Getting Around

Our Money Daydreams: Faith and a Truly Unlimited Bus Pass

“Sometimes, I also dream of getting a bus pass that never runs out of fares.”

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“I Stopped Carrying a Wallet When I Became Homeless”

I suppose I could use my old wallet, but it’s full of a life I no longer lead. The owner of that wallet once had an apartment, a full time job, and disposable income, an abundant life that utilized all of the slots.

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Tipping Housekeeping is Controversial? (No It Isn’t)

The Marriott hotel chain has begun to include empty envelopes in its rooms to encourage / remind guests to tip the workers who have been folding their towels, making their beds, emptying their trash, leaving mints on their pillows, and generally making everything look like it was arranged by magic elves.

Tipping housekeeping in the US is expected and oh hey more complicated than I realized: etiquette requires “$2-3 per night up to $5, more in high-end hotels. Also more if there are more than 3 people in a room or suite. Leave the tip on your pillow or in a similar obvious place with a note that says thank you. Leave the tip each day when you leave the room, rather than at the end of your stay, because your room might get cleaned by different people each day, depending on staff schedules. If you have additional items delivered to your room, such as extra pillows, hangers, luggage racks, tip the person who brings them $2 or $3.” Okay!

But now that Marriott has provided a convenient way to tip that also makes the practice increasingly explicit, some folks are like, what, you’re gonna guilt me into tipping? Others have even used the word blackmail because times are so hard folks can’t afford dictionaries. NPR explains:

not everyone is welcoming the plan to promote tipping. Some compare it to blackmail. And hard-core business travelers who rack up hundreds of nights in hotels per year say they don’t want to tip in cash, as is customary. Instead, they suggest, the company should let guests add a tip to their room bill. If Marriott wants to see the wide range of responses, it won’t have to look far — people in its rewards program have been debating the issue for the past day. … This is a bit over the top for Marriott to be doing this to us, almost like black mailing us into it. If they are so concerned they should pay these hard working people a better wage! Letting Maria Shriver have this much influence over them is a bit disturbing. – pdyer

What does Maria Shriver have to do with anything? Never mind, DON’T FEED THE TROLLS, sorry. Anyway, think of Jenny when you travel, or that first diner scene in Reservoir Dogs (nobody wants to be Mr. Pink), and tip generously. If you don’t want to tip, don’t travel, or stay in an AirBnB, where I think you can get away without paying a gratuity. At least for now.

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Analyzing America’s Most Affluent Towns

According to this map on Slate, originally from Business Insider, of the most affluent town in each state, several of the most affluent towns in America are “hidden” (Hidden Spring, Idaho; Hidden Hills, California) or otherwise make their exclusivity clear in their names (Paradise Valley, Arizona; Bayou Country Club, Louisiana). Yes, that is, apparently, a real place. So is Rafter J Ranch, Wyoming. How many people live there, do you think? Just one dude, some cattle, and his dog? The site says population has to be 1000+ but maybe they’ve fudged the numbers by counting horses.

Many of these esteemed locales are elevated, closer to God and further from the rabble, who can’t afford protection from floods: Hidden Hills, CA; Cherry Hills Village, Colorado; Nichols Hills, Oklahoma; Dakota Dunes, South Dakota; River Hills, Wisconsin; Clyde Hill, Washington; Short Hills, New Jersey; and Mission Hills, Kansas.

Valleys are pleasant, too, (Paradise Valley, AZ; East Valley, Nevada; Clarkson Valley, Missouri) if way outnumbered by summits. There’s even Emigration Canyon, Utah. But for the most part, rich people want to stay high and dry. Though near the water, when possible. Wealthy folks like coast-y parts of coastal states. That makes sense. If I had all the money, I’d want unimpeded expanses to survey from my dominion, too.

Naturally, a map like this also makes clear that the richest town in Arkansas — Maumelle, AR, median income $82,000 — wouldn’t even register in a state like Illinois, where the wealthiest concentration is Kenilworth, IL, median income $229,800. That’s, perhaps, to be expected. But what I find surprising is that among the most modest contenders here, besides Arkansas, are Nebraska (Gretna: $77,800), Vermont (Jericho: $78,000), North Dakota (Horace: $88,700), West Virginia (Shepherdstown: $81,000)  and Rhode Island (Ashaway: $84,500).

Do high-income people in those states do a better job of blending in among the general population rather than clustering? Or are there fewer high-income folks there altogether? These kinds of maps raise so many QUESTIONS.

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An Illustrated True Saga of Costly Car Repair

At Coney Island on the last weekend of my kids’ summer vacation, we rode the Cyclone, which has been operating under electric power since 1927.

When we started our long journey home, it was on the subway, which has more than a century of electrically powered travel under its belt.

From there, we got on a Metro North commuter train, another shining example of electric locomotion. Our car was in the parking garage at the station in New Haven, waiting to carry us on the final leg of our journey.

But alas, the last bit of our electric journey was ill-fated: our little ’02 Prius, reliable in its first decade and, thereafter, in its first year with us, greeted us with a dashboard full of automotive alarm. The central feature was an icon of an exclamation point inside the silhouette of a car. Traditionally, this symbol appears as a very small light on the dashboard of gas cars and means “check tire pressure” (even though it seems like it should mean, simply, “Car!”). But in a Prius, according to our owner’s manual, it means, “Hybrid system error. TAKE CAR TO TOYOTA DEALER IMMEDIATELY.”

