This was my dream after graduate school

I had this vision after finishing graduate school a few years ago.

I would be living in a large urban city. Preferably Boston or New York City. I wouldn’t have a car. I would live in an apartment with character. With my own stuff carefully chosen by me. I would have this fantastic home theater system. And most importantly, I would be living by myself.

Well now.

The Boston or New York City didn’t happen. Having my own stuff didn’t really materialize. And I live with a roommate. But all in all…I nearly got everything.

The month before I moved out of Pittsburgh, I had talked about my own dreams and successes. Yeah, I think it’s time that I lived by myself I complained to a friend who had a large apartment complete with a large 12 x 12 rug and a projector. I am that age. And so I went back to my parents’ house in the ‘burbs of San Francisco while I searched for the right job. That right job was in the Mission of San Francisco, which in a few months, I moved there.

I decided that I would be ok with a roommate after intensive interviewing of potential people. I have been happy…and yet not. Three years later, I am still living in the same place with the same roommate. We have gotten used to each other…that if we changed habits, it would tip the balance. While most of my friends have moved at least once or twice or even thrice…I haven’t all.

What if I lived by myself? What if I came back to an empty apartment with only music to keep me company? And I could leave things where I wanted to without consideration of anybody. It would be all mine—and speak of my character.

The way my current apartment situation is like that although most things are not mine. My roommate often secludes himself in his room while I dominate the kitchen and the living room (not on purpose, but it’s because he doesn’t). It is as if it’s my own place, but I cannot act like it is.

There was a time in Pittsburgh where for several days I would walk up and down the stairs of my four bedroom house—I wouldn’t even see a single soul. My housemates’ rooms were always closed. Silence occasionally broken by the running water or footsteps. It was like living with ghosts.

After watching Paranormal Activity a few weeks ago, I suddenly liked having roommates. The sound of anything…I could blame on my roommate. Or even more so, I hope at least the demon doesn’t attack me first. Usually I always pick the room farthest away from the entrance.

An idea for a new blog or twitter

Inspired by friends’ niche blogs and twitters, I thought…well why not. I have my own creativity, my dedication to blogging and fascination with twitter.

And I started considering what I do normally every day:

  • Wavering levels of social anxiety
  • Think about how people could really SAVE MONEY in a stingy, ridiculous way
  • Use foursquare almost obsessively
  • Obsessively check twitter, facebook and email
  • Be the early adopter of any web service
  • Read tons of reviews
  • Study recipes
  • Finger and touch produce
  • Brainstorm about the many ways a potato can be used
  • Don’t drive a car
  • Play WordFu
  • Research my health ailments
  • Make to do lists
  • Ok, so now…what’s unique about me that I can share with the world? Uncertain…

    And then there was a face I did not recognize!

    “Jill, this is Sergeant Sacker. Listen to me. We’ve traced the call… it’s coming from inside the house.”

    And like the horror movie, we as the audience suddenly realize the dread of having an unwelcome visitor in our own home. And then you start realizing why the window was left open, why the keys are on the floor when you are sure you left it on the counter, why there were sounds of footsteps outside the door—what you thought was just the house creaking…


    But what if…on Foursquare, the application, the service that I have been obsessed with since mid-summer with tracking my movements in the Bay Area…what if I started checking in people’s houses? You see the way it works (if you haven’t heard me talk about it nonstop and trying to get YOU to use it if you have an iPhone or Android phone) is that Foursquare users check in at any venues they visit. For each time they check in, the user gets points. More points is built over the year for the second, third, fourth, etc. stop. Foursquare users can also add their own venues. And it’s not uncommon to come across people’s houses because hey you’re at home—shouldn’t that be a place you can check in?

    Foursquare Casas

    What if I walked by and decided to check in? Would the mayor (the person who most likely lives there) be freaked out when they look in the people detail? Wait a minute they would say. I DON’T RECOGNIZE THIS PERSON Granted, I wouldn’t even have to visit the location at all because I can check in remotely.

    That person was there only 5 minutes ago! they would exclaim. And would they become startled and look around in fear. Did someone check in WITHIN MY HOUSE

    And would the person they’re talking to on twitter, gchat, email, facebook…say GET OUT OF THERE GET OUT OF THERE! WHATEVER YOU DO NOW, GET OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!

