A Masterpiece of Activism?

Well, they got our attention.

Two weeks ago, Tigrayan expats decided to protest against the genocide in Ethiopia that has been going on for two years, and has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their people so far. I genuinely believe that this is an outrage that is worthy of protest. I’m glad these protestors got our attention for one brief, shining moment.

In this internet age, people in general and Americans specifically are hit with so much information that they are hard-pressed to focus on anything. They’re too overwhelmed. There are too many atrocities in the world. There are too many problems to solve.

While it’s hard to believe we could forget about an entire war, this is not the first time we’ve done so. I’m sure it won’t be the last. We don’t seem to care about anything unless it impacts us directly.

This protest was an act of desperation for the Tigrayan community in Seattle, which is the second largest in America. Only Washington DC has a larger community than ours. Back home, their people are dying. They’re being bombed and tortured and starved. The expats have no way of communicating with the loved ones they left behind, so they don’t know whether to grieve or “just” worry.

So, on Friday, November 4th, during afternoon rush hour traffic on the only North/South interstate that goes through the city, a large group of protesters gathered, blocking not only Northbound I-5, but also the I-90 ramps to I-5 in both directions. As if the Friday afternoon commute didn’t suck enough in this densely populated town. This, of course, caused total gridlock city wide.

Fortunately, I was going southbound. My commute time was “only” doubled, due to lookie-loos and people trying to take less familiar routes home. But I saw the Northbound traffic, at a complete standstill, for nearly 6 miles. And it remained that way for over an hour.

I’m sure a lot of people were weeping tears of frustration, trying to get home after an exhausting week of work, trying to pick up their children from school, trying to get to some much-needed food, and desperately wanting to pee. Not to mention that there was at least one ambulance caught in that mess, and it was carrying a patient in critical condition to the hospital. The police had to clear one lane to get them through, and it caused a significant delay. I hope that guy is okay.

I think that the general city-wide irritation quotient must have spiked higher than it should have because most of us didn’t know what was causing this delay until it was nearly over with, and even then, we were told there were only 6 protesters, instead of the several dozen that were actually on the scene. There were also several police cars present because it’s illegal to protest on an interstate, but in the end, they made no arrests.

It’s amazing how the forgotten slaughter of an entire group of people can make you sound like a whiny little b**ch when you complain about an hour and a half of your life being taken from you. It makes me feel rather pathetic and bloated with false privilege. It also made me drop the illusion that I have any control whatsoever regarding anything in life. But I can’t sustain that reality for long or I’ll go completely mad.

This protest hit every single local news outlet. It was talked about for days afterward. If reminding us/educating us all about this horrible genocide was their only goal, then I’d say mission accomplished, and then some.

But is that what they were trying to achieve? Or were they hoping to bring an end to a senseless war? If that was the plan, I don’t think shutting down Seattle was the best way to get people on their side.

I’d be all for a protest in front of an Ethiopian Embassy. I’d even be down for a protest that targeted some part of the American Bureaucracy, or even that of a local government agency if it has investments in Ethiopia. Power to the people! But blocking a lot of random individuals on an interstate? That had the wrong kind of impact.

I know I was frustrated. And I still, to this day, have no idea what I could do to help end this genocide. I have never believed that thoughts and prayers were that effective. I can chant, “May peace prevail upon the earth” a million times, and there will still be power-hungry a**holes acting out all over the globe.

I could call my congressperson. Yeah, yeah. But we’re all starting to realize that the political agenda and the people’s agenda are mutually exclusive. The American government is not going to care about Ethiopia until that caring benefits them.

I don’t think blocking traffic on a Seattle interstate is going to change a thing in Ethiopia, any more than pouring soup on an artistic masterpiece is going to stop oil. Are these protests masterpieces for their causes, or are they just a speed bump on the roads of our lives; a mild irritant until we move on? I suppose time will tell.

It’s the oil protesters who should block interstates. And maybe the genocide protesters should be pouring tomato soup on the politicians. I certainly wouldn’t blame them for that, even though I don’t condone violence in even the soupiest of forms.

The bottom line is that I think that the bulk of us whiners stuck in that commute from hell were made to whine for no good reason. I feel bad that that’s the case. Truly I do. But the only change it brought about from my perspective is that I got another reminder of my helplessness, and I had to take a nap when I got home. As I drifted off, I was grateful that I had a warm, dry, and safe home to go to.

