On Monday afternoon I took the train into the city for a job interview. The interview itself went well. That might be the Merlot talking, but let's just go with that. And the ride to and from the interview was pleasant, because it afforded some time for contemplation and observation for the first time in what felt like a very long time.
I went into Boston early so I would have some time to walk around and get my bearings in the neighborhood. I've only been to the city a couple of times, and each time, I'm amazed that anyone knows where they're going in a city that is not laid out in a grid. Boston is a series of twisting streets and intersections, and every time I swear I know where I am, I turn a corner and realize that I haven't a clue.
This is a problem when, like me, you hate feeling like you don't belong in a place. I try to avoid standing on corners looking at street signs or (gah forbid) pulling out a map. That's a sure fire way to blow your cover that you have no idea where you are and (I assume) makes you an easy target for muggers, rapists, and the man on the corner who wants to tell you about his good friend Jesus.
In Philadelphia, no matter where you find yourself, it's simple to get back to where you want to be because the entire city (and almost all of the surrounding suburbs) are (for the most part) laid out in an organized grid. I've never needed maps and directions have always been easy to remember. Missed your turn? Take a couple quick lefts and you're right back where you want to be. Take three left turns in a row in Boston, and you might end up in Quincy.
I considered this as I boarded the commuter rail for the ride home, but all directional thoughts went out the window when I realized the train had two floors. TWO FLOORS! It's like riding a double decker bus! Only on tracks! In a train! Naturally, I elbowed my way through the crowd so I could ride up top because weeeeee it's so hiiiiiigggh.
Then, once I was situated and the train started crossing the river, I wondered if I had just positioned myself in the floor that would most likely lead to death should the train tip over into the icy waters below. Would I die first because I'd hit the water first and temporarily shield the lower floor? Or would that give me more time to get out? Was this completely neurotic thinking? Or at least somewhat normal?
Then the man sitting across the row from me pulled out a bottle of Fiji water. I went to Fiji once. My friends and I decided to stop in Fiji for a week on our flight home from New Zealand after spending the spring semester of our junior year at the University of Auckland.
When we got there, it wasn't the incredible white sand beaches that amazed me the most. Or the startlingly green ocean. Or even the outrageously luxurious condo we found ourselves vacationing in because someone knew someone who had a timeshare in Fiji and had given it to us for free. It was the murphy bed that pulled out into our kitchen inside that outrageously luxurious condo that amazed me the most.
I'd heard of a murphy bed before that, of course. And I'd seem them in movies and probably on TV. But I had no idea they actually existed anymore. I thought they went out with pill box hats and, similarly, ironing boards that folded out of closets.
I was entranced. And when we dropped our bags in the middle of the living room when deciding who should sleep with who where, I eagerly offered to sleep in the murphy bed in the middle of the kitchen. Later that night, after a few too many cocktails on the back porch, we were all ready for bed.
I giggled as I pulled the bed from the wall and immediately climbed under the covers. What fun! It was kind of like camping in your backyard! Or eating with chopsticks! But the covers were really tight. I kicked my legs to try to loosen the sheets that I assumed had been meticulously tucked by the maid. It was a bit snug, but I was asleep in seconds.
The next night the same scene took place. Kind of tight, I thought as I tried to pull the sheets up a bit around my arms.
On the third day in Fiji I mentioned to my friends that sleeping on the murphy bed was great and all, but was it always that restrictive? All three of them looked at me, faces blank. Tara put down her sweating drink and pushed her sunglasses back on her head. "You ARE unbuckling the straps, right?"
"What straps?" I replied, reviewing the anatomy of the murphy bed in my head. The room had always been dark when I pulled it down, and I had always been a bit drunk, but wouldn't I have noticed STRAPS?
Tara marched into the condo, pulled the bed down, and there, clear as day, where two thick straps across the bed, about six inches thick, one at the top, about where my chest would be, and the other about my ankles. The straps, designed to keep the covers on the bed when it was folded into the wall, could be pulled up maybe three or four inches, max. And each night, I had managed to squirm under them and sleep there for the remainder of the night.
I slept much more comfortably after this day.
To this day, these three friends have not let me forget that I once slept in a murphy bed without unbuckling the straps for two nights in a row before even thinking to mention something that would lead to the realization that I was dumb as shit.
I've always considered myself a rather intelligent person. And not the type that doesn't have street smarts, either. Like the girl who always got straight A's but didn't know how to pump her gas. But the well-rounded intelligent type. But, I'll be the first to admit, at times, I behave as if I am borderline retarded. B could easily rattle off pages of examples of this, I'm sure. And he would be happy to do so, should you ever ask him.
By this time, the train was well on its way to my destination, and I passed the rest of the time on the phone with my mom and reading a book. It was a wonderful, if not a little lengthy, trip, and I stepped off the platform smiling over my first successful trip into the city by myself, and hoping the three women I had interviewed with earlier that day wouldn't peg me for the type to ever sleep in a murphy bed without unbuckling the straps.