    Most likely though, that mayor would check in to “the street outside my house” and add the shout “there’s someone I don’t recognize in my house on Foursquare”.

    Note: I do recognize one of the houses in the snapshot (aka Casa De Haro). Try searching for “Home”, “House” or even plain street addresses. Why is Home the most popular place on Foursquare even though it’s only a restaurant? Because people don’t know any better.

    Note 2: I have never been that interested in checking in at Home.

    In the 6 months that I was unemployed…

    I played a lot of LittleBigPlanet. Sure it was escapist to be a sackboy (or a sackgirl in my case). It was cooperative, because I wasn’t that good at jumping, not very good at smashing the buttons in the right order and understanding the spatial relationships in the level. And I actually got through many levels. I played with Naim, KPL and his gf…at varying degrees of success. I played with random people online. And even when Christmas came around, Chris dragged the PS3 to my parents’ house and we played there while my sister whined and moaned about me not actually spending time with her (hah!)

    Today, I got the soundtrack to LittleBigPlanet on the PS3 (currently in the process of trying to figure out the music for LittleBigPlanet PSP). I listened to it multiple times as I was working (yes working during the holiday to save vacation for later, because I am so self-centered like that) and well…oddly enough even though it recalled nostalgia of the more innocent times of last year, it also recalled the frustrations. I remember an insane puzzle in the later levels…that required me to hang on to spinning wheels requiring accurate timing in jumping. I failed more than 20 times, falling to death on spikes or being squished by other wheels. And that would often make Chris die too because he would be off screen, waiting patiently for me.

    I have to say that my favorite song is The Go! Team – Get It Together. It was the soundtrack to the first (and easiest) tutorial-like level. It was when I was discovering all the pleasures of the game. The fun of pushing boxes together and climbing them. And then grabbing hold of the donkey who would quickly drag me to the ending. And all the outfits.

    Oh wait, I think it’s because the LBP Create trailer uses this soundtrack, showing how easy it is to make a level.

    Oh yeah, here’s me from last year. There’s Chris in the background being a little too pleased.

    I wish I could be my sackgirl for Christmas.

    I used to love Black Friday

    In the last few years, my interest in the annual Black Friday dwindled. Into…I decided that I would rather work this year than to even take a holiday off.

    There was a time when I like the many geek boys that I would scour the ads and the websites for the deal. I was so absorbed with fat wallet and andatech.

    Before I was fascinated by gadgets, it was a family tradition. We would wake up and bundle up at 5 am to wait outside Target or Kmart for a measley box. Ok so in the early 2000s, it was amazing. I liked the little gifts in there even though we would go in and pick up the box…and leave. It was like getting free money. I rarely have had normal Thanksgiving feast and so this was the closest thing that I had to a normal semblance of a Thanksgiving family togetherness.

    This year though, my sister is staying in NYC. I decided not to take time off, rather saving my vacation for more of an appropriate time.

    This morning, I woke up to silence. It was fantastic. Living in a neighborhood of transients in San Francisco meant that most people were not home. Most people were traveling to their parents—parents that did not live in the Mission. With my music blasting, I worked and gobbled pomegranate seeds, drank tea and ate a bitter salad. There was nothing outside that pulled me away, because…everything was nearly closed. It was peaceful and parking was aplenty.

    Tonight, I finish up my work and go back to sleep. I remember this and hope that I can do the same again…maybe…

    The brewing rage that comes with biking

    A few weeks ago at a friend’s party, biking in the city became topic of discussion. Knowing that I was in company of car drivers, I didn’t say anything.

    “There was a huge mass of bikers up Embarcadero on yesterday!” she exclaimed. “Blocking traffic!”

    I swallowed my immediate retort, having seen both sides.

    “So annoying.” She continued, “I just wanted to run them over.”

    Today, as I was biking to the caltrain, obeying the usual laws of the road—stopping at stop signs and lights. I still got honked multiple times. But I was only mere biker, one who was so afraid of biking with angry drivers that I carefully studied the behaviors and actions of a class. That I asked inane questions to my instructor—why can we turn right on the street when cars can’t? and not receiving always adequate answers.

