Category Archives: Privilegemobile

Privilegemobile 13: The Dukes of Hazard Lights

My alarm went off at 5:45, and like most mornings, it was about as well received as a PBR fart during a scheduled moment of silence. I would personally be OK with said flatulence, mostly because I would likely be the one blasting away. However, those with a sense of reverence would consider it inappropriate. They’re like that.

I was awake already and not by choice, but I had made peace with the situation. As dreary as staring at the ceiling was, it was preferable to getting up and starting my day. Alas, remaining immobile doesn’t pay especially well.

I went into the bathroom while scratching my ass and picking at my teeth with my fingernail (not with the same hand). This past Sunday, I was sitting in Muddy’s and managed to chip one of my front teeth with a wooden coffee stirrer. Some enamel came off, but not much. I still haven’t decided whether it is going to require a trip to the dentist.

It did get me thinking though. Decades of grinding my teeth in lieu of flossing them has left me with a crumbling mess for choppers and it’s only going to get worse. None of my retirement projections have included major outlays for dental care. Maybe it’ll be nothing but extractions from here onward. I think I can live with that. Whiskey is easy to chew.

The big unknown when it comes to retirement is longevity. My paternal grandmother, who smoked until she was 75, lived until she was 101. My father, who enjoyed a cigar now and then until giving them up in his forties, dropped dead at 69. My own smoking habits fell somewhere between the two therefore I should make it to 85.


I’ll probably know more after July 26. That’s when I go in for a colonoscopy. I’m not sure about the details of the procedure, but I’m guessing the doctor feeds a plumbing snake up my asshole, pulls it out, and checks the end of it for bits of tumor.

So I’ll either make it to 85 or be dead in six months. It doesn’t matter. I still need to plan on living a while. That means financial prudence. That means no indulging any of my self-destructive impulses, no matter what a hilarious piece of performance art it would be in execution.

I showered, dressed, told a semiconscious Becca I love her, and I was out the door. I later sent her a message that the garbage truck had not yet come, hoping she would get the bins and return them to their space under the stairs before our landlady did. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the landlady ended up doing it. In fact, she did it last week while I was spending the first half of America’s birthday with a vicious hangover. I just didn’t want it to happen often enough to breed resentment. We live in a rent-controlled apartment and we’d like to stay in it for a while.

I had my coffee and bagel at Muddy’s, incurring no further damage to my teeth. I kept my eye on the time as I usually do. I have yet to miss the bus and did not want to start.

At 6:34, I left the cafe and walked down Valencia Street toward my stop. Halfway there, I saw a couple of guys talking to a cop in his police car. They said there was a Mini going in circles in the middle of the street.

Sure enough, there it was a block and a half away, and sure enough, it was spinning around with its hazard lights blinking, all out of fucks for anything in the state vehicle code. The cop took after the Mini, cop lights on and spinning. The Mini turned onto Cesar Chavez with the police car in pursuit. I continued toward my bus stop, thinking the Mini driver (no relation to the actress) would end up with a nasty traffic ticket or perhaps a DUI.

About five minutes after arriving at the bus stop, I heard a police siren. The Mini was heading my direction on Valencia with the cop still in pursuit. It was not hot pursuit, mind you. The vehicles were maybe going 25 mph with the Mini exhibiting an OJ-in-a-Bronco. I pulled my phone out to get a picture of this battle of wills, but was too late and they were gone.

Two other police cars soon came down Valencia with their lights going, presumably to join the chase. The Mini would eventually lose this contest. It is the nature of things. Still, I wanted the driver to keep going as long as he or she could. The outcome may belong to them, but the moment belongs to you. Bless you for rubbing that in their faces.

The bus arrived and I boarded, thinking of the day’s tasks ahead of me.

Privilegemobile 12: Bumps in the Road

The bus arrived on time today, by which I mean it showed up when it usually does. It did not arrive at the time scheduled. I suppose it would be if it did, but it would also be impossible.

Its scheduled arrival time was 6:45 and it arrived five minutes after that. This is normal. I’ve ridden the bus for years and it has never arrived at 6:45.

None of this is the driver’s fault. He cannot simply leave five minutes earlier to make it right. There is a stop before mine at 18th and Castro where the scheduled time is 6:40. The bus arrives there on time almost every day. That leaves five minutes to get to 26th and Valencia, which is possible if there is zero traffic and he makes every light. He also may need to blow through a stop sign or two.

So each day, the driver is set up to fail because he is given a timetable that is impossible to meet. This is just a small example of why the world is an unjust place. If you need a bigger one, just look around. They’re not hard to find.

I was relieved that the bus showed up at all. Something happened on Friday and Monday, and I don’t know what.