But as I write this, the war in Ethiopia rages on, despite the Ethiopian Government signing a cessation of hostilities agreement a few days prior to the Seattle protest. And this surprises me not at all. Homo sapiens may think they are a superior species, but they’re sadly mistaken. Lest we forget, we humans are simply primates with delusions of grandeur, and we’ve proven, time and time again, that our prime motivation is power tightly intertwined with greed and selfishness.

Slightly off topic: I’ve been struggling with the reasons for my outrage at those throwing soup on masterpieces, but if you want a spot-on, albeit foul-mouthed explanation as to why this activism is so unacceptable, check out this Facebook Post by Advocatus Peregrini. Well said, indeed.

Sources:

Exploding Trucks, an Abandoned 4-Year-Old, and Drawbridge Heat Expansion: One Helluva Day

I need a hug.

The day in question was a recent Thursday, Day 4 of an unprecedented week-long heat wave in Seattle. Dear Husband woke me up at 10:30 am, because he knew I’d want to get dressed and go to the YMCA pool before work. That’s where we do our own aqua aerobics routine 4 days a week. And it’s true, I wanted to go. I always feel better when I do. But he woke me in the middle of REM sleep, and my dream popped like a bubble. I spent the rest of the morning in an incoherent fog, wishing I could go back to bed. In truth, that turned out to be the theme for the entire day.

While getting ready for the pool, I glanced at the news, and discovered that at 8:15 am, a ferry in Seattle had crashed into part of the pier’s protection system, which is made of steel and concrete and is called a dolphin for reasons I’ve never understood. It sits just off the end of the pier and is designed to absorb the kinetic energy from an impact so that the pier isn’t destroyed. Thank goodness it did its job. (You can read about the incident here and here.)

No one was hurt, but several cars on the ferry were damaged. (Note to self: stop trying so hard to be at the front of a line of cars when you take the ferry.) The vessel itself sustained millions of dollars of damage and will be out of commission for many months. At first the news reported that that particular ferry terminal would be closed for the rest of the day.

I remember thinking, in passing, that this was going to cause traffic problems, because a lot of people who work in Seattle live on Vashon Island, and the only way to get there is by sea or air. All those people would have to drive much further away to get to other ferry terminals if they wanted to get home with their cars. And there are only so many ferries. And those ferries are already experiencing extreme staffing shortages as so many people got fired after refusing the COVID vaccine. (Selfish fools.)

(It was only later that the word spread that the terminal was to be reopened at 3 pm. But by then, many people had already detoured. And how.)

Meanwhile, where was I? Oh yes, headed out for a morning swim. It was so hot that I was really looking forward to it. It had been in the mid 90’s for the past 4 days, and while that may not seem all that bad from a Southern standpoint, especially since the humidity wasn’t that high, you have to understand that this almost never happens around here.

Historically, the average temperature on this date is 78 degrees. Most people didn’t even bother to have air conditioning in their homes in this area until about two years ago. And of course, the less affluent people still don’t have it, although it is now desperately needed. I can’t imagine the strain this sudden use of AC is going to put on the power grid. (Thanks, global warming deniers.)

So, when we arrived at the pool, it was full to overflowing with children on summer break attempting to beat the heat. I’ve never seen so many people in that pool, and we’ve been going there for years. There was no point in even trying to swim. I felt sweaty and defeated on the ride back home.

Had I known the day would get exponentially worse, I might have gone back to bed.

Still in a mental fog, I tried to get some housework done with mixed results. Then I attempted a nap before work, but the dogs apparently took umbrage with that, so I was never allowed to fully sleep.

On this day, I’d be working from 3 to 11 pm, so as per usual I left the house at 1:30 in hopes of arriving around 2:30. I do this because you never know what the commute will be like. On this day, I’d be grateful that I did that.

A brief Seattle geography lesson for you: Seattle has a population of 733,919, all crammed into 83.9 square miles. That’s nearly 8,748 people per square mile. And there’s no room for expansion, because it’s squeezed between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. You get a good idea of how packed the area is when you consider that the average population density for the whole country is about 94 people per square mile, and the average population density for all of Washington state is about 116 people per square mile.

And it’s so expensive to live in this city that many workers, like me, live elsewhere and commute in.  According to this report by the Seattle Department of Transportation, at its pre-COVID peak, the average daily traffic volume in Seattle was 1,015,722 vehicles. So, yeah, crowded is an understatement.