    A few weeks ago as I was biking up my usual route on 23rd from Harrison to Valencia, I noticed that there was a loud car behind me. Having had a bad experience the previous week of almost having a major accident, I took the road. It was the law—I had the right to take the road if there was no bike lane. Legally, I could not bike on the sidewalk and I had the right to avoid the door zone of parked cars. I could sense the impatience of the loud car as this time, I actually made a full stop at the stop sign, actually putting my feet to the ground and looking both ways. Internally, I was having a tantrum and acting out against the angry driver, showing how I was biking legally. I blocked his way all the way up to Valencia where he finally pulled past me yelling at me not to hog the road.

    I muttered something along the lines of yes, I could

    Oddly enough, because he was at a red, I quickly caught up to him filtering between him and the cars.

    “Can’t you share the road?” I asked civilly and made my right hand turn signal.

    He mumbled something and roared off, leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

    There was a boy I used to see in 2003. He complained about how bikers thought they were cars. At the time, I didn’t say anything. Now that I understand how the bikers feel, I feel the scars fester in anger.

    He peered down the street and saw a hunched over figure

    At this point, I had lost my pink ribbon. But way before I lost my ribbon, I had lost my spirit and ambition of the game. Some would say I was a sore loser. In some ways, I was. As I lamented alone in the city that didn’t really care, in a city full of people ambling to the next party, the scantily clad girls walking around in the San Francisco night.

    I meandered my way to 10th street, hoping but not expecting to run into Chris who was on his journey. As I neared 10th street, I heard a male voice. “Jenn?” the voice broke through the dark silence.

    Ta-ching? If it’s him, I’ll have to come up with another lame excuse to cover why I was being such a loser and a wimp.

    As I walked closer, it turned out to be Chris! “Hi!!!!!!” I excitedly ran over. “You made it!”

    “Not yet,” he said and I started talking out loud about my loser-ness situation and asked about his journey. He was stumbling his way from checkpoint 3 up in the tenderloin and was nearly limping to checkpoint 4 due to his pulled muscles. On the way down, he had many adventures of his own—he had changed in his Phantom of Opera costume, which matched the soundtracks of people driving past the Opera House at the Civic Center, then he ran past a little girl dressed as a fairy wandering alone on Jones Street—he stopped for a few minutes to help her find her brother and mother, then he was propositioned by a homeless woman…and had three chasers that tried to tag him but failed. Now in the habit of completely scanning the area for all figures, he had spotted a person wandering aimlessly, slightly hunched over, as if there was no goal in sight, perhaps no hope. Then he recognized my gray Nike pants—the pants that he bought for me at a Nike outlet and the pants I frequently wore as relaxing pants and was a major part of my costume as Mirror’s Edge’s Faith.

    And so began the latter and better part of the night…

    I sulked the rest of the way

    Quite naturally, I started sulking. After being tagged, the idea of chasing people was an unwelcome thought. I was horrible at tag. Not quick nor ambitious, the motivation was sorely lacking.

    As ta-ching and his friends wandered, I shuffled my feet, lamenting my demise. My yellow ribbon was torn from me. I eventually waved ta-ching and his friends away and I walked down the street with a pink ribbon tied to my left arm.

    I spotted runners ahead of me. And it did give me a smile as I approached and they leapt away. Oh yes, power indeed! But the sudden spurt of energy was squashed when I didn’t move and I heard a male voice running away say, “Oh, she’s not really into it.”

    Yes, it was true. It wasn’t that I wanted Chris to play with me. I wanted him to succeed, but I was moping all around the city. At some point, Chris called and I was excited. He made it to checkpoint two and was not tagged! Ok, I’ll meet him!

    I started racing to checkpoint three, hoping to cross paths. But moments later, it turned out that he had spotted an ebb in the tide of chasers and made the run for it to checkpoint 4. He told me he lost his hat around Harrison and 2nd when he was brutally chased into a parking lot and he dodged not one but two cars crossing the street. I sprinted to the specified intersection, trespassed into the underground parking lot…nothing. But well, I spotted a few runners and thought why not. I cornered one girl and tagged her. She looked distraught—like me. She looked around frantically to another guy who was hiding behind a tree with the expression—what do I do now? Channeling the clown, I asked for her ribbon. The guy came out of hiding and said, “Tag me”. I took his ribbon and the two of them went off together.

    But still now…with three ribbons total, I was still upset. I considered going home. I wasn’t exhausted. Could I help Chris out? What could I do? And so I stumbled my way to checkpoint 4.

