24 January, 2008
On Monday, I finished off the last two tickets from my 2-week book of ferry tickets, which meant that I had to queue up to buy more tickets Tuesday morning. I saw the line and groaned, silently chastising myself for not taking advantage of the holiday on Monday when the ferry wasn't crowded.
So I finally get up to the register and ask for my usual book of 20 tickets. The deck hand swipes the card. Waits. Nothing. He asks for the card again and gives it another go. Nada. Tries again. We were just at the edge of the Estuary by then so it seemed obvious that we were out of phone signal range but we press on and he swipes it again. Noooooot quite. Finally, fifth try's a charm and out comes the receipt. I sign one copy and stuff the other one in my wallet, take my book of tickets and head back to the upper deck where one of my fellow commuters was watching the rest of my stuff. We were approaching the Bay Bridge, so there wasn't any point in getting comfortable.
Fast forward to around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. I had deposited my medical reimbursement and was going to make a payment on my credit card and nearly swallowed my eyebrows when I looked at my checking account activity and saw FIVE pending charges from Blue and Gold Fleet. For $85 each. I phoned the "customer service" number and, unsurprisingly, spoke to someone who was clearly stationed overseas. I explained what had happened and that only ONE of the charges should count and I could give her the receipt number and all of the other codes on it but please make the others go away, or at least put them on ice until I can sort it out with Blue and Gold. Her solution? Since we couldn't have a conference call with Blue and Gold (being it was 11:00 p.m. at that point), we could just let all five charges go through and file a dispute. In the meantime, $340 of my money is unavailable to me. You can bet if I had deposited a check for $340, they'd put a hold on THAT until the spirit moved them to release the funds to me, but they won't put a hold on $340 of charges that I'm already disputing.
wanting to say "Oh hai, I have something for you! Here's a big steaming pile of I DON'T FUCKING THINK SO, just for You!"
actually saying "I'm hanging up now."
Wednesday morning, as I waited for the Encinal, I phoned the office at Blue and Gold. I got a really nice gentleman called Aidan on the line and he took down all of the particulars and assured me he'd get the right person to look into it for me. Later in the morning Dolores called and said that their merchant bank only found the one charge to my card. She had me fax over a copy of my transaction history showing all of the pending charges and the receipt. She phoned me later in the afternoon and assured me that there really was only the one charge to my card (note to self: NEVER use the debit card for this stuff! Srsly!) and that the merchant bank said the other four pending charges should be gone by that evening, or the next morning at the latest. I thanked Dolores profusely for all of her help and patience.
I checked my account when I got home from work. The one legitimate charge had gone through but the four pending ones were still there. I sighed and went to bed. At lunchtime today I checked again. They were still there. I called the CS number and navigated my way until I could get to an operator. Except, a couple of steps before I could get to a live person, I was held hostage while they played a frackin' ADVERTISEMENT for their wonderous CD savings products, forcing me to either press 1 to learn more or 2 to continue with my business. I was about 16 different kinds of NOT HAPPY by the time I was allowed to speak to an actual person. I explained that I had talked to the very wonderful people at Blue and Gold and that the one charge that went with my receipt had been processed and that the other ones were not legitimate and their merchant bank said they should have disappeared from my account by now. This person demanded authorization codes for the four bad transactions. And if I wasn't able to get them for her right away? The remaining four charges would post to my account. So, not only are they currently holding $340 of MY money in limbo, they'll just hand it over to Blue and Gold, even though they don't have any authorization codes for THOSE transactions (and they never will because, according to the merchant bank they don't bloody exist!).
I phoned Dolores again and may the blessings of Ceiling Cat be upon her because she said she and her supervisor would look into it for me. A short time later, Arlene from Blue and Gold phoned and said she had talked to a very helpful person named Stacy at my banking institution and that if I go look at my account now all of the charges would be gone. And LO! They were! Arlene apologized profusely for all of the trouble but I kept telling her I was just so grateful that they were so helpful and patient helping me get this resolved. They certainly were more helpful than anyone I got in touch with at my bank. Arlene said they were implementing a new procedure for processing cards, based on this experience.
