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Dog Bites 

Wednesday, Apr 21 1999
My So-Called Repetitive Fatigue Syndrome
MISSION STATEMENT: Our mission is to design and construct improvements which meet the needs of the public. Operations and Maintenance, and which meet our schedule, budget, and quality goals.

-- statement printed on the back of Muni manager's business card

MUNI: Better Never Than Late
-- slogan printed on the front of a T-shirt

Dog Bites, who occasionally likes to hang around City Hall and pick up promising-looking bits of paper we find on the ground (hey -- Bob Woodward does investigative reporting his way; we'll do ours our way) was gruntled in the extreme to find ... the business card of a senior Municipal Railway manager. We'll leave his name out of this, as we are sure he has led an otherwise blameless life, and dwell instead upon the oddly random grouping of words that, at Muni, is what passes for an organizational goal.

We are, of course, far from surprised to learn that whatever heuristics development committee was cobbled together over at Muni HQ couldn't come up with more than one grammatical sentence in a row. But just imagine what the committee meetings must have been like! Management types at one end of the conference table; maintenance workers glowering at the other end, holding out for a sentence that started with the words "operations and maintenance," capitalized; representatives of the drivers' union probably absent without notice; some kiss-ass junior human resources person with student council experience doing a head count to determine whether there was a quorum so the group could take a vote and never have to speak to each other again -- well! No plate of mint Milano cookies could ever have been worth even entering that room.

And of course, whoever copied the completed sentence-and-a-half off the whiteboard, and whoever typed it out to send it to the printers, and whoever approved the proof that the printers sent back -- apparently none of these people noticed what Dog Bites can only term the "Huh?" factor of the mission statement. Or if they did notice, they must have decided it was too much trouble to say anything about it -- after all, we are speaking of an organization so reviled that its work ethic is a virtual byword for sloth.

Case in point: Poetry contest entrant Paul Miller (see below) complained, "I was recently at the public monstrosity -- I mean library -- and saw a sign which asked us patrons to open the video cassette cases ourselves so the poor workers wouldn't develop repetitive fatigue syndrome. Are they in the Muni union [emphasis ours] or what? Most people's entire life is a repetitive fatigue syndrome."

Since that's a rather bleak note on which to end this item, we will close instead with the observation that some enterprising young people by the names of Matt Vespa, Eric Umansky, and Rachel Gutman are printing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Muni: Better Never Than Late."

"I [had] just moved here from New York, and I was like, God, this bus system sucks!" explains Vespa, describing his original motivation to manufacture the garments. The words themselves, he adds, were the inspiration of "this guy, a friend of mine named Mike."

Matt invites anyone who wants a shirt to e-mail ihatemuni@YAHOO.COM.

Apart from one smartass whose resume notes that he is a steering committee member of the Bus Riders' Union (and that would be you, Aaron Priven) who sent us an entry titled "Poem for the New Millenium [sic]" which consisted of 2,000 repetitions of the word "year," ending with "oh God, not another one" -- oh, wait, this sentence is getting too long for us to keep track of.

Anyway, we are pleased to report that most of our readers have made genuine efforts to write millennial poetry -- at least, we think -- and just as pleased to reproduce some highlights of it here. Out of deference to Poet Emeritus Steven Appleton, we'll let him go first:

"A Prayer to Mother Earth at the Dawn of the New Millenium [sic]"
O Mother Earth
Despoiled by our lack of feng shui
Free us from our SUVs and our gourmet burritos
Give us solace
From equinox through solstice
And when the new century dawns
(Whether in 2000 or 2001)
Grace us with your gracious grace.

We also enjoyed Lawrence Pelo's entry, especially as he spelled "millennium" correctly. "Let me know if there isn't enough groveling; I'll work on it," he adds. Well, Lawrence, we think there's enough; in fact, your poem could easily have made it into HarperSanFrancisco's Prayers for a Thousand Years. All that stuff about "my brother the ocean" and "my sister the rain forest" would, no doubt, have struck the collection's editors as nothing short of brilliant. And your penultimate stanza:

Let us sob as we hear their sorrows
Let us claim their pain as our own

-- well, it was positively cathartic. Or maybe emetic. Anyway, one of the two.

Finally, aforementioned disgruntled library patron Paul Miller is another strong contender, particularly since his poem ends:

a people of tesh
whose golden hair
softens the rape of steel
and who loosen the hearts
of all those who hear
to our forsaken bearer
let them cast aside
these trappings of commerce,
to let our mother walk proud

hey, is that my burrito?

As told to Laurel Wellman

Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail

About The Author

Laurel Wellman


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