Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan:The Problem with Being First

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event


Addendum: After reading this to my daughter, she felt that I should add that she has never heard the “N” word used as much as she has since Obama became president and it seems to me that the pervasiveness of our endemic racism and sexism have been exposed with these firsts-first Black president, first woman-of-color mayor. But should we tolerate the social sickness that often seems about to overwhelm and drown out any progress we thought we’d made?

It’s always tough being a trailblazer. Ask Hilary Clinton or Geraldine Ferraro, oh yeah, all we need to do is remind ourselves that no woman has yet gotten elected to the highest post in our democracy. But we do have some female governors and mayors. Oakland only recently elected its first woman mayor who is also an Asian-American, the tough and resilient Jean Quan.
If you don’t know how tough she is, you probably haven’t met her. You might gather from the frown she gets when she is concentrating on something, that she’s troubled, but you’d probably be wrong. As the newscasters who gathered in front of her house, including a KRON reporter who followed her home after her recent accident and then knocked on the Huen-Quan door at 6:45 in the morning the next day, found out. She greeted the crowd with a smile, saying, “Wow, I hope all of you will be coming to the city budget discussion, too.”
This all happened after she had been hit on the side rear of her city-owned car and spun around in the street, but that was nothing compared to the spin KRON news reporters tried to put on the mayor’s reputation after reporting the other driver’s story first.
I admit, I wasn’t there so I can’t say what happened although there are witnesses who disagree. But having been hit a couple of years ago where the damage to my vehicle made it obvious that I was traveling in my lane while the other driver crossed into me, I know how long the investigative process can take. It was almost a year before I got my deductible back.
However, the fact that some of the news media decreed without any evidence that the mayor had not only blown a red light, she had done it because she was on her cell phone, like the little girl in the Exorcist, my head is still spinning. But what made me almost throw up was the response from some of our “liberal, progressive” folks in the Bay.
[I acknowledge that there is a photo of the mayor talking on her phone while driving and she did get convicted at another point of rolling through a right hand turn, hence not coming to a full stop at the light. So have I-so we must be partners in crime-I guess! The usefulness of red light cameras is in dispute but they are now a fact of life in California that we must all deal with.
However, having a violation on your record does not mean that every time you are in an accident, it should be assumed that you caused it, should it? How fair is that or does fairness have nothing to do with it?]
But what startled me the most were the comments of the folks who posted on KQED’s Facebook page after the incident and some of the other Facebook responses I saw. Now, I know better than to read the online comments to newspaper articles which are invariably written by anonymous angry assholes and not a few racists.
On Facebook, though, I had come to expect a little more reserve if not basic good manners. Did I think we were a bit more concerned about political correctness, that is, not categorizing people or their actions based on stereotypes or bigotry?As an aside, I can’t tell you how many friends made cracks about Asian drivers when they heard….
Perhaps I thought that in the same space where people sign petitions on the correct treatment of wolves and dairy cows, the first Asian-American woman mayor might merit some demonstration of human decency so I was shocked when I read some of the publicly posted commentary there. I will list some of the more egregious comments which were interspersed with others like, “how is this even news” or “I don’t like Quan but come’on, it was an accident.”
Warning, some of this is hard to read for those of us who thought people at least knew better when it comes to the ugliest kind of sexism, the rankest anti-Chinese bigotry or the viciousness of folks who just hate politicians and easily paint them all as corrupt and useless-running for office has become another of those jobs that most Americans think are beneath them, how sad.
After reading these, I felt sick at heart. I started to write this blog but I thought, why bring all this bad stuff back up. Then I talked to my daughter, a young biracial person, who makes her way as a pretty and petite Black woman in the business world, quite successfully, I might add; but not without the experiencing the denigrations that her gender and her race elicit in our world.
She said to me, “I used to think things were getting better for People of Color but now I think they are getting worse. Mom, you’ve got to call them out for their double standard and bullying behavior cause that’s what it is.”
Here’s another point brought up by the responses-on the one hand, most folks believe that the mayor is driven around in style with a police escort, as many city mayors are. On the other hand, they complain that she should not have even a nice car to drive to her many activities. So which is it or do we even care about the facts? Almost everyone in Oakland knows that this mayor is on the go from morning til late at night, weekdays, weekends, and holidays included, and I have never known any other Oakland mayor who did not have a city car and driver.
Both city council members and the mayor get a car allowance; but for the first half of her term, you could see Jean Quan’s little old Prius in the mayor’s spot at city hall. When Mayor Quan started personally bringing groups of investors to our city for projects that she has spearheaded and government agency folks who are working with us, it became obvious that she needed a larger, less-used city car to chauffeur them around with herself of course, as chauffuer.
It’s up to the city council to budget a driver for this busy mayor, but we expect her to do it all. Is this once again because she’s a woman so that multi-tasking, like housework, is the norm expected of her along with having the smallest mayoral staff of any recent mayor?!
Back to the comments, I am going to list some of the ones that astonished me along with a few that were milder with the names as posted since the comments were known to be public at the time and are still up.
I want you to tell me how some of these are anything but hateful and painful to those of us who either share our mayor’s gender or racial characteristics or just care about common decency and civility. Does being a public official mean all bets are off?
Here are a few of the “choice” comments on the KQED facebook page-

John Orrock: Busted bitch
Mike Silveira: cant stand this bitch…..
Richard Ponce Jr. Lier!
Juan Manuel Quiros Raffo: China pendeja!!
Victoria Lambino: Uhhh, she’s in trouble now!
Eduardo Lara: sum ting wong! lol !
Cindy Merical Cano: Fire her lying ass.
Michael Giluso: I’m more concerned that she has a Government Issued Lexus SUV. Isn’t a Honda Accord sufficient?
Carlos Nochez, JR.: If there ever was a woman worthy of the term “cunt” Jean Quan is it.
Michael Manjarrez: Get over it people, seriously.
Patricia Garlitos: Looks just as Guilty as all the other drivers who do this.
Hmm maybe the shot was taken After the incident – who in their right mind would catch this action shot.
Michael Giluso: I had that same model, 2010 Lexus SUV 450H Hybrid and I can say, it has STANDARD bluetooth. She’s probably too stupid to figure out how to set it up.
Eileen McSorley: What a loser.
Fernando Monterey: Of course everyone is lying. She said she was not on the phone, so you are all lying! (If senator McCain can say it why not her)
Misty Gandee: i dont know that much about her but she seems unfazed by her bad behavour& to the person whining abour ppl speaking their mind, grow up

No, Ms. Gandee, I don’t think I want to grow up if it means accepting this kind of bad behavior.