Friday was especially puzzling. It’s a light commute that day, both in terms of traffic and number of passengers. As is often the case on a Friday morning, I was the only one at the stop waiting for my bus. As minutes passed and the expected arrival time lapsed, I started to wonder if the bus had come and I failed to notice it because I was dicking around on my phone.

It wasn’t the possibility of this arose. On the afternoon of the Friday before Memorial Day, I found myself in a similar situation. On that occasion, ended up taking a later bus and did not find out what happened until I checked my work email when I got back from a week’s vacation.

“Bus broke. Tough shit. Take another one.” -Team Privilegemobile

OK, I’m paraphrasing. My takeaway was that all will be explained in due time so when the later bus arrived that Friday morning, the first thing I did was bust out my laptop and check email.


During the day, I wrote some code (python instead of perl for a change) and all but forgot about my morning commute. During lunch, I surfed a little real-estate porn because of a long-term goal of moving to Portland. There were some nice town homes in the $300K range, something unheard of in the Bay Area for a very long time. Ultimately, the diversion got depressing.  It’s going to be at least a couple of years before we move up there so this kind of porn proved itself to be as unrealistic as any wank fodder.

Outside at the bus stop, the morning’s mystery was back in my head, albeit not getting star billing. I was thinking about a story I had started a few days earlier then abandoned it once I realized it sucked. It had an atrocity depicted with little left to the imagination, but that was its only asset. I was making a promise to myself to sprinkle some literary value on that dung heap when the bus arrived.

Only it wasn’t the same bus. It was smaller, not short-bus smaller, but a step in that direction. It was also a mystery solver. A replacement bus meant that a bus needed replacing.

I boarded the vehicle and the first thing I noticed was how fancy its interior was. The window blinds were akin to what one might find in the home. In the front of the bus, there were two rows of seats facing each other like a booth in a restaurant. I moved to my usual spot at the back of the bus and plopped my ass into an unexpectedly soft seat cushion.

It all felt like a slice of heaven until we got on the highway. It was then that I discovered that the bus had no shock absorbers to speak of.  The extra cushion in the seats came in handy every time the bus hit a bump and sent me airborne.

To be fair, I don’t think the vehicle was ever intended for intercity travel. Its designers probably intended it to shuttle white-collar dullards between a Marriott Courtyard and some conference at the Expo Center.

Since I am prone to motion sickness, reading was out of the question. I spent the trip staring out of the window and waiting for it all to be over.

Monday was another no-show for the morning bus. This time I had the reassurance of fellow stranded passengers around me. Fifteen minutes into our delay, one of them was on the phone to the shuttle service wondering what the holdup was. The customer-service rep assured her that a bus would coming along in 30 minutes. There was no truth in what was said, but it did succeed in getting the caller to hang up.

I waited until the next scheduled bus arrived. It was not time wasted. I spent the hour reflecting on what I witnessed and thinking about all the lies people have told to make others go away. I’ve been on both sides of that equation more times than I can remember. That’s probably true of most folks. I thought about a world where that was the driving force of society and concluded that it wouldn’t be such a bad place, no worse than what we have going on right now.

Privilegemobile 11: A Better Tomorrow

I don’t know much of anything about my bus driver’s personal life. I don’t know if he’s married, what books or movies he likes, or his preferred vacation spots. Everything I do know is expressed through how he drives the bus.

I know if another bus is ahead of him at the bus stop, he will wait patiently at the intersection rather than pull up right behind the other vehicle and block 26th Street. When he does pull up to the bus stop, it will be at the same spot day after day. If I see a deviation from either of these behaviors, I’ll know the regular driver is taking a sick day or is on PTO.

It’s the stopping at the same spot that I care about. With people boarding different shuttles for different companies, nobody cares about forming a single line. Instead, we just find an unoccupied spot along the sidewalk and play with our phones until our bus comes.

Whenever possible, I have a place staked out so I am right in front of the bus door when it opens. This almost ensures that I will get my preferred seat, all the way back and on the right. Sometimes it’ll be claimed by someone who boarded at an earlier stop, but that’s rare because of its proximity to the lavatory. My sense of smell is not great so I don’t much care. Blast away, party people. It’s all the same to me.

That’s what I do early in the a.m. Waiting for the bus is pretty innocuous as activities go, but not everyone sees it that way. This past Monday, a concerned San Franciscan decided to take action.

The woman was older, perhaps my age or even more than that. She carried a sign that said “Illegal Street Activity” to let us all know we were in violation of the law. No one paid much attention to her.

My bus arrived shortly after she did. I took my seat in the back and looked out the window. The woman was gone, but her sign was leaned against a trashcan, facing out toward the street.

I wondered what happened to the woman. Maybe she was eliminated by a tech-bro death squad. Maybe their throbbing cocks were in on the assault. None of that seemed likely. The privileged rarely have to resort to force to maintain their position in the social hierarchy when they have the system to do it for them.