    It was as if someone had stolen a part of me

    For the third time in less than a month, I navigated through the telephone menus of the American Express customer service line. Despite the pleasant experience of the voice recognition system that understood my English, I was frantic, yet slightly assured that I was in good hands.

    Because of stupidity or theft, I didn’t think to cancel my credit cards immediately. And about a week later, I was surprised to receive a fraud alert from AMEX. Like Tina Fey in her commercials, it was a comfortable experience. I was immediately given assurance and told steps to take. I cancelled all my credit and atm cards and had them re-issued. It was uncomplicated and I got my cards slowly over the next few weeks while I survived on cash.

    Then two days ago, I looked at my current statements ready for my monthly payment. And I didn’t recognize five charges. Impossible. How could this company charge me during the period when I didn’t have a credit card? I called the company and asked for information. My account didn’t even exist there. Did I even visit that site? My information—my social and credit card information—was not even there. How was that possible? After some more fishy talk, I called American Express and had the charges stopped. The customer service representative was calming and assured me that it was ok.

    Then tonight after I was credited back the charges I saw another charge. $20 at fandango??? At Loews? I immediately called Chris and looked at my history on Foursquare (thank god for my OCD in self-tracking). As suspected, I have never paid for tickets since Chris often find good deals on coupons and the movie passes that we have amassed over the years. And if I did use Fandango, he would have insisted on using the Visa Signature deal. And also I have hesitation about buying movie tickets anyway.

    This whole ordeal—that one moment in the DC Circulator bus. It was that single moment. I don’t know if my wallet fell out of my bag or if someone was able to cleverly put their hand into my bag and feel for that leathery touch as I walked by. And yet they returned the wallet an hour later to a bus driver. My friends told me at the time that nobody would have taken my credit cards—don’t worry, they said, nobody had the time to take your credit cards. Oh I wish I was more paranoid then and took precautions than to suffer the surprises that have hit me day by day.

    Although the part I don’t understand…how could someone make charges when I had not activated the card yet?

    The beginning of my end

    “It’s a smoke screen,” Ta-ching declared, looking at my Ziploc bag of cornstarch. “I don’t think that will stop any chasers.”

    I laughed.

    It was impossible to tell when it was going to begin. With Sam the organizer shouting somewhere into the crowd—the instructions and the hint…we saw people starting to run. Did it just start?

    Ta-ching disappeared from our group. As Chris and I ran toward Steuart Street, we spotted Ta-ching who found two female friends. We started off on our trek following the crowd. Chris and Ta-ching started jogging. Having read logs of previous journeys, I shouted that we shouldn’t need to run. According to a journey in 2006, the key was to maintain a steady pace—to not tire by the end and…not run. Running attracted attention and tired us out. So we strolled and chatted. We smiled at other groups as they passed us. Ta-ching also agreed that last time he didn’t even see a chaser until checkpoint 2.

    It was going to be a great night. Last time, I got sick 10 minutes into the journey in Oakland. But this time, I will make it further. Chris and I had discussed this earlier in the day. It wasn’t to make it to the end—I already saw a lot of people who seemed more prepared. It wasn’t just to make it to two checkpoints—this was even too low of a goal for me. We agreed that we wanted to make to the end—make it through all 7 checkpoints throughout the city.

    I was excited. Chris in his all-knowing way of San Francisco led our small group of 5 to the first checkpoint at South Park. This should be easy.


    I felt a push from behind and a voice.

    “I got you,” the clown said and tagged ta-ching. Then the other two girls. “And you. And you.”

    Chris had immediately dodged away and stood at a safe distance. The clown said in a polite voice, “Your ribbons please.”

    I was distraught. No, it couldn’t be. We barely went half a mile. Barely 10 minutes. All that I had prepared for…and everything. I was upset. Again. Tagged. The thought of being having fun as a chaser didn’t even cross my mind. I expected to play at least 3 hours. NO! But I reluctantly handed over my yellow ribbon. BUT, no this couldn’t be. THE second time! But I wasn’t feeling sick. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t…I WAS TAGGED.



    Chris asked from his safety position, “What should I do?”

    “You can call truce,” the clown said.

    I immediately responded and waved him away, “No! Go!”

    Chris looked at us. Then he turned and ran down the street to the first checkpoint.

    The clown ran to the other side of the street and tagged the girl dressed as a painting. She screamed. But for her, she couldn’t see him coming from behind.