March 9, 2012

Holy cow! My casual carpool accident report, part deux

Posted in uncategorized tagged at 9:57 am by Marise Phillips

So here we are, stuck on the freeway, all dressed (and all shook) up, with nowhere to go. It’s a very strange feeling, being stuck in a disabled shell of a car, as a steady swarm of traffic flows around you. Feels a bit like watching a movie, and then suddenly realizing you’re in it.


What also feels surreal is how unconcerned our driver continues to act regarding the well-being of his two passengers. Granted, I know he doesn’t know us, but seriously? Dude needs some sensitivity training. All he seems to care about, once the obligatory brief noises are made about whether we’re dead — no? ok, great! — is getting into his glove compartment, despite the fact that my knees are directly in front of it. He doesn’t bother with an, “Excuse me,” before reaching across brusquely, rifling around looking for things, not finding them, swearing loudly some more for good measure. Completely oblivious to the words his backseat passenger is using to explain how the impact caused her to jam her already-bad knee into the seat back, and HARD. Mr. Evil Principal has no interest in such facts. He hates Ferris Bueller. And with every passing second, it’s clear that he wants us out of his car and out of his life, asap.


That is, until that magic moment when I switch into peacemaker mode by looking for ways to validate his point of view about how the accident may have actually happened. Ways in which it might not be his fault. Looking ahead of us, I notice a pickup truck is also at a standstill, parked just in front of the car we rear-ended. So I wonder out loud, “Oh, wow… maybe that guy was just stopped there all along. If so, maybe the guy in front of us had to slam on his brakes? That would have made it really hard for you to stop in time.” And as soon as these words of comfort emerge, Mr. Cray-Cray gloms on to the idea, insisting, “Yeah! That’s what happened! Give me your information so you can back me up — that’s what happened. You can tell them.” Them being his insurance company, I suppose.


And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh no, no way. I was just saying that to be nice. Don’t you get it? Even if that pickup truck *was* stopped there the whole time, you should have been scanning the road 3-4 cars ahead of you. You should have known 30 seconds in advance that you were going to have to avoid him.” But what I’m actually saying is a non-committal, “Mmmm,” while wondering how the hell I was going to extract myself from him now. As per usual, I simply return to my trusty e-voidance device, the iPhone, and continue composing texts to friends and a pithy but outraged 140-character shout-out to the twittersphere. As I hit send, I glance behind me and notice that my fellow passenger is just as social network-obsessed. She’s clearly having as much fun with this as I am, and wants to make sure all her friends are kept up to date. A fine woman, no doubt!


Meanwhile, it occurs to The Gingerbread Man that it’d probably be a good idea to start making his way over to the right shoulder. We slowly make our way through three lanes of traffic — a process which elicits no honks, which I find rather remarkable. At last we are in the safety zone, and I waste no time in breaking out of the little smashed up metal box I’ve been trapped in. Though only 5 minutes have elapsed since it happened, it feels like more than an hour, and I’m more than ready to be on my way. I’ve got meetings and stuff — no more time for accident related shenanigans! 


But of course we have to stick around and endure him scrabbling around for paper to provide our contact details. We have to waste more time pretending like I’m going to tell the world “his side” of the story, etc. But despite all this, what ends up catching my attention above everything else, is that my fellow passenger’s name is Nimmi Solomon. A name you don’t hear too often, and now that I look at her, take in her 5’1″ stature and sultry dark looks, I realize, “I know HER!!” And it’s not because we both happen to live in Alameda. No. It’s because we met 8 or 9 years ago in San Francisco, at the Edinburgh Castle bar’s Trivia Night! Our mutual friend Kristy Sammis (initially an “imaginary friend” from Nimmi’s POV) brought us together through a shared love of Tenderloin dive bars and the arcane rituals of Trivia Gaming.


This, of course, only proves my partner’s long-held belief that there are only 200 people in the world. Eventually, you get to meet them all. And some, several times — others, in the craziest of places. And for a lucky few, the crazy and the repeat is combined. Nimmi is one of those people whom it’s a real pleasure to meet again. Fun, funny, cooler than shit. That’s her. So when I realized who she was, I couldn’t wait to remind her, “Girl, we already KNOW each other!” You know?



Holy cow! My casual carpool accident report, part 1

Posted in uncategorized tagged at 9:55 am by Marise Phillips

I’m a casual carpooler. A regular rider and occasional driver. I find it fascinating, a real home-grown approach to problem solving. The Oakland Bay Bridge can take over an hour to cross, and the toll costs $6 during rush hour. But if you have three or more people in your car, you can zip through the carpool lane and only pay $2.50. It used to be free, but a new carpool toll went into effect in July 2010.


Interestingly, there is still lively debate over whether riders should contribute to the toll. Some drivers post a sign or ask for a dollar from each rider. Sometimes riders are considerate enough to offer without being asked. Personally, after offering a bunch of times and being turned down repeatedly, I now only pay when asked and never expect payment when I drive. To me, it’s a win-win already — no need to muddy the waters by being chintzy. But that’s just the way I see it. The message boards are full of dissenting opinions.