She probably just planted the sign then left on her own volition. Her statement made, she was free to go back to her support group who would tell her how brave and proactive she was.

In some ways, I applaud what she did. Her methods were perfectly acceptable. She could have hopped the curb in her hybrid and mowed us all down, our dying screams drowned out by Joan Baez blaring from her car stereo. Instead, she chose to express her displeasure without violence. Good on her for that.

I’m not even completely against the reasons behind her action, if I’m right about what they were. I’m not talking about the explanation she’d give if asked why our presence was illegal. She would probably lie her ass off about that, citing traffic and loitering laws of her own creation.

Tech buses have already been barred from using municipal bus stops, and with good reason. However, there have been no laws passed barring them from the city in its entirety. As for loitering, perhaps she’d have a point if only because the definition is so arbitrary and enforcement so selective. Anybody standing still in a public place could be called a loiterer. Usually, it’s the grubby and impoverished who get busted for it instead of techie scum like me unless you have a serious ax to grind.

I’m guessing she does and I can’t say I blame her. San Francisco has changed a lot since I first moved here and not all for the better.  It used to be affordable as big cities go. If you wanted to pursue some passion that didn’t pay well like music or art,  it was doable with shared housing and a lame-ass job. If your passion was simply to stay up all night on drugs, that was doable as long as you made it to work in a semi-functional state. Sure, the streets were more dangerous back then, but I wasn’t exactly behaving like I wanted to live forever.

I used to walk down Valencia Street and see poor people pushing shopping carts down the sidewalk. Now I see rich people pushing strollers. “Faulty wiring” frequently causes fires that gut low-income apartment buildings and have luxury condos rise from the ashes. The transformation of SF wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for tech douches with a sense of entitlement as bloated as their bank accounts.

So yeah, lady, I get it. You don’t like what’s happening. You want to turn back time, like Cher, or put it in a bottle, like Jim Croce. I don’t like what’s happening either. The difference is that you want keep the ship from sinking after it has hit an iceberg. I’m just trying to make my way to a lifeboat.

That means working in tech and stashing enough money to cut and run before my luck runs out. And it will run out. I’ll eventually lose my job due to a layoff or quitting in a huff because my undiagnosed mental illness staged a coup. My rent-controlled apartment won’t last forever either. This is not a good town to grow old in.

Fortunately, I doubt I’ll have to. Becca and I plan to relocate to a city about 600 miles north of here. It’s called Portland, Oregon. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

We go up there whenever we can, feeling a little more at home each time. Some locals don’t much like people moving in and making everything more expensive. That no doubt sounds familiar to you. And while I can see where they’re coming from, Becca and I are still going to do what’s best for us.

I bet that sounds familiar as well.

Privilegemobile 10: Backseat Striver

When I get pulled into death’s clown car and taken on a one-way trip to that big circus tent in the sky, what will my biggest regret be? OK, never learning to vet my metaphors will rank pretty high on the list, but what else? Procrastination is the short answer. Like most short answers, it leaves out more than it includes.

It’s a cold, clear Friday morning and I’m on that part of the commute where traffic slows down as it approaches the turnoff for the San Mateo Bridge. I try to expand on the procrastination theme, but find myself distracted by sights and sounds I’ve seen and heard hundreds of times before.

It’s an aha moment and I’m about to pat myself on the back for my keen insight. Then I remember that the stuff about procrastination and clown cars was all window-dressing preamble and what I really wanted to blog about was an almost wholly unrelated topic.

Meanwhile, my decision to double down on my self-referential bullshit by writing about it instead of letting the backspace key work its magic has sent this writing headlong into a morass of meta.

What the fuck was that? I look up from my phone. I’m in Menlo Park already. Outside my window is what was once the corporate headquarters of Informix. I was a contractor there in the early 90s. At a holiday party one year, the CEO decided to treat us all to a home video of his children. This same CEO would later plead guilty to securities fraud and be sentenced to two months in federal prison. I wish the judge had known about the video incident. He might have tacked on another five years.

Now where was I? It was the point of all this. It’s always the goddamn point. Fine, I’ll get to it already.

I promote this blog five different places. The first four I’m sure you’ve heard of. They are Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Instagram. The fifth is a site for perverts called Fetlife.

Fetlifians (or whatever they call themselves) pride themselves on being responsible members of the kink community. Much of the writing there is proclamations of how things should be. If you have the soul of a hall monitor and an affinity for riding crops, Fetlife really is the place for you. Comments to these writings agree or disagree on the rules set forth and pretty soon, what had the potential for intelligent debate quickly devolves into ad-hominem attacks and the occasional death and/or rape threat.

