If you're mildly cynical like us, you probably imagine that the ads were actually designed to make the public aware of the price increase and that the feel-good PR copy is mere camouflage. If you're really cynical, you probably want to know how Muni can afford advertising if the agency's so short on funds that it needs to raise rates.
No need to worry, though; Muni didn't spend a red cent on this campaign. You did -- or rather, the federal government did, thanks to you. Yes, U.S. taxpayers were responsible for all $148,000 paid out for the advertisements.
According to spokeswoman Maggie Lynch, Muni used a federal grant earmarked for anti-terrorism security issues. The rider safety angle explains some of the odd language on the announcements, such as a directive to "report any suspicious packages" on buses. Lord knows, something as efficient and smooth-running as Muni would be the first target of terrorists. Congratulations, Department of Homeland Security, on another job well done.
When Dog Bites pressed Lynch about the purpose of the ads, she suggested they're not just about fare hikes and "security stuff," but also aimed at giving people an inside look at Muni. Somehow, we don't think the ads do the transportation agency justice. That's why we've taken it upon ourselves to script a few, more appropriate tag lines. Tell the feds these are on us:
"You see: drivers' hands. We see: timeless tools for flipping off angry patrons."
"You see: a driver going into a convenience store for a bottle of beer. We see: someone who understands the importance of relaxation."
"You see: a bus speeding past waiting customers. We see: a driver intent on dispelling those 'laid-back Californian' stereotypes."
"You see: passengers crammed together like cattle at Niman Ranch. We see: an easy way for serial gropers to satisfy their urges."
"You hear: the screeching of power brakes. We hear: the urban love call of the diesel bus."
"You see: Gavin Newsom. We see: a mayoral candidate who wouldn't be caught dead on Muni."
"You see: drug dealers, live chickens, and bullet holes. We see: a wilder ride than Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. (Johnny Depp not included.)"
"You see: these ads. We see: the only thing funny about the daily commute."
-- Dan Strachota
Four years ago, Dog Bites ventured to Vegas for the first time. On that fateful summer evening, the house cleaned us out in under a minute without so much as a free drink. We've simmered over that one ever since, letting the pain slowly dwindle until it causes no more grief than our memories of a childhood trip to the emergency room, or that fat chick we hooked up with in college. Meanwhile, we've been gradually working up our gambling nerve at the tables in Reno and Tahoe, and even managed to smack the house to its knees on a recent trip to Argentina.
This year, we finally found the cojones to sweep the lady friend and a friend of hers down to Sin City for a whirlwind birthday bash and another shot at the house. We thought we were ready, but the house was ready, too. Friday night we jumped to an early lead, but Saturday night the house knocked us down, kicked us around the room, and left us with just enough life to crawl out of bed and bet on football the next morning. Needless to say, when we arrived at McCarran International Airport on Sunday night for the trip home, we were thrilled at the prospect of stanching our losses and restricting ourselves to more socially acceptable forms of gambling, like investing in the stock market or holding a job in Gov. Davis' administration.
When we reached the America West counter, our two companions slid over their driver's licenses. But when Dog Bites flipped open our wallet, we discovered to our horror that our license was not in its prominent, bottom-left position in the card section. A quick search of pockets and other personal effects confirmed that the license had disappeared as completely as had several large bills that also inhabited our wallet just two days before. Since we had carefully left any other form of government-issued identification at home with the rent money, it seemed that not only would we miss our flight, the last of the day, but we would also be forced to spend another expensive night in Las Vegas.
Realizing this, we silently screamed to the heavens, pleading for anything that could extricate us from this giant money vacuum of a city, anything that could save us from another night listening to the siren call of the blackjack table. And the heavens, so unresponsive the previous two evenings, listened.
As we dumped the entire contents of our billfold onto the ticket counter, we unearthed a tatty, 10th-grade identification card from Richard Montgomery High School (Rockville, Md.) that we keep solely to show unbelievers that during our Slayer phase we had grown our hair to mid-back length. The picture is nine years old, our name is penned in our own hand, and our hair is two feet shorter today. In the Age of Ashcroft, this looked like a one-way ticket to an airport hotel.
But the heavens worked their magic, and the 10th-grade ID not only whisked us through America West's check-in, but also past the security checkpoint and aboard the great Oakland-bound chariot in the sky. Traveling with two bona fide babes certainly eased our passage, and we remained uncharacteristically quiet so as not to redirect the attentions of airport personnel from our companions' bosoms to our questionable ID.
America West spokeswoman Amber Heule called our experience "interesting" and, in a refreshing burst of contriteness, agreed that her airline and the contractors hired to check ID at the security gate should not have accepted a nine-year-old Slayer high school ID. And where was the much-ballyhooed Transportation Security Administration to defend America against such squirrelly travelers as us? TSA spokeswoman Suzanne Luber said it's not her agency's job to check IDs; that's an airline function.
So huzzah for high schools, and their obsession with photo IDs! And huzzah for Las Vegas, and the expansion of gambling from the casinos to airport security!
-- M.J.F. Stewart