Brave 38 Bus Driver


Photo by Flickr user Jesse Johnson

It was approximately 2 p.m. yesterday. It was beautiful hot afternoon; one of the first days during this fantastic Bay Area heatwave. I boarded the 38L Geary at Arguello. After a pleasant 10-minute ride, I was about to get off the bus at Fillmore/Geary when I noticed another group of people entering the back of the bus — a typical occurrence on Muni. I didn’t pay much attention until I heard over the intercom, “Please come to the front of the bus and pay the fare, young man.” The bus driver stood up forcefully and yelled, “This bus will not be moving until you pay the fare like the rest of the folks on this bus!”

As I entered a fairly empty 38L, I noticed something very interesting about the bus driver: He was a man on a mission…someone not to cross the wrong way or come across sideways.

Now, we’re not talking about a typical-size bus driver. We’re talking about a fairly large man in his early 40s with a very bald head. The young man smoothly walked to the front of the bus while on his cell phone, and paid a portion of the fare. The bus driver aggressively said, “Now look, I’m not playing with you, either you pay the fare like the rest of the working folks on this bus or get off my bus!”

The young man paused, switched his cell phone to his left hand, and calmly made a swing-like gesture to the driver! The driver moved away from the attempted fist swing then stood up, grabbed the operator phone, and yelled, “Now get the fuck off my bus or swing. I want you to swing so the cops could take you to jail. You’re on camera with a bus full of witnesses. You make a move!” The young man, clueless for his next act, turned and aggressively attempted to swing again, but missed. He looked around yelling, screaming, and unsure of what to do. He then got off the bus without making another gesture.

Now this is a bus driver with balls. Drivers like him take a stand and lay down the law. This made me proud to ride Muni every day. Yes, it was scary at times, but I was confident that the escalated situation was handled very appropriately. The bus driver showed commanding respect and set limits with this punk kid.

As a Muni commuter, I see punk kids trying to be smooth and slick to get away from paying fares on a daily basis. They cheat fares, punk commuters, smoke weed on the bus, start trouble on the bus, and intimidate other kids on the bus. I asked myself, Where do these entitled, disrespectful group of people get this behavior? They’re so confident in committing these acts; they’ll never experience consequences.

I felt empowered to speak out after my experience, so here I am. I felt this was a good deed and deserved a few cents from a daily Muni rider. Thanks for hiring folks that are tired to speak out and put my tax dollars to good use.

Do you have a story about a driver or fellow passenger whose actions made you proud? Have you told a Muni story to your friends at dinner? Share your Muni stories here at Muni Diaries.

10 comments

  • great story. too bad we don’t have more muni drivers like this. most are very passive, and don’t enforce the rules.

  • Pappu

    I’ve been on a few bus lines where no one exits through the rear doors, but if someone outside is waiting to get in, a sympathetic rider will step down so the doors open up. I think that’s just as frustrating to watch as drivers who don’t even bother to look at passes when people enter through the front doors.

    • Beverly Alcorn-Poon

      The only problem with enforcing the the rules is the force involved,,Muni usually gets so many passenger complaints about drivers doing, not doing, speaking up, defending themselves or just trying to stay on schedule. that all they (mta) do is punish the drivers. One woman driver on the 38L didn’t pick up at a corner (not a limited stop) and she was punished. I hate muni and won’t let my kids ride it. Kids with guns, weed and bad attitudes…not a good mix in a tourist economy based city….Wise up SF….

  • What the driver did was pointless bravado.

    -Mike

  • JJ

    You know, it’s really not the drivers job to force people to pay, that is the fare inspectors job with the help of SFPD. Your “brave” bus driver was putting himself at risk and inconveniencing the other riders with his little power show. He should have called SFPD and had them meet the bus, or he should have just kept driving.

  • WOW! I want his operator number! As for fare inspectors…J.J. please. It’s surely not the drivers job, but at some point shame and those of us who pay should take a stand before we all are near the point of walking. I often wonder why MUNI doesn’t record an announcement about paying fares and play it like all the other annoying things we must endure.

  • Reba

    “They cheat fares, punk commuters, smoke weed on the bus, start trouble on the bus, and intimidate others on the bus.” You forgot “they rip off the man”. The Screw Muni Brigade….

    My kind of people!

  • Dexter Wong

    That driver really laid down the law, wish there were more like him. When I ride Muni I want to go someplace without being annoyed or harassed by jerks like that young punk.
    — Dexter

  • Makes me think of classroom teachers vs administrators. Those misbehaving muni passengers were once misbehaving students. Both in school and out on the street, we continue to let people behave badly, all the detriment of society.

  • Alex

    What a horrifyingly idiotic thing for the driver to do. What if the passenger had whipped out a gun? Or, as is more common, a knife? A bus driver is there to DRIVE THE BUS, not to fight with the passengers.

    Fare enforcement is a fine goal, we’ve got pop cops for that. Behaviour enforcement is also fine, we’ve got real bone fide cops for that. In fact SFPD officers are obligated to ride for, what, 45 minutes per shift? We’ve got bus drivers to… wait for it… DRIVE THE BUS.

    Ever notice that the cops follow the 108 around on the island? That’s because a couple of drivers were stabbed by passengers. As a result, until police presence was initiated drivers refused to service the island — an island that requires a motor vehicle, public or private, to leave.

    Violence happens, even in San Francisco, and it is not the bus drivers’ job to escalate the situation. For the same reasons that bank tellers comply with bank robbers and retail employees don’t chase down shoplifters, bus drivers should not escalate the situation with problem passengers. Instead of falling all over yourselves to congratulate the driver, you should be falling all over yourselves to ask where the hell SFPD was? What would have happened if the driver was assaulted? How long do you think it would have taken for a police response?

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