Multimodal transit confusion

I’d checked the weather last night, and I checked it again this morning – today, the heavens may just permit me to ride to work.

I donned the appropriate attire, sat at the dining table and ate my breakfast while catching up on events that happened while I was fast asleep. I then packed my bag, clipped on the helmet, stopped myself short of putting on my gloves just yet – my fine motor skills are still required to fiddle with my keys and the lock downstairs. So I stuff them into my pockets for now.

Down one flight of stairs, and another, and another…

Out the main entrance, onto public thoroughfare, past the meat shop. The tram stop was in sight.


How silly I must’ve looked to the meat monger – walking about with my helmet and cycling tights on.

I quickly doubled back while trying to decide whether to take the longer route around the block, or to ride past the meat monger and confirm my prior confusion.

Back in through the main entrance, I completed the final flights of stairs to the basement, fiddled with my lock and key, wrapped my palms in toasty Thinsulate and I was off.

I rode as fast as safety would allow, still I swore I heard a chuckle as I rode past. What a story Mr. Meat Monger would have to tell at morning tea later.

Weekend hill warriors

Last I counted, he’s been doing this thing for at least a couple of weeks in a row. Brother would drop by Saturday afternoon when we’re at our lethargic-est, and announce that he’s going cycling – subtly hinting that we could come with if we so choose to.

Without fail, my first response would be to succumb to laziness, and conjure up some excuse to not ride. Yet every single time after the ride, we’d sit around the dining table, sip 100-plus and talk about how good it feels to conquer the hills and make it back – best thing we could’ve possible done for that afternoon.

You’d think that after a few such incidents, one would learn to convince oneself “you’ll feel better after the ride”. In reality, certain things require an external force to nudge one over the line, to slap on the cycling tights, to mount the bike, to finally ride out of the garage and onto the tarmac. Either that, or certain people such as yours truly suffer from a severe lack of discipline to exercise simply for the sake of it.

Before you know it, you’ve made it up one hill, down a valley, and you have no choice but to climb your way back home.

The bigger you are

It had been a long week at work. End of sprint, we’d somehow managed to graft our contraption onto business’ operations without causing too much damage. It wasn’t without its hiccups but I’m led to believe that it was an overall win.

So I was looking forward to my usual 2.5km ride to the station, and my 40 odd minute journey in a metal can. Metro had other plans for me.

The train was stopped at the station – all the doors were opened, and people were emptying out the carriages and making their way to the bus stop.

There had been a train/car accident at Cheltenham station. The staff at the bus stop suggested I rode to the Moorabbin station since taking the bike on the bus would be a bit of a stretch. “You look like a good rider”, he said, probably referring to my very manly looking cycling tights.

So I tried to mirror the severe disappointment around me at Metro. Secretly, I was delighted at the opportunity to do something out of the norm. I powered up the GPS tracker on my phone and was on my way.

This, I had to capture – all 11km’s of it. It would make good conversation fodder for the weekend compared to my usual nerdy contributions.

Along the way, the road blocks set up by the police nearer to the scene of the accident hinted at the seriousness of the matter, but nothing prepared me for the swell at Moorabbin station.

Lots of other less fortunate people having a less than ideal start to their weekends. At that point, any sense of mine being predicament quickly vanished – I was having a ball by┬ácomparison.

These photos are a stark reminder of the fire that I play with on a daily basis. I engineer information systems for an high volume online retailer. Not quite the scale of a metropolitan train network, but analogous enough.

The fundamental goal of any large scale system is to harness the economics of scale to reduce waste and increase efficiency. But what many fail to understand is with any large-scale monolithic system, the stakes increase exponentially with the gains. Potential points of failure proliferate with every corner cut, and it only takes a few minute defects before the whole thing crumbles in a sorry heap.

Scale is a gallant champion, but makes for a horrendous and putrid failure.

I took the car to work today

Brother has been overseas for a couple of weeks now, tasking me with giving his 4-wheeled bundle of joy a bit of a stretch every now and then to keep her nimble and her battery topped up.

So today, instead of my usual bike/train arrangement, I schemed to drive the car to work.

While gobbling down my morning muesli, I couldn’t help feeling excited from the novelty of my grand plan. Just to be clear, in all my university and working years, I’d never found myself in an arrangement that required a daily commute behind the wheel from yours truly.

As I entered the garage, I was greeted with a perky chrip-chirp upon announcing my presence with the remote. Tossing my backpack in the back seat was sheer delight. Starting up the car and pulling out of the basement, divine.

My very first traffic light intersection, though, obliterated all sense of excitement and novelty. Glee morphed to dread. Within mere minutes in, the desire to savour every bit of this very curious journey quickly evolved into a wanting to get off the road as soon as possible.

All this while going in the opposite direction of peak traffic.

My daily commute to work over the last 9 months has always been akin to a favourite wrinkle on a pillowcase that never goes away no matter how hot you turn up the iron. Irrespective of how similar the cultural background, social-standing and lifestyle, it is the kind of conversation material that leaves the conversing partner with little to add to, and beckons change of topic. In a tree data structure, this would be a leaf node.

So to keep things interesting, I’d come up with a variety of statements to at least afford a good chuckle, easing the transition into a change of topic.

If I’m feeling eco-friendly, I’d spout something like “It’s one less car on the road”.

Money wise? “Cheaper than a car and petrol”.

Health conscious? “I get a good dose of exercise without even trying”.

Zen: “More than an hour every day to quieten my mind and sift through my thoughts”.

Feeling a little bit fancy? “It’s like getting driven to work every day”.

Oh so productive: “I get to sort out all my emails during my commute. See my 3G phone, it’s got this data tethering thing…”

Up till today, they have been well varnish pieces of wood scraps that I’d so carefully glued together, polished and stowed away in my quiver of self-conviction, just in case someone scoffs, or levies a page out of the very South East Asian my-ride-is-my-pride gamebook against me.

But today, something changed.

As I trudged westward on the “sparser” side of the road, eyes squinted and limbs baked in the the pre-evening sun, concluding my ridiculous* commute, every one my excuses made up for the sake of conversation-flair, turned to teak encrusted in gold.

How genuinely lucky am I, to be able to bike and ride the train tomorrow.

*total distance: 54.68km
total time: 1h 53m
total moving time: 1h 10m
avg. speed 28.64km/h
avg. moving speed: 45.74km/h

Ego driven

I got off the train, hopped on the bike, and thought to myself,

“What a nice Friday for a relaxing commute to work”

At the first T-junction, I spied with my eyes just a few meters ahead, a fellow rider on a bike much less sleek than mine, sporting awfully color-uncoordinated florescent garb.

“Surely yours truly, on a freshly serviced bike, in tastefully selected attire, could easy ride past him without breaking a sweat”

4 minutes in, he just pulled further and further away. Just as I was ready to admit defeat, a white ute drives past me. It its wake, two riders rode on far sleeker bikes, sporting far more coordinated team jerseys and tights – at car-speeds.


So much for a relaxing ride into work. My ego drove me to work today.