I ponder why my work never generate such interest as the bus passes Moffett Field. The President supposedly lands there when visiting the Bay Area though I’ve never seen Air Force One parked on the runway.

I don’t have have to ponder for long. The reasons why my stuff has failed to be a hit on Fetlife are pretty obvious. For one thing, I post links to my blog rather than copying and pasting the entries. Clicking on strange links is scary and the name does not exactly inspire confidence. Visiting there could give you a virus, possibly AIDS.

I’m off the freeway now. Levis Stadium is off to the right and there is about 10 minutes left in my commute.

It isn’t just the link. The content itself is not that popular with that audience. It isn’t that I am too vanilla to understand the plight of the kinkster (oh heavens no). It’s just that I steadfastly write about what interests me and what interests me the most is myself. What I churn out has little mass appeal or bullet points to aid in its consumption.

I’m on a bridge crossing the Guadalupe River, which is little more than a creek except after heavy rains. Ahead lies the sprawling tech campus where thousands of us come each day and earn the kind of money that sends the local cost of living into the ionosphere. I’m sad to say I’m only barely complicit in this injustice. Compared to many, I don’t make dick.

I suppose I could learn to write for my market. On Felife, a surefire way to make their “Kinky & Popular” list is to cobble together a bunch of tepid kindnesses and slap on a title like “18 Things Domly O’Leatherpants Can Do To Make Weepy McSubsub Feel Less Like a Sack of Shit.” People swoon over that stuff because people are idiots.

So what’s stopping me? The short answer is procrastination. Those of you have read this whole will see that I’m thematically coming full circle, but only tangentially. Let me explain.

It is past procrastination that drives me. For the longest time, the bulk of what I wrote was scribbled into spiral notebooks and there it remained. That turned out to be fine as most of it wasn’t very good. Later I wanted some people to read what I wrote and thanks to the interwebs and social media, that was easy to get.

The problem was my love of instant gratification. I’m no genius, but I am somewhat clever so I’m able to fire off a mildly amusing quip more often than not. Fellow members of my mutual-admiration society would cough up some praise and I would feel good about myself for a while. That shit turned out to be addictive and I would go for the quick validation and never write anything of substance.

The only way to break out of that was to concentrate on writing what what I wanted to say and to hell with the rest. I wanted readers, sure, but I also wanted them to read what I wanted to write. That required some callousness in my resolve. Does my work not interest you? Tough shit. Are you triggered? Ha ha fuck you.

The bus pulls up to my stop and I step off into the cool, crisp air. As I trudge toward the building with my signature thousand-foot stare, I can take pride in being, above all things, honest.

This sounds good, but am I really that honest? I told no overt untruths either about the events of my morning commute or the thoughts running through my head. The lie was pretending that I blogged all this during one morning commute. I started writing this yesterday and the initial draft had “a cold, blustery Thursday” instead of “a cold, clear Friday.”  So what’s the big deal? In purportedly true stories, it is not uncommon to have some compression and tweaking of the facts. For example, multiple people can become a composite. Is it really so different to have two days joined into one? It isn’t, but it does throw bullshit into the mix. The end result is the false claim that I can turn my thoughts into prose in such a short amount of time. I’d like to claim that ability, but I cannot.

Of course, coming clean does have a way of spoiling the narrative so maybe you’re better off forgetting what I said. Just pretend the last paragraph doesn’t exist and picture me whipping out my phone as I walk toward the lobby and hitting the publish button without even bothering to check for typos.

Privilegemobile 9: Not My President’s Day

It was cold enough for my cat to love me last night. She was lying against my outstretched arm and using one of my fingernails as a place to scratch her chin. Lately, she has been down at the foot of the bed or under it, venturing into the kitchen occasionally to have a bite of food or take a dump in the vicinity of the litter box. She’s sixteen and a half, and more or less done with the world.

I know the feeling.

My alarm went off at its usual 5:45 and it was time to start. There was no drinking last night to hobble me this morning so I was able to shower, shave, and get dressed with a minimum of groaning. I gave Becca a goodbye kiss and called my cat a little bitch, taking care not to reverse the two.

It was 43F when I left the house this morning, cold weather unless you’re used to real winters. I am not. I zipped up my jacket, thrust my hands into my pockets, and marched off toward Muddy’s for my hot coffee and a toasted bagel.

I turned the corner from 24th onto Valencia St. and saw the lights in Muddy’s was off and the gate was shut. There was a sign in the window saying that in observance of President’s Day, they would not be opening until 7 am. Crap.

It was 6:23 and I didn’t fancy the idea of trudging to the bus stop and waiting in the cold for the next 25 minutes. Besides, I needed coffee. I walked back to 24th St. and headed in the direction of BART.

