Tales From Olden Days 3

I decided to play Muni races today — the 5 against the 21. I’m fairly certain that the 5 line outmaneuvers and outruns the 21. (The block-to-block stops on the 21 draws this conclusion.) But the 5 stops about three streets farther from my final destination (Ashbury and Fell), which is why I always opt for the 21 — pure laziness. But the question was: Could I overtake the 21 on foot once the 5 dropped me at my destination? This was something I’d pathetically pondered more times than a sane person should.

As I waited for the bus on Market and Second, I saw my shot to answer this ever-nagging question. Just behind the approaching 5 poked a 21 — back to back. They both came to a stop. So I decided to test my theory, and hopped onto the 5. After we loaded and left, I watched the 21 out of the rear window until the two buses made the split near Seventh street. The race was on.

It was a slow-going one at that. Why did this surprise me? It is Muni, after all. But the 5 seemed to make more stops than usual during this mid-afternoon hour. At this time of day (about 2:30 p.m.), the crowd is a weird mix of teenage revelers, unemployed professionals, students, and senior citizens. I don’t know about you, but my favorite crowds consist of the quiet early morning and evening ones. While boring, at least I can read.

So here I sit contemplating the slowest road race ever when Miz Pushy steps on. She’s large and in charge with a booming voice and an attitude robust with disregard for everyone else around her. She’s the type who uses her body and voice to move people around.

She’s the best thing to have on a crowded bus at this hour.

First, she tries to slide in the backdoor. When the driver yells, “Don’t you come in through my back door.” Miz Pushy booms back, “Just trying to speed things up.” Hell, she’s got a valid point here. So she exits and re-enters through the front, flashes her pass, and starts shoving her way to the back screaming, “Move to the back people! There’s plenty of room back there. Make space.” Again, she’s got a point. Why the hell does everyone glue themselves to the front?

Things are quiet for a while again as Miz Pushy has settled into her big open space in the back. I return to my book, trying to drown out the cellphone conversations, youth jive, and the frantic Chinese jibber jabber. Finally, I come upon my stop, pull the cord, and wait as the 5 ambles to a slow stop. I notice Miz Pushy getting up, too, also anticipating the stop. I follow her as she elbows her way and bellows at anyone blocking the door to move away. She’s like an ambulance in rush hour. I use the space she creates, and tail her out the door.

Woohoo! I’m free. Now for the walking part of the race. As I step out, I look to the left. No 21 in sight. I briskly move toward Hayes and Masonic, with one eye out for the 21, which still hasn’t made an appearance. One block to go. I cross Masonic on Hayes. Oh man, oh man. I’m gonna beat that slow clunker. Then, I hear that noise unlike any other. Like a fingernail scratching a chalkboard. The sound of the lines. The 21 slides just past me — about 20 meters from the finish line. “Damn you, 21!” I yell, knuckles in the air.

Muni has beaten me again.

– Jenny

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