Riders band together in a Muni driver’s story
Photo by throgers
Editor’s Note: What do Muni drivers do when the bus breaks down? Here’s how the drivers see it, from a story submission by Ricardo M, who drove Muni for seven years. Ricardo drove just about all the trolley buses spanning from the 41, 21, 6, and on. “But, mostly, I drove the 14 Mission line because then I could speak Spanish while I drove all day, from Embarcadero to Daly city and then back again.”
In this story, when Ricardo finally figures out why the bus isn’t moving, the passengers banded together to help Ricardo get the bus on the road.
â€œPlease move to the rear of the bus.â€
No one listens.
I pull the bus into the 24th Street and Mission Zone and pop the front and rear doors open. On the instrument panel, both, front and rear green interlock lights turn on. Brakes on, and are confirmed locked. New passengers start to climb up the front stairwell. So I call out one more time:
â€œPlease keep moving to the back of the bus.â€
But no one listens to me. They never do. Instead, the new passengers take their stand at the front of the bus; a couple of them stand over the yellow line. This will block my view while driving, so I ask them to move. The rear doors slam shut, so I lock them. Rear light is off. I shut the front doors too. Front light goes out, the brakes are off and the bus is free to move on. So I turn the wheel to my extreme left and slam down on the electric accelerator, and the bus moves forward.
An old man screams, â€œWait! Bus driver, wait, Iâ€™m getting off!â€
Iâ€™m not supposed to stop at the corner of Mission and 23rd Street, but I pull in anyway, just so that I can get the old man off my bus. I unlock the rear doors and the green rear Interlock light turns on, the bus stands. The old man pushes his way through the crown and then waits while some guy in white overalls get off the bus to make room for the old man. Finally, the old man goes down the rear stairwell, and then the guy in white overalls steps back into the stairwell.
The rear doors shut close. I press down on the accelerator. Nothing. Nothing happens! I look at the instrument panel and notice that the rear light is still on. Green light is on; brakes are on; the interlock braking system is on! People are waiting, and I am quickly running out of options, so I start to run through the braking system checks:
1. SET EMERGENCY BRAKE, THEN RELEASE IT
2. RESET AIR COMPRESSOR BY RELEASING AIR PRESSURE IN TANK
3. PUMP BRAKE SEVERAL TIMES UNTIL PSI INDICATOR STARTS TO FALL
4. IF BRAKES STILL DO NOT RELEASE OPEN, OPEN AND CLOSE FRONT DOORS
5. REPEAT WITH REAR DOORS
6. IF PROBLEM PERSISTS CALL CENTRAL CONTROL AND THEY WILL SEND A MECHANIC
7. WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FIX THE PROBLEM YOURSELF
But the screaming starts:
â€œHey, driver, why donâ€™t you get this stupid thing on the road?â€
â€œHey, driver, Iâ€™m going to be late to work.â€
â€œYeah, man, whatâ€™s going on. Letâ€™s get going!â€
And then an old lady carrying a stick walks up to the front of the bus.
â€œExcuse me, driver, is there a problem? Why arenâ€™t we moving?â€
â€œLady, I donâ€™t know what is wrong yet. As soon as I know, Iâ€™ll tell you. Okay? But in the meantime, please take a seat.â€
She ignores me. And so I make the announcement: â€œLadies and gentlemen, Iâ€™m sorry to inform you that this bus is having some kind of mechanical problem. I donâ€™t know what the problem is. But, I recommend, if you are in a hurry, that you take the bus thatâ€™s right behind me.
The old woman is about to say something else, but a manâ€™s voice is heard from the back of the bus,
â€œWell, shit, hurry up and find out what it is.â€
And another, â€œIsnâ€™t this a bitch?â€
So I make another announcement:
â€œAgain, let me repeat, I am unable to move the bus at this time. I recommend you exit the bus in order to take the next bus coming. It should be here in a minute or so.â€
As I go through the checklist:
1. SET EMERGENCY BRAKE, THEN RELEASE IT
2. RESET AIR COMPRESSOR . . .
Another woman screams from the back of the bus,
â€œMan, these bus drivers are lazy. Theyâ€™re always inventing some kind of mechanical problem. You know, they just donâ€™t want to work, thatâ€™s all.â€
But suddenly, the light goes out and the bus jumps forward violently; and the old woman falls in the isle; her stick shoots across the floor; a few passengers around her help her to her feet. â€œYou did that on purpose!â€ she snarls at me, â€œYou horrible man! If you think youâ€™re getting away with this kind of behavior, youâ€™re very much mistaken. I know the president of the company, and Iâ€™m going to see that you never drive a bus again. Give me your operatorâ€™s number.â€
I turn the wheel and move into traffic. And the old woman is still standing at the front, holding on to a handrail.