Lawlessness R Us or Appalled and Chagrined in Oakland.

From the General Strike, photo by Pamela Drake
It’s appalling and disappointing, so I read about my own attitude toward a well-edited video put out by KRON 4, a “news” organization that depicts some really bad actors at Bay Area sideshows where police are forced back when the crowd throws bottles and where some revelers pull out their guns and shoot into the air for fun.

That truly is appalling but unless you state the obvious, you are somehow complicit. I wonder how many of those, who have suddenly found out that lawlessness is a problem in this city, would confront and contradict those young folks in the neighborhoods they inhabit? I have, as a teacher, a counselor, a case manager, a CASA (court appointed special advocate) and a council aide in East Oakland, but I don’t confront people I haven’t listened to first, haven’t considered their options, their lives, their families, and their neighborhoods.

Well, I have to admit I wasn’t always so cool (well, cool doesn’t really describe my style) and careful, having lived in the San Antonio neighborhood during the height of the crack epidemic-I regularly confronted misdeeds and their doers, handing discarded trash back to their owners, yelling at drivers to slow down on my street, opening my door to every distressed person and there were many, wait, I would do that again and again.

But, yeah, sometimes I came off like the mom they never wanted-trying to boss them into my version of civility and it was arrogant and sometimes dangerous. I will admit I was never injured, maybe just a little shook up-some folks thought I was that crazy lady across the street while others knew me as their teacher up the block. My kids finally said, “Mom, we gotta move or you gotta get a gun or learn to shut up.” So we moved cause I don’t want a gun and don’t know how to shut up; but we stayed in Oakland, and as a single mom, I found other ways to intervene and will never back off of that commitment.

My own kids told me (but only recently) about the number of parties that they attended where some kid took out a gun and shot into the air for fun. My daughter quit going to parties when a friend was gunned down at a party-in the hills. Her small circle had what they called then get-togethers instead. But somehow they never learned to be appalled at their Oakland neighbors. They instinctively understood some of the reasons for their negative attitudes towards law enforcement although they themselves never got in trouble.

It’s actually very hard to live in Oakland and not understand how these attitudes have festered and blown open in our little American microcosm where affluence meets dire poverty where people from all over the world celebrate their diversity just as often as they rub each other wrong with it. Be honest, folks we haven’t always handled our many cultural differences well and have gotten on each others last nerves every time one kind of family moves into a neighborhood and another moves out.

Living in the San Antonio district was a study in those changes. When I was looking for a house to rent, I was often invited to apply just because I wasn’t part of a large Southeast Asian family. Black neighborhoods and businesses were replaced with Latino bakeries to be followed by Vietnamese movie rental shops near where Felix Mitchell’s giant funeral parade had passed in the span of the four years we lived there-me and my kids fit in almost because we didn’t.

But here’s the rub, as my friend Jesse Allen-Taylor likes to say, yeah, we have a violent city, it’s been that way for quite a while, and we’ve done little to understand it as a community. It isn’t just because it’s poor or that the police have always had a reputation for their own kind of lawlessness. That’s true of lots of cities. I have some theories of my own, and still they’re anything but complete. But, it’s a big but, it would take a deep discussion to understand who we are and why we are that way in order to change it; and it doesn’t, repeat, doesn’t start by refusing to see what’s in front of us, refusing to know our neighbors, all of them, refusing to listen to experiences that are categorically different, in fact worlds away, from ours.
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So maybe I don’t get it, as the fellow said. Really, I never have figured out how I got to live in this upscale district anyway. I’ve never made much money no matter how hard I’ve worked, I didn’t have rich parents to leave me a down payment, and anyway, my strict East Coast stock didn’t believing in anything but boot-strapping it. I’m not really sure I fit in this neighborhood anymore than I fit in my old predominantly Southeast Asian/Latino neighborhood, but I am comfortable walking in most, no, any neighborhood in this town so there’s that. 2009_0220photoshome0377

I do know that no city council or mayoral election can fix what ails us anymore than a few more federal dollars can. We have to do the hard work of discovery, of listening and learning, of giving up our easy assumptions to get us out of this hurtful, scary way of living. All the talks about keeping our doors tightly shut against each other, about watching our stuff will not fix it [not that there's anything wrong with that].

That contrived inflammatory, video out of a San Francisco station (where some of the clips were actually filmed) did get to me, because I don’t like being manipulated into panicking- it rarely results in deeply thought solutions and, well, manipulations are just creepy and dishonest.

While we’re at it, krissakes, folks, we can’t even get each other to stop speeding, running lights and jaywalking across the middle of Lakeshore. Is that not lawlessness? Why is it we need to have someone clamp down on us to do what is right? Perhaps we , in this neighborhood might be chagrined if confronted with our lawlessness (might), but some neighbors who see themselves as irrelevant, inhabiting only the margins of our city, might not be so chagrined-or they might. How about we ask each other and find out? Pride Parade, June, 2011 048

2013 Films in Review, an Oakland Experience, Part II

Please read Part 1 first!
Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela
Time and Hollywood marched on. In August I saw Blue Jasmine which I came to loathe while swearing once again that I would give up on Woody Allen; and then I saw Lake Bell’s In a World… which reminded me of what Woody once meant to me. See my blog, In a World Where Woody Still Made Good Movies. I won’t waste anymore time on that super silly flick-or Blanchett’s portrayal which I didn’t believe, but do catch In a World if you still can. Lake Bell is worth keeping an eye on.

Another interesting film came out in August, the Butler, or, as it came to be known, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. While watching this film, I was quite entertained and caught up in the period. It made me see those turbulent changes through a parent’s eyes, even though I was involved in much of it myself as a youth. Either this is a tribute to the film or my own age, not sure which.

I do know that given the choice to watch the series Eyes on the Prize again or this film, I would choose the series. I tend to prefer good docs, that take their time, to overstuffed fictional accounts. However, watching Winfrey exercise her chops might be worth the seat time again.

Another little thing happened in August which we should not forget. We, by that I mean, progressives, conservatives, and decline-to-identifys, stopped our country from going to war in Syria. We just said no, too many of us to ignore and the prez decided to lay the decision on Congress after he heard us. They decided not to do anything other than try to repeal Obamacare once again. Don’t for a moment think that we’re not as embroiled in Syria as we are in the rest of the Middle East but at least it’s not all out war.

I was reasonably entertained by Enough Said in September where Elaine awkwardly wooed, as only Seinfeld’s Elaine could do, Tony Soprano, or the mild-mannered guy who once played him, the recently deceased, James Gandolfini. It was enough for me to see this duo, another odd couple, goofing around for a couple of hours to give up some ducketts for my senior ticket.

