Take This Job and…Wait, Not So Fast!

Think your job is lousy? Believe me, it could be worse.

Take it from Sokunbi Olufemi of CWA Local 1182, which represents NYC traffic agents. “Our members get assaulted almost every single day,” Olufemi told dnainfo.com of the agents, whose average income is $30,000 a year.

Last week, two traffic agents were pelted with eggs by a finance worker when they ticketed his Lexus parked on a Williamsburg street. He then challenged the agents to a fistfight, but ran off and hid in a nearby building when they called the cops. Mr. Lexus came running back out in a panic when a tow truck arrived. Fun job, huh?

Or you could be a NYC cabdriver. Talk about high stress. Try maneuvering around potholed streets and dealing with drunken passengers who take off without paying the fare — or puke in your backseat.

The NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission last month voted to limit the number of hours a driver can work to 12 a day, or 72 hours a week. “We don’t have a long day every day,” taxi driver Nino Hervias protested to The New York Times, although he admitted to recently starting work at 6 a.m. and driving straight through to 11 p.m.

One job you probably wouldn’t want is being a NYC sanitation worker — especially when dodging vermin and handling garbage in 90-degree heat. But don’t answer too quickly. While the starting salary is a modest $33,746 a year, it jumps to $69,339 after only 5½ years.

Those in private sanitation are really hauling it in, with some earning wages in six figures — and up. Earlier this year, Noel Molina, who works as a driver for Crown Container, told CNN Money he earned $112,000 in 2015.

Molina dropped out of school in the 10th grade. His helper Tony Sankar (who rides the back of the truck and makes a mere $100,000)  also never graduated. “Guys who went to college might not earn the kind of money I make on the back of a garbage truck,” Sankar notes with a smile.

Meanwhile, cabbies continue to drive to exhaustion trying to eke out a living, while traffic agents continue to be regularly abused. “I’ve seen my workers with blood all over,” Olufemi told dnainfo.com. “It’s crazy. We need more protection.”

Maybe your job isn’t so bad after all.

Posted by Mike Vogel

When I was growing up in Brooklyn, every junior high school class had a Ronald.

He’d stick his foot out as you walked by, and after you crashed to the ground, say he was “just playing around.” Or make oinking sounds at a chubby girl eating her lunch. Or mock a stutterer until the boy cried, then sneered, “Can’t you take a joke?”

And God forbid he found out it was your birthday. Ronald would delight in gifting you with birthday punches, until your arm turned black and blue.

Ronald wasn’t particularly bright, but he was crafty. He never studied, but would make sure to sit next to Aaron, the smartest kid in the class, intimidating him to make sure he left his test papers exposed.

Ronald would “borrow” a dollar, then never pay you back. Or if he liked you, he might return a quarter, and act like it was the greatest act of charity in history.

He decided to run for class president. “You’re voting for me, right?” he’d implore, as he squeezed your shoulder a bit too hard. Ronald lost badly, then demanded to see the secret ballots, claiming our teacher, Mrs. Cohen, had “fixed” the election against him.

A little after 3 p.m., Mrs. Cohen stepped into the street to discover someone had mangled her windshield wipers. Two brave little souls told her they saw who did the damage.

Mrs. Cohen called Ronald’s wealthy parents to class and told them what their son did to her car. His father asked the teacher whether she had witnesses. “Two,” she replied angrily. “That’s not many,” said Ronald’s dad, who reluctantly wrote out a check to cover the damages.

One wintry day, Ronald smashed a snowball into the face of Angela, who ran home crying. About 10 minutes later, Angela’s brother, Tommy, showed up and confronted Ronald, who denied doing it, then said he was “only kidding around.”

Tommy beat the living crap out of Ronald and left him whimpering on the ground, much to the delight of my entire class. “Only kidding around, right?” said Tommy.

Then one fine day, Ronald was gone. His parents had shipped him off to military school.

I wonder whatever became of Ronald?

Posted by Mike Vogel

Ever been shocked reading a friend’s political opinion on Facebook or Twitter? You’re not alone. This wild presidential season has led to a nationwide unfriending frenzy.

I learned recently that a woman with whom I had enjoyed singing Radiohead songs at karaoke read my satirical Donald Trump convention speech on my Facebook page. Beverly was outraged.

“Mike, how can you write such awful things about Trump?” she asked. “He’s a great man! Why are you so hateful?”

‘Cos I’m a freak…I’m a weirdo…

Actually,  I responded “Sorry Beverly, but I don’t think I’m the hateful one. Whatever one’s politics, I just can’t vote for anyone who mocks the disabled.”

I never heard back. Perhaps this made an impact?

It sure did. Beverly unfriended me.

I didn’t know Beverly very well — another Facebook “friend” who really wasn’t. But real friendships are ending over political differences, and that’s lousy.