It was a good thing I left early, because little did I know, there was a truck on fire, with a payload of liquid oxygen that caused multiple explosions, and that completely shut down the southbound interstate. Granted, I was going north, but this caused a lot of looky-loos, and even more people being rerouted onto the surface streets I use to reach my final destination.

I arrived for my 3 pm shift at 2:59. I hate arriving so late. The bridgetender I relieve can’t leave until I arrive. If I had arrived at 3:01, by rights he could have screwed me out of a half hour’s pay, although most of us aren’t that cruel. And I had been texting him about the delays.

Between the truck on fire, the ferry disaster, and the blistering heat, I knew this would be a long day. And of course, in my rush to get from my car to the tower, I left my phone to bake on the black dashboard of my car. Great. Just great.

On days this hot, bridgetenders have to worry about heat expansion. If the bridge expands enough, it can bind together and be impossible to open. Needless to say, this is something we’d prefer to avoid. So I knew that in addition to opening the bridge for boats, I’d also have to stop traffic so that our flusher truck could make multiple passes on our metal span to spray cooling water on it.

Here’s a video I took of one such pass on the day. It’s shortened to not take up as much digital space, but it gives you an idea. The average pass that day took about 4 minutes, and on my shift alone they came through 7 times. In addition to that, I had to open the bridge 9 times for vessels, and each time I had to do these 16 things, traffic was backed up for miles in both directions, adding to the citywide snarl.

On non-holiday weekdays, the coastguard allows our bridge to remain closed to vessels for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, to allow for rush hour. (An extension of those timeframes is long overdue in Seattle, in my opinion.)

But on this day, due to the heat, the flusher trucks had to keep coming, so even though I was still able to not open the bridge to vessels during the closed period, I was still required to stop traffic to allow the flusher trucks to make their passes. That decision was well above my paygrade, although I did point out the problems involved.

I kept thinking of the people whose cars would overheat and stall during those backups, and it would be even worse for those who had cars with air conditioners that blow hot air when the car is not moving forward. (I’ve had a few of those in my lifetime.) Believe me, I really don’t like backing up traffic even on the coolest of days, but I only have so much control.

In the average week, 19,000 cars cross University Bridge, but that greatly increases when a good portion of the 233,000 weekly vehicles that usually cross the interstate’s Ship Canal Bridge to my west have to detour. (Again, this is based on 2021 data. One can assume that it was even higher prior to telecommuting.) So you can imagine how stressful it was for me to realize that I was adding quite a bit to the traffic problem, and that wasn’t even counting all the bicyclists and pedestrians I was baking in the sun.

At 4 pm I had to run downstairs to sidewalk level to measure all the gaps in the bridge, to see if we were in the danger zone yet. (I took that opportunity to retrieve my sizzling hot phone from my car.) By the time I got back to the tower I was drenched in sweat, and feeling kind of sick from the heat. And since I hadn’t had a chance to exercise that morning, my shoulder was killing me.

During all that shift’s chaos, I also had to respond at length to several time sensitive and confrontational work e-mails, maintain various log books, deal with cranky overheated pedestrians who were crawling under the lowered traffic gates during bridge openings, thus putting their lives at risk, and writing reports thereon to get ahead of the inevitable complaints.

And then somewhere along in there, I got a call from 911 dispatch re: a 4-year-old girl walking across the bridge, un-escorted. I looked everywhere, but I didn’t see her. Never hearing the end of such stories tends to add to my stress. I hope she is okay, but in a way I was kind of relieved, because the only thing I might have been able to do is coax her into the bridge tower with me until the police arrived. That would have been uncomfortable and distract me from the other things I was dealing with, and may have left me open to liability.

Despite all the bridge flushing, their efforts that day only increased our bridge gaps by 2/10ths of an inch. They were ordered to keep coming until 7:30 pm. This, despite the fact that the bridge traditionally stops expanding around 5pm because the sun is now low in the sky.  

Finally, I was hoping to catch my breath around 8:30 pm. I would have liked to have had dinner. I was starving. But then tug Island Chief, pushing a 3000 gross ton gravel barge, requested an opening. It’s not like he’s able to slam on the brakes or paddle in circles. Sigh.

I was able to let him through promptly and efficiently, but during my closing of the bridge, I noticed two middle-aged ladies on the other side of the span who had gotten past the gate. This was kind of startling, because it’s usually young men hopped up on testosterone and idiocy who pull that kind of caper. Truth be told, they were probably standing in a safe place, but since they had already proven that they were willing to ignore the rules and behave unpredictably, I couldn’t be sure that they would stay in that safe place. That’s how people get hurt or even killed.

