Traffic Jam on Toast

Home again, winding down from the elevated level of tension that comes with staying alert while driving long distances and dealing with traffic.  How much distance?  About 2,500 miles.  How much traffic?  Be glad you don’t live or work in Los Angeles.  Yes, we were there, and yes, it’s that bad.  It’s that bad in the middle of the day, never mind rush hour (you don’t want to know).

Where’d we go?  Tucson to Los Angeles; LA to San Jose; a few days bopping back and forth around San Francisco, Marin County, Bodega Bay, and the East Bay; back to San Jose and a side trip to the redwoods in the mountains above Santa Cruz; back to LA; LA to Tucson.

Why drive?  Because we like driving together.  We listen to audio books, look at the scenery, have long conversations.  We take all the luggage we want, keep snacks and cold water handy in a cooler behind the front seats, and strap our bicycles to the back.  We can load up on goodies to bring home, size and weight (almost) no object.  Sure, gas is expensive, but if you fly you usually wind up renting a car anyway.  As far as we’re concerned, if we can get there in one or two days by car, it’s better to drive.

Except for one night in the East Bay, we stayed with friends.  We visited, went out for coffee and dinner, crawled the pubs in San Francisco’s financial district, hiked in the hills above Petaluma, and just generally slacked off.  We had a wonderful time (LA traffic excepted).  That one night in a hotel in the East Bay?  A welcome interlude of quiet and privacy in the middle of our trip.  Give me a hotel break once a week, and I can endure six days of tiny, suitcase-strewn spare bedrooms and shared bathrooms!

I caught up with library books before we left, and that was intentional: I wanted to indulge myself in the second Game of Thrones book on the trip, and managed to get halfway through by the time we got home (like the first book, it’s an 800-pager).  Alas, GOT must be set aside — the book club meets next Saturday and Jamrach’s Menagerie must be digested by then.  A backordered library book, Escape from Camp 14, came in while we were away; other readers are waiting and I have to finish it next.  GOT, I’ll be back.

Donna’s Aunt Georgie told us about the latest Bay Area scare — a highly infectious, often fatal dog disease — over dinner at an Outback Steakhouse in Pittsburg (bet you didn’t know there was a Pittsburg in California — it’s Donna’s home town).  According to Aunt G, kennels and pounds are in lockdown mode and dog owners have been cautioned to keep their pets indoors.  She had our attention, right up until she told us dogs catch the disease by sniffing other dogs.  At that point I recognized a classic News at Eleven ratings-booster scare story.  Keep your dog from sniffing other dogs’ butts?  Yeah, good luck with that.  I doubt there’s any disease at all.  While not exactly urban legends, these scare stories are at least closely related.

Speaking of Game of Thrones, an acquaintance on Facebook posted this a few nights ago: “Just watched the season finally of Game of Thrones, and all I can say is wow!”  A genuine eggcorn, spotted in the wild!  I live for things like this.

We didn’t get much news on our trip.  When we were with friends the talk was mostly social.  Driving, we listened to audiobooks on the car’s CD player (Elmore Leonard’s Raylan and Alan Furst’s Spies of Warsaw), but we did tune in NPR while inching along on I-5 in downtown LA and heard a story about voters in two California cities cutting public employee pensions.  Not just pensions for future employees, but pensions for current employees — contracted pensions effectively nullified by a public vote.  Of course public employee unions will challenge the vote in court, as well they should — this simply can’t be legal.  If these two California cities get away with this, it’ll spread all around the country.  And one of these days, military pensions and benefits will be in the spotlight.  Mark my words.

Generations of American workers fought to unionize.  Today we can’t wait to undo unions.  Generations of Americans fought for living wages, benefits, and pensions.  Today we watch passively as it all disappears.  We’ve given in to spite — instead of aspiring to better wages, pensions, and benefits, we just want to bring everyone down to our own impoverished level.  The enemy isn’t workers who are slightly better off than we are.  The enemy is the one percent, the capitalist aristocracy.  The aristocracy that is so busy turning American worker against American worker.

So how do I work myself down from raging against the self-defeating stupidity of the mob?  I go bicycling.  This morning I scouted trail for the bike hash I’m haring next Sunday morning (as if I don’t stay busy enough).  Did I mention we took our bikes with us?  We meant to ride with our friends in Novato, bicyclists too, but what with all the hashing (it was a major anniversary weekend for their club, and our hosts were the primary organizers) we never cranked a pedal.  We consoled ourselves with the thought that as far as other drivers knew, the bicycles on the rack behind our car meant we were more athletic than they were, the losers.

Did I mention how happy we were to come home to our doggies?  Or how happy our doggies were to see us?  It’s always good to come home again, isn’t it?

© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


2 thoughts on “Traffic Jam on Toast

  • Paul,,
    First, any contract can be renegotiated. That is fundamental to contracting law. Second, public service pensions are based on public law, and when public law changes, most folks are “grandfathered” into their previous benefits. However, “grandfathering” is not an automatic right, but subject to negotiation.

    When I taught school, I represented my school in contract negotiations. Now that was an experience! The overwhelming lesson I learned? Students came in fourth in the grand scheme of things. I made the mistake of saying “We are here to serve the students.” The local CTA rep really took me to the woodshed over that one. He called me “incredibly naive.” The concept of “mission” has little or no meaning to those folks.

  • I don’t think I’d call this a “renegotiation.” It’s more of a lynching, or a witch hunt. The public may be ultimately in charge of these state agencies, but the public was not party to the original deal between the agencies and their employees. This is like siccing an angry and frightened mob on an unpopular group by dragging that group’s civil rights into the stoning circle.

    Will you sit passively by the mob turns its spiteful eye toward our military pensions and benefits? I won’t.

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