Houston Metro, How May We Disgust You?

I’ve ridden on the Metro systems of the world; New York City, Washington D.C., Paris and Mexico City.  One day I hope to ride on the most beautiful Metro system in the world, the Moscow Metro, but I digress.  Houston Metro has to be, by far, the worst Metro system in what is rated as a World-Class city.  Sure, we have highways that are 20 lanes wide…and constantly choked by traffic, but what good is a city that cannot move it’s citizens around in a expedient and efficient manner?  What’s the matter with the Houston Metro, you ask?  Oh well, let me tell you!

Let’s just ignore the fact that the entire system is perpetually late, that trains have to stop for cars and that it is considered normal operating practice for buses to run as much as 30 minutes late, let’s forget all about that…instead, what follows is a one day account of riding Houston Metro…

I’m waiting at the corner bus-stop, as I do every morning to get to work.  I’ve gotten used to the fact that the bus never arrives at its 7:14 scheduled time, and instead always shows up at 7:20.  Granted six-minutes isn’t a big deal, but when that means you’re six minutes late for your train that means the difference of showing up 15 minutes early, just on time or 15 minutes late…do you begin to see the problem already?

The bus shows up with our usual driver, a kind fellow – unlike most drivers.  I go to take my normal seat across from the back door, but I notice that it’s wet.  Wet actually doesn’t beging to describe it.  To be perfectly blunt, there’s a puddle square in the middle of it.  Uppon closer inspection, it is urine…yes someone peed on the bus…I look down at my feet, sure enough, there’s pee on the floor too.  Luckily I don’t eat breakfast before I leave the house, so there’s nothing to vomit when I start to heave.  I take a seat across the isle from a very well dressed black woman on her phone.  I notice her because the other day she had on a dated, but classic outfit.

We start bumping along the way and stop to pick up the next passenger.  She’s clearly unwell.  She’s talking to herself, arguing with herself, confused by her surroundings, but she’s not disturbing anyone or any real danger.  I thought that, like me, everyone else would allow her to do her thing and let her be in peace – I felt sorry for her.  Then the well dressed black woman laughs…and it all goes downhill from there.

To clarify, she wasn’t laughing at the sick woman, she was laughing at something someone said to her on her phone.  The schizophrenic woman jerks around and says, quietly, “don’t be laughin’.”  I glance up from my book for a moment, then get back to reading.  I figured that everyone else on the bus was a rational individual and noticed this woman was clearly troubled, but I was wrong.  The black woman starts:

“Ex-Cuse-Me?  Whachu say bitch?”

Oh Christ, I certainly didn’t peg her for being like that.

“I…I said don’t be laughin’.”

Ugh, just let it go, why would you antagonize someone who’s ill?  But no, she can’t let it go, she has to look tough, stupid, stupid, stupid.

“I be on my phone!  I be laughin’ when I wanna laugh, don’t be tellin’ me what to do.  Dis bitch up in here frontin’ with the wrong bitch to-day!”

Wow, I’ve never seen someone go so ghetto so quick…other than Tyra Banks.  So needless to say if one person escalates, what’s the other person going to do?  That’s right!  The sick woman gets up and starts screaming at the supposedly non-sick one, they get face to face, just next to me.  I’ve given up reading about the collapse of the Soviet Union and start to pull out my cell phone to call the Metro Police, since the bus driver isn’t doing a damn thing but watching and saying “yall need to stop, yall need to calm down.”

Finally the bus stops, we’re only about 10 blocks from my house.  I’m freaking out, I’m waiting for someone to pull a knife or a gun or something, and briefly I wish I had a damned gun.  I can’t make my exit through the back door because the two women are directly in my path, I can’t even get up.

“Ima whoop yo sorry ass, biiiitch, don’t FUCK with me!”  This is the non-sick one.

“Don’t you talk to me like that!  Let’s go!  Let’s role!  I’ll take you down!  C’MON!  LET”S GO!”

I call the cops, give them our location…then finally the bus driver chimes in “One of you needs to get off the bus, now!”

One?  Just one?  Hell, let ’em both off!

“I ain’t leavin’ this mother fuckin’ bus, tell dat bitch to get off.”  Can you guess which one this is?

Finally the ill woman gets off, screaming about how she wants her buck-fifty back and how the bus driver is gonna pay…I’m kinda let down someone didn’t get stabbed, but also glad that I didn’t.  I talk to some of my coworkers about the drama when I get to work, aparently this isn’t an unheard of event on Houston Metro…

Billions of dollars, and billions more approved for more metro.  How about Houston spends those billions on making the Metro they have at least run right and run safe?