There was a cafe right next to the station. The coffee was passable, but I knew from a previous visit that they had no bagels. When I asked, the barista shook his head and gestured me toward an assortment of gluten-free inedibles. I decided not to go through that again.

Fortunately, Cafe La Boheme across the street was open as well. They would have bagels. In fact, they might have a whole variety of things. Unlike Muddy’s, the menu board was one of a full eatery. I didn’t know what was available at that hour though a bagel was a safe bet.

I went in and got a large coffee and a garlic bagel with cream cheese. I like Cafe La Boheme and regret not going there more often. There were only three customers including me at the time, but the regulars would drift in eventually and they are what give the place its character.

It’s an old-style coffee house with more books open than laptops and there are scruffy seniors with hair in their ears who play chess where a piece is moved about once every hour. It’s the kind of establishment that is quickly disappearing from San Francisco and eventually from the world.

After finishing my bagel, I headed to the stop at 26th and Valencia.  The bus arrived more or less on time, but with a different driver. The regular guy was probably on vacation. It seemed everyone but me had the day off. I knew this wasn’t true, but I grumbled about the injustice of it all anyway.

Facebook is my go-to source for what people say when they want to sound like everybody else. My newsfeed has been awash with stuff about how on this President’s Day, folks were going to celebrate 44 out of 45 because Trump sucks. I don’t like him either, but am unwilling to pretend the others were all peachy keen. But if you really want to honor the legacy of James Buchanan, far be it for me to stop you.

So when I said it’s “Not My President’s Day,” it’s not an expression of political solidarity. I was ticked I had to go to work. I was also not happy about having to go to the bathroom, a feeling that kicked in as I started writing this blog entry on the bus. Fortunately, the Privilegemobile has a restroom. Unfortunately, someone removed the toilet seat a couple of weeks ago. I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant, but there business to be taken care before I could concentrate on anything else.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the toilet to be reasonably clean. With the seat gone, I was afraid that greenlight people pissing all over everything. I spread some toilet paper around the outside of the bowl and sat myself down.

I had my phone with me so I read about the recent school shooting in Florida. The CNN site had an article about the victims. They all seemed like decent folks though even if any of them were assholes, I doubt that it would have been reported.

Also, I disagree with those who insist the press concentrate on the victims and not the perpetrator when covering mass murders. I get the appeal of depriving killers their fame, but they are the ones you look to  when trying to understand the crime. The people killed are tragic, but not terribly elucidating.

After I finished, stood up and hit the black flush button. Blue water spiraled the bowl and I wished my former fellow traveler farewell as it disappeared from view.

It was at that moment the bus hit a bump and the lavatory door flew open. I quickly slid it shut and relatched it. It was unlikely anyone saw me as the seats all face forward. Still, it was possible. My underwear was up, but my pants were around my knees. The sight of that could be triggering, but my Stars and Stripes boxers kept my patriotism beyond question.

At least there was that. With no traffic to hold it back, the bus raced southward. I returned to my seat and hunkered down.

Privilegemobile 8: Cold Veal Conundrum

The commute home has just entered its second (and hopefully last) big slowdown. The bus had made its stop at Millbrae BART and ran into a traffic snarl just north of SFO.

I stare out the window from my usual seat at the back of the bus. Daylight-savings time has just ended so it is dark out already. This suits me fine. There is nothing worth looking at in this part of the peninsula anyway. It is a perfect time to pursue my thoughts.

One of the nice things about privilege is that it allows you time to ponder the hypothetical. We can mull over a scenario with the kind of intelligence and evenhandedness that only comfort and distance can provide.

The less fortunate are routinely faced with personal and pressing matters, and it shows in their work. Much has been said about why the poor do such stupid things, but I’ll provide one more example for those of you who have missed out.

Imagine some piece-of-shit apartment building catches fire due to “faulty wiring” (aka “landlord arson”) and one of the residents flees said building as it’s being consumed by flames. “Oh no, Fluffy!” she cries, remembering her cat. Rather than relaying her concerns to those on the scene who have flame-retardant clothing and are trained in both fighting fires and cat rescue, she runs back into the building, which collapses on top of her. In an ironic twist, her tragic death fails to gain the attention of Fluffy, who is idly licking his butt half a block away.

There are two lessons to be learned here. The first is how a crisis situation can cloud your thinking. If every day is one breaking point after another, you are not going to make the best life choices. The second lesson, and the one that means the most to me, is how a cushy desk job and a relaxing commute can imbue even a near dullard like me the wisdom to conjure up pithy fables to illustrate the challenges of our troubled times.

Traffic is still at a crawl so I have plenty of time for other hypothetical situations. One springs to mind that goes head on against the big issues: death, passion, innocence, and how our sense of right and wrong is put to the test when all three intersect.

I picture a mother and her daughter sitting in a car inside of a garage. The garage door is closed, the car’s windows are down, and the engine is running.