So this morning, when a shiny new black Nissan Altima pulls up, I’m second in line. This means I’m stuck with the front passenger seat, sitting next to our driver, a ginger-haired, mustachioed man in his early 50s. He looks a lot like the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Probably not the best sign.


Regardless, male or female, mustachioed or clean-shaven, I shy away from drivers, so the front seat’s never my first choice; I prefer the relative comfort and solitude of the back. I’m guessing the majority of riders share my opinion on this. I have certainly long forsaken the practice of yelling “shotgun!” which was big back in high school. Ah, the days before I added misanthropy to my general life approach.


Anyway! Back to this morning in the black Altima. The three of us exchange good mornings, remark on the sunny but chilly weather, and get on to the real business of ignoring each other for the rest of the ride. A few minutes later, about a mile into the commute, we’re on the freeway and my attention is completely focused on my cell phone. I’m either writing an email or reading my feeds.  I may even have two phones out in order to do both simultaneously.


All of a sudden, the driver shouts, “OH SHITTTTT!!” at the top of his lungs, slams on the brakes, and rams into the car in front of us — at a rather alarming speed. I’d guess 25? 30 MPH? The freeway was crowded but the traffic was moving along at a good pace. Not the best time to be changing lanes while following too closely.


I scream as my head hits the ceiling and I am jerked back into place by my seat belt. I feel like crying, I am so startled and upset. The airbags do not deploy. I am still gripping my phone(s). The hood of the car is seriously crumpled and an odd chemical smell escapes from the right side. I realize that I am going to be very late for work, because the car is in bad shape, and the driver will clearly have some ‘splainin’ to do.


Once I realize that no one appears to be hurt, I snap into giddy mode, thinking, “Oh boy, I can’t wait to tell EVERYONE about this!” Blame it on the endorphins or shock or something. I start writing messages to my workmates entitled “You’re never going to believe where *I* am!”


All the while, Mr. Cray-Cray at the wheel is shouting and swearing and pummeling his dashboard, ostensibly incensed at the driver of the car he just hit. (Or perhaps at himself, on some level. He’s no youngster, so he must know by now that if you rear end a car, there’s a 99% chance that you were following too closely. Just a thought.)


Plus, (though I may be reading into things too much here), I’m thinking maybe he should have claimed the 5th, instead of screaming at the top of his lungs, “Not AGAIN! I can’t believe this is happening again! FUCK!”


Yes, my friends, THESE were the first coherent, more or less non-profanity-laden sentences to fly out of his mouth, post-impact. Just a teense implicating. As to his accident-prone-ness-icity.


So let me get this straight, Mr. Ginger Principal Mustache Man. Either this is not your first accident in your brand new car, or perhaps it’s just not your first idiotic move with casual carpool riders who are trusting you with their lives. Would’ve been nice to know this before I got in.


At any rate, it takes him a full couple of minutes after all of this went down, to remember there are other people in his car and perhaps it might be good to inquire as to their health.



November 29, 2011


Posted in uncategorized at 12:49 pm by Marise Phillips


May 9, 2010

What it was like to be stranded (near Paris)

Posted in travel, vacation at 3:59 pm by Marise Phillips

We spent exactly one week longer in Europe than originally planned. We were due to fly home (from Paris to Heathrow to SFO) on April 15, the day the volcano blew up, and the airports began to close just as we got on our plane that morning — only to be asked to get right back off. Boo.

Being stuck was equal parts annoying and interesting.

Annoying because neither of us could spare the additional vacation days from work, especially not Jason, having started a new job just a month before we left. We basically spent the entire time on pins and needles, wondering when and how we would be able to get back home. Early reports emphasized the fact that this volcano erupted for months on end last time, which made for a very unsettling first couple of days.

Moreover, we were a bit sick of Paris by the time we were due to fly home (crazy, I know!) plus not entirely happy to have to spend more money on lodging and everything. And due to the massively increased demand, we couldn’t rent a car to explore the surrounding area, which is a bit of a shame because there were some nice day trips we might have been able to take advantage of.

All the same, some very good things came out of being stuck: my (relatively new) manager was kind and supportive throughout, as was the friend of my parents helping to take care of our house and cats. Jason and I bonded strongly with a few fellow stranded travelers, not to mention one another. We found it amusing how well-balanced our stress reactions were; in other words, when he was freaking out, I was calm and vice-versa.

We were very thankful to have chanced upon a fantastic B&B near the airport, with wonderful hosts who bent over backwards to help us in a variety of ways. Best of all, they invited us over for drinks the last night we were there, which extended into a lovely impromptu dinner. They gave us a gorgeous hardcover book of the town we were staying in (as our hostess is a 4th-generation resident and town mayor), which all three of them signed (including their sweet, shy, handsome son) — all in French of course. So that one exceptional evening, in and of itself, more than made up for the impersonal/harried feeling we got from our week in Paris.

In retrospect, it’s been interesting, having taken part in an historic event — and we have certainly added some cool stories to our repertoire.