I had to stop the opening, which always enrages the vehicle drivers. I got on the intercom and politely asked the ladies to get back behind the gate for their safety. They pretended to ignore me, but they reacted by crossing their arms and glaring, and did not move. I asked them two more times. Finally, when I described what they were wearing, where they were located, and that they were backing up traffic, other pedestrians stepped in and embarrassed them into getting back behind the gate.

I knew this should generate a report, but things weren’t slowing down, and frankly, that happens all the time. (But these two ladies are repeat offenders, so I had the pleasure of reporting them days later, in hopes that my coworkers would be on the lookout for them.)

I decided to heat my TV dinner and did some more openings while I waited. I was starting to get the shakes, both from hunger, and the adrenaline dump of the day. I heard my food exploding in the microwave, and had to salvage what I could from its interior walls after the bridge was once again seated.

I finally ate and was able to turn on my personal laptop for first time at 9 pm. Now, I’m two days behind on building up a blog post surplus for my next vacation, but obviously work obligations will always come first. I made a futile attempt to gather thoughts for blog, but my brain was too scattered at this point.

It was getting dark, and for the first time I looked up to see that the previous bridgetender had left the ceiling lights on. They’re practically unnoticeable in the daylight, but they do get up to 100 degrees when left on. Huh. No wonder I hadn’t been able to adequately cool the tower all shift.

Usually things slow down after sunset, but sailboats continued to trickle in until 10 pm. (They do seem to enjoy spacing themselves out. It’s quite irritating.)

So that left me an hour to clean the tower, breathe, and visit friends in the virtual world of Second Life for a few minutes, to vent, much like I’m doing with this post. Usually, we have the place where we hang out entirely to ourselves. That has been the case for more than a decade.

But not on this night. Of course not. Instead, some random avatar popped in. His profile said he was a guy from Russia who was here to practice English. He insisted that we switch from communicating by text to communicating by voice, and we refused. He got agitated and asked how he was supposed to know we were really women.

That’s when I knew we were being trolled by a teenager, most-likely American, looking for cybersex. Why else would our gender matter? One of the many joys of Second Life is to be able to take new people at word value and not worry about the minutiae. That can always come later, once you’ve formed an opinion as to their character and have decided if they’re trustworthy.

Can I be blamed if, after the day I had, I got a little snarky with him? He promptly disappeared. (I can’t remember if I had the chance to say, “And by the way, stop killing Ukrainians, you Russian baby-man!” before he popped out. I hope I did.)

I was finally able to leave the bridge at 11 pm. I was so tired that I felt like crying during the commute. Halfway home I got a text from the on-call supervisor, asking if I could work half of the graveyard shift on another bridge, as someone had called in sick, and we are desperately understaffed. I sent her a long, rambling, probably incoherent voice text describing my day and my exhaustion. But my message boiled down to hell no, and she was decent enough not to argue with me about it.

I got home at 11:40 pm. I plopped down on the recliner and had a lime popsickle. I took a shower. I went to bed at 1215 am. Dear husband was wonderful and gave me a back rub in the hopes that I would be able to wind down and get to sleep.

I think I only managed to get about 3 hours of sleep, because I was so adrenalized and I was doing a mind grind. That was highly unfortunate, because the next day I was working the day shift, and had to get up at 5:20 am to be to work at my usual 6:30 am, in hopes of actually getting there before 7 am. And that day was every bit as hot and every bit as busy. But at least the traffic was a tiny bit lighter. No explosions. No ferry catastrophes.

If you ever hear someone say that bridgetending is all about some lazy person sleeping in a chair and occasionally pushing one button in order to let a boat through, without any regard to safety or traffic flow, kindly slap them for me. (Just hard enough to startle them, not hard enough to hurt them.) Then make them read this post.

And then tell me about it. I’d like to enjoy the moment vicariously. I could use an emotional cookie right about now. And a hug. Yeah. That would be good.

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My Love/Hate Relationship with the Blue Angels

The cons are starting to outweigh the pros for me.

The iconic Seattle Seafair was cancelled/reduced for two years running due to the pandemic. Personally, I didn’t miss it, because I’m always working on my drawbridge for the three main days, and they are some of the most hectic days on my bridge. In an 8 hour stretch this past Saturday, I opened for 26 vessels, and each time, street traffic was backed up for miles. The shift definitely went by quickly, but I had to get rude just to eat my lunch, and I got no blogging done. I’m home now, but jittery from the adrenaline dump.

