Bus riding tech workers respond to national spotlight on evictions

Google bus riders watch a protest blocking their bus.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Evictions are rippling through San Francisco. Tensions are high. Tech workers with gobs of cash are driving up the rental market in what may be the newest tech bubble -- or the city’s new reality. Protesters took to the street earlier this week, blocking a Google bus to draw attention to gentrification, and our video of a union organizer posing as a Google employee shouting down those protesters lit up the Internet

In the wake of that national spotlight on San Francisco’s outrage, the Bay Guardian decided to talk to the bus-riding techies themselves and ask how they felt about the new tech revolution. Are they at fault for displacing long time San Franciscans? What did they make of Monday’s outrage?

We returned to the scene of the protest, 24th and Valencia streets, where workers from Yahoo, Genentech, Google, and others line up at Muni stops to be whisked away in mammoth private buses. Most had hands in their pockets, turning away when asked questions. Others decided to talk, but none would go on the record with their names.

“We’re very aware of the sentiment in the city against us,” one tech worker with grey hair and glasses told us. “But hopefully this (protest) leads to a positive conversation.”

He said that the envy was understandable. Public transit in the city “isn’t the best,” he said, but pointing to any one company to be at fault isn’t productive. 

“Our economy lacks upward mobility, and the haves and have-nots are divided all over the country,” he said, not just in San Francisco. 

But some of the techies themselves are “have nots,” as one tech worker, a middle-aged Java programmer sitting in Muddy Waters cafe, could attest to. As we watched the tech buses ride by, he told the Guardian he’s been out of work for a few months now. He used to work for a computer sketch software company called Balsamiq. 

He’s lived in the city for 22 years. When he first moved into town, he lucked into renting a room for $175 a month. Now his rent is much, much higher, though he wouldn’t say by how much.

This is not the viral video of the staged argument, but from the same day. A protester enters the Google bus, and a bus rider shouts her out.

“I’m sympathetic,” he said, of the discord on rising rents. “But getting rid of tech isn’t the solution.” He pointed to a need for more affordable housing.

A blonde haired Apple employee told us that although he makes more money than the average San Franciscan, he can’t afford to buy a home here. He’s lived in the city three years, and worked at Apple for four. He took a balanced view of the protest, saying the stunt started a national look at inequality.

“It’s keeping (the conversation) at the front and center. You could argue it’s not fair to target one company, but I see both sides,” he said. 

Tech should do its part to pay its fair share, the 19-year cafe owner of Muddy Waters said. Hisham Massarweh said he likes the tech folk, who are great for business. But the transit issue needs to be worked out, he said. He once got a $250 ticket for parking in the same bus stop outside his store that the tech buses park in every day -- ticket and permit free. 

Across the street, Jordan Reznick, a PhD student and teacher at California College of the Arts, said she’s seen many of her friends displaced. “I feel a lot of animosity towards Google and Google workers,” she said, as we sat just behind a line of Google employees waiting for their bus.

“I live in a small place with a family of four,” she told us, as it’s the best she could find in this market.

As she ran off to catch her ride to work, the Guardian approached a man who sat waiting for the same Google bus that was protested earlier in the week. 

“San Francisco doesn’t have its shit together,” he said. The protest was about housing, but San Francisco needs to address that fast. And as for the Google buses, there’s no framework for Google to pay the city, yet. “If they could (pay) they would, going forward I’m sure they will.”

We asked him point blank if he felt guilty watching longtime San Franciscans lose their homes. 

He took a drag of his cigarette, looked me in the eye, and said, “Every day. I love San Francisco with all my heart, and I feel tremendously guilty. Every day.”

As the bus pulled up he hopped on and headed to Mountain View.


The implicit downside of a tech job is:
There is no job security -- unlike a bart worker who may actually be making more money.
You have to work long hours.
Its hard, brain fatiguing work.
There is no overtime.
You may become obsolete when you get older.
Start up founders are paying themselves coffee money, and taking huge risks.
It's even harder with family because of the long hours.
Your job may also get outsourced to overseas, and it's not only because you are busting your butt to be the very best in your field.

And again, there is no job security.
Only the small minority get lucky with stock options that turn out to be worth more than the paper it's printed on.
Not every techie is an employee of Google or Twitter.