I was damn lucky. I had received a holiday bonus and I hadn't burned through it so, if I had to, I could have covered any outstanding payments (and don't think it hadn't crossed my mind that the bank stood to gain a lot in overdraft fees if I hadn't been able to cover the payments). A year or two ago, I wouldn't have been so fortunate.
So, once again, Blue and Gold staff rock! Everyone from the office staff to the captains to the deck hands are so friendly and customer-focused that I can't imagine commuting any other way.
07 November, 2007
It was very foggy this morning; I could barely see across the estuary. A huge construction barge went by but I could barely make out the shape of it and it was only a few yards away! I think we were still in the estuary when this accident happened but we were only a few minutes behind. Of course, even if I wasn't thoroughly focused on working on my NaNo novel, it would have been too foggy to really see anything (I didn't hear any "buzz" about it on the ferry).
They're trying to clean up the fuel that spilled and I hope they're able to do it quickly because I'm worried about the birds and seals and other marine life.
26 September, 2007
The Harvest Moon rose over the Oakland Hills about ten minutes after I got off the ferry in Alameda. The foreground is the ship yards in Alameda.
21 August, 2007
Tourist/Day Tripper Dude: (after regaling his sons/nephews/whatever with stories of being on a boat and claiming to have watched a fighter jet crash into the Bay as it took off from the Alameda Navy Base some years ago) "Just look at all that land! They should develop it, like Blackhawk, and put, you know, a BIG golf course and a shopping center and lots of big homes on it!"
Me: "So that only rich people could afford it? Oh goody, we don't have enough of THAT in the Bay Area!"
Me: exit stage right to go to the lower deck while I could still resist my urge to make Tourist/Day Tripper Dude "go for a little swim".
Tourist/Day Tripper Dude: glares
21 July, 2007
This was taken Thursday morning. I was extremely concerned that the juvenile couldn't fly and it was in a location that I could have reached. My instinct was SCREAMING at me to go get the bird but I didn't. Instead I boarded the ferry and went to work.
The seagull was killed some time Thursday night or early Friday morning.
I found its broken, lifeless body on the rocks on the beach where it usually would hang out. I'm not sure if a raccoon or a dog got it, or if it was surprised by high tide and was slammed into the rocks. It doesn't much matter. I feel as though I failed the little guy.
I'm so very sorry, little bird. You deserved better.
A friend on Flickr suggested I see if Alameda has a harbormaster, which I will look into early next week. I'll also see if there's one for Oakland and, if so, whether they can provide any guidance for how to deal with this the next time.
I have a tremendous respect for the adult seagulls I see now: They made it against some pretty tough odds.
18 July, 2007
As of this morning, this poor guy still had that fucking wire and line wrapped around its foot (feet?). It looks like the Animal Control officer was unable to reach it safely to tend to it. I phoned the shelter this morning and someone there told me the officer tried yesterday to reach the chick (okay, juvenile, but it's still a baby to ME) and was unsuccessful and that she was going to return today. But it looks like she still couldn't reach it, and if she could, it really is a two-person job to recover the bird (while keeping the very-protective adults from pecking her to bits).
I went back this evening and met my friend K there. We agree that this is a job for someone with more skill and experience in this sort of thing than either of us have. He found the name of a bird rescue organization and he's going to contact them. Perhaps if they cannot come to Alameda, they can give us direction on how to recover and help the bird ourselves. Either way, this little guy most likely will need some care and rehab.
I was relieved to see that the adults are being so protective of it. They hovered and squawked and got REALLY testy if they thought either one of us was getting too close to the chick. K also said he saw the bird swimming around, so at the very least it should be able to get over to the pier pilings to eat the shellfish that cling to them. And it seems it found a shelter for the night underneath a concrete piling, so it should be reasonably safe until high tide sometime in the early morning hours.