I think that most Seattleites would agree that the crown jewels of Seafair are the performances by the Blue Angels and the Hydro Races. I’ve never seen the races, but I hear they’re pretty spectacular. Of that I have no doubt, but the pollution and the carbon footprint would be forever on my mind while watching them.

I have seen the Blue Angels multiple times. When I was around 19 and could rock a bikini, I used to drive out to the beach every chance I got, and the five jets would often blast past, hugging the Florida coastline. We girls would wave, but I have no idea why. I’m sure for them we were just a blur. So now, more than anything, the Blue Angels make me nostalgic for my 19 year old butt.

In Seattle, the flight path they used to take always had them buzzing the South Park Bridge, where I used to work on Sundays. The first time they did that on my watch, it scared me half to death. I was out on the balcony, washing windows, and my back was turned to them. By the time I heard the roar of the engines and turned around, they were right over the top of me, flying in formation, quite low, making my tower shake and the windows rattle. That’ll wake you up.

And at University Bridge, where I work now, I used to be able to see a little bit of their performance on the horizon. But not this day. Their flight plan has been altered. I could hear their engines, but not see them.

Seattle used to close the 520 Bridge for this event, because back in the day drivers would get distracted by the jets and get into accidents, causing a city-wide traffic snarl. (520 is one of the primary east-west arteries for the county.) So they decided to close the bridge instead, which also causes a city-wide traffic snarl. This year, they planned their flight path to avoid having to close that bridge or cause a distraction, which I suppose makes sense, but the Blue Angels still caused a city-wide traffic snarl.

My commute home falls right at the beginning of their scheduled afternoon performance, so, although I would have pulled into my driveway 38 minutes later on a typical Saturday, on this day it took 1 hour and 25 minutes. Not only were there several accidents on the interstate as people tried to take pictures of the jets as they blasted past (heck, I almost rear-ended someone while taking this not-so-good picture below for your viewing pleasure), but then the Department of Transportation, in its chronic shortsightedness, chose to continue their weekend construction work despite the festival, narrowing the highway from five lanes to two, right at the same spot where the jets were flying overhead. This caused the slowed down drivers to slow down even more to take in the spectacle. Can you say clusterf**k?

So, yeah, exciting performance, but the cons are starting to outweigh the pros for me. I’ve written about some of those cons before, in a blog post called What Price Patriotism? In it, I disclose how much it costs the taxpayers to keep these 5 jets in the air, the amount of jet fuel they burn in the average show, causing the carbon footprint from hell, and the noise pollution that terrifies every dog in the city.

That post was written in 2018, so the numbers, if anything, have only grown. But frankly, after a Seafair day on the drawbridge, I’m really too tired to do the research to bring the figures up to date. But if you read that blog post, the 2018 numbers will curl your toes.

The Angels are basically a big PR push to recruit cannon fodder for our military industrial complex. They make the military look fun and exciting, even though their target audience for recruiting is young people from backgrounds that are so impoverished that they see the military as their only ticket out of their situation. Most of those will never get within a mile of these fancy jets, let alone fly them. And these poor kids will quickly discover that much of the time the military is not fun and exciting. In fact, it’s usually pretty darned boring unless you’re being shot at, and then, if you’re injured, you get to spend your life being neglected by the very government you joined up to protect, even as you beg to be cared for by their understaffed and incompetent VA hospitals for illnesses you got on duty which they will refuse to acknowledge.

It can be argued that the Blue Angels allow Americans to feel patriotic. And I’m sure I would have eaten that up with a big ol’ spoon when I was a kid, but the more I learn about the fraud, waste and abuse in the military, the more I see how they have devastated other countries, overthrown democratically elected foreign leaders, caused some of the worst pollution in the world’s history, and have disproportionately placed our nation’s minorities and poor on the front lines, all while holding back the children of most politicians (along with the politicians themselves), it doesn’t feel like patriotism to me. It kind of makes me sick.

Those taxpayer dollars would be put to better use by recruiting teachers for our public schools. They could allow us to have guaranteed health care like every other industrialized nation on the planet. They could fund much needed social services. All these things would make me feel a heck of a lot more patriotic than acrobatic machines that glorify war will ever do.

