I went back to work full time this week after my prolonged involuntary sabbatical featuring periodic consulting work. Here’s what I learned:
1.) Don’t park in Oakland. Just don’t. Fortunately, this is only temporary for the summer because I have to drop the kid off somewhere else and can’t take public transportation. In the fall, I’m taking the bus that’s within walking distance from my house. My brilliant plan to take public transportation will work perfectly. Bwahahahahahahahahhhhh!**
2.) It’s easier to get up and get going at 6am than 9am. Go figure. I guess I really am a morning person. If I get up too late, I might as well bag the rest of the day.
3.) Don’t take the Parkway to work, especially if your route has to go through the Squirrel Hill tunnels. Getting to work on time? Nah-gah-happen.
4.) If you want to get to the South Side in the morning, do the counterintuitive route and go east and then north west. Sounds bizarre but I cut a lot of time off my trip and the view of Pittsburgh in the morning as I’m flying over the bridges is spectacular. We were gobsmacked. It looks like some skyline poster from the early twentieth century and you can almost hear Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background. I need to get a dash mountable video camera. Pittsburgh really is beautiful. Buy real estate now because when the rest of the biotech industry decides to move here, the neighborhoods with the great views will be in high demand. I almost feel like buying a fixer upper nearer to downtown to renovate. (No, no, stop me before I buy again. What am I thinking??)
5.) Another counterintuitive thing: There’s more variety and diversity in Pittsburgh than in suburban New Jersey. What I mean to say is that the marketers haven’t really pinned down this city so there seems to be a lot of choice here where there’s virtually no choice in New Jersey. I feel like I’ve been missing something for the past 20 years.
** What is with the conservatives’ hatred of public transportation and trains?? I don’t get it. 30 years ago, I got around Pittsburgh without a car because the bus system was excellent. In the past few years, funding for the PAT bus system has been cut, as have many routes. This is a real problem for the studdabuppas who never learned to drive and now find themselves stranded in their neighborhoods without the buses they used to rely on. In my case, the bus will stop close to my house at 7:04am and I will have to transfer closer to town. I used to be able to take the bus directly to my destination but someone decided that people in the east suburbs didn’t need as many buses so they cut back and changed the route. That means more traffic gets dumped onto the Parkway and snarls local roads on the way downtown. And this is the summer. I can’t wait to see what it’s like in the fall when everyone is back from vacation.
One disturbing trend I’ve heard from a couple of my 40 something cousins is that they think it’s alarming when an employer has to pay benefits to new hires and I think that’s part of what’s behind the cutbacks in public transportation. The PAT drivers are union and they get bennies. So, if there are fewer buses and more complaints, maybe there will be more pressure on the unions to drop their demands for benefits. The public might be willing to chuck the bennies in exchange for more bus drivers who are new hires not covered by the old contracts. Just speculation on my part as to what the politicians are thinking. I think it’s going to be tough to convince a lot of the boomer generation though who grew up in a very union city where the buses ran great and who still think that there’s nothing wrong with benefits.
Pittsburgh could use more trains. It’s depressing to walk through Oakmont, a lovely little town on the Allegheny not too far from me, and see the unused train tracks that run right through the center of town to downtown. Now, that former commuter train area is a pretty landscaped park. I’m not exactly sure why it can’t be prettily landscaped and functional but for some bizarre reason known only to the editorial columnists at the Wall Street Journal, the wealthy, powerful and Republican hate, Hate, HATE trains, even if it means that the minions can’t get to work on time with the least amount of trouble and expense.
I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind this. The wealthy and Republicans don’t need trains so no one can have them? It’s perfectly ok to spend $150 million of public funds on a new sports facility because that’s what the wealthy want but not ok to spend the same amount of money on a better bus system because that’s what the not so wealthy want?? Who died and made them gods? Where do they think they’re living? Rome? Even Rome knew that it was a bad idea to skimp on the bread for the masses. What’s really a bad idea is to party like there’s no tomorrow while the natives get restless and the barbarians are at the gate.