Tag: como

An Open (Grumpy) Letter to Snowy Columbia

photo 4Never will you be happier to see a bus than when the bus is late.

That’s true. Proven by facts. And science. And a lot of first-hand experience, since I kind of enjoy public transport.

Columbia is breaking my heart, though.

These past couple days, I’ve been taking the bus into downtown and walking to the newsroom. Because school is not currently in session, however, the loop 200 feet from my apartment complex isn’t running.

The next closest stop? A mile away.

The first day, I left my house at 6:15 a.m. It was still pretty dark out, and pretty cold, but I was wearing layers, gloves, a hat and wool socks. I wasn’t too worried about the cold, and knew I would be at the bus in no time.

Turns out I had underestimated the city on what they had done in wake of the Polar Vortex.

Columbia, for whatever reason, doesn’t know how to function in the snow. It never really made sense to me: Is the city surprised that there are winter storms? We’re in the Midwest! Of course it snows here! I’m from Texas and I know that! Why are we always completely thrown for a loop and unable to handle less than six inches of snow?

If I wanted to try my luck walking on the street, I had to brave an ice-coated shoulder, covered with a light dusting of snow. The road conditions still weren’t awesome, and I didn’t entirely trust the early morning drivers, so I trudged through the snow. The city has shoveled snow, icy and slush off Grindstone Parkway and up onto the sidewalk, more than a foot high in some places. My boots were soaked through to my socks. I tripped and almost face-planted at least once. I was frustrated and unhappy and cold.

I had to cross over the highway using a very narrow shoulder that was half covered with plowed snow and ice. Terrifying, to say the least.

photo 3The next day, I left my house at 7:50 a.m. I wore my rain boots and packed a nicer pair of shoes for the newsroom. Since it was lighter out, I could more safely walk on the shoulder of the road. It was icy, but it wasn’t snow halfway to my knee. I made much better time, and I didn’t feel like crying, so that’s a plus. The bus was 20 minutes late, most likely due to a combination of morning rush hour and the snowy conditions, but I would rather be waiting at a bus stop than hiking through snow banks.

A very chilled blogger at the bus stop.
A very chilled blogger.

There are two things I would like to mention about my bus adventures. Firstly, never underestimate the power of a pair of muck boots. Secondly, Columbia needs to get itself together.

What about the residents who can’t make that hike? If they live further, or they have kids with them, or they have a bunch of groceries? What if they aren’t as able bodied and can’t navigate a narrow, icy shoulder of a highway?

One of the other passengers on my bus Thursday morning was in a wheelchair. He had to make a transfer, but couldn’t get off at his normal stop because the sidewalks and ramps were neither scooped nor salted. I watched, mesmerized, as our driver coordinated with the driver of the man’s next bus. Both buses pulled into a side street at a t-stop so the man could use the ramps on both buses in the safety of a plowed street. It worked out just fine, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the man, or other passengers, did when conditions were less than ideal.

I like public transportation. I really do. The DART system in Dallas has received many a dollar from my wallet, and I’ve taken it from the stop around the corner from my house into the downtown shopping district and even all the way to the Dallas Zoo. If I can go to the zoo on Dollar Tuesdays and take the DART down and back, all for less than $5, that seems like a good deal to me.

I think the reason I am able to enjoy buses and trains, though, is because they’re accessible to me. I don’t have to worry about ramps or ice or huge puddles or anything getting in my way. It might not be enjoyable to trek through snow drifts, but I can do it. Even a winter storm can’t stop me from making it a mile to the bus stop.

But not everyone can just pull on boots and hike a mile. Assuming so is ableist and exclusive.

Downtown sidewalks are manageable and mostly clear. Most campus sidewalks are shoveled by campus facilities employees and student staff members. It takes time, effort and money, but people can walk to Starbucks and Shake’s without snow shoes or cross-country skis.

This is my plea for the City of Columbia to salt its residential sidewalks. Contrary to popular belief, there are still students who live in the dozens of apartment complexes all over the city, even when school is not in session. We need a way to get to the bus, get to the store. Students are told nearly every day by most faculty members to push ourselves out of the “campus bubble.”

It’s hard to do that when everything outside that bubble is covered in a foot of dirty, icy snow.

Author’s Note: After I published this post, my good friend and co-worker Elise texted me to ask if I was writing a story on the topic of Columbia’s sidewalks and snow procedures. I was inspired, and have started to look into the topic as a story for the Missourian. Just wanted to let y’all know that the post came first and sparked a deeper, broader look into how people get around in the snow, rather than just me getting pissed that my feet were wet when I got to work (as true as that might be). Keep an eye out for updates!

Tuesday Mornin’, Court Reportin’

(Title reference: this ever-popular intro)

I woke up at 7:15 a.m. this morning. I had every intention of making eggs, checking Case.Net to see if anything interesting was coming up in court, milling over the morning news and then taking the bus to reporting class.

I was wrong.

I checked my phone as soon as my alarm went off. A minute previously, at 7:14 a.m., my editor Katherine Reed, who runs an excellent blog about reporting, had emailed our entire public health and safety beat about three court proceedings that day which didn’t have reporters to cover them. After some sleepy emails and permission to skip the class Katherine would be teaching, I snapped up the 9:30 a.m. case.

