stop worrying and use my smartphone

propaganda poster at the International Spy Museum
Darth Vader?

Yesterday I took the train up from Richmond to Washington to visit with Kathryn Greenhill and family. They’re on a whirlwind holiday spanning the globe, and since it’s not often I get to visit with folks from the other side of the world, I snatched the opportunity to spend most of the day with them.

I learned quite a few things on this visit — from vocabulary like rubbish bins and biscuits (trash cans and cookies, respectively) to how to avoid being uncovered as a secret agent. I also learned that a smartphone and a useful mobile web interface can take a lot of stress out of travel.

After visiting a farmer’s market near DuPont Circle and the Gertrude Stein exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery, we toured the International Spy Museum. The museum is enormous, with displays that bleed from one to the next and never seem to end, until suddenly you find yourself at the exit. We had been there for two hours when it occurred to me that my time was running out.

After we made our way back to the Metro stop and said our goodbyes, I had just enough time to get back to Union Station and catch my train home. Or, I would have, if I had made sure I was going the right direction on the Metro. Two stops later I realized I was on the wrong train, and I assessed my options.

By the looks of things, the correct train wasn’t going to be coming by anytime soon, so I decided to hoof it to DuPont Circle (where I landed instead of Union Station) and catch a cab. Union Station was fairly close, and the cab maybe could get me there in time. Luckily, an available cab pulled up soon after I started looking for one. Not so luckily, we ran into too much traffic and I missed the train.

Normally, this would have prompted a huge breakdown with frustration and tears directed at myself for screwing up. However, by the time we were half-way to the station, I already knew that I would miss the train (it was early and left on the dot), and that there were three more trains going to Richmond this evening, so I’d get home one way or another.

Without my smartphone, and the information it provided me, I would have had to sit in worry and self-directed anger for the long minutes it took to get from DuPont to the Amtrak ticket counter at Union Station. Knowing I had plenty of options meant that worry was unnecessary and avoidable.

My smartphone is a lot of things to me (my calendar, my communications, my social connection) and it’s also the antidote to one of my biggest stress triggers — the unknown.


I was at the farmer’s market yesterday, listening to a talented acoustic duo perform, when I saw someone eating a piece of fruit that looked luscious and wonderful. I queried the muncher and discovered that this fascinating edible was a Pluot. I learned the location of the vendor selling this fruit and purchased one for myself.

It was wonderful! Juicy, sweet, soft, and just a little tartness from the skin. I bought a few more to take home, but not as many as I would have liked. Mainly, I didn’t think I could eat them all before they went bad. But, I’m just about to eat my third one and now I’m wishing I had brought home more.


cow morning

Large bovine visitors this morning.

My regular weekend gig is house-sitting out in the country for some friends who are touring musicians. It’s very pleasant out here and they have lots of cats and dogs to keep me company. The fuzz-heads don’t like to let me sleep in much, though. Usually their technique involves several cats walking across my sleeping body or an occasional solitary bark from one of the dogs.

This morning was different. Maggie was barking insistently that she needed to go outside NOW. I stumbled out of bed and headed for the back door, pulling on some clothes as I went. As I was passing through the kitchen, I saw something move up the driveway, but it was out of sight before I could look closer. I knew it was a large thing, so it wasn’t a chicken or some other wild animal. I assumed human and that I had an early morning visitor.

Maggie & Sophie dashed out of the back door barking their heads off, and I stood there stunned as a small herd of cows were hanging out under the apple trees. I know for a fact that my friends do not have cows, and even if they did, they would not keep them in the back yard. There was a human trying to herd the cows away, and presently they had moved out of the back yard towards the path up the hill to the barn. Mind you, that too is still on our property (“our property” meaning the property owned by my friend’s landlord, but having lived out here most weekends and for a while weeks on end, it feels like mine, too). They didn’t stay on the path, though, and ended up making their own off to the right. I thought, “Well, that was interesting,” and headed back to the house.

I stopped for a moment and got a shot of one of the new features in the back yard. That was when I heard some noise coming from down the hill (yes, still on our property). I don’t think it was the same cows, because it should have taken them longer to get there, but maybe they took a shortcut. In any case, I made sure I was in position to get a picture of them crossing the road.

When my friends get home, I’ll find out if the landlord is leasing the back fields to a cattle farmer neighbor, or if the herd just got loose and came for a visit. In any case, it was not what I expected I’d ever wake up to.