A study by Israeli researcher and writer Nicholas John said, “We already know that Facebook and search engines provide us with a feed and results that are tailored to us. By unfriending, we are further contributing to the formation of echo chambers and filter bubbles.”

He’s right. Liberals and conservatives increasingly live in political isolation, hearing only what they want to hear from people who agree with them. Anyone with a different opinion is ignorant — or worse.

Shutting out people who don’t agree with your point of view is not only self-righteous and childish, but also hurts you in the long run.

I have friends whose politics are light years from mine. We respect and trust each other enough to know we can express ourselves without being judged. It gives me a different perspective, and makes me realize all the good people are not necessarily on my side of the political fence, and vice versa.

So unless you’re dealing with a bigot or nut, keep the channels open. As British writer Evelyn B. Hall put it, “I do not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

What’s that? Everyone knows that’s a quote from Voltaire? So you’re not going to read my dumb blog anymore?

Wait, look it up! Hey, don’t unfriend me!

Posted by Mike Vogel

When my father made out his will, he requested to be cremated. My brother and I asked what he’d like us to do with the ashes. Dad said he couldn’t care less. When we pressed him, he replied, “That’ll be your problem, not mine. You can toss me down the incinerator if you like. I’ve got enough problems. I’m dead!”

My dad was ahead of his time.

From coast to coast, and particularly in New York City, funeral homes are shutting their doors in record numbers. According to Crain’s New York Business, there’s been a 44 percent decline in the number of funeral homes in the metropolitan area since 1990.

How did this happen? Aren’t death and taxes inevitable? Yes, but people are living longer, and, like my dad, often don’t want to be buried or even have a traditional funeral.

The cost of the average funeral is about $8,500, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Cremation costs less than half, about $4,000. In 1999, the cremation rate was about 25 percent. By 2014, that percentage was up to 47 percent, according to the Cremation Association of North America.

Another factor driving funeral homes into the ground is gentrification, which has shot NYC real estate prices through the roof. It’s hard for funeral home directors steadily losing business to refuse multimillion-dollar offers for their property — particularly when their kids are not keen on taking over the family business.

Meanwhile, medical advances have led to people living longer. Average life expectancy in NYC is 81 years__and if you’ve reached 70, you can expect to live another 17 years.  Good for us, bad for business. “Thank God for medical technology,” Joe Aievoli, who owns four funeral homes in Brooklyn, told Crain’s. “But let’s just say it’s not exactly funeral-home friendly.”

With religion on the wane and families on the move, it’s harder to get relatives together for a big, elaborate funeral. Many are choosing more personalized ways to celebrate the lives of their loved ones.

When my father, who loved going to Brighton Beach, passed away a while back, we took another look at the will. In the corner, in longhand, was written, “to ease the anxieties of my sons, throw me in the ocean.”

So we did. Rest in peace, Dad.

Posted by Mike Vogel

While FBI director James Comey recommended no charges against Hillary Clinton regarding her emails, I still wanted to see for myself how secure her server is. Using a friendly hacker, it wasn’t long before I was reading them all, and let me tell you, this is one frustrated woman!

Here’s one she sent to a friend during this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia:

“Aack! I can’t believe I’m behind in the latest polls to this…this con artist! Do people really dislike me that much? I’m a nice person, dammit!

My pollsters say I’ve got to show more pizzazz, be more ‘hip’, to appeal to young voters. Maybe before I give my acceptance speech on Thursday, I’ll dye my hair fire-engine red. Hah!! That’ll show them pizzazz!

Or maybe I’ll get a tattoo. What should it say? My slogan, ‘I’m with her’? No, I am her. ‘They’re with stupid’? How about ‘Trump sucks’? Too much?

“I can’t believe the creator of ‘Trump University’ calls me Crooked Hillary. LOL! Maybe I should call him Don the Con. President Obama ‘faked’ his birth certificate? Ted Cruz’s father was in on the Kennedy assassination? WTF? If I said things like that, I’d be put in a straightjacket. But he gets away with it. Aagh!

“He’s lecturing me about honesty? It’s like Chris Christie saying ‘Hillary, you’ve put on weight, have a salad.’ The gall of these guys!

“Michelle Obama was terrific Monday night__she’s a natural. Like my husband Bill Clinton, who charmed with his folksy  speech Tuesday. Great. Now I’m going to look like a stiff with mine. And if Obama calls me “likeable enough” again when he speaks tonight, I swear I’ll rush the stage.

“What should I highlight in my acceptance speech? Should I make crystal clear how incredibly smart I am, how knowledgeable about world affairs? Men hate a woman who is smarter than them.

“Too bad! What if I put this in my speech: I am smarter than all of you—deal with it!