More Good News

Just a heads up everyone, I am now a small time columnist for a small paper that caters to the Houston/Galveston market!  My first article was published this weekend – it’s biweekly – and let’s hope this is just the beginning of more to come!

Rule 520

 My current temporary position is itching to hire me full time; I’ve never seen an employer so eager. There’s a snag – isn’t there always – my agency wants at least $5,500 for the privilege of hiring me. By their calculations that’s 15% of what my salary would be. $5,500! That’s NUTS! I’m my biggest fan and even I wouldn’t want the University to pay that! Another issue is the fact that nobody is sure who would pay it. Human Resources say they don’t, our Administrative Office says they don’t and the office I’m in – says they can’t because they’re funded entirely by grants. I start to prepare for a lawsuit. I may have signed contracts and they may have too, but this has at least got to constitute unfair labor practices, these people are practically holding a non-profit -department hostage and practically forcing me to stay with them as a temp forever.

 

“Trevor,” Eva, our compliance and regulations officer starts, “Dr. Moro really wants to hire you, we hope you like it here, we all love having you here, but this five-thousand dollars, it’s just impossible for us to do.”

 

“Have you tried negotiating with them? The number it arbitrary, they’re hoping you won’t argue and just pay it.”

 

 “We haven’t. Isn’t there some way around this?”

 

“Let me make some calls, see what I can find out.”

 

“Please do, send them to me if you have to, but if you can find a way to save us that money, you’re in.”

 

Suddenly I’m tasked with having to fight for my job. I call down to our Administrative Office and let my supervisor know that she has to fight the %15 the agency is demanding. She says she’ll do it, that she wants to keep me here. She makes her calls and is thwarted by the agency; they refuse to budge from their $5,500.

 

Luckily I’ve made a few good contacts in the temporary agency industry and none of them with my current agency, which I often remind people are the rudest and most unprofessional people I’ve ever dealt with. I call up some other agencies, speak to my contacts and they’re all very helpful and very kind…too bad my current contract isn’t with them. I’m on the phone with one woman.

 

“So what’s going on here, Michelle, is that my current contract wants to drop XYZ and sign up with another company – they’re unhappy with the service.”

 

“Well we can definitely do that, thanks for calling me about that. Does your current contract have any concerns?”

 

“Yes, well, they’re concerned about what happens when they want to hire a temp on full time.”

 

“Well we abide by the industry standard Rule 520.”

 

Rule 520? I’ve heard of 420, 24/7 and the B-52’s, but what the hell….

 

“What’s that?”

 

“Oh, Rule 520? Its industry standard practice, after 520 hours – three months – you can be hired without any cost to the employer.”

 

“Really?”

 

HA! Got ya now!

 

She goes on for a few minutes, I give her all the info she needs and I bring this news to Eva and our Administrative Office. I mention that a lot of different things could be happening here. 1.) The agency could be playing dumb about 520, 2.) They’ve excluded it from our contract or 3.) They don’t practice it at all. Either way, I’ve done my part; it’s in our Administrative Offices hands now.

 

Eva and I sit back and talk about why I want to work in the HIV/AIDS Research Department, and why I would, ostensibly, take a sizable pay cut and technically a demotion to be here. It’s pretty easy to explain because it’s all truth and comes from my heart; if I have enough money to live, then I don’t care about titles or income, what I care about is being able to be part of a team that’s actually creating difference and change in this world. In short, I’d rather be part of something bigger that branding the newest, latest way to part customers from their money. Eva’s phone rings, and I leave her office to give her privacy.

 

I hear her shouting.

 

“THOSE BASTARD! I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT!”

 

I try not to listen; it’s none of my business…until….

“They were just going to steal a job from him like THAT!”

 

My ears perk.

 

“Well that’s amazing news, just fantastic!” I run over to her office and she’s practically jumping out of her chair.

 

“What? What is it!” I ask.

 

“They don’t do 520; they do 360…that’s only 7 more weeks and they weren’t gonna tell us! Those bastards!”

 

“THE JOB IS MINE?!”

 

“IT’S YOUR’S!”

 

We shout and jump up and down and high-five. I stop and ask Eva,

 

“So they were just gonna charge you $5,500 and not tell you that after 360 hours you could have me for free?”

 

“Yup.”

 

 “You know, that’s pretty foolish. Because they piss someone off when they find out, like you, and then someone, like you, goes to Human Resources and informs them of how this company we have a contract with is technically screwing them out of a lot of money or great employees.”

 

 “And you bet I’m going to speak to Human Resources about it too.”

 

I chuckle. I feel like standing on a desk and letting out a roar…I beat the bastards at their own friggen contract game. Have you ever had people fight for you to be hired and then cheer for you when it happens? IT FEELS GOOD!

 

I remind Eva that that $5,500 is more than accounted for in the fees that they’re paying the agency weekly for my time here – I’ve seen the invoices; the agency takes nearly double what I get weekly. She says she knows, but the contract is paid through a central office, whereas the $5,500 flat fee would have been charged directly to our office. As much as the entire Medical School is a team, it’s also a series of fiefdoms that has it’s time-value-of-money seriously backwards. But no matter, by March 30th I’ll be the newest member of our Team and it feels good!

 

Endnote

Anybody who works for a temp agency or knows someone who does, make sure you ask the agency if they follow the industry standard 520 Rule or what derivation of it they do. They may say it goes contract by contract, so make sure you ask for each assignment…the agency isn’t your friend. You do most of the work, they get most of the pay…the more you know about how they operate the less chance you have of being stuck in the temporary employment trap for long.

ENOUGH ALREADY!

In the span of one-weeks time I’ve been accused by two different men of hating gay people and having a real issue with being gay, so you know what- here we go:

I have no issue with gay people or being gay.  What I take issue with is the fact that because I’m gay I should do, like and be certain ways and things, totally ignoring the fact that there’s 100% human being in here.  My being gay is about as relevant as my having brown eyes – it’s a trait I have, but it doesn’t define me.  I am not your damned stylist, or your fucking comic relief like some modern age man in black face tap dancing for all the nice folk.  These seemingly harmless stereotypes are just as poisonous as the ones of sex and race marginalization.  Why don’t you go and ask your black friend the best place to get fried chicken, see how that goes over.  Or how about you ask your Latino friend what it’s like to be a day laborer.  No, I don’t hate being gay, what I hate is the notion that it defines me.

The gay communities #1 enemy?  The gay community.  You must conform!  You must be this way, or you’re completely devalued, debased and dehumanized.  Weren’t we supposed to be fighting for everyone to have a voice?  For everyone to be created equal?  Nope, sorry, go play into the mold that NBC, Bravo! and every other damned media outlet has created for you, go ahead.  Show the world that you’re nothing but sheep.  The community whines, and moans that they’re not getting equal treatment…well how about you start at home.  Here’s a clue, AB MUSCLES ARE NOT NORMAL!  It’s not rights for the pretty ones and the rest can go to hell, it’s rights for EVERYONE!

OK, sure, so I do like some pretty typical things that gay people like, example one, Judy Garland.  But you know what, talent is talent.  Unlike Britney Spears and whatever the next wreck-de jour is, there is a difference between blindly following the tune of a marketing directors drum, and identifying true talent.

Can I tell you what designer labels are in?  Nope, can you tell me?  Can I tell you what color looks good on you?  Sure, but you told me that first and I’m only honest when I tell you you look fat…gays aren’t honest, friends are.  Can I dance?  Not on your life, can you?  I don’t know what puce is, beer and wings are my idea of heaven, I like to sit around in jeans and a hoodie, I don’t have to have to newest, prettiest, shiniest whatever it is that’s in vogue this minute and for this I’m marginalized by the supposed gay community.

Well you know what, I’m here to tell you something.  This community sucks.  Get your shit in order, figure out what you want from your country and your government, until then, I’ll just sit aside and watch you all destroy yourselves.  I’ll be over here drinking my beer, wearing my ratty old jeans, watching A Star Is Born.

_____________________

What brought this on?

A phone call last night from a fellow columnist at the Montrose GEM called to tell me that a lesbian is running for mayor.

“Um, ok, yay?”

“Why do you hate being gay?”

“Woah, what? Excuse me?”

“You seem to have a real issue with being gay.”

“No, John, I have a real issue with the fact that because I’m gay I’m supposed to be a certain way.  I don’t give a damn if the person running for mayor people’s her bed with sheep.  All I care about is her platform.”

“Oh….well I came at this wrong…..there’s this awesome person running for mayor, with an amazing platform, oh and she happens to be a lesbian.”

“Wow, that’s awesome, I gotta see what her platform is.”