Thursday, April 10, 2008


When I first started my April challenge, I decided to keep it on the DL as much as possible at work. I know, I know, we shouldn't shy away from showing people our eco-friendly side, and as most of you could guess from my posts about toilet paper, diva cups, and underwear, I'm not exactly the shy and retiring type anyway. But even my eco-nuttery has its limits, and while I do bring in my own dishes and cutlery for my lunches, bring a hand towel instead of paper towels, and use the kitchen trash instead of the trash can at my desk, I try not to call much attention to any of these actions at my job.

So when I decided to start taking public transit to work, I told Awesomest Co-worker (who responded with typical Awesomest Co-worker enthusiasm) and no one else. Mayor Bloomberg may take the subway to work in New York, but I was pretty convinced that everyone at my work here would think taking public transit to work was the height of eco-insanity. (Now that I'm thinking about this, I think this is really about the bus. A subway seems like a decent option for working people, but there is something about a bus that has more of a stigma attached to it.)

For almost two weeks, I managed to keep it quiet, slipping into work and out of work all stealth-like. And then, today, as I was walking towards the gate, I saw Boss 1 drive by. And two seconds later, Boss 2 zoomed past.

Crap, I thought. Well, maybe they did not notice me?

I hurried to the building with the idea that, I don't know, if I got into the office quickly enough, they might see me at my computer and think, "Oh that couldn't have been Arduous I saw on the street, because she's sitting here working."

Yeah, not so much. In fact, as soon as Boss 2 walked into the office, the first question she had was, "Why were you walking into the gates this morning? Are you parking in some weird location?"

"Ha ha," I laughed nervously. "No, no, not parking anywhere weird."

She looked at me quizzically but let it go and walked into her office. Yes, I thought! I have successfully deflected.

Of course then, Boss 1 walked in. "What were you doing walking into the gates?" he immediately wanted to know.

"Yes! You saw her too!" Boss 2 exclaimed.

Meanwhile my face was turning bright, bright red, and Awesomest Co-worker was doing her best not to laugh. "She's going green!" she told them.

"Ummm, I take the metro to work," I mumbled, "because I walk to the metro station so I get my cardio!" (Because Angelenos hate the earth, but love to work out, right?)

Well, needless to say, all my bosses thought it was cool and not insane. In fact, it turns out Boss 2's husband actually takes public transportation fairly regularly. And Boss 1 was mostly concerned about my safety, but as soon as I had reassured him that yes, there were plenty of people who took the metro, and yes it was safe, and yes, if it was late at night, I would get a ride or call a cab or something, he seemed pretty impressed that not only did I take public transit, but that I walked two miles to the metro.

And then they all had a million questions about how long it took versus a car, and how often I did this, etc etc. And it was so NICE, because nothing against anyone I work with, because they are all wonderful people, but I just ... did not expect that kind of warm reception. I expected people to think I was weird. But they didn't. Instead, they seemed to think that what I was doing was awesome.

And I got to tell you, as embarassed as I was to come out of the eco-closet, it turned out really well, and really served as yet another reminder that people are often cooler and more accepting than we give them credit for being. Life less plastic recently wrote about her fantasy world, where no one thinks you're weird for doing something good for the environment. Today, I realized that I'm living in that fantasy world.

It's a good day.


Mad Hatter said...

So not only did you get to come out of the eco-closet, but you got a little reminder that people can sometimes surprise the best of ways! A good day indeed. :-)

Jennie said...

cool, maybe someday soon they will remember this conversation and choose to take public transit even though their car is more convenient.

Going Crunchy said...

Way cool. I think that you just showed Boss 1 and Boss 2 that you have more gumption then most people. I'm thinking that is a good thing for you, and for being green.

Joyce said...

Oh, I'm glad this happened! I don't know why we're all so worried about being non-conformists, but most adults are much nicer about things like this than the peers we remember from high school.

Unknown said...

Awwww. That's awesome. Sometimes people are more capacity of understanding than we give them credit for.

On an entirely separate note, I avoid telling people about my eco-normal activities (let along eco-nutty ones) largely because I don't want people to assume that I would somehow judge them. Just the other day, I walked about a neighbor's house (she is a good friend) and she apologized for the amount of trash they have. That was a very very awkward moment.

Green Bean said...

I often hide my eco-insanity side from people. I'll talk up the farmers' market but try to hide the fact that I line dry. I cringe when my kids tell our neighbors that we're going to plant a pumpkin patch in our front yard or when my eldest announces "if we just had some animals and a hat, we'd be farmers." If busted, I'll often offer up either no reason or a non-green reason when this could otherwise be my entre into spreading the green word. Your story inspired me, though. Maybe I won't keep all of my eco-ness to myself.

hgg said...

Good to hear that you were positively surprised! But it's kind of sad to hear that you fear that people will label you as nuts for being eco-friendly. I think there is so much fuss in the media these days that people will gradually change their attitides, and who knows, maybe you'll inspire some more people to do what you do.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Yay! You're out of the closet! I kind of felt the same way when I moved to Vancouver, where everyone recycles and lots of people (more and more now) take their own mugs to coffee shops etc. It's more mainstream here than it was in the UK when I left, although the UK is ahead in other things now (notably food miles etc).

BTW I really like the suggestion of using a communal trash can instead of the one by my desk, which is changed every day even if there's no more than a tea bag in it. There isn't a kitchen on my floor - I wonder if carrying my banana skins and tea bags downstairs will be considered weird? I'm gonna try it!

Chile said...

That's wonderful, Arduous. I'm glad they are so supportive! Maybe they'll start rethinking their options, too.

Hey Green Bean, I've noticed that many of our neighbors have put up a clothesline recently. I don't know whether mine was a positive influence or if everyone's just tightening their belt, but it's nice to see others doing it.

ruchi said...

Chile, a co-worker sent me an email today that she was so inspired that she walked to work today!!

Anonymous said...

Good for you, taking the bus! I used to take the bus to work for over a year, and I still don't have my driver's license. I rode the bus in a rather "shady" part of town where I lived, and was rarely ever concerned for my safety.
Normal people DO take the bus!

Anonymous said...

Yay for not being closeted!

Jeanne said...

What a GREAT story! I'm so glad your co-workers were so understanding!

Most of my co-workers know that I'm a total environmentalist, but I still haven't told them about my plastic-free-ness. I'm still convinced that they will all think I'm totally weird. My friend Emily keeps trying to convince me that they will be cool about it, much like your co-workers, and I know she's probably right. I'm still freaked out about it, though.

Ah, what to do...

By the way, it's so funny that public transit carries such a stigma in Los Angeles. In Chicago, some people would actually think you were crazy if you DIDN'T take the train because parking is so expensive and the El is decent (although sometimes very annoying).

I've heard that public transit in Los Angeles is pretty limited. I guess that has something to do with why it's not "normal" to use it?

Sam said...

Maybe you'll start a trend so that by the time I get to L.A. being car free will be cool and I will be a celebrity!!

I was actually inspired by this story and told my friends at dinner last night that we're planning on building a cob house and that we're avoiding plastic. They were really encouraging! No one made fun of me. Of course if they did then I wouldn't be friends with them.

Anonymous said...

Awesome story, Arduous.

Interestingly, I've lived in several US cities (and visited many more cities in the US and other parts of the world), and the extreme stigma against public transportation in LA is unique. I think it has a lot to do with class and race, and the general inability to get many places (and on time) without a car.

Have you seen this movie?

Or this one?

The latter is not as good, but is interesting. Both are about LA public transportation.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I think it's awesome that despite the problems with the bus system, you're supporting it! It's the only way it's going to get better.