October-Blockbuster-for-adults month! There was Gravity, Captain Phillips, Twelve Years a Slave, and Blue is the Warmest Color. I gotta admit here, I’ve still been too chicken to the see Slave, not sure I need to see that cruelty yet again to believe it-just seeing a child ripped from its mother is more than I, a mom with an overload of separation anxiety, can bare.

Gravity appears in my mind as alienating as I remember 1968’s 2001, A Space Odyssey being. With the fear of the Void I have, I can hardly drive past open fields without developing a longing for religion or beginning to worry that the neutron bomb (anybody remember that?) has dropped.

So there was Captain Phillips, which was a reasonable thriller. What I liked was that the Somali captain was depicted with as much humanity as the Tom Hanks character and some background information was thrown in to explain the pirates’ motivations. I do intend to see Blue is the Warmest Color as I enjoy love stories, especially sexy ones.

November’s best movie, interesting, entertaining, well acted, even enlightening was The Dallas Buyers’ Club. It’s hard to admit that an actor I saw as a lightweight, rom-com lead has turned into a real actor while literally losing the beefcake and becoming a light weight for that job.

I was at Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom on Christmas day and was inspired but like some of our local California cuisine, it didn’t stay with me. Though I loved watching Idris Elba and the cinematography was amazing, I longed to know more about Winnie, who she really is and how she became that. It seems she had a much tougher row to hoe than her husband. I ran across a Jennifer Hudson flick or a Lifetime movie version of Winnie’s life that was also made this year, but I would love to see Naomie Harris reprise the role from the Elba movie into a full length film.

During the holidays, I also took in American Hustle. I can’t tell you how much I related to that music, that period, that nightclub scene, uh oh, that’s TMI-it was a very entertaining if not a great movie. Most importantly it closed out the year with a film written around the female leads-the sexy, ditzy, crazy female characters played by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence at their best (is their any other kind with those two?) and no Carey Mulligan types littering up the set.

I mostly left out documentaries because I usually catch them later on PBS or Netflix. So don’t get me wrong, documentaries are some of my favorite watching. And, even though I haven’t mentioned the Oscars or the Golden Globes, which would mean I could throw in some TV watching. But let’s do-please add Scandal, Parenthood, and the lamented end of Treme, my favorite series of this year and last to the lists of must see stuff.

What else will I remember from this year besides the Sequester, except for business-class people trying to catch their planes, the incipient drought to end all droughts (we hope), the cravenness of Republicans and some Dems to strip poor people of basic necessities, not to mention the cravennesss of our BART board and the almost funny incompetence of BART managers?

Well, I’ll remember the minimum wage fights, the groundbreaking at our port/the former army base after decades of waiting, and the courage of low wage workers everywhere fighting for their right to human dignity. Can’t wait to see the movies, documentaries, musicals, comedies, and love stories to come out of that fight in the years to come.

2013 Films in Review, an Oakland Experience, Part 1

Fruitvale Station poster/bus shelter shattered

Fruitvale Station poster/bus shelter shattered

The first thing I hate about those year-end top 10 movie lists is that about half of them were not actually available to most viewers until after the first of the year so my list is based on what the average moviegoer was able to see during this year.

For me, thinking about films that affect me requires connecting them to the culture, the times they take place in, and my part in those times. I suspect that affects lots of reviewers but that they rarely reference those concerns. So I’m going to review the year that was as well as the films I saw and how they affected me.

Here we go:
Last January, after the winter rains stopped dead here in Northern California-Zero Dark Thirty, actually showed up in many theaters where us regular folk could see it. The Promised Land also made its wider if much briefer debut. I missed them both, Zero Dark Thirty, because I felt I already knew more than I wanted to about our torturing tendencies here in the land of the free and home of the rugged, mean-spirited individualist; and the Promised Land because it vanished so quickly. While I know that ZDT is still an important film, I probably won’t see it.

I did finally get to catch the Promised Land with Matt Damon and John Krassinski and was disappointed, it’s true. However, really, compared to most of the schlock like the Batman movies, anything with Melissa McCarthy (ok, yeah, she can make you laugh just before you throw up) or Carey Mulligan, it wasn’t terrible; but for a Damon message movie, it was a bit lame.

In February I saw No about the Chilean referendum in 1988 that ended Pinochet’s reign of terror with Gael Garcia Bernal. What I learned again is that a good soundbite is poetry in politics, pop culture is important, and sometimes the good guys win. Plus, you know, Bernal is always watchable.

Side Effects by Steven Soderbergh, still a cinematic darling to those of us who remember his old indie films, seems to have lost his knack. I just went back and reread the plot, sounds great-corporate malfeasance, betraying lovers, massive plot twists and turns-but lots went wrong or just got annoying. The Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes gave it an 84% rating, calling it a smart, clever thriller, but it was just too clever by half for my ticket. Don’t even bother to catch it on HBO.

Also that month we got a new pope. I say we, but I don’t know why. I’m barely a Christian and never more wedded to church than a Philadelphia Quaker can be. I tried not to follow the whole media blitz, but couldn’t help noticing that he was being called a Latino even though he is on the decidedly White side of that equation, as the son of Italian immigrants. Since then, despite the fact that Catholic orthodoxy has changed little under his rule, I have come to appreciate his candor on issues that real people must face in a world of heightening inequality.

But, by the end of February I found myself focused on the horror of an innocent teen who had been murdered in Florida. Things went from bad to worse over the next few months as we all witnessed the murderer go free, but I was heartened by the nationwide reaction against this injustice. I am sure we will see some of the news clips from that outrage and our response to it in future films depicting our times.

In March I saw the Sapphires, which is a movie I could see over and over, if only American cable channels would play it. It was based on the true story of young Australian Aboriginal girls who broke into showbiz while playing for the troops in Vietnam. Well, they only made it on the stage of the theater of war, but it was realistic about that war and the racism they experienced-while being joyously in love with its talented cast.

I waited impatiently for On the Road and then waited just as impatiently for it to be over. Thinking of all the friends I’ve been on road trips with, I exited relieved that it wasn’t with any of these guys. Some of the driving scenes even left me a bit nauseous, and the way women were treated despite, all the talk about freedom and experimentation, was downright depressing. How different are the Tea party misogynists from these guys?

Then came Patriot’s Day in Boston. I had just returned from a walk when my son who was living along the marathon runners’ route inexplicably called me in the middle of the day (if you have a grown son, you know what I mean) and told me he was okay. “What do you mean?” I responded. Then I turned on the TV and found out that the Boston Marathon had been bombed while he was attempting to walk home amid the terror and confusion.

He had been staying at a friends and had just left when he heard the explosions or what he thought might have been crashes. Confused about what he was doing when the bombs blew up, I asked if he had gone out to see what had happened-to which my biracial son replied, “Mom I’m only half White.” I laughed in relief but we both worried about him being on the street with a suitcase, suspicious looking as a man his color is assumed to be, of course.

The next day I flew to LA to join my daughter at a music biz function as we closely monitored the dragnet, manhunt and all out militarization of an American city on cable TV. I’ll admit I don’t remember much about movies that month, too much TV watching. I did see MUD but couldn’t really identify as a 14-year-old boy,a failing I routinely struggle against, given Hollywood’s penchant for their stories.

In May, I was excited to go see the latest of the Before, After and In-Between Midnights and, finally, a movie written by and about a woman’s point of view (Before Midnight). Maybe it just proves what we knew all along-romance is fun and kinda glamorous- relationships, marriage, and raising families are hard and sometimes not very pretty. I’m not sure I’ll go to the next one After the Early Bird Special. There was also The Great Gatsby with Leonardo Di Caprio, watchable in his beautiful shirts, and Carey Mulligan who’s not or did I mention that already?

One of the movies that touched me the most, though I didn’t expect it was, the East. Even though I border on elderly, I will never forget the years of hitch hiking, living off the land, on the cheap, experimentation with every aspect of our lives, and the accompanying moments combined with freedom/repression and exhilaration/despair. There’s a new generation going through those experiences but with electronics and in dark economic times, not those of post war affluence, yet they seem remarkably like us.

They are working hard to remake the world yet again; and I applaud them while wishing with all my brain that they could learn from our mistakes. The East wasn’t epic, but it was thoughtful and connected to the times in a way I really needed to see.

I haven’t seen The Act of killing, hadn’t even heard of it till recently, though it came out in July; but I do plan on seeing it to begin to understand the intersection of pop culture with the another important human invention, genocide.

One Friday night in July I was attending our Congresswoman, Barbara Lee’s birthday party with a couple hundred of her friends and admirers. The party had just gotten started when my daughter called me on my cell. She told me that the jury in Florida had just reached a verdict on the Trayvon Martin murder case. I could tell by her voice that the worst had happened-George Zimmerman would go free. I told the mayor and our congresswoman what had happened and felt the shock travel through the room. Congresswoman Lee made the announcement to an audience-prepared for the worst but still hoping for justice…somehow.

As it happened, it was opening night for Fruitvale Station at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland that Friday. My friends and I had bought tickets, even knowing the verdict was near, better to be among our own kind in a place that reminded us of what held us together more than what pulled us apart. Our tears held us together that night even as subsequent nights began to pull us apart.

Perhaps it was not a blockbuster film, but it was one that told the story more truly than any Hollywood epic ever could of the real lives of struggling working families, and of young men who know that they live on the edge of the American justice system-a cliff over which they may be plunged at any moment.

I believed Michael B. Jordan, as Oscar Grant, when he promised his sister that he would find a way to help her with the rent, even though he had lost his job, and I truly believed Octavia Spencer when she walked down that hospital hallway one last time. I can’t separate my own feelings as an Oaklander and parent of young Black children, now grown, who grew up afraid to attend parties lest gunfire break out. Turns out, it often did-a fact from which they shielded me until recently.

And I can’t separate that night of horror and sadness with the camaraderie I felt sitting with so many Oaklanders who took this film to their hearts. For all those reasons, Fruitvale Station will be tops on my list of important movies this year.

If you want to read the rest of my Oakland year/movies in review, please see the next post-I can’t imagine anyone would read that long a blog (but this is flu season so some folks are bed-ridden). Kripes, this one is too long by half but it contains my impression of the effect Frutivale Station had on many of us Oaklanders, so maybe will you!

Don’t Whine, Organize!

Now that BART management has succeeded in pushing negotiations into another strike and Bay Area Liberals are falling all over themselves bashing union workers and finding fault with everything union leaders say and do, I thought I’d offer a little more personal background on what it’s like to work for BART-why I wanted that job and why I got out.

The Promise of BART
At the time that BART first opened, it was known around Bay Area transportation circles, as one of the better places to work. And remember, AC Transit was not so bad in those days before public transportation budgets were repeatedly slashed. In order to find some experienced transportation workers, a deal was designed that offered bus drivers a way to move laterally without losing their seniority rights. It was known as the 13C clause. Union drivers were willing to train on the new system with all its quirks, tweaks, and serious problems that were yet to be worked out.

Because the system was so different from all others, there were weeks of classroom training and weeks of training on the line, including working in the middle of the night where operators got the chance to crank over rail switches in case of computer malfunction.

Initially, operators were called attendants because theoretically, the system was to be completely automated. But, the name was altered as soon as it became apparent that train operators would need to be able to make decisions and run in what is called “manual mode” pretty regularly in addition to moving cars in the train yards.

Fun in the Rain and Other Quirks
One of the things that happened almost every time it rained, became kind of a game for operators and made a job that could be excruciatingly boring more exciting if nerve wracking. When the tracks were slick, the trains often slid part of the way through the stations before coming to a stop. On the train console there was a big red emergency button that an operator could push to stop the train. An operator had to gauge exactly when to hit that button in order to keep all the cars within the station. Of course, the doors wouldn’t open automatically if riders were going to be thrust out into thin air. That meant the operator had to go back into the cars and, using a key, open every door that was within the platform. It put us behind schedule, was a big hassle and was not a popular event with the riders. So the operators learned how to stop the train manually until the system was finally adapted to the conditions of the track.

There were lots of other quirks that caused the system to be run in manual mode. The electrical switch boxes, called MUX boxes, would get hot in the summer, especially in the neighborhoods past the hills and would just quit working. The operator would have to move the train in manual mode while the muskboxes were packed with ice!

The problem with manual mode is that the trains are designed to work with a certain number of minutes of “headway”-the spacing between trains. When the train is not in automatic mode, the system cannot tell where other trains are and so the operator has to try to keep the spacing just right so the trains do not get too close to each other. This could be problematic when visual conditions are not perfect. Anything on the tracks that does not show “occupancy” on the computer may be hit and this happened once or twice when I worked there.

The 20 Minute Lunch Break and Work Rules Run Amok
Despite what the odious Zakhary Mallett says, when the train operator is not on the train, he or she is either waiting for a train turnaround on the mainline, waiting for a train to leave the yard, or moving cars about in the yard. When an operator is in the yard, he or she must become inured to the danger involved in hopping over the third rail through which run a thousand volts of electricity that if touched…well… you try not to think about that.

