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, firstname.lastname@example.org, is always open!
Photo by cbcastro on Flickr
Comedian Dominique Gelin has given every sign on public transit to say, “Go Away.” She’s sat in the most strategic seat to avoid strangers, avoided eye contact, and yet, it doesn’t always work.
In today’s story, Dom walks us through how one crucial mistake led to her meeting a smug pickup artist on Muni. You can listen to her story by downloading the epidoes below, or just search for Muni Diaries on any of your favorite podcast apps:
And for podcast listeners, today’s episode has a special discount code for Muni Diaries Live tickets! Our 10th anniversary show is just two weeks away, so be sure to get a ticket here. We want to celebrate with you!
Photo by Right Angle Images
In these #MeToo times, it’s inspiring to see women speaking up for themselves and standing up, sometimes literally, for one another. Here’s Muni rider Teresa with a disturbing but empowering commuter tale from the 1-California.
I take the 1 home from work every day around 6 p.m.
I’m usually pretty aware of my surroundings, but I had a particularly rough day at work, so I had my headphones in and I was seriously zoning out.
As I’m almost falling asleep, I hear this particularly loud voice above my music, and it starts to wake me up. I take off my headphones to find the source of the angry voice.
I looked toward the front of the bus and quickly realized that a man was yelling something at a woman. I listened a little harder, and I start hearing what he’s saying to her. I’m not going to repeat it, but it was some horrible stuff.
I’m no stranger to catcalling or street harassment, but this was on another level.
This is something that I can’t stand for. Any time I see some asshole intimidating a woman on the street or on Muni, I have to step in. It’s gotten me into a lot trouble, but I cannot just walk away. Most of the time, I’m the only one. I’ve never been helped when some dude is harassing me, and there are very few times when I’ve seen another person step in.
So, I put my phone in my backpack and zip it up thinking “OK, here we go again.” And my brain starts running through all the possible scenarios: “What if he attacks me? Does he have a weapon? What if he goes after someone else?”
As I’m about to get up and confront him, another woman pushes past me, walks directly up to the woman being harassed, and simply says “Do you feel safe?”
At this point, the woman at the front of the bus is shaking so hard she can’t even speak. So the other woman put her hand on the lady’s shoulder and said “Come to the back of the bus with me, we can sit together.”
As the two women are walking to the back of the bus, that guy gets up and tries to follow them, yelling vile comments the whole time. But as he’s trying to get to them, a few other women stand up, and they block his path. Then, I got up and stood with them. And before I knew it there were six or seven women creating this barrier.
That man looked at us, yelled one last shitty thing, and got off at the next stop. Because he realized there was no way he could win against all of us.
Immediately after he leaves, the woman he was harassing bursts into tears. He had been following her for 10 blocks. She didn’t know what to do, so she got on the bus. She was five months pregnant. We all just listened to her and after she stopped crying, she thanked us. The woman who came to her rescue sat down next to me. My stop was the next one. As I left, the only thing I could do was look at her and say thank you. After I got off the bus, I started crying. I was sad because we have to deal with situations like this ALL the time, but I was crying happy tears because, for once, I felt like I wasn’t alone, and I felt how powerful we are when we stand together.
Props to these women for being the first and only line of defense during this scary encounter.
Pic by Thomas Hawk on Flickr
There’s extra, and then there is EXTRA.
This guy in a vampire costume is making the party entrance I’ve always dreamed of. San Francisco Examiner photographer and keen Muni observer @jachristian saw this fellow emerge from the Muni station escalator in a most fantastic and “fuck the fall risk” fashion.
We have more moments ranging from “Hmm. Cool.” to WTF on and off Muni, in our appropriately named WTF page.
We don’t usually know how close we came to getting jacked on the bus. One rider, Curtis Richard Tom does. He recalls a unique o/h on Muni conversation that provided oddly, unsettlingly intimate insight into a would-be theft. Here’s Curtis:
This happened back when cassettes were the main mechanism in personal music devices. I was using a recordable Walkman, with manual/auto level record, pitch/speed control.
I had some blank space at the end of a tape. I hadn’t had a chance to flip the cassette yet, so I still had my headphones on. Through the foam ear pads, I could hear the couple in front of me having a quiet argument.
“Yeah, it’s a nice one, but no,” said the girl.
“Why not?” Asked the guy.
“You see how tight it’s strapped up under his armpit?” My Walkman was webstrapped pretty close.
“Yeah, so?” he countered.
“You’re not getting it from him unless you knock him out. Subduing him might be possible, but it wouldn’t be trivial. Forget it.”
He looked me in the eye once. “Yeah, fine.”
I was done listening to the silent hissing of my blank spot of tape and finally flipped it like I hadn’t heard them.
More overheard convos:
A misinterpretation of your “meaning”
Photo by @zacharyzito
What happens on the last train doesn’t always stay on the last train.
In this episode of our podcast, Na’amen Gobert Tilahun shares what happened no one fateful blurry night he jumped on a Metro, and about the importance of good friends who will stand up for one another no matter what.
Na’amen is a writer whose craft spans multiple genres. The followup to his 2016 novel, The Root, is The Tree, which is coming out later this year. Learn more about him at naamentilahun.com.
If you haven’t subscribed to our podcast, we’d love if you lent us your ears! Here’s Na’amen:
P.S. Bonus late-night train story that might tickle your fancy: an impromptu disco dance party on the last BART train. Join us on Instagram for more only-in-SF goodness.
Photo credit: Right Angle Images