Where are They Now? Part of a series on former members of the MAC Team: Michelle Hill
When new members of the Mosquito Abatement Courier (MAC) crew are assigned their first sections of San Francisco, they use maps that indicate the location of nearly every single one of the drainage catch basins (CBs) in their areas. Most of them intuitively realize how logical this is. There are over 22,000 CBs on San Francisco’s public streets and parks and it’s obviously beneficial to have their locations pinpointed on the maps. But for the first few years of the MAC program, CBs were not shown on the maps. MAC crew members had to find CBs on the street. All this changed just over two years ago when MAC team member Michelle Hill spent the winter of 2009 – 10 researching and designing the software that literally put the CBs on the map.
In the spring of 2009, Michelle, a talented and experienced singer and musician joined the MAC crew and quickly established herself as a dependable and likable team member. As mentioned, in those times CBs were not on the maps. She, like all other MAC workers, had to find each CB the hard way by checking both sides of every street, uphill and down, finding the obvious ones on corners and the tricky mid-block ones as well as dicey ones located off the curb in traffic. And, like other MAC workers, she asked that the maps be redrawn with the CBs cited on them. So in the latter part of the 2009 season, each MAC worker took a pen to mark the location of each CB on his or her map. Unlike other MAC workers, Michelle also had the time and knowledge to create the software needed to do the work. At the end of the season, she was assigned the task of making new maps that would have those CBs located on them. As Michelle herself has said, she was just “obsessive – compulsive” enough to actually enjoy the mapmaking job. So she spent the winter of 2009 – 10 researching dozens of maps with hand scrawled notes and markings to record the locations of the over 22,000 CBs.
When the 2010 season began, the MAC crew had a series of maps that covered all of San Francisco and pinpointed the locations of almost every public CB in the City. It would be unrealistic to expect every CB to be on the maps. Human error on the original maps meant some CBs that existed would be missed while some that didn’t exist would be added. And computer error could be frustrating. Sometimes the computer would locate a CB a half block away from its true site. No matter how much she would move her cursor to the true location, the computer stubbornly “insisted” on landing the CB elsewhere.
But these problems were few and far between; the new maps have not only made MAC work easier they have made our job more efficient. Now we have more time to do other tasks such as inspect standing water on roadsides and in parks or to explain our job to members of the public.
In addition to her indispensable map work, Michelle was a solid worker in the field. She enjoyed her work, seeing the chance to connect to different neighborhoods as being a “citywide Easter egg hunt.” MAC work reinforced her cycling confidence. And the job’s attention to detail and public service aspects have served her well in her subsequent work experiences.
After leaving the MAC crew, Michelle worked as a substitute teacher at a local pre-school before going to a pharmacy company and then a craft store. Now she works as a designer at Pottery Barn in the Ice House at the foot of Telegraph Hill, designing fabrics, dishes and other household products.
A talented bassist, guitarist and singer, Michelle has toured or recorded with The Flip, Homeowners and her current band Brilliant Colors, going as far as eastern North America and western Europe. She recalls the crowd at Ann Arbor, Michigan as being the best ever.
She still stays in touch with current and former MAC workers and joined us on the August 2011 Critical Mass when MAC crew bikers took that month’s ride to Hunter’s Point for the first time.