Since many Seattleites view their performance as a tradition that they’ve enjoyed since 1972, I’m sure this blog post won’t be popular with many of them. But there’s an increasing number of complaints about the noise, and the fact that they fly so low over residential districts. If and when one of them falls out of the sky, as has happened before in other places, it is sure to take out entire neighborhoods.

I have enjoyed their performances more than once, mainly because they couldn’t be avoided. But the environmental impact, the taxpayer expense, the glorification of war, and the potential for major disaster makes me think that my desire to wax nostalgic over my 19 year old butt is not worth the price that we all pay. And, you know, two years without them did not seem to cause the end of the world as we know it. (The pandemic is doing that all on its own.)

Maybe it’s time to move on. Maybe it’s time to get patriotic about doing good, peaceful things that benefit mankind and the planet. Maybe it’s time to appreciate education and compassion for our fellow man. Maybe true patriotism is about not doing stuff like causing an insurrection in the nation’s capital that was ginned up by a president who was a poor looser, a liar, and a power-hungry fascist, whose destruction will be with us for decades.

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An Advisory Thought Experiment

Maybe I should just focus on my driving.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I occasionally come up with thought experiments to keep myself entertained during my long, boring commute to and from work. It’s either that or fall asleep at the wheel (very, very bad) or resort to road rage while witnessing the stupidity all around me (even worse). So here is a thought experiment that I came up with recently:

If all humanity, with its current knowledge, were about to disappear, and you could only leave one sentence behind to help the next humans get started, what would it be?

Would you say “Wear a mask and wash your hands if you want to stay alive”? Because, let’s face it, if anything is going to wipe us out, it’s going to be that.

Would it be developmental advice, such as how to start a fire or build a wheel?

Perhaps it should be something related to the environment, such as the fact that fossil fuels and plastics do much more harm than good.

Or maybe it should be something along the lines of Make Love Not War.

But frankly, if we’ve finally managed to wipe ourselves out completely, then we have a lot of nerve trying to give any advice at all. That and, humans being what they are, they’re probably not going to listen to it anyway.

So my advice would be, “You’ll figure it out.” Because they would. And maybe they’d do a better job of it than we have. Here’s hoping.

But of course, the one basic flaw in this exercise is that the people would have to somehow know how to speak and read English from the very start. So yeah, maybe I should just focus on my driving.

Advice

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Little Boxes

You can’t go through a single day without encountering a box.

Ear worm alert! I have the song Little Boxes by Pete Seeger stuck in my head. It crawled inside my head during my 45-minute commute to work. Because cars are basically little boxes on wheels.

All these people, rolling along in their little boxes, not interacting with each other at all. In fact, they’re actively trying to avoid each other. Physics. The gift that keeps on giving.

And then they go home to their little boxes, or to work in their little cubicles which is just another word for a little box. We stare into little boxes in the form of smart phones. We gaze at them to watch television. We store our excess crap in them. Our mail comes in them. Our food is packaged in them. I defy you to go through a single day without encountering a box.

And we spend a lot of time trying to categorize everyone around us. Should you be put in the old box or the young box? Which racial box do you fit in? No straddling boxes allowed! Are you politically red or blue? Are you rich or poor, educated or not, fat or thin, tall or short, male or female (ABSOLUTELY no straddling those boxes, oh my goodness, no. Heaven forfend.)

People cannot stand it when you refuse to fit neatly into your box. How are they supposed to treat you when your lid keeps popping off and you spill out? It’s just… well… rude.

When all is said and done, the majority of us, upon dying, will be put into yet another box, whether it’s a small one or a large one. And our relatives will most likely feel stress and guilt over whether the box is nice enough, because it’s your last box, after all.

But let’s face it. We aren’t going to care. It’s. Just. A. Box.

Boxes

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Bike-Share Stupidity

It happened again the other day. Some fool left a bike-share bike on the movable portion of my drawbridge. Fortunately, I’m used to looking out for this, because if I were to open the bridge with a bike on it, it could fall down and take out a pedestrian, or even worse, my parked car. (Just kidding that the car damage would be worse. I’d never forgive myself if someone got hurt on my watch.)

I’ve also seen these rental bikes abandoned as far south as Renton, even though they’re not supposed to leave the city of Seattle. It usually takes several days for the company to find and retrieve them. That means they’re not available for another user during that period.

Even worse, I recently read a Seattle Times article about a bike-share bike being left on a ferry. The Coast Guard had to treat it as a potential man overboard. This unnecessary rescue operation cost the taxpayers $17,000, and this is not the first time it has happened.

