Muni operator Charles Haletky on teaching “professional paranoia”

Operators are the front-line glue holding this operation together. Still, The Public (myself included) have had a spicy word or two for an operator, occasionally on this very website. So often we’ve had a spicy word for any operator, stranger, or boss on the wrong day at the wrong time. Some wrong days are wrong-er than others.

Veteran operator Charles Haletky joined us at a special Muni Diaries Live in April 2024, which paid homage to the operators, mechanics, trainers, and everyone in the SFMTA universe keeping the machine running. In this recording from the show, Haletky walks us through the highs of “pure, exquisite joy of public humiliation” and the lows of, well…the lowest you can imagine. He reminds us that, as someone who trains the next generation of operators, he needs to be cruel on occasion—not to be kind, but for the greater good.

Listen to the stories on your favorite pod platform:

And then! Subscribe so don’t miss a minute. We regularly bring audio from the live shows, as well as ongoing musings from the everyday Muni experience. Muni Diaries on Spotify? Muni Diaries on Apple Podcasts? Hit us up.

Pic by Emily Huston

Night of Ideas part 1: Everyday heroes on the bus

This is the first part in a series showcasing short Muni stories we collected from attendees at the Night of Ideas at the San Francisco Public Library on March 2, 2024. This batch of stories focuses on everyday heroes on the bus: situations where a small gesture or act of kindness by a transit rider or operator turned a tense situation around, made someone feel seen or appreciated, or just brightened their day.

Listen to the stories here:

We were struck by how many of these stories featured Muni operators being the hero in seemingly small ways that meant a lot to the storyteller. It’s a good reminder that not only do our operators work a demanding job and get us where we need to go, but so often they go above and beyond in keeping folks feeling safe or brightening people’s day.

We hope to see you this Thursday, April 4 at Muni Diaries Live: The “Thank You, Driver” Show, which will feature even more stories by and about the transit workers who keep us rolling. And remember to always thank your operator!

Katy Birnbaum on the power of streets to divide or connect us

Where most people see a desolate street, Katy Birnbaum sees a celebration and the regeneration of community waiting to happen. But it didn’t start out that way. Katy grew up in a car-dependent suburb where the streets isolated her and her family. In this story from our November 2023 live show, Katy shares how moving to San Francisco transformed her relationship to streets, how Muni connected her to the things most important to her, and how she decided to give back.

Listen to Katy’s story here:

Katy is the founder of Into The Streets, a San Francisco-based cultural production studio dedicated to bringing people together in the streets. Katy previously led the open streets department at the nonprofit Livable City, revamping the Sunday Streets SF program and stewarding it for 7 years. For more about Katy’s work check out www.intothestreetssf.com.

Have a Muni story you’d to share? Email us your pitch at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by Emily Huston

Once upon a Muni train with Baruch Porras-Hernandez

It’s not every day you’re swept off your feet by a handsome stranger on the subway. But when Baruch Porras-Hernandez rides Muni, anything can happen. We were thrilled to have Baruch back on the Muni Diaries Live stage in November with the story of a fleeting romance from his past, and the unexpected turn it takes.

Listen to Baruch’s story here:

Baruch is a writer, performer, and standup comedian who’s done storytelling shows all over California. He’s won the Moth in LA, headlined at About Last Night, is a three-time winner of Best of Bawdy, and won first place at Oakland’s Story Showdown. You can hear more stories from Baruch on the Muni Diaries podcast in Episode 43 and Episode 70. And don’t miss Baruch in SF Sketchfest at Cobb’s on January 19th and Brava Cabaret on January 20th!

Have a Muni story you’d to share? Email us your pitch at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Photo by Emily Huston

Cheers to our 15th year, and a look ahead to 2024

Happy New Year, Muni Diaries fam! 2023 was an exciting year for us as we celebrated 15 years of sharing your Muni stories. We hosted a special anniversary live show in November and designed a limited edition Muni Diary for you to document your transit stories. Our second annual Muni Diaries Art Market in December was another huge hit. The stories we shared this year ranged from hilarious to poignant, from chilling to inspiring: a bus operator’s ghost story; spoken word poetry on race and displacement through the lens of a Muni window; the ongoing search for a special Muni operator; an ode to a transit system that is at times barely navigable yet somehow manages to bring us together. We were also thrilled to share a two part series featuring San Francisco high school students performing their own original Muni poetry.

A heartfelt thanks from all of us at Muni Diaries to everyone who shared your Muni stories with us in 2023, sent us your bus photos, tuned in to the podcast, attended our live shows and art market, and helped us celebrate 15 years of Muni Diaries. What started as a college project has grown into an online journal of our shared experiences as transit riders and San Franciscans, and it’s still going strong 15 years later thanks to our irreplaceable community. We couldn’t do it without you.

We’ve got stories from our November live show, exciting in-person podcasting events, and more already queued up for you in 2024. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s on deck:

Have a Muni story you’d like us to feature in 2024? Email us your pitch at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

Tanea Lunsford Lynx shines light on past-tense San Francisco

Tanea Lunsford Lynx joined us at Muni Diaries Live in April 2023 to perform I Used to Live Here, her poem evoking the magic of relatives living a mere Muni ride away, the otherworldly dimension between West Portal and Van Ness Stations, and the soothing something about 24-hour Church Street Safeway light. She was one of the San Francisco-born-and-raised artists featured in Muni Raised Me, an exhibit exploring what truly public transit means to those who depend on it—and are ultimately shaped by it.

Here’s Tanea:

Tanea, an artist and educator, gave me chills with her delivery and lyrical gift. She also left me hopeful that the city she “used to” live in and the characters she described can thrive in present-tense San Francisco, too.

You might remember Tanea from Muni Diaries podcast Eps. 140 and 141, featuring Tanea and her students at performing original poetry about our everyone’s favorite school bus. And don’t forget to check out Muni Raised Me co-curator Meymey Lee in Ep. 144.

Muni Diaries is 15 years old! Forget a birth-month, we’ve made it a birth-year. Join us Nov 2 for the festivities at a special Muni Diaries Live. Tickets are available now (but going fast!) on Eventbrite.

Photo by Emily Huston

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