“You know mommy loves you,” the mother says, clutching her daughter’s hand.

The daughter is about nine, old enough to sense that something is wrong but not old enough to know exactly what.  If nine sounds off for that level of cognition, the age can be adjusted to fit. Another correction option is to either make the daughter a gifted child or give her Down syndrome. I decide to keep her age at nine, but bump up both her IQ and her chromosome count. Why not? The kid is going to be dead soon anyway.

The mother is intent on spending her last moments in this world justifying what she’s doing, though to whom is uncertain, so she talks on and on. However, she doesn’t want to let on to her daughter that mommy’s going to kill her so she expresses herself in vague, high-minded concern.

“Evil, rich men are destroying our planet, but there is a better world just for you and me,” she says before she and her daughter succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning. Citing pollution as her reason for murder-suicide is an odd choice, considering her exit plan. If she were really so eco-conscious, she’d own a Tesla and the two would be sitting in the car unharmed while the battery ran down.

The husband finds them when he gets home from work. He says boo hoo, wipes a tear from his eye, and grieves an appropriate amount. This is not his story though I do wish him well in his journey through the healing process. The real story, the one chock full of moral gravitas, begins when the two bodies arrive at a funeral home owned by necrophiles.

Frank and Hank Gooley nominally run the business together, but it is Frank who calls the shots. He is a tall, lanky fellow with a professional demeanor that reminds one of a kindly Boris Karloff. His ability to say “My condolences” in a reassuring tone was without peer. It is he who chose the name for the mortuary, “Bon Voyage, Port of Call for Your Loved One’s Final Journey.”

His brother Hank is shorter, wider, and resembles Benny Hill. He has a disconcerting habit of licking his lips while saying “My condolences” so at Frank’s urging, he no longer utters those words. He has also been instructed never to call the mortuary “Bone Voyage, Home of the Boffin’ Coffin” in front of the bereaved as such levity is seldom appreciated.

The siblings stare at the mother and daughter lying naked and supine on the embalming tables. The two cadavers had been cut open stink to sternum by the medical examiner at the county morgue then haphazardly sewn shut after the autopsy with what looked like kite string.

“It’s a shame their beauty had to be marred when the cause of death should have been obvious to everyone,” Frank says.

“I like their whore makeup,” Hank says, referring to the redness of the lips and cheeks caused by the carbon monoxide.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll have my dance with the mother,” Frank says. “Only 38, such a shame. At least she will never have to suffer the feminine indignity of growing old.”

“Fine by me, I wanted the tiny tart anyway,” Hank says. “I can’t wait to make her little cooter sing like this.” Hank then proceeds to imitate the sound by shoving his hand into his armpit and flapping his elbow up and down to produce a series of fartlike noises.

At this point, it is hard to believe that such a refined man and one so utterly boorish could possibly be related. However, the difference between them quickly evaporates as the two siblings disrobe and commence their respective tasks at hand. Both men bare their teeth while savagely pounding away at their lifeless paramours. Both wheeze like chain smokers and grunt like sports fans on their uphill climb to climax.

Just then, a SWAT team bursts into the room and the question of how Frank and Hank might differ in the afterglow will forever remain a mystery. An anonymous tip from a disgruntled ex-employee has sealed the Gooley brothers’ fate and they are hauled off to prison.

Neither get a lot of sympathy from the public, but it is Hank receives the harshest condemnation. He is labeled a pedophile, a stealer of innocence, and the lowest of the low.

But is he really? I’m not going to justify necrophilia. There is an implied lack of consent that makes it a transgression. Whether it is more like rape or trespassing is open to some debate, but it is still wrong.

Even if it is rape, I am not on board with making it the moral equivalent of fucking a living child. What makes pedophilia truly reprehensible instead of just icky is the lasting damage that it does. Last time I checked, corpses don’t need much therapy.

I’ll concede that Hank Gooley shows room for improvement. He is as bad as his brother, but no worse. It’s not like  he killed anybody. That distinction goes to the mother, but the outrage over that has gone missing, upstaged by a lesser but more lurid crime. Apparently killing a living child has become better than fucking a dead one. It makes no sense and yet that is what we as a species do. It is a riddle of the dead-girl diddle, a puzzle of the perished preteen and the pizzle, a cold-veal conundrum if you will.

Traffic eases and the bus is once again moving at a reasonable speed. It is just as well. I have taken this story as far as it can go and I can tell you that I weep for humanity and how our hypocrisy has damned us all.

“Je suis Hank,” I say aloud, not caring if anyone on the bus is listening. In fact, I am proud of what I said. These are good words. These are the right words. These are pretty much the only words I know in French. I sit back and stare out the window at the approaching city limits, basking in the glow of my own sage wisdom.

