Sunday, October 28, 2012


One morning last week, the fare inspectors were thick as ants on a PB&J sandwich.  A team of them, including a couple of Portland cops, were waiting at the Hollywood Transit Center, human speed bumps on the way to my destination.

I boarded and found a seat.  A couple of inspectors boarded right behind me.  I'd seen the one who was working his way towards me before.  He's an efficient one, glancing at passes and tickets as fast as they appear with a "Thank you," taking a second longer to acknowledge a transfer, taking his job seriously and calmly.

I showed my pass for the second time in five minutes.  Two seats down, a man flashed his wallet and the inspector said, "That's September.  Do you have an October pass?"

The rider was a 30-something white guy dressed for work, definitely not a typical target for harassment.  But he did not have the pass.  As the conversation continued, his voice rose higher and higher, as if he were being harassed, which he was not.

In his defense, the rider showed that he was carrying passes from several prior months and even found a receipt  proving that he had bought an October pass.  The officerr opened his ticket book.  The rider blurted out that his wife must have borrowed it over the weekend and not replaced it.

At this point, I knew the man was in trouble. You might assume, having bought a monthly pass, that you could loan it to another person.  Obviously, only one person at a time can use a pass, so what's the problem?  Well, in its accounting for estimated income from passes sold and estimated income from people nabbed using passes wrongly, the head bean counters have concluded that the best numbers will occur when there is no pass sharing. Remember, these are the same people who eliminated Fareless Square and significantly cut back service within the last year or so.

"May I see your identification, please?"

The man replied, "Hold on," and made a phone call.  The inspector, to my surprise, kept patiently quiet.  I suppose the rider was hoping to find out if his wife had returned the pass to his lunch bag, or some other unlikely but possible spot that would save the cost of the coming ticket.

But the call didn't connect, and  the cop had to ask again for ID.

"Why?" the violator asked, handing over a driver's license.  "Don't you like me?  Are you trying to bust my chops?"

The cop muttered something about procedures while scribbling.

The violator said, "This is not fair, that I should have paid for this month, not to mention many other months, and this one time. . . "

The cop glanced up at him.

"My wife borrowed it and didn't return it to me," he said. Whining and trying to blame his poor wife. I felt sorry for (and superior to) the violator for his ignorance. 

The inspector gave him the ticket, saying "Sharing a pass is not allowed.  The pass is issued to one person, for his sole use."  The violator stared like a dead trout.


The inspector went on to explain the violator's options.  He could pay by mail or credit card, or he could appear in court.  The inspector had conveniently already set the court date and time.

The violator was done protesting.  The cop was done explaining. The $175 (or more) ticket was doing the talking now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


It seems like everyone now is fixed on their electronics. My guess is that better than 50 percent and maybe as much as 75 percent of reading on public transportation is now done cybernetically.  It makes me wonder what they're reading, which is seldom obvious.

It is much easier to see what those readers who are reading "real" books are reading.  I have, therefore, documented here some titles of paperback or hardback books recently being read on Trimet (with some commentary):

Missing Persons by Stephen White.  The reader was a middle aged man wearing an Obama badge.

Quantum Leaps In The Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins.  It took me so long to write down the title that the guy reading it left before I could make a note about him.

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis.  This looked like a 50-year old paperback. The reader was a young woman sporting a baby-doll look including: ruby red lipstick with matching shoes and white knee socks.

If Looks Could Kill.  Amazon lists at least six different novels by this title.  As I didn't catch the author's name, I can't tell you which one it was. The reader:  a middle-aged woman.

High Noon by Nora Roberts  ("This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that happens here is really important."  Oh, sorry, it's not that High Noon.)  The reader:  a middle-aged woman.

A Japanese paperback.  The reader:  a young woman with Asian features.

Victims by Jonathan Kellerman.  I did not make a note about the reader.  Assume I was distracted by another title.

Organizing Knowledge.  The reader was, I'm pretty sure, judging by the PSU jacket, a student.

My Monumental Suffering.  Actually, this is the title of a book I intend to write.

Another Nora Roberts book.  I could see Nora's huge name on the spine and cover, but not the book's title.  The reader:  a middle-aged woman, a professional secretary type -- graying, well-fed and well-dressed.

An Agatha Christie book.  Again, the author's name was plain to see and much larger than the title.  The reader:  a 60ish man.

A Nick Hornsby book.  The reader was a slender, sad-faced woman in black jacket, black jeans and long, black hair.

Interviewing in Action In a Multicultural World.  The reader was a young woman in matching blue-green argyle swirl vinyl rain jacket and vinyl cowboy rain boots.

A J. K Rowling book.  Must have been the new one that's got nothing to do with Harry Potter, as it was only about 250 pages long.

Can't Find My Way Home.  To judge by the worn backpack, boots, beard and long hair, the reader was a hiker (Of course).  He was reading avidly and about halfway through the book.

Prime Witness.  Steve Martin. The Steve Martin?  The reader was an extremely middle-class, middle-aged white guy, wearing crappy PayLess shoes that looked like they were chopped out of old tires with an ax.

This seems a likely random stopping place.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


There's the hip Portland of bikes, beer, food carts, sustainable businesses, urban farms, jobs in the comic book industry or IT, and, of course, Portlandia.  And there's Portland, The Center for White Liberals Who Don't Know Any Black Folks. There's the city that boomed during the heyday of the shipyards and the timber industry, adding 160,000 to its population during World War II, the same city with a current official unemployment rate of 8 percent that is probably closer to 15 percent after counting those who've stopped looking for work, who never started looking, or who are part-time.  There's the city crawling with thousands of medical marijuana cardholders. There's a city trying to keep itself Weird, where zombie walks and 200-tuba concertos and heavy tattoos are supercool. There's a city with a police force that shoots too many unarmed citizens. And there's a town that gets six or seven months of rain a year, which a national magazine determined a few years ago to be the unhappiest city in the country. 

(I don't believe that last one, though.  Dark colors and extra weight do not depression make.) 

And there's the Portland seen riding on Tri-Met, which gets reported on here. 

I came across some people recently who are located in Portland, but whom you will never, ever see riding TriMet. They are beautiful and handsome. There are beautiful and handsome folks here, but not like this. These have come from somewhere else, I'm pretty sure: L.A. or New York or outer space. Oh, they may have started out as children in any old towns. But somewhere between birth and now, something happened. They emerged from the 99% into the realm of big media. Their faces, and more, have become commodities.

They are being sold by a company called "Option Model and Media," which has an address in inner Southeast not too far from OMSI.  (The nearest stop is where the 15 Belmont meets the Morrison Bridge.  Stop No. 4028.)  Here's the link:

There are three faces -- headshots -- on the landing page:  a male "Actor" in a checked shirt, a female "Model" wearing heavy Goth eye makeup and a "Kid" who is impossibly still and grave. The eyes of each of these people look out at you with startling clarity. Bravo to the photographer who captured these faces.  Bravo!