And strangely: no, my French did not improve at all, I don’t think. I’m in such a frustrating phase with it, kind of like I am with skiing. I barely ever get to use either skill, and so when I do, I just end up falling flat on my face. Ah well, at least I can still understand when I read and listen to it!

April 27, 2010

Keukenhof Gardens

Posted in uncategorized at 10:18 am by Marise Phillips

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Keukenhof Gardens, originally uploaded by RiseyP.


Posted in uncategorized at 10:18 am by Marise Phillips

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Mauregard, originally uploaded by RiseyP.

April 21, 2010

Le Mesnil-Amelot

Posted in uncategorized at 6:36 am by Marise Phillips

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Le Mesnil-Amelot, originally uploaded by RiseyP.

Cemetery at Le Mesnil-Amelot

Posted in uncategorized at 2:12 am by Marise Phillips

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Cemetery at Le Mesnil-Amelot, originally uploaded by RiseyP.

January 1, 2010

Things that didn’t suck about 2009

Posted in dieting, health, lovey, nostalgia, self-improvement, travel, veganism, vegetarianism at 12:58 pm by Marise Phillips

Although it has been a trying year, 2009 was also full of some truly memorable events in my life:

  • New Years Eve/Day in Amsterdam, followed by an outstanding week introducing my lovey to Paris
  • Successfully tapering off the evil antidepressant
  • Selling my money pit of a car and “making it work” with public transportation
  • Going back to the gym and attending regularly, then finding joy in bicycling and yoga
  • Giving up (for the most part): meat, sugar, alcohol, dairy, caffeine
  • Losing 30 pounds, and holding steady for 3 months (though it is high time to re-commit now that the holidaze are over!)
  • Getting my finances in much stronger shape during very difficult economic times

Thank you 2009 for all the tough love 🙂 I am more than happy to carry on!

December 2, 2009

this web is my web

Posted in blogging, DIYDesign, internets, nostalgia, technology, work, writing at 11:37 pm by Marise Phillips

So I got a new job today. More precisely, I got to go permanent after contracting for 14 months at a place where time has flown by in the best possible way. In the official announcement this afternoon, my new manager mentioned that I came to them with 15 years of experience working on the web. All very surreal as I mused on a) how long 15 years is and b) what a different direction my career — my whole life — would have taken, had I not been ‘desperate’ enough to turn to the Internet as a source of friends in a new town.

Looking back on my digital life, it occurred to me tonight that some of the first things I ever posted online were poems. Poems of lust and loss that poured out of me as fast as I could post them, not things I’d already written longhand or kept stored on floppy disk. (Because of course that was your average “high-tech” person’s backup solution in 1994. Tee hee.) But yeah, back to the poems. That unexpected, easy willingness to expose myself online rather surprised me.

Then again, when you consider the explosion of websites and apps such as…

  • my yahoo
  • blogger
  • myspace
  • flickr
  • etsy
  • blurb
  • twitter

…one of the Internet’s most enduring qualities is its revolutionary broadening of the means, and the potential reach, of self-expression. Of artistry. Of feeling. You know, those things we used to keep locked up inside, while making our living doing the more mundane things the world was willing to pay us for. And someday, maybe if we were really lucky, and tried really hard, we’d ‘get published’ and, at long last, achieve immortality. But now? Au contraire! I literally spend a part of every day sharing something about myself or taking a headlong dive into someone else’s life. And it all happens online, of course.

See, the corner of the web I like best is the one where we all have a voice (and call ourselves ‘writers’, ‘photographers’, ‘artists’, ‘comedians’ or ‘collectors’) as we show off to — and riff off of — one another. It’s funny to think that the celebrities I follow are no longer the ones splashed on billboards and magazines; these days, they’re the ones who craft the funniest/most poignant blog posts, crochet the twee-est baby quilts, take endless photos of men with impossibly ornate mustaches, and so on… *They* are the ‘cool kids’ now 🙂

Just this morning, however, I felt an uncomfortable mixture of disdain and desire creep into the shower with me, as I reflected on the new ‘celebrities’ I follow who sell ad space and hold giveaway contests on their blogs. Such a strange thing to do, I thought. Shouldn’t that be considered kind of… I don’t know… uncouth? Like having a corporate sponsor for your wedding? (“And now it’s time the happy couple’s first dance! Brought to you by Kitchy-Brand pressure cookers!”) But as the day progressed and I continued to chew on it, I had to retract my opinion as disingenuous. Making money off ads on your personal website? And how is that different than writing advertising copy for a living? Because you can hide behind the anonymity of the latter? So: better just to be out in the open about it?

Hmph. Sometimes I hate ambiguity 🙂 They say that women are unhappier than ever these days. They say it may be because we just *care* more. Enough to think twice (or three times or ten) about whether something we thought or did or said was the right thing. It’s all very very complicated, but a big chunk of what gets churned out online represents the space in which we’re hashing these things out, together.

Anyway, this has been my web. (Brought to you by our sponsor, Al Gore 😉 It’s messy and it’s weird and it can be ugly at times but, on the whole, it’s still beautiful.

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