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Archive for September 2017

Life in the HOV lane

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“Discuss parking, just discuss parking” , I tell myself as my algorithmically asssigned carpool driver was pulling to a stop. For finding someone to carpool, I use a smartphone app that uses a sophisticated mathematical algorithm to combine the worst principles of blind dates with carpools. So your driver could be random- intelligent, handsome, round, ignorant or a neo nazi with tikki torches. I am looking for a safe icebreaker with this stranger – something that wouldn’t give me a black eye or a belly rub during the morning commute. After much contemplation, I decide to use parking because no one likes parking and there can be no debate about it.

Just as the driver pulled in and I was parking my resolve, I heard the music change from chest thumping Bhangra dance beats to the funeral voice of Michael Krasny. Something about me makes people change their radio stations to National Public Radio. Initially, I thought it was my shaggy hair and went with a marine crew cut but it happened again. I thought it was my bad breath and got three root canals and some wisdom teeth extracted. I even switched to Axe deodorant. It has just kept happening. If it does not stop, I may soon have to check in with a therapist or a gastro-enterologist.

As soon as I get into the car, I introduce myself and compliment the driver on a really compact car that can be easy for parking. He goes silent and then tells me that he has had marital issues due to this car especially the parking. I press no further as I don’t want the ice breaker to turn into a jaw breaker. I spend yet another ride in silence reading a Mashable article on 21 things to discuss with a carpool buddy.

The next day, the algorithm matches me with a Tesla. I feel the need to be ready for her. I show up clean shaven and nattily dressed. I even polish my shoes. I don’t prepare for an ice breaker for the driver. It has one hell of a cruise control so I don’t feel that obligated to engage the driver. To my surprise, there is another rider. Sometimes the algorithm does it – speed date combined with carpooling. Instead of riding shotgun in the car, I am pushed into the oblivion of the backseat and I have to be satisfied with just the cup holders.

Then came the big announcement that has changed the carpooling discussion- Amazon’s search for a Big HQ. I have played it off in different ways and every single time it has worked. “By the way, where do you think the next Amazon HQ is going to be? “, “Do you think El Paso, TX and Boring, OR can be the next HQ”, “Will give you a real estate tip- try buying a place around where Amazon opens a HQ and the value is going to shoot up”, “I read somewhere that they are building the new HQ in the shape of the River Amazon “, “Whichever city gets Amazon’s HQ better have good salons because Bezos wants all employees in that HQ to look like robotic clones of him” Amazon has quickly taken over as the Facebook of the middle aged adult. Even people who cannot name the prime numbers are prime members. Everyone loves to discuss their shopping exploits even if it is as ridiculous as solar powered tongue cleaner or a microwave safe hair comb. Amazon is my new comfort zone.

When the ride ends and I get off at work, sometimes I feel perfectly fine and sometimes I am not and there has even been a time when I felt nauseated due to poor driving. Despite its many shortcomings, I do not regret it. As one person driving an expensive electric car, who picked me and another person up on a balmy Wednesday morning, puts it – “I succeeded in taking two cars off the road and I am happy about it.”

Epilogue: Even if you not an environ”mental”, there are ton of other benefits to not driving everyday. I am sure Mashable has a piece about the 33 different benefits of not driving everyday to work.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

September 27, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Commute, Uncategorized

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ACEing the commute

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ACEing the Commute

Some don’t even look up from their books , some adjust their hair like a diva, some run furiously with a hint of worry on their face, some close their ears and some pace nonchalantly – the train is approaching . But one man at the station, hears the train and immediately starts pumping out push-ups. He is my morning inspiration. After seeing him, I tell myself to stop at least at 4 donuts per day.

Once you are in the train, if you made eye contact with a fellow passenger, you will definitely ensure side effects of their constipation. So be forewarned and never look up from your smartphone.

“Ram, Ram, Ram…” she wrote on her notebook, reminiscing the Hindu God as the train meandered through a tunnel . You felt reverential until you notice the smartphone playing a mother in law and daughter in law cat and mouse quarrel from an Indian TV channel . Between this lady and the guy watching women’s WWF, I don’t need any further proof that if the world is not consumed by global warming, it is going to be consumed by abuse of free wifi.

The dentist chair look, the aviator look, the baseball hat look, the zen look, the cool casuals look, the double breasted blazer look, intellectual look, the audacious royal look, the loud volcanic look, the low croaking frog look- sleepers come in all styles and sounds. So if you are going to be on a work conference call, look before you leap into that empty seat.

A person is loudly discussing his plans to go to Yellowstone and he probably thinks that he is disturbing no one because he is speaking Tamil(my mother tongue). Seeing my brown skin, he goes into a low whisper. He once again picks up steam once I am out of sight. The rest of the train sees my influence on him and gives me a lonely, hopeful look(yes, even the ones with constipation). I take one for the train and go sit next to the Tamil speaker. He hangs up the phone. I tweet “My random act of kindness today: Helped an entire train car sleepĀ #MAGA

These are the people who ride with me on an everyday basis. Some are weird, some are busy but all of them are not on the road driving their cars. I am thankful for that.

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

September 27, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Robert Frost

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A few nights ago, I spent time at the airport having missed a connecting flight. Robert Frost came to mind

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
I took the one with free wifi
The woods are long dark and deep
I have Gigabytes to go before I sleep
Gigabytes to go before I sleep”

Written by Sudarshan Suresh

September 27, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Bookish

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When breath becomes air

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Paul Kalanithi was a young, accomplished neuro surgeon in training with multiple degrees including one in Literature. Suddenly, lung cancer decides to ride shotgun with him. The promising and earnest doctor paints his life as it withers away. You cannot but put the book down a few times and empty your tear glands. Your heart goes out to him and his young family and also to his parents. (Dad, wife and brothers are all doctors. I just bawled at the mention of his mom moving closer to him after the illness and making Dosa with coconut chutney for him. )

If you have had family members go through terminal illnesses or are facing terminal illness or are facing end of life issues, it helps you to connect with their pain and suffering. As Paul goes into lengths about some of everyday decisions he has to make in his life as a neurosurgeon, you are left wondering whether some of the medical decisions that were made in your family emergenices were made with such clarity and conviction.Paul’s grace and integrity in the face of death spreads a pall of gloom but it is essential for all of us to digest it and add a dimension to our life.

As you read it, it is hard for you not to come in touch with your own mortality. I almost felt an immediate urge to chronicle my life – start writing a journal just to maybe share a piece of something with my daughter.The book puts you in the space of naked insecurity and the need to cherish your blessings.

Lucy, Paul’s wife has penned a very poignant epilogue. More power to her and their daughter Cady!

Not only a definite read but also a must own.


Written by Sudarshan Suresh

September 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm