Thursday, May 21, 2009

angry senior citizen ceramicists

Since Lola started kindergarten, I've been taking ceramics classes at the Sharon Arts Studio. The spots in these classes are highly coveted, and in order to get one, the aspiring student (or her "proxy", in a certain case, an abstemious husband) must arrive on sign-up day around six A.M. and wait in line until noon, when registration starts.

That is, however, if the aspiring student isn't a senior citizen. Senior citizens have been allowed to register the day before, at their leisure, without waiting in line. This gives them an advantage, of course, and the classes are predominately composed of senior citizens, with there being huge competition for the remaining slots and plenty of middle-aged and youthful adults walking away disappointed.

This system is due to change, with the city pushing for the studio to join the rest of Rec and Parks in having online sign-ups. Although this system won't be starting for months, our instructor passed forms at our last class and encouraged us to create online accounts to be ready when the time does come, probably next fall. This will mean no lines, but instead thousands of people hitting the enter key over and over again, trying to claim a spot. It will also mean, as one disgruntled Marinite in my class discovered, no more senior citizen advantage. She asked querulously about whether there would be some system set up again so that seniors wouldn't have to compete with younger people for the coveted class spots. "We did that [early sign-up] so the seniors wouldn't have to stand in line for hours," the instructor breezily explained. "You won't be standing in line in this system-- you'll be in your house, at your computer."

"It's going to be a level playing field," I said in a light voice. The woman, normally friendly (and indeed one of my favorite members of the class) affixed me with a firm glare and started a monologue about how it's discrimination when you take things away from senior citizens and how the city might have to pay if a lawyer got involved, you can't just go taking something away from senior citizens, you know.

Our instructor made a big deal out of not taking, as required by the city, proof of identity and residence. "Here you are who you say you are." This soothed the nervous Marin residents, but it did irk me, and it made me think again about the senior citizens' advantage in signing up.

These highly coveted classes are paid for by the property taxes of San Francisco homeowners (the charge for these highly subsidized classes is minimal). The Marin seniors have a lock on spots in their preferred classes, keeping those spaces for years and years, and since they've been able to sign up a day before general registration open, they've had no fears of losing those spots. They don't have to go to the trouble I do to try to get a spot in the class. They don't pay taxes here; why should they keep San Francisco residents out of these classes? For one of them to start muttering threats that she'll get a lawyer to stop this discrimination is beyond ridiculous. Such a sense of entitlement, coming from someone who'll be lying about her place of residence to keep a spot in the class.

There are plenty who'd mock me for writing this, though. I don't actually stand in the Infamous Line From Hell: my husband does it for me. Here's his picture of last time's line:

All the seniors were tucked up in their cosy beds in Marin while the San Francisco taxpayers (or their significant others) waited in this line for what few spots were left, for over seven chilly hours.


Silliyak said...

What a crock!

Chaos Control said...

Although the fact that a senior citizen from Marin feels that she is entitled doesn't surprise me in the least, I must say that after reading your blog for some time now it just hit home that you live in my favorite city ... the one which I will one day move back to ... one day!

Amy said...

Wow. I want to take a class, but I'm not sure if I want it badly enough to get up at 5am and stand in line for seven hours. Is it really THAT bad?

the Drunken Housewife said...

Just for the more popular classes, Amy, such as ceramics. I can't stand in line this Sat. because I'm going to the Maker Faire, and I'm taking my chances that I'll be able to get into the collage course I want. I think that's pretty safe.

Usually the one or two day courses don't fill up. It's the ceramics ones which are the most competitive to get in.

Chaos, that's funny that it took you by surprise where I live! Come on back!