Well, as of February 2, 2012 our local transit has gone on strike. That means – no city bus, no ferry service – nothing.
They had been warning this might happen since back in September. I read the newspapers and there was talk of how the city was trying to bust the union by privatizing several key branches of the transit as well as bringing in a whole tier of part-time employees. I could understand why drivers who have worked so many years would not be crazy about the notion that a couple of hundred mechanics might be laid off due to privatization – or that full-time drivers might be phased out by more controllable part-time drivers.
On the last day before the strike we heard the news that the city had conceded those two points. Suddenly the sticking point in negotiation became a change in the roster system – which I don’t quite understand. What ever the reason though – the sudden switch from THIS IS THE MAIN ISSUE to OH NO, NOW THIS IS THE MAIN ISSUE left me wondering if maybe it wasn’t as some people were saying that the ACTUAL issue was just greed for more money.
Some people are angry and are demanding that the government should step in. They want them to declare the transit system to be a necessary service – and thus, no capable of striking.
I am a union man myself, being a federal government employee. I was also a union man back when I worked at Swedwood. I know that unions can easily become greedy grasping beasts. Still, I am reluctant to wave a flag and cheer at the thought of government intercession that might lead to a weakening of the union structure.
Because there does need to be a balance. If we go too far in declawing our various unions we run the risk of being under the dictatorship of management – whether bosses or politicians or governments. Dissension needs to exist – has to exist.
Unfortunately, greed also exists.
What it all boils down to is we – as humans – will never have a perfect system for anything. Human weaknesses will always hinder what might be a practical working mechanism.
Which is a whole lot of syllables for the honest fact that I don’t really know if there is – or ought to be – a simple answer for all of this – unless it invoves cybernetic organisms in place of living breathing and fallible human beings.
Speaking of which – I have never learned to drive. So, without a bus to get me to work I have found it necessary to walk. That means a two and a half mile walk in the morning to work and a two and a half mile walk back home.
The first day was mild. I enjoyed the walk. My knee gave me a little bit of trouble but I left in time to allow myself a rest stop in a coffee shop. My oasis of choice that day was the Spring Garden Road Second Cup. I enjoyed a good strong cup of coffee. No sugar, no sweets – just good strong caffeine. Then, I walked around the corner and picked up a second cup at Steverinos and walked the rest of the way down Brunswick Street to work.
With a side detour to check out the window at Back Pages – a local used bookstore that is going out of business. The books are now marked down 60% for everything in the shop. If you dig books you owe it to yourself to go and pick up a few bargains.
As for me – I can’t afford the extra baggage right now.
The walk home was a little more difficult but I managed to stop at a drugstore and pick up a pair of fancy Dr. Scholl’s foam insoles to go inside my Dr. Scholl’s official-this-man-is-an-old-fart walking shoes – in a tasteful old-fartish tan.
On the second day of the strike – today – it was a lot colder than Thursday. Still, I enjoyed my walk – partly due to the new insoles. They took a lot of the stress off my ankles and my knee did not pain me at all.
I cut across the Commons this morning and was treated to an unexpected bonus. There were skaters out on the Oval. A couple of them were speed-skaters who knew how to look like they knew what they were doing. It was beautiful and breath-taking to watch them skate. I can’t skate myself – and have never really cared much about skating events – but the sight of them moving across that pristine ice with a grace and a mindfulness that was almost Zen-like quite took my breath away.
On the way home I stopped on Windsor Street for a much-needed haircut at Phat’s Barbershop – (pronounced Pat’s).
“Sit down,” Phat, a stocky mid-fiftiesh barber told me. “I give you the best lousy haircut in the city.”
I sat down.
“How you like it?” he asked.
“Short enough so I don’t have to comb for a while,” I replied.
“I know just what you mean,” Phat said.
He began to methodically trim and cut, expertly tapering the back of my hair in a manner that my wife tells me is quite stylish.
“How long since your last cut?” he asked. “Two months?”
“Two or three,” I said.
He trimmed my beard and discretely buzzed those long antenna-like tufts that have begun to sprout unpredictably from my ear lobes – (mother nature, father evolution – what the hell do I need furry ears for???) – and in the end I was pleased enough to give him a tip – and I’ll have to make a trip back to Windsor Street when I need my next cut.
For all you old-farts or you young farts who are practicing on old-farthood – if you want the best lousy haircut in the city I recommend Phat’s – directly beside the used bookstore and The Gracious Indian restaurant – just before you come to The Good Food Emporium.
By the way, Phat does not have Interact.
In other words – bring money.
I’ve got the next two days off and I’m looking forward to resting my feet – but I’m not minding this walking so far. My feet are still a little sore and there is always the chance of blisters – but my muscles feel surprisingly toned and I dare say I might begin to lose some of this post-fifty fat that has been brooding around my beltline like a shameful green shawl.
I’ll let you know how I feel in another week or two as this strike proceeds.
One last bit of writing news.
I’ve got a brand new vampire hockey novella due out this February. I’ll tell you all about it as the month progresses – but for now I’ll just let you know that I’ve heard from a book reviewer at FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND who might like to review it.
For those who don’t know FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND is the remake of a magazine that I grew up idolizing – and I would find it cooler than that cool cool wind blowing across the Commons this morning if a book of mine was to be actually reviewed for either their website or the magazine itself.
Yours in storytelling,