T-Shirts from the Collection: The Fairly Civil Servants

No Water No Beer Waterworks Tee

Civic water department employees have a certain cynical attitude towards customers.  It’s not that they “don’t get no respect” from them.  It’s that customers don’t even remember they’re there at all — until a water main or a sewer line bursts.

I mean, clean and healthy water always comes out of the tap, right? Magically? And crap always floats away to some exotic land where it is never heard from again.  Right?

In reality, both ends of the job are hugely technical and difficult and important.  And the American Water Works Association keeps trying to shock the public into some kind of awareness of that.  “No Water? NO BEER!” is a new approach for them.  It’ll at least hit some people where they live.


Santa Cruz Metro Surfing Bus Company Picnic Tee

You are a bus driver for the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District. It is a hot afternoon, and you’re pulling your 2008 60-passenger New Flyer out of the Metro Transit Center on Pacific Avenue. You will head down Soquel Avenue for the 10,000th time in your career and take the 71 Route overland all the way to Watsonville, 15 miles away.  Through bad traffic.  Really bad.

But you know that your work is as important to Santa Cruz as the ocean and the sea creatures and the mighty waves.  And hence, this shirt for you all the other transit toilers at the employee picnic. It’s kind of boss; it was even drawn by one of you, a fellow bus driver.

That’s one theory.  There’s also the true story of a Metro bus that got hit by a mighty wave on an oceanside route, back in the ’90s, and almost got pushed off the road.  So in a sense, a Metro bus once actually surfed.  And the ocean’s only a mile south of Soquel avenue and damn, if only you were out therein the cool water, surfing your New Flyer across a wave and telling the octupii to LET GO OF THE WINDSHIELD WIPERS, DAMMIT!

It’d be awesome.

Postal and Proud Post Office Tee 1Speaking of awesome.  Back in the 80s and ’90s, the U.S. Postal Service was having a very, very bad time with employee morale, and some people attributed that to heavy stress coming down from management.  Which caused some people to crack.

At any rate, there were workplace shootings by out-of-control postal employees.  It happened often enough that the phrase “going postal” came into use: taken to mean, going crazy from stress.

Postal and Proud Post Office Tee 2And then, fiteen or twenty years or so later, this t-shirt. From a faceless distribution center in San Diego somewhere: just a concrete box full of postal workers slinging the mail as fast as they can.  And those workers want you to know: they are postal, in the best sense of the word.  And proud.


California State Parks 150th Anniversary Tee

I don’t quite know how i feel about this t-shirt: it’s really commemorating the 150th anniversary of the California State Parks, not their employees.

But there he is, the stereotypical ranger: a little portly, Caucasian, middle-aged, well-met, and knows more about the feeding habits of the Steller’s Jay than any sane man should know.  But there are a lot of other things they do, like search and rescue, general park management, law enforcement, and more.

And ranger’s aren’t all guys anymore either, nor all white. Shame on the State Parks for going with the stereotype.  Yeah, yeah, everybody loves Ranger Friendly, but these days he (or she) should have a couple of earrings and maybe not always be so pale.

Of course, they should all wear that damned hat, forever.  It’s tradition.

Declare Iranian American! Census Tee

Being a civil servant: it’s not always a comfortable thing.  I see a couple of staffers from the Census Bureau wearing these shirts in a small booth at an Iranian cultural fair in 2010, trying mightly to get Iranian-Americans to self-indentify as such for 2010 census.

It’s voluntary.  But it’s also important, because there might be a federal program targeted to help Iranian-Americans.  The funding assigned to particular geographical areas would depend on the number of Iranian American living there. Government needs this demographic information to serve people well.

And maybe they were studiously ignored despite their efforts, or even shouted at.  Ethnic Iranians might be suspicious of the government’s intent towards people whose parent country clashed so much with the United States.

And the horrible thing is, perhaps they were right to be. One question that the census has never asked is, “Are you a citizen?” But the Trump Administration now want to include it.  A xenophobic, racist-friendly administration wants to know exactly where every non-citizen in America is.

And I do wonder how the census workers who tried so hard to get Iranians to self-indentify feel now. Sometimes being a civil servant is Hell.

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