The SF Ethicist: A Voter’s Ink Itch, Listening to the Pitch & Hot Burrito Talk

Got civic issues? Of course you do. Our in-house advice columnist is here to help.

Dear SF Ethicist,

I’m the co-owner of Sriracha Squid Inc., a tattoo parlor on Larkin Street. The other day, a male customer asked me to script not just the titles of all 37 S.F. city propositions on next year’s ballot up one thigh and down the other, but also how he planned to vote. The list was so long, a glimpse of a few mid-ballot votes would have required a slight shift in my customer’s packaging, if you know what I mean.

Some tat artists don’t want their work associated with regrets, but I usually say que será, será: Your skin, your choice. But this guy, I couldn’t help but ask: “Do you really want to vote ‘yes’ to transfer oversight of two-thirds of the mayor’s commission appointees to the City Comptroller’s office in 2019, but only if the city budget exceeds 43% of any previous five-year average, weighted to account for inflation?”

I couldn’t help but throw my latex-gloved hands in the air: “Isn’t this something the Board of Supervisors was elected to do?”

I lost a customer but kept my pride that day. Now my business partner is boiling mad. Should I have kept my opinions to myself and my needle at the ready?

Blimey, I’m Gosh-darned Fed Up with Direct Democracy


Sometimes it seems that all the trees we’re saving by no longer printing phone books are instead getting pulped for the city’s voter information pamphlets. If a bichon frise had its back broken by the mail carrier dropping these wonk works through a mail slot, I would not be surprised.

But government-by-initiative, as some people call this overload of direct democracy, isn’t going away. At the very least you should encourage your clientele to study up — and what better way than to have the issues immediately at hand? Or forearm? Or thigh? Or spread across someone else’s buttocks? Even better, you and your partner should put your heads together and figure out how to charge by the word.

Dear SF Ethicist,

So I’m a VC, and while my laptop and phone are blowing up with texts and emails and Slack convos, I am getting something off my chest here. (Nailed that opening like a hammer.) I have done some things to women entrepreneurs. Make that with women entrepreneurs. Not like the other VCs doing their bad things, though, because of my investment and value in focus and discipline.

And I am certainly no Weinstein, or even Spacey. I’m all about the business. And I always, always listen to the pitches, every time. It’s the eighth habit of highly effective people, listening to the pitch! Right now as I’m writing, I have minimized the screen for a pitch via FaceTime. But I’m listening. When at the bar and I check myself in the beveled mirror ordering that fourth Scotch, I am listening to the pitch. Focused. When I take a selfie to see how I’m living the dream, I am dialed in to the pitch. I’ve made it my №1 rule of thumb: Always Listen to the Pitch. And when I use that thumb to find the clasp of her brassiere, the rule is in effect. I’m listening to the pitch. Disciplined.

So my question, straight up: A couple VCs I know, having lost sight of the seven-plus-one habits I’ve already tweeted out, after doing their bad things, they went outside of the outside of the box. They got ahead of the zeitgeist. They re-branded in innovative and exciting ways. Check this: “Head of Self-Reflection, Accountability & Change.”

Meanwhile, my business card and my LinkedIn page remain the same: I’m just a general partner. It makes me wonder: Have I missed an inflection point? Am I synergy-challenged? In a nutshell, I want to know: Am I a great or merely a good VC? Pitch me, I’m typing and listening.

Last Exit to Sand Hill Road


Sometimes you double-click on life, and sometimes it double-clicks on you. Your fellow (and I do mean “fellow”) investors have been floating in a bubble that has never popped. When lesser bubbles — the financial kind — have blown up, guys like you have man-splained away your bad investments, turning them into a badge of honor. Most of the time there’s another fund around the corner, like a taxi conveniently waiting to take your back to your cozy neighborhood after a night on the sidewalk.

This time, let’s hope the boys-will-be-boys bubble is bursting for good. Probably too much to hope for, I realize. The push back against “political correctness” and the “feminazis” will be intense. And there are plenty of people who will continue to look the other way or enable the behavior out of expediency.

But society’s improvements often happen not in a straight line but in spirals, leading us to wonder why we’ve seen this ugly scenery before. At least your letter lets us know where you stand. So I’ll leave you with advice in language you’ll totally grok: Don’t let the gull-winged Tesla door disable your back-end on your way out.

Dear SF Ethicist,

A white dude walked into my taqueria the other day and tried to order in Spanish. He was doing his best, I could tell. His ears were turning red with the effort. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I grew up in Castro Valley. Problem is, I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying, and when I responded in Spanish to clarify a couple of things, he had no idea what I was saying.

It was pretty funny, to be honest. He said something about a castor. I assumed he didn’t want a beaver burrito, so I went ahead and gave him extra al pastor. Then I filled another burrito with the rest of the day’s tofu that otherwise would have been tossed out.

I gave him extra chips too, even though the pinche bastard didn’t put anything in the tip jar. Should I have switched to English? Or did he get more than his money’s worth because his burritos were more “authentic?”

Always Use Fresh Avocado


The hang-up with authenticism is always a ripe topic for ethics columnists. In some people’s eyes, Vampire Weekend (or, for the older folks, Paul Simon) serves up a midbrow food court of intellectual rock and roll, with African or Latin beats commoditized for a hungry but still cautious audience. But then you go to Hawaii, and you realize all the authentic people stopping for authentic bites are wolfing down spam sushi. So just like pop music and Spanglish and Internet lulz and Harajuku girls, food is one more cultural element in the world’s meat grinder.

You could have been suspicious of your customer’s motives, or sneered at his awkwardness, or resented what felt like patronizing cluelessness. (And perhaps you did all three.) But you were right to find humor in the situation, at least up to the point where the cheapero didn’t tip. You were also right to meet him halfway, giving him delicious spit-roasted pork instead of aquatic rodent. As for the tofu, well, no harm done. Perhaps he’ll work harder next time to learn how to say, “Let’s stick to the animal-based proteins.”

Got concerns about others that reveal your own lack of self-awareness? Let us know at thefrisc AT No attachments, please. We’ve got enough of our own.

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