â€œDriver, I said I want your operatorâ€™s number. Right this instant!â€
â€œSure, lady. Sure. If you want it, itâ€™s right here on my uniform.â€
I pull into the 22nd Street zone, and pop open the front doors. Green light is on.
â€œSmart-aleck good-for-nothing!â€ As she passes me, she hits me on the shoulder with her stick. Not an easy thing to do for her, while carrying a bag and walking off the bus. Once on the pavement, she takes out a pencil and scribbles something on a piece of paper.
So I close the front doors. I turn the wheel to my extreme left, and I push down on the accelerator. Nothing! No electricity! And the green light is on. (Here we go again) So I pull and release the emergency brake… I pump the brakes… I open and close the front and rear doors… But then I stop for a moment.
In my rear-view mirror, I see the guy in white overalls (a house painter maybe?) standing in the rear stairwell, and he is leaning against the rear doors. I look straight at him and heâ€™s got a â€œguilty-asâ€”allâ€”hellâ€ look on his face.
So I scream at him.
â€œHey! You! In the stairwell! Why are you pushing on the doors? You want to get off or something?â€
â€œYou talking to me?â€
â€œYes, Iâ€™m talking to you! Get off the doors!â€
â€œHey, I donâ€™t know what youâ€™re talking about. You must be loco en la cabeza.â€
â€œLoco en la cabeza? Iâ€™ll give you loco en la cabeza. Every time I open the doors, you start pushing on the doors, like itâ€™s your tricky little game. You push on the doors and the brakes turn on.â€
â€œGo to hell.â€
â€œNo, man, you go to hell. And get off my bus! Right now!â€
â€œHell no. You canâ€™t do that.â€
â€œLike hell I canâ€™t.â€
â€œYou canâ€™t order me like you own the bus. Who do you think you are?â€
â€œWho do I think I am? Iâ€™m the guy thatâ€™s driving this bus, and I want you THE HELL OFF MY BUS!â€
â€œIâ€™m not going anywhere.â€
â€œYouâ€™re not going to get off? Well, okay, Iâ€™ll just park the bus right here while I call CENTRAL CONTROL, and then Iâ€™ll go out and pull my trolley poles down.â€
But a few of the passengers start screaming:
â€œCâ€™mon, man, get this bus moving.â€
So I tell them, â€œListen, this guy is messing with the doors, and he looks mighty dangerous to me. So, Iâ€™m not moving this bus until he gets off my bus.â€
And a new voice rings out, itâ€™s a big husky voice,
â€œHey, driver, I can get this guy off for you, if you want.â€
The new man steps into center aisle, headed for the rear doors. Heâ€™s a man built like a two-ton truck, a huge chest, a massive neck, and enormous biceps.
Iâ€™m looking out the window, and I say, â€œWell, if you want to, go ahead. Who am I to say no?â€
â€œGot you, driver.â€
So the massive guy turns and walks over to the rear of the bus, and easily grabs the house painter by the arm.
â€œWhat the…. Hey!â€ shouts the house painter.
â€œGet the fuck off the bus, man.â€ Slap! Whack!
â€œMan, what did I do?â€
â€œThe driver wants you off the bus.â€
â€œHey, you canâ€™t do that!â€
Slap! Thump! Boing!
And out goes the house painter through the rear doors and the rear doors close. The air pressure is released, and the brakes turn off.
â€œOkay, driver, everythingâ€™s cool back here,â€ says the massive guy.
â€œWell, okay, man. Thank you.â€
On the bus, everyone cheers and claps; and some even pat the massive guy on the back.
Everything turns around.
I close the front doors and the green light goes out. The interlock is off. The bus lunges forward, and Iâ€™m back on the run.