Photo by hamster!
An average ride on Muni provides a good story to tell friends later on, but the experience is rarely a positive one. Indeed, thatâ€™s the whole basis of this site â€“ funny stories, sometimes positive, often quirky, but usually negative and sometimes scary. Those of us who continue to use Muni (even though itâ€™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 weâ€™re not going to go there right now. What Iâ€™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 weâ€™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 Iâ€™ll refrain from using too many identifying markers, including Driverâ€™s approximate age, weight, ethnicity and Social Security number. Letâ€™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, thatâ€™s going to the very neighborhood I needed? Ha!
I guess it wasnâ€™t really a joke. I walked over to the doors as he unlocked them, and saw the number for a line I totally didnâ€™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 “ridesâ€ 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 wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 â€œNot in Service.â€ Thatâ€™s right. Did you miss it?
I got to change the banners to say â€œNot in Service.â€
Itâ€™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 wasnâ€™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. Itâ€™s simple, really: Ask politely — Rejected? — drop the subject and any comments about her appearance, her mate or how sheâ€™d be better off with you. If you donâ€™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 thereâ€™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 itâ€™s earth-shattering news, but Muni employees are a disgruntled lot. If what Driver said is true, you apparently donâ€™t get a regular route until youâ€™ve been there for 10 years. So Driverâ€™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 donâ€™t blame him for wanting to go somewhere cheaper, and finding a job that isnâ€™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 snailâ€™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 Iâ€™m still surprised that heâ€™s made it through nearly a decade of Muni.
The only thing that can top this is a reliable transit system, but Iâ€™m not holding my breath.
Tara Ramroop, who occasionally pisses people off with what she writes and how she edits, actually doesnâ€™t like Moby Dick that much. Itâ€™s no private ride on Muni, thatâ€™s for damn sure.