Daily Prompt: Quirk of Habit

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about quirks and habits. Specifically, the ones you either love or hate in yourself or others. I know that I’m always the weird one, so I’m all too aware of the little crazy (and probably annoying) things I do every day. I sometimes think out loud when I’m trying to puzzle out a problem, but I do so quietly. Sometimes I even get tongue-tied. Everyone around me either thinks I’m muttering something to them, or that I’ve dived straight into the deep end of schizophrenia. I don’t hear voices; occasionally I just think better if I give myself a little mental dialogue. But of course everyone thinks I’m just crazy like that.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got a thing about eye contact, too. Is it just me, or do people just not appreciate the importance of eye contact anymore? Is it because everyone is too busy staring at their smart phones and tablets? Is it just because we apparently need an excuse to not acknowledge the other individuals in our vicinities? I don’t know. But whenever I talk to people, I look them steadily in the eye. I had to train myself to do it, simply because I still find conversations unnerving. Eye contact is unspoken understanding that yes, I see and regard you as a person. Yes, I am listening to you. Yes, I am interested in what you have to say. You’d be surprised how much more polite and kind people act when they know you’re paying attention. However, I occasionally do it too much; a few extra uncomfortable seconds makes the difference between, say, Omar Borkan Al Gala and Tommy Wiseau.

Gotta strike a balance somewhere.

I also have a occasional tendency to rush. It’s a remnant of my college days, when commuting was literally down to the second. I’ve gotten much better at dealing with it – I haven’t angrily frothed at missed train in years – but it still shows up whenever I’m trying to get stuff done. However, I’m also very fixated on accuracy and procedure. I don’t cut corners, but I make it efficient as I can. It’s like a Point A-to-Point B thought process that gets kicked up to Mach 10. Need to have the office shut down? I’ve not only memorized the checklist, I can have everything finished perfectly in a quarter of the time it’d take my coworkers. All because I just want to get out of the office and getting help from the others would just slow me down. Why sit around waiting for them to make mistakes that I’ll have to waste even more time fixing? The same goes with bringing in groceries, cleaning the house etc. Once the momentum gets going, I just can’t stop.

And yes, I’m well aware that it makes me sound like a terrible, bossy, self-centered, arrogant person. It is a part of me, and I hate that. I’m not a big fan of it in other people, either. Bossy people and I do not get along, usually because I refuse to play into their politics. I’m shy and quiet, but anyone who assumes I’m a doormat is in for a big surprise. Age and title aren’t nearly as important as actual experience and skill, and I don’t respond well to those who try pulling little schemes to inflate their egos. People who underestimate me often end up asking for my advice and leadership, and I’m not sure why. I’ve got a tendency towards snarky insights and straightforward, honest conversations. If people have to work together, everyone should help each other to best of their ability, not descend into petty in-fighting.

…Sigh. No wonder they got rid of me.

Oh, and one last thing: I get random songs stuck in my head for days. Sometimes I sing them silently in the shower. I know more about Wichita Lineman and Under Pressure than I’ll ever want.

Daily Prompt: Close Call, Or: The Sleepy Commute

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about close calls. Seeing as I already mentioned a near-fatal one not too long ago, it’s probably best if I go with something a bit lighter. When I transferred to the university for my junior/senior college years, I had to deal with the longest daily commute I’d ever experienced. Imagine this: You leave the house sometime around sunrise, if not earlier. You walk nearly three miles to the BART train station, and wait for a train that runs to San Francisco. But you don’t go to the city; halfway down the line, you have to get off and wait for a Fremont train to roll in, which then takes you down to the furthest southern reaches of the system. After many stops and delays, you stumble onto the platform, go down the stairs, and wait for the university shuttle to show up, which will whisk you away to the campus nearly 20 more minutes away. Then you will climb at least a couple of hills’ worth of staircases, open a door, and somehow find a seat before the lecture begins.

For two years, that’s how my morning commutes worked. In theory.

The problem was with the university shuttle. The last one left at 9:00 AM sharp, so there was a lot of competition to get a seat on it. The stampedes down those train platform steps were epic, glorious races; half a step, a hesitation, anything could cost you everything. Okay, not everything. But you had to wait for the city bus, shell out additional fare (a bane for any student), and endure a trip that was ten minutes longer. When you’re trying to get to your morning classes – especially when you’re coming from several cities away – every millisecond counts. So all of us fought in these unspoken wars every morning, all for the sake of scheduling. I’ve always been pretty quick on my feet and have a good sense of balance, so practically sprinting down those stairs was rarely an issue for me.

Falling asleep on the train, on the other hand…

So this one time the train rolled into my stop. But I was asleep; heated train car + early winter morning + general lack of rest = one slouching, potentially drooling student. I didn’t feel the train stop, nor did I hear the doors open. But by some instinct, I snapped awake just as the doors were starting to close. Luckily, my backpack didn’t get stuck. I groggily dragged myself over to the stairs and went down. I thought other students would be on my heels and rushing me to get down, but there were none. My heart sank when I made it down to the bus stop. Three dozen or more people in front of me. Even if the shuttle driver would let me stand, there still wouldn’t be enough room. I stood there, silently hoping that I was wrong…but I wasn’t. The last shuttle left with a small group of us standing there. I wearily sat down at the city bus stop and waited. I was going to be late. There was no avoiding it. I begrudgingly paid my extra fare – thankfully I planned for just such emergencies – found the nearest chair, and sulked.

I didn’t sleep on the bus ride up to the campus. I was too wired, too angry at myself for failing. I knew I’d have to sprint up the hills to get to class on time. Maybe the professor wouldn’t notice me. Yeah, sure. He wouldn’t notice a dude with long hair, a trench coat, and a scarf sneak into the room. Ugh, so embarrassing! I practically leaped off the bus when we finally got to campus. Up the first flight of stairs, weaving through the groups of others going to class-

“Hey!”

Someone called out. I didn’t think it was to me; no one ever talked to me. I kept going. One more flight, making a left, going up the wooded path, there’s the door to science building-

“Hey, wait up!”

It was the same voice as before. I opened the door and dared a glance back. A middle aged man in a jacket and scarf came huffing and puffing towards me, and I could see his breath in the cold morning air.

“Hey, you’re one of the students in my 9:30 lecture, aren’t you? I was on the same bus you were, but I don’t think you noticed!”

Whoops.

“…Uh, heh. No, professor.”

“Thought so. Well, don’t bother rushing. I’m pretty sure class can’t start without me.”

“Right.”

We leisurely made our way up to the lecture hall, and I tried to hide my blushing face under my scarf. I’ve had way more serious close calls than this, but I’ve never forgotten that tedious yet funny commute.