Je suis Hank. Damn I’m good.

Privilegemobile 7: The Things Outside the Window

It is a 43-mile bus ride from 26th and Valencia Streets in San Francisco to the stop in front of my building at work. I got the total miles from Google Maps app on my phone. I’ve learned to trust Google Maps.

The total is probably more than that, but I don’t know by how much. I put in the start and end points, but did not take into account the stop at Millbrae BART. The total trip from the freeway exit to the station and back could be a mile. I really don’t know. Including this detour could have given me a more accurate figure. Then again, maybe not. The “43 miles” Google Maps tells me has no decimal point and no inkling whether the integer is rounded or truncated.

I used the app in the afternoon so the total drive time could not be taken as gospel either. The 1:19 it predicts however is pretty close to how long it takes most days. Go figure.

I have ridden the bus to work well over 100 times by now. I spend most of the time drinking my coffee and staring out the window at passing scenery. City-limit signs and prominent buildings have become familiar sights. I sit on the right, away from the morning sun, so everything I see is out that window. I don’t see a landscape, but rather points on a line. Given enough time, I tell myself, I’ll become enough of an expert on that narrow strip of scenery to give a full account of everything that lies along kinda-sorta 43 miles.

That, my friends, is a textbook example of hubris. Even for the most attentive among us, this is an unrealistic goal. Let’s say for argument’s sake that every building, tree, and anything else visible from the bus will register in my brain over the next decade or so. At best, that would make me the kind of authority that comes with major disclaimers. Trees are cut down, buildings are demolished and built, and businesses close and new ones open. What I’ll be left with is a patchwork where the whole will not have existed at any single point in time.

And let’s be honest. I don’t pay that much attention. I am more focused than I used to be. Of course, all that means is that I don’t check out mentally all the time, only when the current situation is boring or unpleasant. Or if something fun pops into my head and I decide to run with it.

More often than not, I step off the bus in the morning only vaguely aware of the 43 (or whatever) miles I traveled during my commute. I get to my desk and sit down. Now I am focused. Now I am paying attention. Just don’t ask me where a particular conference room is located because I really haven’t got a clue.

Privilegemobile 6: Hell Is Other People

My morning commute is pretty relaxing. I have usually gotten enough sleep the night before, I have my morning coffee in hand, and there are yet to be any workday aggravations to weigh on me. The bus is also pretty much empty.  I like that most of all. It turns out not many people want to go stand on a street corner before seven a.m. There is really no need since the bus that comes an hour later stops at the building where I work at an acceptable 9:20, give or take.

In the afternoon, there are also two buses that follow the same route. I take the earlier one.  So do a lot of other people. Now I’m not blaming anyone for taking the late bus down and the early one back. If they still get their work done (or even if they don’t), it really is no business of mine.

This does make for a more crowded bus, but not hugely so.  The bus has never gotten so full that people have had to stand. The lack of handrails would probably make it illegal to operate the vehicle at that capacity anyway. It is not even so full that the seat next to me is necessarily going to end up taken. Alas, it’s not necessarily going to remain vacant either.

It is late summer now, which makes it the season for summer interns. Thankfully, they seem to be a nice enough bunch this year. They are certainly better behaved than the high-fiving bro-fest that plagued my afternoon commute last year. My only issue with them is that they push total vehicle occupancy past the brink, the brink being the point where I run the risk of someone sitting next to me.

As situations go, this one is pretty small potatoes and yet it causes more distress than if every seat were taken every day. If this were the case, I would simply resign myself to my fate and spend the bus ride mentally withdrawn into a singularity. If however the outcome is uncertain, then I am faced with a stressful game to play.

The rules of this game are quite simple. The seat next to you remains vacant until someone asks to sit down. If someone does ask, you cannot tell that person no.I have no idea what it it’s like to be a seat seeker since I get on the bus at one of the first stops so I only know what it’s like to play defense.

On the surface, it sounds like a rather boring game of chance and it would be just that you didn’t get to load the dice with body language. It’s all about making someone feel unwelcome. Alas, this form of dissuasion is easy to do and it seems like everybody is in on the act. Late-boarding coworkers looking to sit down walk down the center aisle and  are greeted by averted eyes, diagonal sitters, bags and laptops opened and laid out on the untaken seat, and manspreading so wide it pushes the hamstrings to design limit.

And I am right there with them, spiral notebook atop my backpack on the seat next to me as I lean over and scribble away. I used to object to such inconsiderate displays and even griped about it on Facebook, but my high ideals eventually collapsed and I joined the passive-aggressive horde.

It’s a demeaning game all around, but I only have to play it for three shuttle stops over a ten-minute period.  After that, it’s onto the freeway where if I’m lucky, I might celebrate my good fortune by putting the notebook away.

