Friday, May 7, 2010

ORCA, Part 4

A couple things that haven't yet been mentioned in my saga of trying to get an ORCA card to work (See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for previous history):

1. I lost the card for more than a month. It was right after I purchased my second credit for it back in February. I did it from my laptop in bed just before going to sleep, and the next time I went looking for the card a couple days later, I couldn't find it. The card showed up in April on my desk. I think my wife found it someplace and moved it there, knowing I was looking for it. I still don't know where she found it.

This complicated my attempts to get resolution on having made this $20 credit purchase, which at that time appeared as "pending" on the ORCA card website, to say nothing of the $15 I'd spent which had never been acknowledged at all.

2. My first attempt to resolve this situation was via e-mail, back in early March (or maybe even February). I laid out the situation in brief, including the fact that the card had gone missing, and requested that the credits be applied to one of the other two ORCA cards we had and which appeared on our online account. The e-mailed response was simple and sunny: tap the card and all will be well. However, since we couldn't even find the card at that point, this response was no help at all. A polite request for further guidance to this "help" e-mail was never answered.

Needless to say, after trying three different methods to try and get resolution on this issue by mid-April (e-mail, talking with a representative at the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel's Westlake Station, and on hold for 15 minutes on the telephone), all of them fruitless, I was getting quite annoyed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


In my bike commutes over the past several weeks I've noticed something I hadn't really encountered since last fall: headwinds. I've observed the typical warm-weather wind pattern in the Puget Sound region is for winds from the south or southwest in the morning, shifting to winds from the north or northwest in the evening. Since my current office is south of my home (about a 45 mile round trip), what this means for me on a typical warm-weather day is headwinds on both legs of my bike commute. Usually these are not particularly significant (I only really notice when sustained winds are more than 10 mph and/or have higher gusts), but they certainly don't make bike commuting easier.

Well, for the past few weeks, and after six months without significant wind on the days I've bike commuted (usually 1-3 times per week -- I also telecommute twice a week), the typical Puget Sound warm-weather pattern seems to have returned. The first time I noticed this was about three weeks ago. I took a bus downtown, then biked from there to my office in Tukwila. For most of that bike ride I had to drop a gear because of the persistent headwinds, and along one stretch alongside Highway 99 south of South Park, I had to drop two gears.

Two weeks ago I biked the entire distance to my office and arrived pretty well spent from the relentless headwinds. And Monday, just as I started climbing the Dexter Hill southbound from the Fremont Bridge towards downtown Seattle, on a day when windstorms littered my route with tree branches and leaves and caused a lot more mayhem elsewhere in the region, a gust hit and forced me to drop a gear, which I never was able to make up. I felt almost as out of shape as I had been back in January.

On the other hand, maybe my commuter bike's semiannual tuneup is overdue, or maybe I really am getting too old for this. I will have to try breaking out my road bike later this week to see how much it helps -- I haven't ridden the road rocket since about October.

One fun note about that first windy bike/bus commute three weeks ago: at the stop after I boarded my morning bus to downtown, new Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn boarded too, loading his bike behind mine on the bus' bike rack. He greeted me by name when I gave him a wave hello -- we know each other from our intersecting neighborhood work on issues of bicyclist and pedestrian safety and urban planning over the past few years, but I hadn't seen him since before last summer's primary election when I was working on his campaign. It was nice to see him again. No one else on the bus seemed to recognize him, which surprised me.