I'm still so fucking angry about this that it took every last ounce of self-restraint to stop myself from going over to where a bunch of guys were fishing and screaming blue murder at them. I am tempted to post photos of this chick near the fishing areas, though.
17 July, 2007
Seagull Chick #1: 17 July, 2007 (Fasten your seatbelts, there's a rant coming...)
Originally uploaded by Planet Vicster.
Here's one of the chicks near the Alameda ferry dock. I almost didn't recognize them, they're looking so much like seagulls and less like big fuzzballs now!
I grabbed my camera and switched to my 70-300mm lens and started shooting and then noticed this guy was hopping rather oddly. I trained my lens on the chick and noticed it's foot is caught in some sort of fishing line (or something man-made) and that its other foot seems to also be injured. I tried to think of anything I could do to help the bird, but even if I COULD get down there, I had nothing to try to cut the wire off with and, as big as this guy is, it looked like a two-person job (or one person with a towel or a net). So I phoned the Alameda Police dispatch to get an animal control officer out and waited...unfortunately, I had to get on the ferry before Animal Control showed up, so I phoned the dispatch again to pinpoint exactly where I was standing, so hopefully the officer found the bird and was able to help (the tide was high this afternoon so I couldn't see where the chicks were).
It broke my heart to see this bird tangled in this fishing line! One of the parents brought food for the chicks, but this poor guy couldn't hop over to where the food was and went hungry! That this bird suffered for EVEN ONE MINUTE due to the carelessness of humans makes me so angry I can barely see!
And no, the irony is not lost on me that the adult and the other chick appear to have been eating a discarded sandwich...
05 July, 2007
So for the past 2-3 weeks I've noticed we've had some Coast Guard officers on board the ferry in the morning. It seemed unlikely that they were simply commuting to work because they were packing heat. And then this week we've had a bomb-sniffing dog give us the once-over before we headed down the dock on Monday and again today.
I'm really not that terribly bothered by it, except for the fact that the doggie is so gorgeous and so young and eager that I've had to really fight my inner child's demand to go, "Puppieeeeeee! Wheeeeeeeeeeee!" and throw my arms around her! Also I'm unsure of trying to take a photo of her (though I really want to). If she's back again I may ask the officers that handle her, though I'd completely understand if they didn't want me to take her picture.
Strange days indeed.
28 June, 2007
I got to the dock this morning and...no Chickie.
I'm way more upset about this than I thought I'd be (or should be). It could be that I was already generally upset and agitated this week and this is just the turd on top.
I hold out hope that Chickie and its siblings are sheltered at a different location, but...
27 June, 2007
Sadly, the nest of three chicks is down to just one chick. But this chick is soooo effin' cute that I have become completely besotted with it! So, now I bring you, "Chickie":
Mommy, watch! I lernz the Chicken Dance!!!
Iz gud, huh Mommy?
A sweet moment between Mom and Chickie:
...and he brought take-away food!
I can has regurgitated fish?
Dad! Watch me Dad! I lernz the Chicken Dance! R-U WATCHIN', DAD???
That is all.
19 June, 2007
Seagull chicks!!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! They are soooooo effin' cute!!!
13 June, 2007
I have to say, the part of me that is concerned for the environment is horrified by the sight of the balloon floating in the Bay. But, in my artistic opinion, it makes for a damn fine image! Which I was able to get because I was on one of Blue & Gold Fleet's old, slooooowwww, buckets. Word to my fellow Alameda/Oakland commuters: If you miss the 5:20 boat and you see a boat called Old Blue docking for the 5:45/5:50 run, do yourself a favour and go back into the Ferry Building and get yourself a snack and then catch the 6:30 boat. Because, seriously, you would only lose about 10 or 15 minutes by waiting. Oy vey!
Anyway, beautiful day (80 degrees back in Alameda!), nice, if slow, ferry ride and, as always, loads of photo ops!
I LOVE my commute! (In case you hadn't noticed...)
