a way into the sanitation arts as a career path, you’ll be well advised to marry into the business.  Not just anyone can hose out a portable toilet.


Plenty of room; I didn’t even notice you were there.

AND THEN…we have an update on the situation with Louis Lebeau and yesterday’s usurping of his seat.  Once more, Momma Lovells’ travel partner took a load off where Lebeau normally sits, but today he stood his ground and carefully backed his Nazi-resisting butt right into the remaining tight parking place next to this interloper.  It was kind of funny to watch as he backed-in, butt sticking out, one cheek rubbing up against the partition wall, the other squeezing past his neighbor–a tight fit for sure, but Lebeau will not be deterred.  Interestingly, his neighbor didn’t stir from her pretending-to-be-asleep act, and now they’re both sitting there, cuddled up like a momma penguin and her chick, napping and pretending like the other isn’t there.

Wide Loads and Conspiracy Theories

Loogie Hocking Zombie and Momma Lovell are discussing the prospect that Louis Lebeau is an FBI agent.  They’re pretty certain about it, and they are unimpressed with him sleeping on the train when he should be vigilantly protecting himself and the rest of us from a Terrorist Act.

I’ve learned two things about the FBI this morning as a result of LHZ and ML discussing Agent Lebeau.  First, FBI agents are supposed to take a different route to work every day.  “Agent” Lebeau is making a terrible mistake by riding in the same train, and snoozing in the same seat every morning.  This is an important safety behavior so the Russian spies don’t ambush him some day on his way into the office.  An interesting thought since he apparently didn’t notice The Evil Nazi standing right in front of him last week.  Sounds like vanpools are verboten at Quantico.

Second, LHZ and ML are equally concerned about their own safety against Russian spies, or Terrorists, because they take a different route to work every day.  (I’m still scratching my head on this one, since these two are on the same train as Agent Lebeau, and the rest, of us each morning.)  This might explain LHZ’s aimless pacing on the train platform: it’s definitely harder to hit a moving target.  Stay away from the cans, Mr. Zombie!  The terrorists hate cans!



Not every pair of sweatpants should have “Love Pink” printed on the butt.

So, Lebeau gets on the train and Momma Lovell’s commuting partner is sitting in his spot.  He turns to take his usual seat, and he finds his spot is occluded by about 33% of someone else’s butt-cheek.  He pauses for a moment, and you can see the cognitive discord flash through his brain:

Alright, here’s the train, and I’m all ready to get on and sit down here in my favori….What?? What’s this?  My seat is so much smaller than I remember it from yesterday.  [looking around] Am I in the right place?  What’s going on here?  Weird.  Well, I’ll just sit here anyw…Huh?  What?? Who is that?  Hey!  Someone is in my seat!  What am I going to do!?!?  Where do I go?  How will I survive?  Who is this person?  I know, I’ve seen her before, sitting right… OVER… THERE!  The nerve of some people!  Well, two can play at this game.  I’m going to just take her seat and see how she likes it.  That’ll show her who’s boss.

I’m very interested to see how tomorrow plays out with Lebeau and Momma Lovell’s travel partner.  Will she go back to her usual spot?  Will Lebeau need to adapt to a new routine (which he should be doing anyway, according to FBI regulations)?  So many questions.

Note: Once Momma Lovell’s travel partner left the train in Tukwila, Agent Lebeau IMMEDIATELY took his usual seat.  No hesitation.  A true leader.

Uncomfortable Closeness

The folks sitting in Louie Lebeau’s seat couldn’t be more ridiculous today.  Clearly they don’t know each other, but they’ve chosen to sit in the most cramped-for-space seat on the train.  It’s almost like they’re huddling together for warmth, but since they obviously don’t know each other, they’re huddling together back to back, trying not to touch each other.  It’s pretty funny to see two people sitting so close together who unquestionably want to be very far apart.  It kind of reminds me of the “get along” shirt, but these two kids look a lot happier about it.


The adult version of this is Louie Lebeau’s seat on the 1502.

The woman is about half the size of the man, and she is–by choice–jammed up against the wall frantically surfing her iPhone.  She looks like an adult T-Rex stuffed into a phone booth who is also trying to read a newspaper.  The man is doing his best impression of the Emperor from Star Wars who, through no fault of his own, has found himself homeless, cold, and tired of living.  He kind of looks like a pile of laundry left behind by some Goth Marilyn Manson fan…scarecrowesque.