In terms of those pesky work rules that management keeps shooting its mouth off about, some of them are designed for safety and some just so the operator can function as a somewhat normal human being during her shift. For instance, when I first started, operators were given a twenty minute lunch break (they now get a whopping thirty minutes). At the end of your run, you might be waiting at the end of the line with your supervisor for your next train. You get a chance to use the bathroom and maybe chat for a minute or two till your next train comes in when you switch places with the other driver. Sometimes the trains are late or some type of problem develops on the line. Then your supervisor advises you that you just had your lunch period, but, of course, since you didn’t know it (nor did he) you hadn’t even opened your lunch bag. Off you went, no eating allowed on the train, and now you’re hungry but you don’t know when you’ll get a full fifteen or twenty minutes to eat. Of course, you carry a small piece of luggage with you wherever you go since you might start out in hot Concord and wind up cranking switches over in foggy Daly City. Don’t forget your parka!

After the frustrating experience of going without meals, I managed to write some language into our contract that required our supervisors to notify us before our lunch period was called or be required to pay us twenty minutes of overtime because we had not received a lunch break. I don’t know if that is one of the “antiquated” rules they want to change; but it is still no small thing to an operator to have to go without a lunch break in an eight hour (or more) day.

Fighting for the 8 Hour Day Again
Here’s something else that most non-transportation folks don’t know. Some drivers switched to BART just because of the eight hour day. Many transportation jobs involve split shifts. You go to work during the morning rush, are off for a number of hours and then back to work for the rest of your shift. You, typically, do not get paid for the total hours but for the hours your are on. These kinds of shifts can wreak havoc with living a normal life. In fact, being a transportation worker ofttimes means giving up on a normal life.

For instance, my first shift as a new operator with no seniority ran from 8PM to 4AM with Tuesday and Wednesday off. I envisioned the world as streaming in one direction while I trudged off in the other, alone. It’s difficult to have relationships with anyone who does not work in your field and for your agency (which might be why I ended up married to another driver.)

So, I opted for the Extraboard. Those of us on the Extraboard, gave up our miserable assignments in order to fill the ever changing shifts of others who were on vacation, sick, or disabled (a Kaiser therapist, my therapist, by the way, once noted to me that more people were coming in from BART than any other company enrolled with them. She was trying to encourage me to leave the job.) Normally, the practice was to give us a twelve hour turnaround so that we could commute (train yards are a distance from housing and some workers live in cities far from the yards they regularly check into), and even eat, sleep, and bathe. But every so often the management would get its collective panties in a twist and start ordering eight hour turnarounds. Any 4th grader can figure out how miserable and even unsafe that was for drivers.

Still BART operators and other workers felt themselves lucky to have a straight eight hour shift, albeit with mandatory overtime when there was a problem with the trains. Of course, it wasn’t luck, it was the work of union negotiations and it gave the workers the hope of leading a normal life.
The eight hour day is now up for discussion, or should be, according to management negotiators.

In fact, BART workers do feel lucky to make a real living wage with good benefits. These are precisely what this management, and I’m afraid, this board would like to take away. But there’s more at stake than some takeaways to so-called “well paid workers” which is a whole other discussion. A $70,000 income no longer even qualifies you for a mortgage or much else in this part of the world.

Ask yourselves why a young woman (as I was at the time) with college credits just shy of a degree, would want a blue collar job like that, wearing a uniform and working almost exclusively with men who really didn’t want me there. The answer is that, in those days, blue collar jobs were men’s jobs, men’s union jobs, and I was tired of the pink collar world where you were stuck in an office (horrors) and spent much of your small wages on stockings and other clothing you otherwise had no use for. I wanted to make some money so I could save for better opportunities and I wanted good benefits. I had also been a Yellow cab driver in San Francisco so I didn’t mind hard work, dirty work, unusual work. I wasn’t crazy about the harassment-something office workers also experience-but I was willing to put up with it for the other protections and benefits, at least for a time.

Be the First in Your Family
And this is the really important point in this story. The men and women I worked with came from working class backgrounds; and as many of you Bay Area liberals have so bitterly pointed out-most of them did not have any college credits, and never even thought they could buy a house, much less a new one in the burbs.

But many of them, probably most of them, succeeded in buying homes in what were then the less expensive outlying towns of Union City, Newark and Fremont. They bought new homes in new developments. They sent their kids to college, the first ones in their families to go, and some have now retired in a way that allows them to maintain a reasonable lifestyle and to continue to support the communities and businesses where they live.

Don’t be a Crab
The Bay Area has always been a difficult place to raise a family and to have the confidence that you can continue to take care of your family in good times much less bad, but those public service jobs-transportation, teaching, healthcare, and municipal service-all these union jobs have empowered many women and people of color to raise their families, to start businesses, and to hope for a better life for their kids. We can’t allow ourselves to be divided, to scrabble like crabs in the proverbial barrel trying to get out while pushing others back in.

To paraphrase Joe Hill, don’t whine, organize. We can revive the promise of a golden California if we believe in each other and begin to work together. We did it before, we can do it again.

Hope for Little San Francisco

Suddenly, there is a reason to be happy in that quaint little museum of a city in the West Bay, San Francisco, known worldwide as the West Coast’s most famous tourist trap. Yes, it may be shrinking, all its families fleeing to the East Bay, particularly Oakland, while becoming the Whitest California city in a sea of color barely clinging to its progressive credentials, but it may finally get a basketball team-or not.

Yes, we know city hall pretty much shot its wad bringing Oracle’s Larry Ellison to town (I thought he already lived there or nearabouts-in desperation-they like to claim the famous folk who live nearabouts) so a couple of sailboats might regale the crowd, or not. Yes, and the brilliant folks who run the place want to do this all over again. Yay, America’s Cup, boon to your struggling city with its touristy Chinatown, pricey cable car rides, and moribund port! We urge you to bring the Cup back, at least.

Anyway, back to basketball, the city that knows how, has lost their football team and after decades of forcing fans to go out into the middle of the Bay, or at least it felt that way, finally got their baseball team, the Giants, a beautiful home. We are happy for them, of course, and we welcome them to the Oakland Coliseum where we’re still competing in October, and where they’re less likely to be beaten or stabbed to death for rooting for the wrong team.

We can only hope the folks in SF, when they’re not criminalizing the homeless, can find the will to overcome all the homegrown opposition to a new stadium near their refurbished entertainment district. And let’s hope more gridlock in that neighborhood won’t kill the golden goose they just recently grew and that Oakland’s deep fan base will be willing to come to a city like little San Fran.

We’ve heard from friends and relatives that young Black men who wander into SF, hoping to partake of its rarefied culture while attending law school at Stanford, for instance, (oh yes, this happened) got called the N word on more than one occasion, so I don’t know if our diverse communities will patronize your cute little bars and restaurants, but you can hope.

I Call BS what it is-Bullshit!

I just read a phony attack on Oakland’s mayor that is billed as a new feature in the San Francisco Chronicle, “We Call BS” by Carla Marinucci. First of all, attacking Oakland from every angle and particularly its first woman, grassroots mayor is certainly nothing new for the Chron. It’s just everyday sport for them, not journalism, that is, but sport.

What’s really shocking to me is that a well-respected political reporter, a woman reporter,too, would reach into that old bag of tricks the Chron columnists love to use-stereotypes of Oakland-crime center of the world, little sister to the grand old dame, San Francisco, that quaint museum of a city across the Bay.

Maybe they’re afraid that if tourists find out we have a functioning Chinatown where people live and work, rather than that kitchy souvenir center that is all that is left of the old vibrant Chinatown, or a thriving Latino district that runs from Deep East to the Fruitvale, all the way to East Lake, where instead of hipster boutiques there are still taco trucks, wedding shops, and restaurants representing a wide array of cultures, not to mention, Uptown, Temescal, and the Grand Lake where some of the best cultural-fusion eating establishments-Asian, Black, Latino, Ethiopian,etc. can be found; AND we have a fun bar scene now-no need to worry about the bridge to SF. Why bother to go?

Back to the “Politics Blog, We call BS.” It should be renamed. BS R Us, no real politics here. This investigative piece contacted the White House, oh yeah they did, and found that that contrary to what the mayor said, she did indeed talk to the president and the attorney general. The president met with 18 mayors of cities with rising crime rates amongst its youth. Did she say she had an intimate chat with the prez? No, of course, not but Obama did show up and listen to all the mayors problems and solutions.

This is somehow BS. This is name dropping that she said she met with the President of the United States. Well, in fact she did and after the president left, they talked with the attorney general and his office, probably a total of hours. I very much doubt these folks invited mayors from all over the country to come to DC for a very brief chat.

As to the namedropping accusation, in what world does a mayor get to meet with the president who got his folks to invite her among other mayors, whom he sought out for their input, and she keeps it a secret?? If Jerry had been there instead of Jean, it would’ve been all, oooh, what did he say, and what was it like?

But our diminutive Jean Quan, the upstart woman who “stole” the spot from a bonafide big wheel Democrat, dare not brag, unbecoming to a woman. Is it particularly unbecoming, unseemly even, because she is an Asian woman? Oops, I better not imply that or I will get attacked by the folks who generally expect to be invited to certain places and take umbrage when the wrong folks are invited instead.

What did she get, what was the quid pro quo for her trip? Ms. Marinucci is a political reporter, no? Has she heard a little bit about the difficulty President Obama is in with a Congress who thinks he also doesn’t belong and won’t give him the time of day? Most of us wouldn’t be surprised, knowing the state of national politics, if he can’t get his hands on the funds we need to competently police our city, much less blame that on the Mayor….

So now that the BS calling columnists think they’ve got her down (guess they don’t know Jean Quan), they try for a kick to the head. Oh yeah, do you know the taxpayers footed this bill? Really, how horrible, inexcusable. Maybe she should’ve turned down an invitation to the White House, an invitation to talk about crime, crime folks; because some reporters think it’s a “jaunt.” I call crazy, sorry, that’s just crazy talk.

Wow, the final blow was Quan’s nerviness to remind folks at the fast food workers’ demonstration about the Civil Rights struggle and compare it with current struggles; and so the reporter says, for that the crowd turned on her. Watch the video, a couple of obnoxious people who have a bone to pick, heckled her and ignored the workers and their organizations to make their points. I saw one White guy who thought he was the most important person there yelling at her-but no BS on him, I guess.

So let me get this straight. The mayor was wrong to go to DC or should have waited until she could raise the funds privately, then wrong to talk about it, and especially wrong to believe that the President will do all he can to help our struggling cities. She further erred by recognizing the new generation that is fighting for their rights, economic and civic?

Is that true or is that just BS? Well, let’s call it what it really is, I call Bullshit!

In a World …..Where Woody Still Made Good Movies

I’m not a movie critic. Those guys seem to notice all the arcane details of how, what and who makes a movie with multiple references to genre and camera work. They call them films, but I prefer being entertained, occasionally seeing real life reflected, and sometimes even educated or enlightened.

I’ve been telling myself, and everybody else who’ll listen, that I’m never going to another Woody Allen movie. “To Rome with Love” should’ve been the last straw, but I kept reading that Cate Blanchett was not to be missed in “Blue Jasmine”-the title should have been enough to warn me off-so I went.

My movie-going podna-as the young folk say-was taken aback by the ending. “That’s it?” she said. Yep, that was it. The supposed remake of “Streetcar” left us cold and a bit empty with Cate’s overacting getting on my nerves as much as Bobby Cannavale’s gesticulating. I saw homes and views in San Francisco that I have never seen before, and I’m not sure they actually exist. Ok, I take that back, somebody lives on the edge of the City/Marin somewhere and has those beautiful if cliched views (if views can be cliched) of the Golden Gate Bridge.

If her acting had been all that Oscar-worthy as folks are saying, Blanchett would have been lying comatose in SF General, as many pills as she popped, by the middle of that opus. Did she demonstrate layers of emotion and vulnerability? She was vulnerable alright but since she was a character completely without depth, she could not show what was clearly not there. Come’on, people.

And then there was Sally Hawkins, Brit comedy star, playing the Salt of the Earth mom who on a grocery store cashier’s wage lives in a large, sunny flat somewhere in the Mission? Really?

I read a review that said that it was a welcome change from Woody’s constant chronicling of the 1% of the 1% to see him toast the working class. On the contrary, it is just the other side of the same coin to pretend to laud the noble working class when you can’t remember having met any of them since, maybe your 20’s, while glorifying their pureness of heart with your silly stereotypes.

But we who loved Woody must admit that a big reason for watching him flutter through his best films, was because of his arrogance and his witty put-downs of regular people-people who seemed happy, therefore, shallow. In those days he was good at promoting the struggling artists, comics, and lovers who couldn’t quite fit in because fitting in meant you had given up and given in. Now, all his leads are sad sacks who want to go back to some rosy era where they fought the good fight and won because, he made us think that misfits deserved to win or at least get the girl. More on that later.

