My editor/friend/therapist Eve Batey is always coming up with harebrained schemes for me to write about. “Hey Beth!” She said to me. “Why don’t you interview those Where’s Gavin? folks?!?!”

“Where’s Gavin?” is a contest in which anonymous activists are offering prizes for anyone who gets a photo of Mayor Gavin Newsom riding Muni incognito. Eh, okay. Like that’s gonna happen. But none the less, we thought the idea was funny and decided to play around with it.

There’s little that’s anonymous these days. A friend of mine quickly discovered the identity of at least one of the Where’s Gavin-ers and we emailed them, saying hi and asking for an interview.

You’d have thought we’d cracked some kind of secret government code.

“Don’t worry!” We said. “Relax. We won’t reveal your identity.”

Where’s Gavin seemed to exhale a little and agreed to my questions provided we adhere to 3 very formal conditions. Conditions? You mean other than the condition of free publicity? My head began to hurt from frequent eye rolls.

The 3 conditions were basically all related to not revealing the identity of the apparently multi-person Where’s Gavin, an identity it took bored ‘ole us 4-6 seconds to figure out.

My favorite condition was Number 3: “The interview should be conducted by email, wherein we will send typed responses to Ms. Spotwood’s questions.”

Well, that’s a relief because the Appeal’s handwriting expert is on vacation. And it’s Spotswood. With an “s” in the middle. Why is this so hard for people!?!?!

Without further ado, here are my questions, followed by Where’s Gavin’s answers:

1. Any word from the Newsom camp they know about your contest and your cause?

When we followed (Communications Director for Gavin Newsom) Nate Ballard on Twitter, he actively blocked us. So Ballard at least probably knows.

2. As someone who obviously hasn’t made the “truly green choice” and still kills innocents by driving my car all over the place willy nilly, running over cyclists and destroying rainforests, what’s so great about taking the bus?

It’s actually quite liberating to take the buses and trains. You personally don’t have to store the bus, it’s more energy efficient, and you get to mingle with your fellow San Franciscans. There’s also a big difference between what it costs you to buy a fast pass each month and what your parking, insurance, tickets, and maintenance costs. And with housing costs in San Francisco as high as they are, it’s a chance for residents to have enough money for a few beers or a nice dinner at the end of a hard week.

3. You’re apparently a group of more than one person, but seem pretty hell bent on maintaining your anonymity. Why?

We wouldn’t say we are hell bent. We think it would make the game more fun to reveal our true identities at the end, when people have submitted photos. Also, instead of people finding out who we are and then automatically writing us off as a bunch of nuts or hipsters or nerds or google kids or whatever we are, we wanted to keep the focus on the fact that Mayor Newsom continues to talk a good game on transit and funding but hasn’t been a green leader when it comes to fixing it. How much time has passed since we were promised better on time performance? Our feeling is that he’s been greenwashing. The bike sharing program will be a spectacular failure and simple things like the bike plan, getting cars out of the park, and fixing Muni’s finances have been like pulling teeth.

4. What would be your ideal incognito disguise for Gavin to be sporting should you run into him on the N Judah? Mine, FYI is “Boxcar Willie.”

That’s a good one. I dunno, maybe just a regular joe trying to get somewhere on time.

5. What’s the point or mission statement of Where’s Gavin? What do you hope to achieve by getting the public to snap a picture of the Mayor riding the bus?

We have a mission statement? 🙂 We think the point is to show some of the hypocrisy of people that say they are for improving public transit but don’t really do anything about it. We’re not sure we’ll actually get a picture from anyone, given that Gavin, like most mayors, doesn’t ride. You would think it could be an opportunity to schmooze everyday for him and since it looks like Portland’s Mayor Sam Adams has taken up behind Mayor Bates of Berkeley in ditching the car for a month, you would also think that being the competitor he is, Gavin might try the same (if not just to show some real Green cred, none of that hybrid SUV madness). Though running for Governor probably won’t allow that. Perhaps we should open up the contest to getting a photo of him riding RT (Sacto), GET (Bakersfield), or Metro (LA).

6. Have you received any entries? What’s the plan for posting them? Do submitters remain anonymous? Will the images be for sale on coffee mugs and mousepads?

Considering since we started the contest the Mayor has been out of town it would have been hard to get a photo of him on Muni so far (except for one old picture from the Chronicle, which wasn’t eligible for our contest). Merch might actually be a good idea huh? We’ll let the submitter decide whether they want to remain anon or not but we’ll certainly post it on the site. We imagine a photo such as that would garner some serious interest. Like finding a Yeti or Bigfoot.

7. And finally, after he rides a bus incognito, what would you like to see our Mayor do next in costume? Mine, FYI is Merry-Go-Round.

Animal from the Muppets for sure. Just needs a bit longer hair and a drum kit.

That last one didn’t really answer my question, but at this point, I don’t even care anymore.

God bless ’em, “Where’s Gavin?” was fun at first, the thought of the Mayor in a costume on a bus giving us a giggle. But I get the impression Where’s Gavin is putting way too many serious eggs in what I think should be a funny basket.

I can appreciate their cause, not that I plan to hop a bus any time soon, and I’m sure these are issues important to many, many San Franciscans. But after the series of uptight emails, formal “conditions” with my name spelled wrong and responses that take the fun out of, well, everything, I find myself wondering, “Hey, whatever happened to those hilarious chickens?”

Appeal Photo illustration: Tim Ehhalt

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