‘Jack. In. The. Box. Jackinthebox.’

38 GEARY Ocean Beach
Photo by nchenga nchenga

Whoa, Nelly. Karen has quite the 38-Geary experience to share. Let the tea steep, get comfortable, and take this one in.

Once upon a time, many years ago, I had to take the 38-Geary to and from The Richmond to downtown every day. Lots of fun things happened on that route: marriage proposals by strangers; riding in the “accordion” part totally hungover; every Tuesday was the handicapped kids’ school field trip and they always wanted to talk to me about (and touch) my clothes… Sometimes the commute was grueling, other times it was pretty entertaining, and if Instagram had been invented then I would have had a field day every day.

But one night stands out above all others, and has changed the way I think about a certain fast food restaurant – or at least the way I pronounce it.

I got on at Market and Fremont, as usual, and settled in. To get to 14th and Geary took forever, especially since the 38L had stopped running and that meant that we had to stop at every single stop. A few blocks later, a man in a filthy ski jacket with a pik and a Butterfinger wrapper in his giant afro got on and sat directly in front of me. He smelled a little ripe. “Oh great,” I thought, especially after I heard him muttering to himself. “It’s going to be a really, really long ride.” But then I leaned in closer to hear what he was saying.

“Jackinthebox. Jackinthebox. Jack. In. The. Box. Jackinthebox. Jackinthebox. Jack. In. The Box. Jackinthebox.”

Wow. He was clearly a big Jack in the Box fan, and I figured that I would be amused up until we got to the Jack in the Box at Mason, where he would get off. I listened, delightedly, as he chanted and muttered and proclaimed his favorite selections – “Teri-YAKI BOWL! Teri-YAKI Bowl? Jumbojack CHEESEBURGER!”

However, Mason St came and went, and two people had moved just to get away from him. And I realized:

He was going to the Jack in the Box on 10th and Geary. One stop before mine. YESSS!!!!!!!!!!

So the entire way, I got to hear his chanting and his monologue, which got crazier and crazier and faster and faster as the ride went on. Just past Japantown he opened the window and started throwing out stuff from his pockets; napkins and wrappers and whatever else was in there. (The Butterfinger wrapper stayed put, though.) I like to think it was confetti for the party that was ABOUT TO HAPPEN. By this time, about 3 other people had changed seats to get away from him, as he was bouncing with glee.

And then… We were in the Avenues. Just past Arguello he started getting really excited, and the chanting got louder. “Jackinthebox, jackinthebox, jack. In. The. Box. jackinthebox, JACKINTHEBOX!!!!!!!!” People gave each other looks like, “Whoa, he is cuh-raaaaaaazy,” but I refused to participate. I was on HIS SIDE. He could unleash all the crazy he wanted – he was so steadfast in his love for Jack in the Box, his intentions so pure, that he had my full support. (And my undying love, only matched by his undying love for Jack’s Buttermilk House Dressing which he shouted about just past Van Ness.)

At 8th and Geary, his excitement could not be contained. (Neither could mine.) He started ringing the bell, and his “Jackinthebox” mantra had hit a fevered pitch. As the bus slowed down to pull over, he was rocking back and forth with such force that my bench was shaking. And then, the bus came to a stop and he jumped up with a mighty scream…

And farted directly in my face.

The last I saw of my Jack in the Box friend he was tearing across Geary, arms akimbo, running to the Promised Land of Sourdough Cheeseburgers and Curly Fries. I thought of him barging in on the unsuspecting workers and customers, and was jealous. They had no idea what treat was in store for them!

I have a few regrets in my life – giving up my supercheap apartment downtown, saying “sure, I’d love to go on a date with you!” to a few people, being an English major – but the one I regret most of all is not getting off the bus and following him into that Jack in the Box. What did he order? How did he pay? Did he replace the Butterfinger wrapper with perhaps a packet of taco sauce? Ahhh, mysteries of life for which we’ll never have an answer. But some things I know for sure: I have never been able to say, “Jack in the Box” the same way ever again, and every time I see the commercials, I think of him and hope he’s enjoying a delicious Jumbo Jack, wherever he is… Even if it’s on the 38-Geary.

It’s best to keep regrets to a minimum, we say. Stop holding back, and share your amazing Muni stories today.

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