After suffering through Blue Jasmine, I went, without much investment, to see Lake Bell, in her very own writing, directorial, and acting debut in the new film (oops there I go), “In a World.”

It reminded me most of the old Woody Allen-in the days when he made cute, somewhat nonsensical movies that made you laugh while identifying with the main characters, and sometimes made you think a little bit but just a little bit. “In a World” has all the sophisticated put-downs that literate underdogs make against the unconscious but conventionally attractive and, one assumes, conventionally successful, blonde American heroes.

The ending is a bit too pat in which family values win re “Hannah and her Sisters.” But like the old Woody,it’s full of a million little asides that are funnier than anything you’ve heard since, say, Sleeper, although it is not a fantasy like that one.

While the tone of all the characters’ dialogue is similar to that of the writer/director’s speaking style that’s as you would expect. But when you watch Woody’s movies with new, younger and much more attractive leads, you tire of them all sounding and looking just like Woody. They stutter, they flutter, they stammer and cast their eyes downward. That only worked with Woody because it was true to his nebbishy self.

What was never believable was his easy way with very attractive women but since he was making the movies, hey, that was his right. In Woody’s world, no one seemed ever to work either, much less consider how they’d pay rent on their beautiful and spacious apartments. Well realism was never his strong suit. I guess I can believe Woody with Diane Keaton who is just neurotic enough to have fallen in love with him.

But here’s the other thing. Woody gets big kudos for offering grown women starring roles, never mind that most of his women are either ball breakers or neurotic beyond basic-survival-believability or just stupid/naive, waiting for him to show them how to live; worse yet, everyone since Diane sounds like her. And please don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s noticed that.

So here’s Lake Bell, her own, nervous, flip-floppy self, but I believed her. The fact that she makes herself look conventionally unattractive when she has the big-jawed, broad-shouldered look that is currently considered very attractive, makes her all the more loveable-kinda like the old schlimielly (word?) guy Woody almost was, almost.

The best part is that she takes the subject of male-domination in the entertainment field, that of voice-overs-a field that has less excuse than most of being male-dominated-and skewers it. In the end she sort of wins out in a way that is just bittersweet enough to be satisfying without being silly.

So, ok, it’s a first film and has some sore spots, some useless vignettes, and a little too much general hand waving. Had it been made by Woody though, it would’ve been called a masterpiece as many of his recent ones have been called, except for “to Rome with Love” which most critics could barely bring themselves to review. “Midnight in Paris, a nice little movie, was called a comeback (the latest of many) to that level of film making. No, sorry, it was very cute but no “Annie Hall.” I liked it- then I forgot it.

Yeah, “In a World” will not stay with me for much longer but I was still moved by the struggling, funny, smart woman who was beginning to make her way in life and love. Sorry, I am no longer moved by Woody’s bitchy/greedy or conversely pure-minded but lost heroines anymore than I am by his phony class stereotypes.

And by the way, Blue Moon was the song playing when Jasmine aka Jeanette and Alec Baldwin met? Every time she said that I felt my head spinning so much that I got a crick in my neck. So I checked the internets, true to Woody’s nostalgia for the good ole, old days, it was written in 1934. The version I remember was made in 1961, but he just had to get that in, didn’t he? Couldn’t someone tell him that his Dixieland riffs and 30’s nostalgia music has become tedious and even jarring?

So, yeah, this time I really mean it, no more Woody shuffling around with the .5 percenters and occasionally slumming it in a $2500 a month apartment on the “bad” side of town. I look forward to female leads who are slightly goofy, with an edge of arrogance mixed with insecurity and, most of all, entertaining-if Lake Bell continues to make movies, that is, movies but maybe not films.

Whose Strike, My Strike

I’ve been told by progressive friends and pols that it’s not really union busting if the union is left intact. But now we know according to Darwin BondGraham of the East Bay Express, BART’s Lead Negotiator Has a History of Illegal Behavior, that the board that we voted for did knowingly hire a negotiator who makes it his job to, “make permanent the pay and benefits rollbacks that workers have endured in recent years,” according to BondGraham’s research.

How many times have I read this past week- “I’ve always been a union supporter but”-BART train operators make a lot of money or…they should have to pay some of their retirement costs or… health care has gone up or, the best and most astounding-unions have too much power nowadays!

Yeah, unions aren’t perfect. I was a train operator back in BART’s early years, and I can tell you that the unions weren’t any more welcoming than management was to adding women to that workforce. I took that job precisely because it was a traditionally-male job with good pay and benefits that the pink collar world did not offer. Before that I was a cabdriver in San Francisco. It was union but very loosely organized and without the kind of security that BART offered.

Transportation is a strange type of work. Your hours are so outside those of 9 to 5 folks that you soon lose connection with that workaday world and most of the people in it. Eventually, that and the stress of being one of the first women in that job category plus the lack of job satisfaction led me away from it.

Since then I have been a teacher in many public and one private school. There are lots of poor excuses for why teachers make less than other professions, professions where you get on-the-job training, not on-your-own-time, on-your-on-dime-training, but that’s another discussion for another time-as a friend of mine used to say. I was also a city council aide when it had no job protections-I mean none, but it is now a part of IFPTE, Local 21. My experience as a city council aide was one of the reasons that the union was organized by other aides.

So back to BART, or back to unions and the point of supporting one of the only remaining institutions standing between us and the New Feudalism, the new indentured servitude, the sharecropping that we now call work, the unpaid internships, the low paid fellowships, the temping, and, not to be left out, the sort of pay we get when we work for non-profits with their tiny margins and gaping needs for unpaid extra hours. Here’s to contracting and free-lancing, the New American Nightmare of Lifelong Austerity, the Permanent Recession OR here’s to organizing and fighting together for real benefits. Here’s to a dignified retirement.

Yeah, maybe you’re not in a union since most of the above luckless “careers” don’t have them. But the union movement fights to get them for you, and they continue to fight to stanch the loss of workers’ rights, all workers. They are all that stands between us and the triumph of oligarchy.

Some unions may have become big and unwieldy but, public sector unions especially, are now made up primarily of women, immigrants, and people of color who know the struggles of folks who never had much power or wealth. Hey, maybe that’s one reason they get less respect than they used to-they no longer look like the average 1 percenter.

Back to union-busting, the real growth industry. Is it union busting to ask people to pay a little more of their family’s healthcare costs or their retirement benefits? It can’t be union busting then to offer a wage increase in return for an increase in the cost of pensions and doctor’s visits. Nah, don’t call it union busting then-just call it union neutering.

