Don’t Do My Beloved 49 That Way

smokeshopEverything was going more or less as we had planned. We had a short wait at 20th and Mission, nothing out of the ordinary. Our inbound 49 arrived, and with ample seating. We plopped down on the back row, Tara and I, sitting on and surrounded by so much tagging, I remarked that it was so hideous, it almost came back to beautiful (the so-called Saturn effect). Sadly, I didn’t take a photo.

All the windows were closed, which didn’t sit well with my needs as an oxygen-consuming being. I cracked the one nearest me a subtle 1.5 inches. All was well.

(An odd interlude, if I may — and because I don’t feel like writing it out, I point you to this Muni Diaries Twitter update.)

It was the ride back to the Mission, again on the 49, that has me writing this diary on an otherwise lovely, dreary Sunday morning.

As we approached Van Ness and Post, we looked north and saw our bus a block away. It was stopped, so I didn’t see any point in running up to Van Ness and Geary. I kept an eye out, looking every few steps over my shoulder to make sure it wasn’t one of those phantom, Monty Python-bunny type buses that are, like, one minute on the horizon, the next minute, ahead of you. Luckily that wasn’t the case.

Tara jogged a couple steps, but we were there. I got caught for a split second in the rush of de-boarding passengers, but nothing that should’ve warranted what came next.

I was, I’d estimate, five feet behind Tara, ready to step up into the bus, when I noticed the driver turn her head back to the left, away from the door, as if to check traffic. The doors begin to close. Screaming ensued, but that didn’t stop them from closing. They fully closed on my hands briefly before opening back up. No apologies from the driver. Fine. Whatever. I was on the bus.

Between there and 18th and Mission wasn’t anything to write (or write home) about, so I won’t.

But as if coming out of dream, we realized we had been sitting at that intersection, 18th and Mission, for a few minutes. No announcement was made, naturally, and no Popeye’s Chicken was around. So at first, I naïvely wondered what was going on. Then, realizing we were one block away from our stop, I suggested we hop off and walk. I would use that extra walking time to call in and complain to 311.

I told them about the boarding thing, but that my real beef with her was her getting off to go into a smoke shop, sans announcement. That just doesn’t seem right. And if the operators union is strong enough to get that right (to interrupt routes for frivolous, personal errands or to socialize) written into the rules and regulations, then this quasi-socialist calls bullshit on that union.

And I know, I know, a lot of good calling in a complaint will do. Typically when Muni operators piss me off and do jackass shit like this, it pisses me off because I’m late, in a hurry, and I don’t have time to call. Saturday night, I did. It turned out to be almost a perfect amount of time — I was on the phone another two minutes after having arrived at my destination.

But here’s my thinking — if enough of us carry through and call these incidents in, maybe someone at SFMTA will notice an inbox that’s overflowing. And instead of just hitting delete, they’ll start to see a pattern emerge. And maybe they’ll say something to their supervisor, and before we know it, there just might be some modicum of accountability.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m no basher of Muni drivers. I happen to respect the hell out of their job, and most of them are great people who put up with an ungodly amount of shit, day in, day out. But in my almost 10 years riding the system, I’ve come to estimate that 90 percent of the time, when things go awry on Muni, the problem can be traced back to an operator not doing their job.

So I guess this is me trying to inspire you. Call in your complaints. The 311 operators are typically very nice and helpful, and the call will take 10 minutes or so. If we do this, our strength-in-numbers approach could possibly, just possibly, bring about some real change, and maybe make that upcoming fare increase seem a little more deserved.


  • Jeffe, I am still stuck on the part where the bus closed the door on your hand. What the hell?

  • They are not allowed to stop in the middle of the run, no. Whenever it happens, take pictures — or even better, video — and publicize, publicize, publicize.

  • the lesson here: always run to a waiting bus.

  • J Foote

    JHello? Has it occurred to you that BUS DRIVERS NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM just like the rest of you humans?

    Imagine yourself in that job and GIVE THEM AN EFFING BREAK!!!

    • @J Foote: Yes, of course. I totally understand, and sympathize. But I will not forgive a rampant lack of communication that pervades the organization. All this driver had to do is let the passengers know that the bus would be stopping for a moment. It happened to me another time that day — stop and no announcement. It happens all the time. Stopping isn’t the issue here. It’s the lack of communication. Despite that, this driver stopped at a smoke shop. Sorry, that is inexcusable.

  • jimbobjones

    The union works hard to protect these poor performing drivers and makes it extremely difficult to fire the incompetents.

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