I recently wrote a blog post about the cubic yard test, an antiquated test that the Seattle Department of Transportation uses to see if you’re qualified to work in one of their field positions—a test that I suggest excludes most women. Apparently this post struck a nerve for some people, but not in the way that I expected. It sparked a discussion about people who bend the rules for their own benefit, and then that got us talking about entitlement, in general.

Rich people would love it if you thought of poor people when you heard the word entitlement. As in, “those welfare types sure think they’re entitled.” Don’t fall for it. Entitled to what? Subsistence income that keeps you right at the poverty line, in substandard housing, in dangerous neighborhoods, with inadequate health care, humiliating hoops to jump through every month, and a dependence on the arbitrary whims of insane politicians? Yeah, that’s everyone’s goal in life.

No, it’s rich people who have the appalling sense of entitlement. I once worked with a guy who drove a Mercedes to work, and was only working to keep from being bored. He asked me how I liked my 8-year-old Hyundai hatchback. He wasn’t just making small talk. He said he needed to get a “junk car” to drive around in “neighborhoods like these.” I nearly lost my lunch. Some of us don’t have a spare car to use when we’re “slumming it” at work, dude.

And a friend sent me this article, about a bunch of rich idiots with beachfront property in Florida who took it upon themselves to have sand bulldozed off of public beaches so that they could have dunes protecting their houses from the sea level rise that is occurring because of the climate change that they refuse to acknowledge. Potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of damage, not to mention the environmental impact, but by all means, help yourself!

That prompted someone else to send me this article about a judge here in Seattle who had his gardener cut down 120 trees in a public park in order to improve his view. He was fined $500,000 for his hubris, but has only managed to cough up 200k of that so far, and it’s been 15 years. He still owns, but no longer resides in, that 2.4 million dollar house, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the money. He’s trying to get his homeowner’s insurance to foot the bill. All I can say is: Solid. Brass. Balls.

That’s almost as brassy and solid as when Ben Carson tried to buy a $31,000 table for his office using taxpayer money, and when he got caught, blamed it on his wife. Seriously, Ben? You’ve proven that you are a stupid, stupid man, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are as stupid as you are.

There are so many stories about people with a “let them eat cake” attitude that I could go on forever. I don’t know what disgusts me more: that people like this exist, or that they don’t even bother to hide their shenanigans anymore. When are we going to say that enough is enough?


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The Cubic Yard Test

I have one pet peeve about my employer, the City of Seattle Department of Transportation. Of the 99 field positions, only about 5 of them are filled by women. In my opinion, there are two main reasons for this, both of which could be solved if, in fact, SDOT actually wanted women in their field positions. But I see no real evidence that they do.

The first is that they don’t reach out to women who are qualified for these jobs. There are all sorts of organizations, such as the National Association of Women in Construction, Women Who Weld, and Washington Women in Trades, that they could partner with. I’ve pointed this out, but it goes unheard.

The most SDOT seems to do is set up a table at the annual Women in Trades convention here in town. And behind that table is the next reason that we have so few women in field positions: The cubic yard test.

As far as I know, this test has been SDOT’s way of weeding out the unworthy for field positions for decades. Before you’re hired, you must be able to shovel a cubic yard of sand (in other words, three feet by three feet by three feet) over a three foot wall in a ridiculously short amount of time. I know I couldn’t do it. (And why should anyone? Just get the dang dump truck to dump the sand on the other side of the freakin’ wall!)

Here’s the thing. I’ve spoken to many, many field employees about this, and when I ask them how often they are required to do such strenuous work, they all say that they’ve had to do something like that maybe once or twice in their decades-long careers. So why set the bar so high? Obviously, because there are certain people you don’t want to get the job.

One year, I volunteered at the Women in Trades convention. They had me timing the women who were shoveling the sand. In the hot summer sun. Without water. It was painful to watch. Only two women could do it.

I’m sure I’d understand this hurdle if it were logical. But since it isn’t, it never fails to set my teeth on edge. For such a progressive city, this is a backward test, not unlike the way the South used to require literacy tests before allowing people to vote. It’s time to make a change. And the most frustrating thing is that this change would be so easy to make.

And yet here we are.


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Bureaucratic Humor

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I love Google Doodles. They show that Google has a sense of humor and the confidence to mess with their own logo without thinking the world will come to an end. That almost makes me feel that corporations are human beings after all, as the Supreme Court ruled. Almost.

Other large entities would do well to take note of this. I’ve noticed that this type of bureaucratic humor is common here in Seattle. That “we’re all in this together” mentality makes me feel very warm toward this community.

Take, for example, the Seattle Department of Transportation. Yes, they’re my boss, but even if they weren’t, I’d be impressed by them. We are currently in the midst of a year-long painting project of the Fremont Bridge. This is causing obstructions and inconvenience for the residents of this neighborhood, but it has to be done. Now, they could have been rigid and humorless about the situation, and created an us vs. them mindset in the public, but instead they have posted these signs:

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This really makes me feel good about being a part of this organization.

Maybe if AT&T and the US Post Office and the IRS adopted a sense of humor and humanity they wouldn’t be so universally disliked. But it takes courage. To do it, you have to take a step away from your safe, conservative little hidey-hole and take a risk. You have to be creative. We can’t have that, now, can we?