Now this was my first time ever going to a court proceeding and only my second time inside the courthouse, and let me be the first to say: nerve-wracking. What if I went into the wrong room? What if I missed information? What if I made a fool of myself? What if the judge called me out for doing something wrong, however unintentional and I spontaneously combusted from embarrassment? Needless to say, there were some overactive butterflies in my stomach.

The gorgeous Columbia courthouse.
The gorgeous Columbia courthouse.

It wasn’t the huge train-crash nightmare I had envisioned, luckily. I got down all the information I needed, scribbling in my reporter’s notebook at a crazy pace, ears tuned to the sound of the judge’s and prosecutor’s voice. The case had to do with this crazy story of a former MU employee who attacked both a neighbor and a police officer with a plant holder and a bowling pin, respectively. I know. News can be really mundane, and then things like this happen. I wrote a quick brief on the court proceedings, which can be found online here.

A typical court docket is nothing like Law and Order, if you were wondering. There are multiple cases and lawyers and defendants and spectators in the room at any given time. It is hard to hear exactly what’s going on, and if you don’t have the documents in front of you, most of the case proceedings are gibberish. Granted, I love listening to professionals speak in jargon. I did, however, feel extremely out of the loop. As if everyone was talking about some cool event they all knew about while I was learning as I went along with the conversation. It’s too be expected, I guess. There’s no way I can know absolutely every motion, case and hearing that passes through any given judge’s chambers. …right?

I actually ended up going to court a second time today after my French class to hear the preliminary hearing of an 18-year-old man accused of shooting and killing another 18-year-old man this summer in Columbia. Sunny topic, I know. The proceeding in question was over within 30 seconds, as it is being transferred to another division and judge on Monday morning.

What? Are you serious?

I skipped class (sorry, Paula) to come back to court! I am a serious reporter! Give me something juicy and high profile! I want to write! It was anti-climatic, to say the least. My reporting friends and avid news consumers will agree that “anti-climatic” is not exactly the adjective we want attached to our daily news digest.

Which is completely ludicrous of me to expect, really. The justice system does not function to fulfill the public’s desire for drama and intrigue. The justice system definitely does not function to make my job more exciting. Yes, it is flawed. I am fully aware of the corruption and power struggles that erupt within courthouses. It is not, though, the purpose. The purpose (surprise, surprise) is to deliver fair, speedy and just trials to those accused of crimes. Not to create entertainment.

In spite of the fact that I didn’t get the Law and Order-worthy, block-buster preliminary trial I had dreamed of, my day full of court reporting was equally as full of learning experiences. I got to do something I had never done, and I came out alright. As a working student journalist, that’s one of the best feelings: realizing you actually do know how to swim (or can learn quickly with a little help from awesome editors and co-workers).

Journalism, for all its stress and long hours and unknowns, is the place for me. Do me a favor and consume some news today so I can actually go into this field.

Happy news reading, everyone!

How I caught the True/False bug

True/False is in town. Downtown CoMo (Columbia, Mo., for those who don’t know) is literally buzzing – costumed cinephiles, micro brewed alcohol, lots and lots of hipsters. Having an internationally acclaimed documentary film festival is a huge point of pride for this college town, and it’s a culture in which I want desperately to be included.

This year, I was lucky enough to inherit a free ticket from a friend of mine. Saturday morning, I dragged my exhausted body out of bed and trudged to Jesse Hall. I walked into the auditorium to meet my friend Caroline, who runs a great blog, and was greeted by bluegrass jazz.

Yes Ma'am string band from New Orleans, La., performing at Jesse Hall
Yes Ma’am string band from New Orleans, La., performing at Jesse Auditorium

If you don’t know me, you should know that I absolutely loved to go places and be greeted by bluegrass jazz – it’s electric and foot stomping and so much fun. I found my friend Caroline, sat down, Instagrammed a picture of the band, Yes Ma’am, and snuggled into my seat to wait for the show.

I had the pleasure of watching “No,” a fictional documentary about the Chilean referendum to vote President Pinochet out of office. It was directed by Pablo Larrain and starred Gael García Bernal. Producer Daniel Dreifuss, Hickman graudate, was present for the question and answer portion after the film.

The kicker about “No” is not in the subtle wit of the script, Bernal’s gorgeous eyes (but really) or the moving revolution. It’s the art behind the movie itself. The entire film was shot in U-matic video stock from the 80s rather than in HD. Dreifuss informed the audience that 25 to 30 percent of the film is original footage from the referendum itself. Many people who were involved in the original actions played themselves of Larrain’s film. Dreifuss explained the motivation for shooting on old, not-HD footage as wanting the film the be “seamless.” I can tell you – it worked. I wasn’t aware until I was told that there was archive footage cut into the movie at all.I emerged from watching the film feeling as if I had just watched a film from 1986, not one from 2012.

Producer Daniel Dreifuss at the post-film Q&A at Jesse Auditorium
Producer Daniel Dreifuss at the post-film Q&A at Jesse Auditorium

The thought put into the method of how film is made, the mixing in historical context, the voicing of an underrepresented revolution: it’s what makes me love the movies. Laughing along with an entire auditorium of people, feeling the stranger beside me suck in her breath at an especially moving scene: the solidarity of over 300 hearts and minds and pairs of eyes.

True/False, 2014? I can’t wait for you to get here.