Why would you offer something with one hand while trying to take away a bit with the other, maybe you’ll get a little raise but in the process you’re giving up some security in the future. Why do you think they do it? Is it some kind of shell game? Yes, it is. It’s a game that says, you once had the benefits of a dignified retirement but we’re betting we can chip away at that by offering a few pennies to spend right now since you were so accommodating when times were hard. Why, you even worked harder for less pay.

Okay, so maybe BART needs that money, that surplus I’ve read about, to buy more cars and upgrade the system so many of us depend upon. Then I want the BART board to come out and tell us that, explain to us exactly what the options are, hold public meetings and let the taxpayers, the riders, the workers among us who believe in solidarity for our own sakes, what is at stake.

Don’t hire creepy law-breaking negotiators whose job it is to obfuscate, delay and frustrate the union folk, our neighbors. People don’t strike because they enjoy losing days at work.

I’m calling on Robert Raburn and Rebecca Saltzman, folks I’ve put my trust in, to come to us and lay BART’s cards on the table. I’m certainly going to remember Zachary Mallett, should he ever come before me for an endorsement, for denouncing the ATU and the SEIU workers who gave back in hard times. And I thank James Fang for walking the picket line and realizing that it was a mistake to leave the board out of negotiations. We elected a progressive board and we expect them to act like one. Trust us, your constituents, to see the wisdom in your decisions by letting us see you make them.

Air Travel Etiquette for flyers and airlines….

I thought I’d share a few ideas on airline travel after my recent coast-to-coast trip. Let’s all check our list of the do’s and don’ts when flying. You’d think we should know them by now, but judging from recent experience, we don’t or, rather, YOU don’t.

1) If you have an aisle seat or window seat, do not, do I really have to repeat this-yes-I do-do not hog the armrests! The person in the middle cannot lean against the window, cannot lean out in the aisle and does not have an armrest to herself. So why is it so hard to understand, big guy or skinny lady? That armrest is the least you can do, back away and enjoy your ONE free arm rest!

2) If you are on the aisle, do not be a deep sleeper unless you don’t mind, a)being walked on or b) being peed on, nuff said. Not, not really enough, do no huff and puff like the person with the need to go, should not bother you-try being gracious. If you don’t know what that means, just visualize Michelle Obama (and you don’t have to like her politics to see how much she puts up with).

3) Even though your seat can go way back -all the way into the lap of the guy behind you, does not mean you should do it.

4) Just because you have headphones on does not mean the person next to you, or across the aisle, or a couple of rows back (or in the town over which you are now flying), cannot hear your heavy metal or whatever those tinny and thumping sounds are which are bouncing off everyone else. Sometimes those box cutters would come in handy, FAA folks, just sayin.

5) Falling asleep does not give you license to lean on the next person much less stick your bony knees into their calves on top of exposing them to your seaweed, yuck. I’d prefer the decaying smells of a real beach to eating that slime, and I sure don’t want to smell it while experiencing turbulence for 6 hours.

6) If you’re going to sleep in your window seat, please check first whether your seatmates want the glow of the window while they sleep or want to gaze at a darkened hole when the co-pilot announces the wonderful view of the Grand Canyon, try asking first.

7) Don’t insist on standing up as soon as the plane comes to a halt after which there will be a 20 minute disembarkation wait. If you must get out fast and believe that you somehow will, in spite of the obvious physics of 75 people and their luggage in front of you, ask to change places with the passenger who is more patient (or on better drugs).

8) This one may not be that obvious, but if you have running-of-the-mouth disease, try forcing yourself to shut up for a few minutes every hour or so. Yes, the people in front of and behind you really can hear you droning on; even your listening “partner” might enjoy a moment of silence.

9) Oh, by the way, we all realize that traveling can wreak havoc with bodily fluids but don’t pretend you’re at home where you have your very own bathroom. And, while we’re at that one, don’t hang on the poor schlub’s seat who’s stuck in the back and you’re just leaning over her while you’re waiting on the loo. You are not the only who will be dong that and, one more-remember, when you turn around with a full back pack in the aisle, someone has just gotten a dislocated jaw and needs your sympathy.

No, I’m not going to list all the complaints everyone’s already registered about other people’s children. I was once a parent of young, darling babes. My daughter was a particular joy on a plane and, to this day, I’m still afraid someone will track me down.

However, I don’t think we should forget to leave our suggestions for the airlines who we surely trust as much as we do someone elses politician or tax attorney ; and yet we put our lives and our credit cards in their hands. Just a couple of little suggestions:

1) Somehow, those airline seats have not been redesigned since Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon man whichever one preferred that head jutting forward back slumping position.

Maybe the point is to promote all the travel do-hickey businesses which sell lumbar support pillows plus little support pillows for your head since your seat mate would prefer it not rest in her lap.

I have bought or researched most of them. Back in the day when airlines furnished something to make the experience of  shoving yourself into a little tube where there is no air to breath-except your neighbor’s-and your hope of survival depends on the type of drugs you can procure, they offered you the use of pillows and blankets while they taunted you with temperatures which soared from too hot to allow air intake to too cold to feel your feet. So okay, they were unhygienic. In those days, we didn’t sanitize ourselves from head to toe we just wanted to come out of the little tube with our joints in tact.

So there are all those devices to sort of make that chair into something tolerable for up to 30 minutes, but you would need an extra suitcase to lug them along which the airlines will surely charge you for.

2) The other thing about airline seats besides being designed to push and pull you in every direction that can cause pain, lack of sleep and hip bruising (I must confess, Jet Blue has seats for real women who have hips, even those my age who have little coffee tables built into them) is that every bus, every train, every amusement park ride knows that people want a footrest. A foot rest, folks, is a necessity when riding anywhere longer than a ride at Great America.

Why can I find one on the Capitol Corridors, buses in almost every country I’ve been to, excluding chicken buses (there you have a chicken at least) and not on the freaking plane tube??! Is it so you can stuff more crap up under the seat since the guy with the overstuffed “carry-on” already took the overheads? So design the thing to move like they have on Amtrak and everywhere else. Hire a freakin engineer, fercryin’outloud. Didn’t you just write them an immigration bill?

We’re not complaining about the lack of tiny little airline meals with iceberg lettuce and jello anymore. We’ve gotten used to the abuse and larceny of your ticket pricing game and the change fees that would make a mafioso blush with shame. We’re almost glad that you charge for the movies-because how often can we watch a film where Clint Eastwood is trying to be cute? Krissakes tho’, get someone to design comfortable seats with footrests in front of you, and, by the way, it is possible to serve real orange juice? What the heck is in that stuff anyway?

Tell us your suggestions? We’re all ears, at least, while we’re still in the air.