Another Seattle Times article warns that some bikes have been found with the brake lines cut. That’s not funny. Unless you’re into being a murderer without even witnessing the crime, I suppose. What kind of a sick, twisted human being does that? Check these bikes thoroughly before you use them, folks.

I love that there are several bike rental companies in Seattle. Anything that cuts down the traffic congestion gets my vote. And we all benefit if commuting is more green and affordable. But we also have to behave responsibly so that this privilege isn’t taken away. These companies are not charities. Too many expenses cutting into their profit margin and they’ll soon decide it’s not worth it. Then we all lose.

bike share

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A Surreal Encounter

I love my early Saturday morning commute. Usually. It’s the only time I can expect to have the entire interstate to myself. That’s a rare treat in Seattle.

So, on this particular Saturday I was cruising along, humming my most recent earworm, which is (consider yourself warned) Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole. All was right with the world.

And then, as I approached my exit, I could tell something was not right, actually. Not right at all. There was a green van at an odd angle blocking half the road. As I cautiously went around it, I could see that the driver had hit the attenuator head on, and the entire front end of the van was crumpled. One of the tires was lying flat as if some redneck granny was about to plant some geraniums in her yard.  Oh, shit.

So naturally, I stopped. I walked back to the van, and this tiny little woman got out. I said, “My goodness, are you all right?”

She said, “Do I look all right, b***h?”

I stopped in my tracks and went, “Uh… actually… you kind of do.”

That made her stop in her tracks. And then she burst into tears. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m just…”

“I understand. Is there anything I can do?”

“No. I’ve already called 911 and my insurance company.”

“Okay. Well… Maybe I’ll just wait with you until the cops… oh. Here they come.”

“Thanks. Sorry.”

“No worries. Take care.”

And off I went. I wasn’t even late to work. I strongly suspect she was late to wherever it was that she was going, though.

1280px-1998_Toyota_Sienna_LE_IIHS

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My Late Night Symphony

Have you ever been so tired that it felt like your mattress was hugging you? You sink into it’s soft embrace and feel a sweet relief like no other. It makes you wonder why you ever resisted bedtime as a child.

This night was one of those nights. It had been a long day at work. The annual Seafair in Seattle always brings out a lot of boats, which translates to a lot of drawbridge openings for me to perform. That, and it was brutally hot. The control tower is poorly insulated, and the window AC was not keeping up. It was so hot, in fact, that we had to hose down the bridge because the metal had expanded so much that we couldn’t raise it without risk of damage. And to add to the drama, it was septic tank pump day. So I had a lot of comings and goings, openings and closings. And poop smells.

And, also due to Seafair, my commute home was even worse than the usual nightmare. Nothing says Seattle like being able to put your car in park on the interstate on 5 separate occasions on your way home. I had mixed emotions about coming home, already sweaty, to my hot house and my hungry dog, but I knew one thing for sure: I wanted my bed. Desperately.

After throwing open every window and turning on every fan, and then feeding Quagmire (who always acts like he’s starving), I made myself a sandwich so I wouldn’t have to turn on the oven. Then I took a cool shower.

When I finally climbed into my beloved bed, I lay there, flat on my back, feeling like a bag of wet cement. I stared at the ceiling. I doubt I could have saved myself if the house caught fire.

Have you ever been too tired to sleep? Yeah. Like that. I was in a stupor for a good couple hours, I think, based on the number of times Quagmire came to check on me. I just lay there waiting for the sun to stop torturing my time zone.

Finally, around 9:45, I managed to reach over and turn off the light, and roll over onto my stomach, which is my preferred starting position for the journey at hand. Quagmire curled up by my hip, which, I have to say, is the most comforting feeling on earth. Sweet, sweet rest.

Oh, how to describe what happened next. Actually, I was at a loss, so I Googled “the sound a jackhammer makes”, just for you. Apparently the official spelling is:

GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKK AKKAKKAKKAKK …

I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I speak with a certain amount of authority because it was happening less than half a block from my bedroom window. At 10 pm.

Please tell me. For the love of all things holy, who runs a FREAKING jackhammer in a residential neighborhood at 10 pm? Who?

Surely this wouldn’t last long, I thought. No one could possibly have the NERVE to keep this up for any length of time at this hour.

Wrong. It lasted all night long. All. Night. Long.

Interspersed with that sound was the distinctive sound of heavy equipment backing up.