I pulled into the Main Street Ferry Terminal in Alameda this morning and was just about to back into my selected parking space when I looked over and saw a Mama Duck and her two babies in the parking spot next to the one I was about to back into. She hesitated and, when she was certain I was going to wait, led her charges across the parking lot and into the channel for breakfast. One of the kids plopped right into the water and started toodling around, but the one in this photo took more convincing. At last Mama Duck coaxed this one into the water and they swam around picking breakfast out of the mollusks on the pier pilings.
Seeing this sweet little family brought me so much joy this morning, made even better by the gorgeous weather (no jacket needed--not even out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay!).
08 June, 2007
I love my commute!
it's a bird! it's a plane! it's a...
Originally uploaded by Planet Vicster.
cross-posted on VisualCues (with a larger-sized photo).
Wife: Yes, actually, it is rather obnoxious that you frequently jump the queue, even if it is to stand next to your husband. Why not travel to the ferry terminal together? Or, if that is not possible, bring a book to read in line so that you might be able to tolerably pass those ten minutes in line not tethered to your husband.
Aggrieved Woman: I sympathise with you not appreciating people cutting in front of you, to a point. If Wife's cutting really hindered the ability of the rest of us to board the ferry then your point about her "stealing (your and the people behind you's) time" is valid. However, I've observed you over the last several months and notice that you choose to spend an inordinate amount of your time complaining that Wife cuts in front of you (and, yes, the other four people) or that some other woman didn't scootch over far enough on the bench for your convenience, or any number of things that your fellow passengers don't do to make YOUR trip more enjoyable. And, you know, that's cool 'cos it's your time and if that's how you want to spend it then, fine (just don't be put off if other people choose to spend THEIR time not catering to your every demand). And, really, if losing a couple of seconds out of your morning because you have ONE MORE PERSON to follow down the dock is the worst thing that happens to you today, then I'd say you've had a damn fine day!
Husband: Dude. Please tell me you weren't on the debate team in school! Really, you should have stopped at, "my wife can stand here with me if she wants to!" But you had to follow up with, "You're just an annoying little gnat!"??? Jeebus, dude, it's a commuter ferry dock, not a schoolyard! You'll never win an argument with an ad hominem: However, if your goal was to sound silly, congratulations.
But thank you all for providing a nice, comedic break to everyone's morning!
22 May, 2007
1. Two pairs of nesting seagulls near the ferry dock in Alameda.
2. Two hawks sitting on the chain-link fence along the Alameda navy base.
(-2 They took away our beautiful rowboats! :-((( )
Labels: ferry commuting
17 May, 2007
(*if you ride your bike to the ferry) I hope to never see THAT MUCH SPANDEX IN ONE SMALL ROOM again.
10 May, 2007
We were in the Alameda/Oakland channel yesterday evening. I was leaning slightly over the rail, breathing in that wonderful fresh sea air and noticed deck hand shimming along the side of the boat. He grabbed a handle and leaned back toward the water. I was about to tease him and say, "Oh, sure! You do that here in the channel, let's see you try that stunt out on the open Bay!" But before I could say anything I spotted a Payne's Grey whiskery face bobbing in the water. I looked over and a seal was watching us sail by, twitching its whiskers at us. After we passed by it dove back under the water, satisfied that we weren't a fishing boat out to steal it's supper.
It's a shame everyone can't have such an entertaining commute!
08 May, 2007
...that I LOVE my commute!
07 May, 2007
Today was perfect. 80+ degrees (it was in the high 70's at 8:00 a.m. this morning!), sipping an icy drink on the back of the ferry with the bay breeze cooling me off. And YAY the pelicans are back!
Best. Commute. In. The. WORLD.
27 December, 2006
As the Peralta was being tossed (I think we may have been airborne at one point) about on San Francisco Bay in this morning's wicked storm, I had Echo and the Bunnymen cranked up. Had I not had the iPod, I would surely have had the theme from Gilligan's Island running a demon loop through my head.
30 November, 2006
Nearly all of the berths at the Port of Oakland (which I lovingly refer to as POO) have huge container ships docked. It boggles the mind to think of how many millions, or likely billions of dollars I drift past on the ferry every day.