Seeing Our City’s Less Fortunate on Muni

A Muni ride puts you in much closer proximity with our city’s less fortunate – instead of just walking over yet another homeless person huddled in a blanket or ignoring yet another outstretched hand for spare change, a Muni ride makes you look at people in the eye. Or does it?

I was on the 38-Geary on Sunday when a older man wearing a trench coat got onboard. He sat across from a toddler bouncing on her mom’s lap, and the next thing I know, the man started singing a pretty, soulful tune to the little girl. “The girl of my dreams…ain’t no mountain too high…nothing can keep us apart.” “You know what I’m talking about,” he says to no one in particular.

He rambles on and tells the bus that his name is Fillmore Holmes (“That’s right. That’s my real name.”) and sings right in front of Virgin Records downtown. “My last show is on August 23! Are y’all going to come see me at my last show?”

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No, ma’am. It wasn’t your facial hair. Nor was it your morbid obesity. These things I can look past.

You didn’t hoard any seats, spit, or litter. I’m pretty sure you flashed a Fast Pass and took your seat, not refusing to move to the back of a crowded coach like so many of your fellow riders.

No, your offense was perhaps more egregious: You treated us all, a peaceful bunch of weekday morning 31-Balboa riders, to an exclusive, VIP performance of … your phone conversation with a friend. Loud and clear, thank you.

It was so wonderfully annoying, really, the way you neglected to shield your loud mouth from us. Otherwise we might not have been privy to all those glorious details of your home and social life.

Unless it’s an emergency, or you can keep it brief and quiet, put your phone away.

– Jeff

Jeff has heard his fair share of excuses.

White whale


Photo by hamster!

100 Muni StoriesAn average ride on Muni provides a good story to tell friends later on, but the experience is rarely a positive one. Indeed, that’s the whole basis of this site – funny stories, sometimes positive, often quirky, but usually negative and sometimes scary. Those of us who continue to use Muni (even though it’s given us black eyes, sent us to the hospital multiple times, but still says it loves us) resign ourselves to this fact. Most of us have all but given up on the Muni white whale.

OK, I guess the real Muni white whale would be a functional, reliable system, but we’re not going to go there right now. What I’m talking about now is an overwhelmingly positive Muni experience; something you can come away from and say, honestly, that it was fun. Sadly, Ishmael probably had better luck finding Moby Dick than we’ll have looking for an awesome bus ride.

But I actually had a great time on Muni the other day, if you can believe it.

Tara 1, Ishmael 0

Most of this diary takes place on Muni property, on unscheduled Muni time, so I’ll refrain from using too many identifying markers, including Driver’s approximate age, weight, ethnicity and Social Security number. Let’s just say I picked up the bus on the north end of town and was heading south, at some point in the day, on some day within the last week.

I hurry over to a bus, after seeing it parked at the stop I needed. No need to hurry, though. The driver jogged up behind me, asked where I was headed, and if I wanted a ride. I naturally assume this is driver humor; Haha! A ride, I get it. On the bus that I was trying to get on, that’s going to the very neighborhood I needed? Ha!

I guess it wasn’t really a joke. I walked over to the doors as he unlocked them, and saw the number for a line I totally didn’t want. At this point, Woman Reflex kicked in. Is this the worst kind of Muni Loony, the kind who beat up or killed a real Muni driver and stole his bus and outfit, and is now giving “rides” to women walking around alone? Instead of overreacting, I asked him what line this was. He told me what it was, but said he was just coming off his shift, and was going to be dropping it off at a Muni lot near(ish) where I was going. My intuition is pretty good, it wasn’t an odd hour, and I needed to get to where I was going ASAP. Also, I knew I could deal a pretty hefty kick in the nuts if I needed to, and it was pretty clear that he didn’t have a gun in his Muni outfit.

My intuition served me well, because he was indeed harmless. He strapped himself in the driver’s seat right away, limiting any no-goodnik-mobility, so I relaxed some. Oh, and I got to change the side and front banners to “Not in Service.” That’s right. Did you miss it?

I got to change the banners to say “Not in Service.”