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Everybody Loves Uber!*

Salon.com has a darkly portentous article titled “Why Uber Must Be Stopped,” and in case there’s any doubt about how unscrupulous and even criminal they think the ride-sharing app is, they’ve illustrated it with a picture of Jordan Belfort and Gordon Gekko. Guys, come on. No Mr. Burns?

Defenders of no-holds-barred free-market competition see nothing to be alarmed or concerned about. Riders can only benefit from fierce competition for their services, and the number of cancellations is trivial compared to Lyft’s total volume of rides, explains Timothy Lee at Vox. On the other hand, if you are inclined to see Uber as the acme of ruthless and amoral profit-seeking, then the latest news on Uber’s “deceptive tactics” is just one more confirmation of how the company will do anything to win. Uber’s ambitions are limitless and it has the bankroll to do what it wants.

Indeed, there is some irony to the fact that Uber has so much cash in the bank that it need not comply with the most basic premise of capitalism — the notion that survival is predicated on making more money than you spend. With access to an astonishing $1.5 billion in capital, Uber can simultaneously wage regulatory battles in multiple cities, engage in recruitment wars in which smartphones are distributed like candy, subsidize drivers at below cost, and employ whomever is necessary to achieve long-term goals. The real question we should be asking ourselves is this: What happens when a company with the DNA of Uber ends up winning it all? What happens when the local taxi companies are destroyed and Lyft is crushed? When Uber has dominant market position in every major city on the globe? “UberEverywhere” isn’t a joke. It’s a mantra, a call to arms, a holy ideology.

I have trouble with Salon in its incarnation as a red-faced, bearded, overly earnest dude who gesticulates a lot. It’s hard to nod when you’re getting flecked with his impassioned spittle.

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It’s a Weird Day. Let’s Rank States!

This weekend, for a wedding, my little family drove all the way up to Lisbon, NH, in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between America and Canada. Basically it’s about as far north as you can believe the US goes and then further. We passed signs saying “Thar be dragons.” As we drove through them, and to pass the time, we ranked the states of New England. Appropriately, this morning, I saw this: What’s The Matter With Connecticut?

Who would run away from Connecticut in the first place? It seems a state not afflicted, a lovely, hilly green hamlet nestled between Boston and New York. It has a low crime rate. It has stellar schools. It has the highest per-capita income of the 50 states. It’s home to Martha Stewart and America’s best pizza, for God’s sake. Edge complained primarily about the state’s political incompetency and its “freeloaders.” But there’s a much deeper malaise afflicting Connecticut and its angry letter-writers. While there is great wealth, there is stagnant growth. Along with high incomes has come increasing poverty. Amid those million-dollar mansions, the middle class has eroded. In short, Connecticut has somehow managed to become both the richest and worst economy in America. And what’s worse, America has started to look more and more like Connecticut.

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B&B, Air B&B, or Kink B&B?

Why get a regular room somewhere when you travel when you could get a deluxe experience, and I mean deluXXXe, as detailed in this Refinery 29 profile of the NoCal hotel Stay & Play:

“It is a free-standing, two-level adult playhouse,” [Diva, the proprietress] explains, “like an adult treehouse.” Three years ago, the “adult treehouse” was a barn used primarily for hay storage. Now, the farming tools have been replaced with a menagerie of props for submission and domination. “I am not a submissive. It doesn’t work for me to play that role — it’s oil and water,” Diva tells me. “In corporate America and in S&M, people equate being a dominant woman with being a bitch. I always thought you could attract more flies with honey.” A weekend night at Stay & Play costs $300, minus $50 if you stay through the weekend. It includes full usage of the S&M facilities and (of course) comes with the sweet touch of a home-cooked breakfast. Couples are the usual guests, but the occasional threesome or larger group isn’t unheard of. Guests range from S&M newbies who are curious about the lifestyle to old hands. 

This sounds terrifying, but perhaps no more terrifying than the average B&B, which forces you mingle over scones with strangers, or the average Air BnB, which might catch fire. At least this B&B, like the best ones, has character.

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Around the World on $80 a Day

$7 for a double room with private bathroom (cold shower) and overhead fan. Geckos are free of charge.

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The Real World Cost of a $22 Gadget

The “knee defender” (great name, dude) costs $21.95 and keeps the person seated in front of you on an airplane from being able to recline. It’s also a great way to start fights between strangers!

The spat began on United Airlines Flight 1462 because one passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 lock that attaches to a tray table and jams the reclining mechanism of the seat in front. The male passenger, seated in a middle seat of Row 12, used the device to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official said.

The pilot made an unplanned stop in Chicago, at which airport the feuding passengers were ejected, and the plane continued on to Denver where it landed an hour and a half late. So, in case you’re thinking of getting your own Knee Defender, buyer beware: the hidden costs might be significant and include your suddenly having to figure out how to get you, and your water-logged laptop, to Colorado.

Business Insider offers a refresher on airplane etiquette here. The publication supports your right to use the seat you’ve paid for however you see fit, but cautions, “make sure to look behind you before you recline. Maybe warn the fellow traveler whose space you are about to invade, so they can hang onto their drink or adjust their laptop. And stay upright during meals.”

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