Salaries should be high, in order to save money for those times of unemployment.

Blaming techies for the high rents and evictions, reminds me of what Wall Street did to distract and deflect blame away for the Mortgage Meltdown -- they blamed neighbors who "bought big houses more than they could afford" --

It was easier to deflect blame to neighbors who are naturally resentful and jealous, and within easy reach. Away from the truly rich Wall Streeters who are basically abstract personalities -- jet setters whom one would hardly have a chance at mingling with.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

here which is always a dangerous thing - especially when the fires they enjoy stoking get out of control.

The "othering" of people who are doing nothing more than taking a convenient shuttle their employer offers them is disgusting and irresponsible. It's a small step from protesting the buses to stopping them from moving to attacking the people on them. If that happens the finger of blame needs to be pointed at the leftist lynch gang in the Guardian's offices and especially at their "editor" Steven Jones.

Enough is enough here - progressivism has degenerated into a sullen crowd of malcontents who feel entitled to threaten and denigrate their fellow citizens based on where they work and how they chose to get to work. It's time someone called them on their shit.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

That's called the "Attack the Messenger" routine.

It's a very old, dated, outdated, tiresome tactic intended to silence and intimidate writers/publications. It won't work with the BG, I can assure you of that. If anything, it will backfire on you neocon troll, and they will report on this topic even more so in your snarky face.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:31 pm

and it's something you'd think San Francisco progressives would be well acquainted with by now seeing as how their rules have so royally fucked up the housing market here.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

Clearly, your tax rate should be raised 7 percent. Then we'll hear the sound of right-wad keening, defined as whining raised to 140 decibels.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

whether they have a good deal or not. It's not really anyone else's business but their own.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

>>>He said that the envy was understandable. Public transit in the city “isn’t the best,” he said, but pointing to any one company to be at fault isn’t productive. <<<

Clearly no understanding of the situation and/or in Denial.

ENVY? WTF! It's NOT about envy, tech dude. You sound just like the consistently ignorant classist trolls on this site with their predictable 1 or 2-sentence posts who spew that "envy" line along with the "move to Oakland, Daly City or Aspen script.

If he's referring to the tech shuttles that "we" supposedly "envy" that's bull shit. The point tech dude---and you're supposedly "bright?"---is why is your tech company too good to use shuttles like the ones used by UCSF? They don't use these huge tall tanks that wobble down the freeway. Why do you need all of that bus that nearly reaches the Muni wires? UCSF doesn't and they move a lot of people each day from campus to campus.

I don't envy tech people or anyone else. Some of my clients have been tech people. I didn't envy them. It's about fairness and equality and the smug and classist "haves" versus the "have-nots." It's about what is happening to this city. This city is being ravaged by this tech shit and the building of classist "luxury designer condos" that only the super-wealthy can afford. I have relatives who are wealthy and I don't envy them. So let's put that "envy" lie/propaganda to rest.

I live very simply, deliberately so. I'm not a materialistic person who needs all of this materialistic shit. If you gave me a "luxury designer condo" I would sell it. I don't want one. The same for a "luxury designer" vehicle. I prefer metro systems (public transport, not to buy one but they are a hobby of mine). I can't stand shallow, superficial and pretentious classist people who are constantly trying to "keep up with the Jones-es" ("bragging rights") trying to out-do somebody else. WHY? Get therapy. Classism is a learned sickness.

Thanks for the article, Joe.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

but disliking a class of people is generally frowned upon in today's society. The "some of my best friends and clients" defense notwithstanding you should take a good hard look at your ability brush with broad strokes an entire group of people as "shallow, superficial... pretentious and classist [sic]."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

The whole racist subtext of this entire anti-gentrification movement is appalling. The worst part is the hypocritical progressives don't even care how obvious their racism is. Articles like this even go so far as to make sure they describe a tech worker as "blond haired."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 7:43 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:31 am


What about the Black tech employees?

The Black community as well as the Latino/Hispano/Mexicano community is being driven out of the city by tech gentrification. Don't you find that "hateful" to the Black and Latino/Hispano/Mexicano communities? I do, because both communities are part of what makes this city a very culturally-rich city.