It’s a pretty simple task on the older buses. Unlike the digital ones that can probably be changed with a couple stabs at a button, these signs move if you flick a switch that scrolls through all the different Muni numbers. Indicators from the inside of the bus tell you what it says on the outside, so I stopped once it got to what I wanted. Easy. And awesome.

With my Woman Reflex antenna still up, I fiddled with my phone the whole time, just so he could see how easily I could call the cops if he got weird. He wasn’t weird, he was just admittedly lonely.

He commented on my lack of a wedding ring, and I said I was unmarried but not single. He seemed fine with that, which is actually kind of amazing in this day and age of would-be suitors. It’s simple, really: Ask politely — Rejected? — drop the subject and any comments about her appearance, her mate or how she’d be better off with you. If you don’t, she will become visibly irritated and might mace you just to release the frustration of dealing with a hard-headed asshole like yourself.

Man, was Driver glad to be off work. I wholeheartedly agreed that there’s no time quite like quitting time. He pulled out his pack of cigarettes, asked if I minded if he smoked, and proceeded to puff away, while driving the bus. I should have taken a cigarette so I could tell people I smoked with the driver on a Muni bus.

Then he talked about how he wants to get out of the city, and maybe find a nice lady out there somewhere. San Francisco, he said, is too expensive, with too many crappy landlords and, for him, too many years working a dead-end job. Not that it’s earth-shattering news, but Muni employees are a disgruntled lot. If what Driver said is true, you apparently don’t get a regular route until you’ve been there for 10 years. So Driver’s day-to-day tasks involve filling in for people who call in sick, or filling in as best he could during those multiple, ever-charming missed runs. I don’t blame him for wanting to go somewhere cheaper, and finding a job that isn’t, as one friend put it, like driving a jail on wheels. He has big-rig driving in mind, since they get paid well.

My only complaint was that he drove at a snail’s pace down the main road we used. He was probably distracted because he was chatting and smoking the whole time, but still. Not exactly a speedy ride, but no harm done either. He had to turn away from where I was heading, so he dropped me off at a bus that would take me directly there. I hope things work out for Driver, and I’m still surprised that he’s made it through nearly a decade of Muni.

The only thing that can top this is a reliable transit system, but I’m not holding my breath.

Tara Ramroop, who occasionally pisses people off with what she writes and how she edits, actually doesn’t like Moby Dick that much. It’s no private ride on Muni, that’s for damn sure.

Muni Manners Photo Contest

The good ladies at Muni Manners have announced a transit photo contest. They’re calling for submissions from now until September 15. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this from Bayview or Baton Rouge (I’m assuming there’s a bus system there) — the ladies are looking for shots of any system, including international ones.

We’ll most likely be linking to the final result, once it’s compiled. We’ll leave a page at the top of Muni Diaries with all the info you need. Tell your transit-riding friends!

Doesn’t It Just Figure?

So I was riding the J-Church on Friday to my chiropractor’s office and there was an empty seat next to mine. I was listening to something on my iPod — heavy metal probably — at some incredibly loud volume, as I am wont to do.

A family got on, and their son, who I’m guessing was about 10-12, sat down next to me. He turned toward me and I figured he was just looking out the window. But then I realized he had opened his mouth.

I pulled out my earbuds and said, “Sorry, what?”

“Hello!” he said. He was adorable — blond, blue-eyed, pint-sized glasses, dressed casually.

“Hi,” I said, in a genuinely friendly way, and then went back to my introspective rocking out.

About two seconds later, I thought to myself: Doesn’t it just figure, the first time a cute boy says hello to me on the train, he’s prepubescent?

And then he got up and went to sit somewhere else. Hmph.

— Beth W.

Beth loves the J-Church, hates being hit on by strangers, and yet secretly wonders why it never happens to her.

Pissin’ in the Wind out in the Avenues

Thank god sometimes for NextBus.

This morning, I was out in the upper 20s on the north side of the park, and was passively relying on the 31-Balboa, which typically arrives shortly after 9 a.m. I usually check NextBus around 8:50 or so, and this morning, it’s a damned good thing I did. Here’s what I saw:

There was no way I could make that seven-minute bus. I’m not sure the world is ready to see me ride Muni in my boxers. That, and I still had to get the dog ready.

But note the parenthetical around that 22-minutes-away bus: Masonic & Turk????

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