Friday, January 9, 2009
Great Housewarming Gifts! (Well, When They Work)
Jennifer The Flipper buys a lot of houses, and every time she gets some kind of "housewarming" package...
A recent package included two "free rides" on Metro Transit. Jennifer lives in a suburb and doesn't really ride the bus a lot, so she gave the passes to Jeanie Hoholik, who passed the passes to me. So, yeah, those little slips of paper were getting handed around like a jar of prison-made "pruno."
The instructions on the coupons say to insert them into the light rail ticket machines, just like currency. I tried it. Didn't work. I called the Metro customer line. They explained the ticket machines are sometimes "glitchy" like that. Uh huh. They told me to go ahead and ride.
I paid for a ticket, anyway, because I didn't want to be in one of THOSE conversations with a transit officer. "But, officer, I was TOLD by some guy at the customer service line..."
Yeah, right. Here's your $200 fine.
A Civic Bodhisattva
It is my destiny to be a kind of glitch-magnet, because I'll always try to make the system fix itself, email a public official, etcetera. The universe wants to evolve and become more enlightened, so it notices people like me and guess what? I'M A GLITCH MAGNET.
So here's what I started doing: every time I rode the light rail, I tried to make the coupons work. And every time they didn't, I called it in. I did this, like three times. Well, one time I had to call in the fact the machine wasn't working AT ALL. The screen was not functioning.
Some people stand on a rail platform and wait, and get nothing accomplished at all. But there's always an opportunity to squeeze in another cell phone call helpful to your neighborhood, to send a text message, or add phone numbers to your directory or--good heavens--notice something amiss and call 311, or the Metro Transit Customer line or--heaven forbid--911.
Today the ticket machine finally accepted the coupons and issued me a transfer. I used it to go pick up my 11-year-old son in Burnsville.
My 311 Efforts THWARTED!!! CURSES!!!!!!!!
All along the light rail, there are instances of graffiti. But it's hard to call it in. How can you know the address of a building when you are just whizzing by on a train? Yet the light rail route is full of graffiti, contributing to a feeling of "civic disorder" among the passengers, a feeling that "anything can happen" along the route.
Yeah, I believe in the "broken windows" theory. I don't like the way people such as former Seattle City Attorney Mark "The Devil" Sidran have applied it, but I do believe the theory, absolutely.
"Alex," I said to my son today. "You know what would be cool? To ride a bike all along the light rail route, and call in the graffiti visible from the light rail. I mean...clean up the whole route, you know? So none of the passengers would have to see that crap."
My son didn't think the idea was cool at all. This from a kid who reads the Star Tribune on the light rail, and gets all excited about a story concerning a TAX AUDIT.
This is how I plan to lose weight when warm weather comes: riding a bike and making scores of 311 calls along my routes.
But, please, anybody should feel free to steal my idea.