Privilegemobile 5: My Old Friend Mr. Gray

I am looking forward to short winter days. Job stability permitting, I’ll board the bus with the sky still dark, sit way in the back, and stare out at a world that is allowed a little more time to sleep. The insanities that come with night will have receded and for a few precious hours, the city is a peaceful place.

I don’t have that now, but I can take some comfort in the overcast skies this summer. The  gray sky I see out the bus window carries over to the buildings and any people I happen to see walking down the street at that hour. This makes what I see pleasantly unreal, but there is more to it than that. This gray sky is a pleasant reminder of the city I’ve lived in and grown accustomed to, a city is that growing unrecognizable.

It is also a welcome change of pace. California, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention to anything, has been in a serious drought as of late. San Francisco’s cool summer days and the famous quote falsely attributed to Mark Twain have been sorely missed over the last couple of years. Locally, the drought seems to have abated though further south, the heat of the sun burns like a rash and the dead-grass rolling hills are ready to burst into flame at any moment.

I feel swaddled by the exterior grayness as the bus rolls down Cesar Chavez Blvd. toward the entrance to the 101.  From there, there’s one more stop at the Millbrae BART station and that’s it until we’re in the South Bay. The fog is usually gone by the time we’re halfway down the peninsula. I enjoy it for as long it lasts.

While it does last, I let the grayness of the sky carry my thoughts into the past. There is no honest reflection here, just vague, innocuous memories of how I like to think life was. It has been said that hindsight is 20-20. That is only true until it turns into nostalgia. Then it sees nothing but a nice, soft blur. I am OK with that for now. There will be time enough to agonize. There is always time for that.

Privilegemobile 4: Ball Tourette Gunner

As usual, the fan was on in the bedroom last night. However, I was not thinking about warp drive or interstellar travel. The metaphor had ceased to hold up even though I was just trying to get to sleep.

It was still a song to relax to, but it held no promise of long-term serenity. Instead, it was respite from some impending event that would require what I am most stingy with: my undivided attention.

So naturally, I imagined the sound came from a B-17 bomber and I was on my way to some target city in Europe.

I thought about this quite a bit on this morning’s bus ride to work while sitting in my usual spot way in the back and feeling the mild bumping and jostling as we rolled south from SF on the 101. I think this is one of the older buses in the fleet and the years of wear plus the odd hopped curb have taken their toll on the shocks. It’s not an unpleasant ride as long as I do nothing but relax and stare out the window. If I try to do anything productive, motion sickness is soon to follow.

With time on my hands, my thoughts turned to the B-17. I’ve been exposed to some fun things about the plane over the years. There’s Randall Jarrell’s unflinching short poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” which I’ve always loved. There was also Jimmy Stewart, who flew a B-17 on something like 20 missions on his hiatus from Hollywood, and the otherwise ho-hum Harrison Ford flick Hanover Street that had a nifty scene where just about everybody in a B-17 Ford was flying got killed.

Strangely, I knew close to nothing about the plane itself until started playing this old game my friend Ralph had, “B-17” or “Flying Fortress” or something like that. It was a board game of sorts where the board was a map of Europe with concentric semicircles expanding outward from England. The semicircles were the borders of zones that the different target cities fell within. Inside of each zone, a roll of the dice determined if you had to fend off German fighters. When you reached your target, fighters were pretty much a given.

The object of the game was to complete 25 missions and not die. I always died.

What I found perversely appealing about this game was that other than requiring a human hand to roll the dice, the game played itself. The missions selected, the outcome of air combat, and the accuracy of the bombing were all decided by what was rolled. There was no being good or bad at this game. There was just lucky and unlucky.

I learned that the B-17 had a 10-man crew and what their jobs were. There was the pilot, the co-pilot, the bombadier, the navigator, the flight engineer, the radio operator, two waist gunners, the tail gunner, and the hapless ball-turret gunner. Because putting any mental effort into winning the game was pointless, my mind was free to think about which crew member I would like to be most.

At first I wanted to be the co-pilot because he doesn’t have to do jack shit unless the pilot dies, but I gave up on that when I realized that I was not officer material. I also decided against being a ball-turret gunner despite there being a neat poem about him. My death wish, while it exists on some level, is mostly played up for effect. Ultimately, I went with the radio operator because I could be the CW McCall of the sky.

I made that decision in 1987 and have never found a reason to go back on it.  I closed my eyes as the bus continued south. The rattling of the bus was air turbulence. No reports of fighters. The skies were clear and the German countryside laid out before us, too pristine and rural to pockmark with craters.

Suddenly, the plane is gone and I’m sitting up in my seat looking around. Four accidents on the southbound 101 in the vicinity of Palo Alto have brought traffic to a near standstill. The Luftwaffe has won this round, at least by proxy.