I woke up this morning with what I thought was plenty of time to get ready for my day in Stamford, the location of my only classroom that is not in midtown – the remote outpost. I dogged my morning practices a bit, and before long, I looked up and it was almost 7.
Still plenty of time – I wanted to make it out there a little before 9, so I could catch the shuttle from the train station, and get there as the girls did. I arranged my Google maps input to get me there by 8:45, and presto, I discovered that I needed to be on a bus by 7:32 at the very latest, which gave me only a few minutes to get ready – no time for breakfast. Then, there was the weather – what is it about cloudy mornings and the imminent threat of rain that makes it so hard to get going? You had to know by now that I wasn’t about to let that question go unanswered.
Without bright morning sunlight to kickstart your body on overcast days you can feel lethargic, down and drowsy. Central Queensland University associate professor in chronobiology and sleep Naomi Rogers said that was because your body was not getting the necessary signals that indicated what time of the day it was to prepare you to be alert and active. (link)
I actually wanted to get an earlier start because, in addition to missing breakfast, I wasn’t sure about lunch – I didn’t know what the situation would be for lunch. It is a closed campus with a cafeteria where the girls eat, but no other food nearby. I thought I might be able to grab a sandwich somewhere along the way.
I hurried my butt up, and got out to the stop by about 7:17, knowing that buses were scheduled to stop at both 7:22 and 7:25. No bus came at 7:22, so I hopped back on Google (it tells you when the next bus is due to arrive at your stop; last year I only had a flip phone, but I could text a stop number to the CTA, and it would tell me the same information), and to my chagrin, discovered that the bus was delayed and due between 7:27 and 7:32. There went my hopes of acquiring breakfast and lunch on the way. I needed a new plan, and formulated one while I waited.
First, catch the next Bx1/Bx2 bus, take it to East Fordham Rd (18 minutes), walk a little less than a half mile to the train station (9 minutes), buy tickets for the train, which was due to leave the Fordham station at 7:59. If you do the math, you’ll see that that plan leaves little room for “adjustments”. At 7:27, a bus came up the hill and stopped at the light. I leaned out into the street to catch the route – “Out of Service”. Aggh. The light turned green, the bus lurched forward, and just as suddenly, the route sign changed to “Bx1 Mott Hill” and it pulled over to pick us up.
We got to East Fordham Road at 7:47. Mercifully, the crossing light was with me, and I was on my way. I made it to the station at 7:55, shaving a minute off Google’s walking time estimate. While Google’s time estimates are pretty good when I’m walking in most places, I find that, especially in midtown, I often can do substantially better. I attribute this to the algorithm I use to cross streets. First, Google’s general route is the simplest one: walk as far as you need to in one direction, then turn and walk as far as you need to in the next direction. That’ll get you anywhere you need to go on a grid with just two directions. On the other hand, if I am walking between two places that are relatively diagonal on the grid, I use the rule “always walk in the direction of the walk signal”. I walk straight if the walk signal is on in front of me, otherwise I turn. This means I’m just about always walking. If I used Google’s plan, I’d have to stop at some crosswalks to wait for the light. I’m a geek. I freely admit that.
Speaking of algorithms, and we were – I am, afterall here to help teach computer science, many of the elevators in the buildings I travel to are quite different from ones I’ve seen before. It’s disconcerting, actually. To use these elevators, instead of pushing an up or down button, you are presented with a computer touch screen that has floor numbers listed on it. You touch the button on the screen for your floor and the computer tells you which car to get on, like A5. You get in the car, and the doors close and take you to the floor you requested. There are no buttons accessible inside the car except for “open doors” and “close doors”. Sometimes people are going to two or more different floors – you just get out at your floor. I wondered aloud to some teaching staff if this might be more efficient than the old buttons in the car way. My thinking is that the computer running the elevators can group people going to the same floors because it has that information before the car gets to you. One of the TAs said her father works in a building with the new style, and said that while it was not much faster most of the time, it was a lot faster when the elevators were being heavily used (like at the beginning and end of the day and around lunch time). OK, whoa it’s way cooler than I thought. It’s called “destination dispatch” and has totally revolutionized elevator design. The same number of elevators at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, where this technology was pioneered, can carry 30 percent more traffic. This video does a nice job of explaining it, and how disconcerting it is.
I made the train, grabbed (and ate) breakfast at the Stamford Station, and walked out to the shuttle lot just exactly as the Synchrony financial shuttle pulled up. Perfect.
The rest of the day was delightful, if a bit long. This was the first time I got to interact with the students for any length of time, and it is so much fun. Lunch at the cafeteria was good and cheap – I was able to use a prepaid voucher from a student who was absent today. We played Pterodactyl which is fun. I’m looking forward to next week – four more new classes!