Beep Beep Beep Beep…

And for some reason two trucks were signaling each other by horn.

Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot.

Apparently the double toot was a signal to back up, because no one, of course, could be bothered to used a two way radio. Oh, no. Of course not. So what I got was:

GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKK AKKAKKAKKAKK …
Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot. Beep Beep Beep Beep…

All. Night. Long.

And I wasn’t the only one suffering. At one point I heard my neighbor shouting at them. For all the good it did. And another neighbor went outside and started blaring HIS horn. I’m not sure about his thought process, but I definitely related to his frustration. I think if any of us owned pitchforks or torches, it would have been mayhem.

Meanwhile, I was in a fog, desperately rummaging through my unpacked boxes in search of ear plugs. I never found them. I tried putting a pillow over my head. I closed all the windows, despite the heat. Even Quaggie started to get desperate and began to bark and moan. I may have even shed a few tears. I can’t remember. If I got a total of two hours of sleep, in fits and starts, it’s a miracle.

When I left for work, they were still at it. And they didn’t look even halfway done. I fantasized about crushing the jackhammer beneath the wheels of my car. They are completely repaving a road that, in my opinion, was already in excellent shape.

I’m buying ear plugs on the way home tonight. And maybe a pitchfork. If this goes on for two nights in a row, no court in the land could possibly hold me responsible for my actions.

torches

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A Wonderful Public Awareness Campaign in Mexico City

When I was 19 years old, I was traveling through Mexico City, and I hopped on the metro. It was so packed with commuters that I was barely able to move. Think sardines in a can.

Once the train left the station, the man behind me started groping me. There wasn’t even enough room to turn around to glare at him. So I slid my hand along my thigh until I could get it behind me… and then I clenched his privates in a vise-like grip and twisted as hard as I could.

If he could have sunk to his knees, I’m sure he would have. Instead, he let out an agonized squeak and took his hands off me. When the doors opened at the next stop, we were all ejected from the train like lava from a volcano, so I never saw the culprit. But I’d like to think I taught him a lesson.

So imagine my delight when I saw this article about a public awareness campaign in Mexico City. The first part shows a subway seat that’s designated for men only. Its back looks like a man’s naked torso, so you can just imagine what the seat looks like. On the floor in front of the seat is as sign that says, “It’s no fun to travel like this, but it doesn’t compare to the sexual violence that women put up with in their daily commutes.”

The second part of the campaign involved aiming cameras at men’s behinds while they wait for the train. Those images are then projected on a TV screen. After a while, a message pops up and says, “Thousands of women put up with this every day.”

According to the article, the Mexican government started this campaign because they discovered that 65 percent of Mexico City women have been sexually harassed on the city’s buses and trains, and that 9 out of 10 women in the city have been victims of some form of sexual violence.

All I can say is that I’m really proud that this campaign was implemented, and I hope it yields results. If I were to experience that trauma again, I’d do exactly the same thing, with one difference: I’d also speak loud and clear. “This asshole behind me is touching me. I can’t see him, but many of you can. Don’t let him get away with this.”

Shame is a great deterrent. And knowledge is power. I know a lot of chivalrous Mexicans. Had I spoken up at the time, I suspect that pig would have come away with more than bruised balls.

DF Subway

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Drawbridge Tao

People can take it very personally when you interrupt their morning commute. Even though the average drawbridge opening takes only 4 minutes from start to finish and they should know to allow for the fact that their route crosses a drawbridge, when those red lights start to flash and that bell starts to clang, people tend to lose it.

I have been pelted with eggs, beer bottles, and a wide variety of garbage. I’ve been cursed at and have learned a few new rude gestures. I always feel kind of sorry for these people. It’s such a minor thing in the overall scheme. It’s really nothing to get so worked up about. And it’s not as if I’m doing it to intentionally ruin someone’s day. If you want to throw eggs, throw them at the boaters. Just doin’ my job, here.

Having recently lost someone I love, I’m very conscious these days as to how very precious time is. Getting amped up over a 4 minute delay, especially when there’s nothing you can do about it, is not a good use of that time. Impotent rage rarely adds anything positive to one’s day.

Instead, I admire those people who embrace the opening. If it’s a nice day, they get out of their cars, breathe the fresh air and take in the view. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! The universe has provided you with an opportunity to slow down. Enjoy it.

So next time you’re stopped by a drawbridge, don’t fight the experience. Become one with the opening. You might just learn something about yourself.

zen

[Image credit: ava7.com]