“Let me run these ideas by Bill. Where did he go? Bill?? Maybe I’ll shoot him an e-mail. Oh wait…




Posted by Mike Vogel

Now that Donald Trump’s campaign has shrugged off his wife Melania’s almost word-for-word plagiarism of parts of Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech, he is ready to deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night. I have gotten a sneak peek. Here you go:

“Friends, relatives and all Americans, whether good-looking, ugly, stupid or fat — I accept your nomination!

“Three score and 10 years ago, a great man was born — and you’re looking at him! People tell me I was always destined to lead us, and who am I to argue?

“Because I had a dream — that someday, all my friends, relatives, little and big children, wives and ex-wives would meet in Cleveland, give speeches, join hands and give thanks that such an incredible winner as I will now lead this nation into the promised land.

“My childhood has prepared me well for this task. Someone once chopped down a cherry tree in my family’s huge front yard, and for some reason my father immediately confronted me about it. I said, ‘Father, I cannot tell a lie — my sister did it!’

“For some reason dad didn’t believe me, snatched the bushel basket of cherries I was hawking on the street from my tiny hands and shipped me off to military school. But it taught me a valuable lesson. When you pull a scam, make sure you have plausible deniability!

“I promise to be the most incredible, winning-ist president in history, dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal, except perhaps for the Mexicans, the blacks, and the Muslims, who, by the way, all love me.

“So my fellow real Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for me! And by that, I mean help me govern this great nation we love, while I nap or play golf in Scotland.

“Help me make America hate — I mean great — again! And when we do, we will let freedom ring from the majesty of Trump Tower, to the halls of Mar-A-Lago, to the humble homes of all you losers out there.

“And when I become your president, we will all join hands and say, ‘Free at last, free at last, thank Trump almighty, we are free at last!’ ”

Posted by Mike Vogel

As the nation prepares for the Republican convention next week, the Coney Island History Project is exhibiting “The 50th Anniversary of Fred Trump’s Demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion.”

Older Brooklynites still mourn the destruction of the majestic fun palace, with its chiseled, mechanical horses that raced out over the boardwalk. Why did Fred Trump do this after purchasing the property, aiming to build condos on the site? He wanted to destroy Steeplechase before the city declared it a protected landmark, so he took a group of showgirls to Coney Island to hurl rocks through its stained glass façade.

Flash forward 50 years, where Trump’s son Donald seems to be attempting to do his dad one better — the demolition of the Republican Party.

The Republicans will convene in Cleveland Monday, and the only one who seems to be looking forward to it is Donald Trump. As GOP politicians scramble to avoid the convention, Cleveland police brace for mayhem in the streets.

Like a goat set loose in a dress shop, Trump’s reckless bigotry and demagoguery have torn the party to shreds. Not that it needed much help. It had moved from the party of Lincoln to the party of lunacy, riddled with science deniers and gun nuts who view compromise as a sin.

But just when you think the party has hit bottom, the trap door opens, and from the netherworld emerges Trump, seemingly determined to deliver the coup de grace next week.

Steeplechase was once the most iconic amusement park in Brooklyn. Fred Trump didn’t seem to care. The Republican Party of abolition of slavery and principled leadership was once a building block of America’s greatness. But Donald Trump’s brand of agitation in troubled times won’t make America great again.

Make America hate again? Unfortunately, that seems closer to the truth. Pitting Americans against each other can only end badly, which I fear will come to a head at next week’s conclave, both inside and outside the convention walls.

Comedians Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert plan extended TV convention coverage, expecting a laugh riot.

I just expect a riot. I hope I’m wrong.

Posted by Mike Vogel

‘Welcome to Brooklyn, 4th Largest City in America.”

Until recently, that sign graced an entrance to the Verrazano Bridge. Perhaps it’s time to reinstall it.

After Britain’s vote to exit from the European Union (the Brexit), and with Texas threatening to secede from the United States (the Texit), don’t be surprised when Brooklynites start clamoring to again separate from NYC (the Brooksit?).

Yes, again. Did you know Brooklyn was once an independent city? When it consolidated with other boroughs to become part of Greater New York more than a century ago, the decision was soon mocked as “the great mistake of 1898” by many locals. And the sign is accurate — Brooklyn’s 2.6 million is right behind Los Angeles and Chicago in population.

The Brooklyn Tourism Visitors Center guides visitors to many destinations, from the rides at Coney Island to concerts and professional sports at Barclay’s Center. The hot dog-eating contest Monday at Nathan’s showcased Brooklyn’s appeal, drawing huge crowds and TV coverage.

“Brooklyn is one of the world’s most iconic places,” said Carlo Scissura, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

From the time I was growing up in Flatbush to now, Brooklyn always flashed its attitude and pride. Now it has the economic clout to go along with that swagger. It has consistently outperformed NYC and state in job growth since 2000, reports the chamber.

