Tara Ramroop has laughed, cried, and commiserated with this amazing community from the start. She's been writing for as long as she can remember and riding Muni for more than a decade.

A tradeswoman explores international relations on the 14-Mission

Muni Diaries podcast

It wouldn’t be a cross-town Muni line if manspreading, drinking, and impromptu history lessons didn’t factor in somewhere, right? Today’s storyteller, Molly Martin, is a tradeswoman and longtime Bay Area resident who takes us back to simpler, but familiar times on the 14-Mission. Here’s Molly:

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Molly previously served san activist and organizer for Occupy Bernal, a neighborhood group focused on fighting evictions in Bernal Heights. She’s currently working on a book about the history of women construction workers in the Bay Area.

We met Molly after she pitched her story to us via email. Be cool like Molly and pitch your own Muni or San Francisco story at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com. And if you like what you’re hearing, help us keep the lights on at Muni Diaries HQ by supporting us on Patreon

Pic by Flickr user Michael Patrick

Meet the woman behind NYC’s subway tweets

New York City: They’re just like us.

Not really, but they do also have a real-life human behind the service alerts (i.e. bad news) that stymie subway riders on their commutes.

Haley Dragoo writes the transit alerts New Yorkers find on the MTA’s websites, Twitter feeds, and, most recently, an app called MYmta. In this recent New York Times piece, she walks us through her experience engaging with their unique and occasionally pissed off and skeptical ridership. Sound familiar?

“O.K., bot,” someone wrote back recently when Haley Dragoo answered him on Twitter, as if Ms. Dragoo’s message had been generated by a robot. She wasted no time setting him straight: “No, I’m a real person.”

 

In fact, she is a 26-year-old who once described herself as “feisty and opinionated.” “I always keep things light and fun,” she wrote in the same biographical sketch, “and love making people laugh.”

We know that’s pretty hard, but she seems to be keeping her head up.

“I think people think it’s a lot worse than it is, this catastrophic mess all the time,” she said. “I’ve had to put a moratorium on talking about the trains with my boyfriend. We had to say no talking about the trains. He’s part of the public. They just see the bad parts. They don’t see the strides we’re making and how this information that we put out makes a difference. They’re caught up in the negative part.”

As it turns out, the NYC MTA Twitter folks work out of the NASA-like control center and everyone thinks they’re robots.

It is probably no surprise that passengers accustomed to impersonal and often unintelligible communications on the subway sometimes have trouble believing that anyone at the transit agency is actually reading their tweets.

Do you think people also write, “Hey, fuck you!” to @NYCTSubway, or is that just San Francisco?

We got to know Schad Dalton and Rick Banchero, the real humans behind the SFMTA Twitter account on an episode of the Muni Diaries podcast. They told us, “Sometimes people will tell us we’re incompetent, that we should lose our jobs, that we are a failure, and those are just some of the nicer things. Sometimes it is hard and you feel that they are coming at you.” We think that Schad, Rick, and Haley should get together for an epic Happy Hour commiserating session!

Our takeaway: Be nice out there—those humans behind @sfmta_muni might just bend over backward to find that lost item when you least expect it.

Pic by Daniel Hoherd on Flickr

Milking a Muni seat for all it’s worth

Tracing the stories of objects left behind on Muni is a favorite pastime of ours. Going beyond the odd scarf or umbrella, we’ll occasionally get an item that begs an origin story.

A sloshy bowl of milk, spoon included, is pretty high on that list.

Maybe it’s an offering for transit-riding cats? (Don’t look at me that way, cats on Muni are totally a thing.) Could even be Part 2 of a joke that starts with “Fruity Pebbles walked into a bus…” — where the joke is ultimately on the rest of us contending with it.

Let’s just chalk it up to holiday week brain.

Thanks for sharing, mr9erfan. Anyone else have important dispatches for their fellow riders? Muni Diaries only exists because of your stories and submissions, so tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with your observations. Our email inbox (muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com) is always open, too.

Midnight madness on the Muni Metro M line

Steve sent us this dispatch from the M at midnight, when many of San Francisco’s creatures have gone to sleep—but not all of them.

Midnight. The platform at Powell Street is deserted except for a few derelicts and drunks. I jump on a M train outbound and take a seat near the front of the empty first car. At the next stop, Van Ness, an enormous man with a linebacker’s build and a shaved head boards. The sleeves of his grey sweatshirt are cut off to accommodate the rippling muscles of his arms that clutch plastic bags stuffed with water bottles, old clothes, newspapers and blankets. His eyes scan the rows of empty seats. Without a word, he sits beside me, his bags press against my face.

The train rocks into motion, he pulls out a yellow plastic walkie-talkie, the kind sold years ago in toy stores. Into the mouthpiece, he grunts, squeals, snorts and shouts gibberish. I lean forward and peer around the overflowing bags into eyes that are dark and intense. I raise my hand slowly in an effort to catch his attention. He shifts his gaze in my direction, but does not acknowledge me.

At Civic Center, I rise, push past the bags and exit the car. I walk quickly down the platform, step into the second car as the trains exits the station. Relieved to have escaped, I sink into a vacant seat.

‘Begone, Satan!’

I turn and see the car’s only other passenger in the next seat. He’s shriveled, hunched over with wild neon eyes, a mass of tangled hair and a wizened, tattooed face. He forms a cross with his forefingers, thrusts it at me and snarls, ‘I curse you, Spawn of Evil.’

I jump up, run down the aisle and, returning to the first car, retake my seat beside the big man, He holds the walk-talkie to his lips and rambles on in his secret language. There is much to report from Planet San Francisco.

Sometimes, taking a seat next to the guy with all the bags and the toy-store walkie-talkie is the right choice after all.

Is your own so-San Francisco story burning a hole in your pocket? Share your tale with the world by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or, our email inbox, muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, is always open!

Photo by cbcastro on Flickr

From the literal mailbox: Quantum physics meets Pulp Fiction on Muni

Dana Grae Kane, 72, is a self-described scarred veteran of the L-Taraval, having spent 29 years on that Metro line commuting between the Sunset and FiDi. Now retired and recovering on the Oregon coast, (pass the Pinot Noir!) she graciously took the time to send us a story, via snail mail y’all, from her Muni-riding past. 

One morning in the 1990s, a young heterosexual couple sat across from me, each engrossed in reading a book.

He was about 6’4″ and 250 lbs. of muscle, dressed in a T-shit and Gorilla work jeans, arms showing serious tough-guy tattoos, wearing a hard hat and massive steel-toed boots.

Diametrically opposed, she appeared to be an archetypically fluffy delicate flower—frail, pale, and fragile—probably often suffering categorization among “dumb blondes.”

I could hardly contain my surprise and delight when I realized what each was reading. She was engrossed in something that resembled Annals of Physics published by the Max Planck Society, while he was riveted in a romance novel of lurid cover, something that could easily be called Passion Under the Plum Trees by an author named Euphorbia Spindrift.

Thus, we may, after all, be able to judge books by their covers, but not so Muni riders.

As true today as it was 20 years ago, San Franciscans rarely fit into Column A or Column B—more often than not, you’ll find that we sample a little bit of both, and then some.

Extra thanks to Matt from the Elbo Room, where we hold our live storytelling shows twice a year. Ms. Kane addressed her typed and printed story, with impeccable cursive on the envelope, to Muni Diaries Live, and Matt was kind enough to forward it on:

Is your own so-San Francisco story burning a hole in your pocket? Share your tale with the world by tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Or, our email inbox, muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, is always open! And, for the record, so is our P.O. Box:

Muni Diaries
P.O. Box 640084
San Francisco, CA 94164

Top photo: juicyrai on Flickr

Being an ally in the fight against homophobia…in San Francisco

San Francisco-raised Nato Green is a comedian, union organizer, dad, and, per The East Bay Express, a “political sparkplug.” He’s also a Muni Diaries Live alum, where he threaded the needle with a comic spin on a BART strike.

Nato is on the podcast today with a story that takes us back to the early-1990s in San Francisco, when the city was still hitting its progressive stride. As the city celebrates Pride month, Nato recalls some way-early childhood memories at what was then called the Gay Freedom Day parade, as well as his experience in the fight against homophobia at San Francisco’s Lick-Wilmerding High School.

Listen and/or download here:

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Check out Nato’s new album, The Whiteness Album, and follow him on Twitter @natogreen.

If you liked what you heard today, please support Muni Diaries on Patreon to help us keep telling stories from everyday San Franciscans.

Photo by RightAngleImages: Nato in 2013, performing at Muni Diaries Live at the Elbo Room.

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