Why do we have so many stupid people here in the US who live as lonely trolls on internet forums?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:03 pm

and a wish to freeze the city in amber. No one forces anyone to sell their homes in San Francisco and Prop 13, the scourge of progressives, ensure homeowners can stay here without high levels of taxation. So tell me again how someone who bought their home in 1980 and then sold it in 2013 for a 1000% profit is anything but a "victim" of their own choice to cash out and move on?

Oh - and when's the last time a whitey like you visited the Bayview or the Sunnydale housing project so you could get a dose of the "cultural richness" of San Francisco?

Yeah - I thought so.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

You paint a beautiful picture. I like your words, friend.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

Bayview and Hunter's Point.

Except that they are not diverse at all, and the same progressives wouldn't be seen dead there.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

hispanic person being evicted is somehow much worse than a white ir Asian person being evicted?


Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:32 am

unless it works out for me this minute and it's all about race.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

invariable a white male who knows only other white males. The crowd as a SFBC or SFGP meeting looks like a KKK meeting minus the cloaks.

and yet if they think a gratutitous mention of "people of color" will give them an edge, they do not hesitate to introduce their own very special and sanctimonious form of racism and prejudice into the fray.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

So true. Don't forget, at their outset, progressives were the driving force behind racism in labor movements and eugenics in the US. Looks like their prejudice and discriminatory ways are still running strong.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Except when they're cyclists and it is okay to hate on them.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

Thank you for pointing out that person's glaring hypocrisy.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

breaking the law and acting arrogantly.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

Envy is resentment caused by seeing someone has something that you do not, and then either hating on that person for it or seeking some form of action to get what they have.

:As soon as you boarded the "inequality" train, it was evident to all that you are simply trotting out the usual sad cliches about the politics of envy.

This is America. there is always someone with more no matter how much you have. The path to happiness starts when you stop comparing what you have to what others have. That way misery lies.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

On the importance of remembering those who are less fortunate: "We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences."

On the seriousness of economic exclusion: "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills."

On the failure of traditional economic dogmas: "... some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

On exploding inequality: "While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few."

On the world's obsession with money: "We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose."

On the dangerous mix of inequality and consumerism: "It is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric."

On the role of the state in providing for the common good and regulating the economy: "This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. "

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 15, 2013 @ 9:35 am

Or do left-wingers suddenly take advice from the church when normally all they do is claim the church is irrelevant.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:32 am

Adding to what I previously wrote:

Why are the tech people too good to live close to where they work like intelligent people do? Why are they not living in San José/Silicon Valley/Peninsula where they work? Why are they not living near the companies where they work? That's green. Not this fake-"green" thinking they're using and calling it good. It's not "green" or good for our environment to commute hours on tech shuttles or any other vehicles.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:23 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

Genentech is 3-5 miles outside the city limits yet it's one of the prime targets of those protesting shuttles as wasteful symbols of greed. The fact of the matter is it doesn't matter how far the corporate shuttles go - people will bitch about them. Why not target public buses from Sonoma or Napa bringing people into San Francisco? They bring people much further than buses from Google or Apple do.

Stupid parochial arguments here which hold that San Francisco is the center of the universe and anyone working/shopping/driving out of its limits should be pilloried and then burned at the stake.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

for decades, so why all the fuss only now?

Because these buses have successful people on them, and the SFBG is waging a war on success. Envy, as ugly as it is, is their main weapon.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:33 am

I would say it could be said -- They do not have a real sense of community, the tech industry is one about capitalistic growth. Those condos and the sterilization of this city, which is not simply about "homeless gross degenerates" but the musicians, the queers, the queens, the artists, the weirdos who really built up many vibrant colorful lively activist, nightlife and cultural communities. These techies, they are the most recent capitalist dreamers - like the auto workers or factory workers of days of yore. "techies" or "makers" as I have read the "techies" would like to be referred to, which is just so sad and pathetic it almost makes me feel for them. Any industry will fall, it is just really unfortunate that the privilege they feel is so blinding and so apparent. Most of the tech industry workers that have moved here out of school have, I hate to say it, only the most rudimentary grasp of what culture is. There is a continuum, I am sure, but I will say, they move here because San Francisco is cool, frankly. It wasn't merely about a "nice" job. Aside from nature and beauty, the bay as lot of cool people who have lived here or live here now. Techies love murals, hate muralists. They get to come into bars and bitch about "hipsters" or junkies or degenerates (as the colorful call those who have been the victim of life, through oppression or good old fashioned mistakes) while at the same time clearly wanting to be part of some community. Or just take it over, or borrow from it.

To say someone envies someone else because they are a "have" versus a "have not" is actually not really accurate or nuanced. I think getting angry or wanting to be respected for something that is not merely based in economics is totally understandable and a great challenge to our rampant capital - driven system. I wish that some wide spread social agency and power would be rooted in artistry, community involvement, humor, unpaid labor -- and it is, but only in small subcultural communities usually. These communities have flourished in San Francisco, because we the unwanted weirdos are also, coincidentally, really "cool". We are working class or we are brown or we are musicians and real dreamers or drag queens or queers or writers or comics. We are living at the margins and outsiders glamorize and demonize that. I watch the start up techies look with desire and revulsion at the communities they are in fact, invading. I watch the techies get drunk and puke, I watch our city pay PAY PAY for lavish rich people parties like the damn world cup debacle and I wonder when the boring beige rich will finally see it's not that others are jealous, it's that we don't like it. We would completely ignore you and be bored by you if you were not (on purpose or not) driving up our rents, getting great community members evicted and so forth. It's not classist to not like the products/byproducts of a system that turn probably at one time vibrant, feeling, empathic humans into "tech maker robot" types who have to contend with awful hours, the knowledge that they are the face of what gentrification has done, and that they are despised. I feel empathy for that, but I do not feel bad when I feel deeply angered by them, because they are brain washed, entitled, boring and they are ruining my fucking neighborhood.
And stop calling every critique "racist". It's ridiculous to say "oh if you replaced that word with "black" everyone would be mad". Well, they didn't say that, they are talking about a specific job/gentrification line/player in this time of temporary california bay area gold rush.

Posted by k. on Dec. 16, 2013 @ 11:57 am

Who are these ultra materialistic people who need bragging rights?
The techies I met aren't materialistic (except for computer hardware) but they do brag about their ability.
Maybe you are confusing techies with ivy-leaguers ;-)
(confession: way back when, I met a lot of kids in college who were fairly pompous social climbers, but of course not everyone was that way and many others were cool).

Do all techies live in luxury designer condos?
And why does every private bus have to look like the UCSF shuttle?

If you don't like tech then sell your computer and stay off the internet.
Technology is one of the few industries making things that go down in price (or free) for more value. Many other professions and industries (health care, politics, real estate, finance, legal, etc...) are increasing costs or are engaging in taking wealth away from the middle class, and raising the cost of living.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

Adding to my original comment:

We've been told repeatedly on this site by the ignorant parasitic classist trolls, that the tech people are such avid cyclists. Which is not true. But let's say it's true. If they were/are such avid cyclists, why don't they live close to where they work and cycle to work? That's being green (as they pretend to be). As opposed to this living in one city and taking some big-assed shuttle to another city and calling yourself being "green." Orwellian.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

so people can easily live and bike where they work - we live in a freeway-based society in case you hadn't noticed. It's not always possible for people to live close to their jobs.

UCSF shuttles workers all over San Francisco - why don't you target them since some of their shuttle routes cover more mileage than do Genentech's?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

But some prefer a door-to-door bus service.

Options and choice is good.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:30 am

It makes me laugh when privileged white/asian male technology workers cry "racism" or "hate" .... priceless.... absolutely priceless

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

In SFBG, you'll probably read more racism against whites and Asians, than against blacks and Hispanics.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:29 am

How sad that you are so very oppressed, Gigga.

Posted by Fight the Power on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 8:10 am

“We’re very aware of the sentiment in the city against us,” one tech worker with grey hair and glasses told us. “But hopefully this (protest) leads to a positive conversation.”

Translation: We (tech) take the city and you go away.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

You sound like you don't want to listen to him. You want to take from him.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

...and you should like a tech worker LOL...

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

How is that different from another kind of workers?

Why do you find it useful to stereotype people by occupation, race or any other categorization?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Where are all those who protested so vigorously in the 1990s? Fairfield for one - look at former Supervisor Chris Daly if you want to see where the "veterans" of that movement ended up.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:27 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

Good ol Chris Daly. That shining beacon of the progressive movement who was all about renters rights, the evils of the banking industry, landlords, and forclosures... right up until he decided that purchasing TWO foreclosed homes, kicking out the owners, and then re-renting one of them was actually just "savvy business sense".

Or how about how Bruce Bruggman was all about how evil developers are and how they're ruining this wonderful city... right up until one of those "evil" developers came and offered him a multi-million dollar offer for the old BG building? Why didn't he try to convert it (or take the profits) and go house some of these poor folks who are being forced out of the city? Reminds me of this show I watched once: the kid says to the dad that he needs money for some stupid thing and the dad tells him: "No. But if you really want it that much, you have the money you've been saving for a new bike." The kid replies "But, but... that's MY money."

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

Reading some of the postings makes on thing obvious a lack on intelligent folks posting. Google is only a part of the problem the list is long, landlords, many other tech companies, other companies not related to tech, speculators, real estate people, planing dept. I could go on and on.
Ssn Francisco is not changing it had changed get use to it.
If you don't like it, or can't afford to live here move to Oakland of Daly City.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

It seems pretty lame to me to go after the workers at these tech companies. Most lefties I know are in favor of workers getting good paying jobs and most of these jobs at tech companies are well paying. I sure wouldn't mind getting one.

We should protest the owners and bosses at these companies and demand that they pay their fair share for using the public infrastructure. They need to pay for all the heavy use of the roads, not just the Muni stops. They should pay more in general for things like the schools and the UC, since they benefit so much from having educated employees.

I would much rather have these buses on the roads than 50 cars, I don't understand how anyone would rather have all the extra traffic and pollution.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

Have you read no previous comments at all? As someone else has already pointed out, the tech employees should live close to where they work....that means close to the companies they work for. That means they would not be living in the city. Understand? This is also not about "lefties."

If you haven't read about and heard about what the tech --employees-- are doing do our neighborhoods of a --negative-- nature in San Francisco, you haven't been paying attention. It's been well written about on this site and others.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

Sounds like GlenParkDaddy needs to do a search of BG articles going as far back as possible on this tech issue and gentrification to our neighborhoods, which has nothing to do with the tech companies themselves in Silicon Valley. It has to do with the people who work for the tech companies who absolutely refuse to live down there where they work and instead live up here and are changing our neighborhoods to the way they want them---even though they are only up here at night and maybe on some weekends---with complete disregard for the people and cultures who have lived here for decades. And that doesn't even begin to cover the problem! That's just a starting point. Reading archive articles would help him catch up to speed with the rest of us. It's as if he just walked in from another planet clueless as to what's happening here in San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 7:07 pm



Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Your argument for them living near where they work is pure bullshit. Are you saying everyone should live near where they work? Or is it JUST techies? Do you also complain about the people who commute from Oakland, Pleasanton, San Jose, or Livermore into San Francisco? What happens if Google, Apple, or any of these companies opened up in SF? Then they'd be living right where they work. Would you still be bitching then? Of course you would. But then you'd find some other flimsy pretext for why they shouldn't be here.

But what's the limit a person can commute to work? 3 miles? 5? 10? Please enlighten us as to the maximum distance someone can commute without incurring your wrath. Let's make sure that everyone in the world lives right near where they work. If you live in Redding, by God you will work right there. No jobs, but there's some in Sacramento? Sucks to be you. Better move to Sac.

You also complain about how "they're changing our neighborhoods to the way they want them" and "with complete disregard for the people and cultures who have lived here for decades". I bet the same things were said by the Irish and Germans who lived in the Mission when the Latinos began moving in. Or by the Jews and Irish who lived in the Richmond when the Russians and Chinese moved in. Cities adapt and change. My family's lived in San Francisco for five generations. I never once heard my grandparents complain about how their neighborhood was being 'destroyed' by people moving into Polk Gulch. Difference between us and you is that we realize that cities change and ain't nothing set in stone (well that and we also don't whine and bitch like you when they do).

You don't like the techies moving into 'YOUR' neighborhood? Tough shit. I don't want any Section 8 housing in my neighborhood. But it happens, so suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and try to learn to get along with your new neighbors instead of whining about them moving in.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

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