Meanwhile, Councilman Joe Borelli (R-S.I.) has revised the idea that Staten Island secede from NYC (a non-binding referendum passed in 1993), if it can be self-sustaining. No offense, but Brooklyn’s property tax revenue stream puts Staten Island’s to shame. Brooklyn is now rated the most expensive place to live in the nation, says RealtyTrac.

Would it be in its best interest to secede? There are downsides. For example, it would be tough getting around without the NYC subway system. But hey, Brooklynites love to bike!

Major cities compete for tourist dollars, hawking attractions and iconic slogans. But no market is hotter than Brooklyn. While NYC’s “Big Apple” designation is a bit overripe, and “Chicago: 2nd to None” is untrue, a city of Brooklyn slogan would ring out loud and clear. Yo, Brooklyn!

Posted by Mike Vogel

Upon entering the West 86th Street-Central Park West station on Saturday, I saw the dreaded yellow tape blocking the use of downtown trains. Isn’t the weekend subway schedule fun?

As I realized I’d be late for my niece’s birthday party in Brooklyn, an uptown train barreled into the station. A wiry guy with a scowl jumped the turnstile. On the train, he started baiting a chubby guy next to him.

“What the [expletive] are you looking at?”

Chubby guy didn’t respond, which emboldened the subway bully.

“You fat slob — let’s get off at the next station and I’ll kick your [expletive]!”

A mom sheltered her daughter as the nasty guy bellowed profanities.

Meanwhile, a well-dressed young man who looked like an actor sat quietly on the other side of nasty guy.

Suddenly, nasty guy rose and stormed up and down the car, slammed chubby guy’s shoulder, then leaned against the door. When the train pulled into the 116th Street station, actor-looking-guy rose to leave.

“You’re in my way,” he evenly told nasty guy, who spun around.

“Oh, you want some, too?” nasty guy said. “Get off and I’ll whip you!”

On the platform, actor-looking-guy whirled, put up his fists, and said, “Go ahead, big mouth!”

Through the window, I could see actor-looking-guy knew what he was doing. Was he a cop? A righteous avenger sent by God to right all wrongs?

I couldn’t wait to see subway avenger teach nasty guy a lesson, but as they circled each other, the train left the station. Aagh!

At 125th Street, I switched to the downtown D train.

A few days before, I’d read a report from the city Department of Investigation stating that “broken windows” policing, based on the idea that stopping smaller crimes prevents bigger ones, doesn’t work.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who saw crime fall after instituting a crackdown on quality-of-life offenses in the ’90s, called the report “deeply flawed.”

Indeed, Saturday’s subway incident seemed a perfect example of Bratton’s concerns. If nasty guy had been apprehended when he jumped the turnstile, couldn’t the larger offense of terrorizing a subway car have been prevented?

Posted by Mike Vogel

What’s your favorite way to exercise?

For many New Yorkers, it’s bicycling. Now imagine never being able to cycle again because of failing vision. That’s a reality Vern Vergara of Manhattan no longer endures, thanks to In Tandem, which provides tandem bicycling opportunities to people with disabilities.

Riding in Central Park with the wind in her hair on a bicycle built for two, Vergara feels exhilarated. “I used to bike a lot when I had 20/20 vision, and only dreamed of doing so again after my sight became impaired,” she tells me.

Vergara’s wish has come true. She and other visually limited riders count on their buddy “captains,” who pedal and steer in the front seat while “stokers” such as Vergara pedal in back.

“I pedal with confidence as my fully sighted captain up front describes the scenery and goings-on around us,” says Vergara, a fundraising and marketing specialist for Baruch College’s Computer Center for Visually Impaired People.

“We started in 2014 with about 15 stokers and captains,” says Stanley Zucker, In Tandem’s executive director. “By year’s end, we had 50 or more of each.” The group rides Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings in Central Park, and wants to expand into the other boroughs.

Mark Carhart, In Tandem’s co-founder, says the group’s social aspect is a vital factor for both captains and stokers. “You’re really close to each other,” Carhart told NY1, “with an opportunity to connect with another New Yorker in a way that you often don’t get to do.”

That connection is enhanced when the group takes part in special activities, such as its Donut Ride through four boroughs in October. Doughnut shops along the route agree to stay open all night to accommodate the riders.

But what makes the group special is how it makes a difference in people’s lives. “We are always looking for experienced cyclists to be captains,” says Zucker. If you’re interested, gather more information at intandembike.org.

“My experience with In Tandem has enriched my body, mind and spirit,” says Vergara. “I get a great workout, meet wonderful people and leave with quite a high. I feel free from the bondage of visual impairment. Liberated!”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment