Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Postcard from the frizzy edges, with a pot of lentils on the side

The Frizzy Edge, the next chapter of There and Back Again Electrically.

 RantMom: I didn’t see you on the news.

 RantWoman: Well I missed the #BlackLivesMatter demonstration. I missed both the demos for and against equal access for transgender people to the restrooms they identify with. I missed a couple other demos. So No, I would not expect you would have seen me on the news.

 Instead RantWoman was collecting data on the frizzy edge of various strands of transportation and communication infrastructure.

Monday RantWoman joined a contingent from her faith community to go to Olympia lobby the heck out of the Washington Legislature. #waleg

 One of the joys of RantWoman’s vision issues is that she gets to make reasonable accommodations requests of friend and foe alike. #a11y RantWoman is really grateful to have received the handouts pages in advance. RantWoman thinks it would have been COOL to include hot links to the legislature’s bill tracker page for the bills to be addressed. RantWoman is also the sort who might like to tweet copies of the sheet from the website to others. Oh well, maybe next year and in the meantime, you’re welcome for the free electronic advocacy consulting.

Remember RantWoman’s somewhat high-strung, verbally over-the-top electric-car driving friend Monsieur Chauffeur? Before Christmas, Monsieur Chauffeur managed to total his Leaf because of body and frame damage caused by some inattention-related crunch into a parked car.

 Monsieur Chauffeur is frequently able to salvage triumph from such awkward moments. In this case internet research and relentless negotiating yielded not another Leaf, but instead a new lease of an all-electric BMW, sustainably sourced, full life cycle analyzed, all sorts of German engineering touches which Monsieur Chauffeur is always too happy to tell passengers about.

 German engineering or not, there seem to be hiccups. On RantWoman’s first ride there had been some hiccup about downloading travel coordinates from an iPhone to the car. Monsieur Chauffeur had called one level of customer assistance and learned he would need to talk to some kind of connectivity guru on Monday. RantWoman is glad we arrived at our destination on a Saturday anyway.

 RantWoman also appreciates that the car’s GPS does not seem to get as upset when driver’s deviate from its routing suggestions as some other car GPS systems RantWoman has ridden with. At one moment on Monday’s trip the car was extremely polite while telling Monsieur Chauffeur he needed to make a legal U-turn!

 Next moment of infrastructure frizzy edge: connectivity at that place we gathered to organize ourselves. Whine. Grumble RantWoman realized she might be the only person in the group wanting to tweet and set about asking a couple somewhat Twitter-aware fellow travelers about hashtags. No one had thought of the issue so RantWoman appointed herself hashtag czar. Grumble. Maybe if RantWoman had better cell coverage she would have checked out the hashtag she chose. Only later in the day did she realize the day’s tweet stream has a hashtag in common with something in Australia. Oh, well. Twitter users, COPE.  #qld2016

This trip the electric car hiccup was in charging the vehicle. Seattle to Olympia is just on the outer edge of the car’s range and Monsieur Chauffeur had looked up charging options in parking lots on the Capitol grounds. The parking lot attendants were helpful with directions to vacant spots. Monsieur Chauffeur plugged in his chariot, invoked whatever was supposed to happen from swiping a membership card and off we went to lobby.

We did not yet for instance have anything to lobby about as far as asking electric car users to pay for roads just as other drivers do through their gas tax. RantWoman is pleased to note that very capable public servants in the WA Department of Transportation are working on this, but in the meantime, there would be the public howling as Puget Sound Eastside drivers learn they either need to work with tolling and congestion relief or they need to fund other transportation options. Or both! And yes, RantWoman is GLAD there are ongoing discussions of #carbon pricing and funding streams also mixed up in the conversation, even though nothing focused emerged for this group to lobby about.

 RantWoman is also glad she had plenty else to talk about that day and managed not just to spew scorn on the WA Senate Republicans who think that summarily firing the Secretary of Transportation is the way to solve complex transportation problems where technical know-how and need to iteratively adjust different parameters are highly on point. #WAGOP

 Even the most passionate advocates eventually go home. RantWoman, Monsieur Chauffeur, and another passenger gathered and returned to the car late in the afternoon. Monsieur Chauufeur inserted the key and the car emitted pitiful communications about having only a 5-mile range, not the fully charged range we were expecting. Thinking the problem might be the charging station, Monsieur Chauffeur moved the car to another charging station. No evidence of charging. Call customer service, a couple different voices, at times projected into the whole car.

 Monsieur Chauffeur was getting frustrated. His available data streams were not doing a great job about finding other charging options, dealership options closer than Tacoma, options to get back to Seattle One of the customer service streams involved suggestions of a 90-minute wait to put the car on a flatbed and take it back to Seattle. At some point Monsieur Chauffeur and one of the customer service voices figured out that maybe the problem was not with the car but somehow with the card reader needed to validate Monsieur Chauffeur for that particular charging network. That still left the problems either of finding a high-capacity charging option close by, inviting oneself to stay overnight and charge the car with someone we knew in Olympia or of getting back to Seattle. Monsieur Chauffeur could go with the car, but not those pesky passengers.

 Enter the transit options on Google Maps.

 Enter Google maps, except RantWoman’s phone is getting flaky about holding a charge, flaky in a way that suggests need for a new physical device. RantWoman had already partially charged her phone after some topical tweeting, but by this time the phone was also emitting pathetic signs of electronic insufficiency.

 Yes, Options exist. Other Passenger and RantWoman can walk a few blocks and be on a transit path to home. Or Monsieur Chauffeur can use a bit of his range to spare and drop us at the Olympia Transit Center. This option featured invaluable amenities: a RESTROOM and a live human to answer questions. RantWoman somehow did not absorb from info on her phone that the most direct bus goes from Olympia to Seattle in the Morning and comes back in the evening, but plan B, a Thurston Transit bus to Lakewood and a Sound Transit bus from there proved fine.

 The routing was fine. Then there was paying the fare. Sigh. RantWoman has a Regional Reduced Fare Permit. RantWoman also has plenty of money in her ORCA wallet for trips not covered by her monthly pass. The one thing RantWoman did not have was cash. One thing Thurston ttransit does not yet have is ORCA card readers. Sigh.

 RantWoman tends not to carry cash. If RantWoman has cash, she tends to, well, spend cash. On Monday, RantWoman had thrown the cash she had into a donations bowl related to lunch.

 RantWoman’s friend had cash. Exact change was another matter, and RantWoman’s friend is pretty much an ORCA card virgin. This meant she wound up paying more to transfer between systems than she would have if she used an ORCA card. Sigh. It also meant when we needed one more fare for the last leg of the trip on Light Rail, RantWoman’s friend got a whole bunch of Sacajawea dollars back from the $10 bill she inserted into the vending machine, a sort of satisfying bonus all in all.

 RantWoman also lives in a fantasy world where it should be possible sometimes to pay another passenger’s fare from her ORCA wallet. RantWoman’s experience about this desire is uneven. Just sayin’.

 Everyone got safely home. RantWoman fed the Queen of Spdes and feasted on her most recent culinary exercise with lentils, and we all lived to lobby another day, if we are LUCKY about things we care about that make it past cutoff or get woven somehow into the budget. Stay Tuned.



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