Video: SF native Yayne Abeba shares Muni life lessons

Did you know there was a movie theater on 17th Ave. and Geary that used to play lots of children’s films? That was just one of the destinations that this Muni Diaries Live storyteller would see on her Muni journeys growing up in San Francisco. Comedian and native San Franciscan Yayne Abeba started riding Muni by herself when she was 7, along with all her relatives ages 1 to 6.

“Muni was our baby sitter, and I learned a lot of life lessons on it,” she says. As a child, you could find Yayne dancing and singing her way around San Francisco with the San Francisco Children’s Opera. In 1995, she began studying with Jean Shelton at the Jean Shelton actor’s lab. She was bitten by the comedy bug in 1999 at Tony Spark’s Luggage Store.

It’s hard to imagine children that young riding Muni by themselves, but even moms today say that riding Muni is a good experience for kids.

Yayne told her Muni story at Muni Diaries Live a few weeks ago at the Elbo Room. Check out her bit in the video above.

We’ll have more of Muni Diaries Live moments in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more if you missed our spring show.


Update: Apr. 26, 2017. By reader request, a transcript of Yayne’s story:

I was born and raised in San Francisco. I have been riding Muni my entire life. There was a time in San Francisco when we had this thing called family and children. And when I was a child I would ride Muni by myself. It was a different time. It was a good time. I would be 7 years old. I am the oldest and this is how different San Francisco was at the time. My mom, who owns a sporting goods store on Haight street and we live upstairs from the sporting goods store, we would just be crawling all over the store and she would be like, “Ge out of here. Here’s some money. Come back before the sun sets.” And I would be 7 years old, riding Muni by myself, with all of my relatives from ages 1 to 6. Muni was our baby sitter.

I learned a lot of life lessons on Muni. The first one I learned was responsibility. I was 7 years old and my mom was like, get the fuck out, I don’t want to see your faces, get out. And I would be like, “Let’s go take the 43 to the 38 to the movie theater.”

There used to be a movie theater on 17th and Geary, and they would show kids movies all the time. I saw Bambi there, I saw Tron there, I saw all kinds of movies there, the Raggedy Ann movie. So one day I decided we are all going to the movies. She gave me way more money than she needed to, and I knew I could buy Hello Kitty stickers after I bring you all home.

So we got on the 43, and at the time my brother was three and a half years old. We get on the 43 and everything is great. I got my headcount going. We get on the 38 on Geary and Masonic, and we get off at Park Presidio. And I am counting, counting, and counting, there’s one left, and the doors close, and my brother’s like….

I flipped the fuck out. I was 7 years old. My half Ethiopian side kicked in. I got to the next bus stop before the bus, crying the whole time in my Rainbow Brite t-shirt and my Converse high tops and my pig tails and I was just like no!

I got to the bus stop and the bus driver open the door and I was like, WHERE IS MY BROTHER? So that’s how I learned responsibility at the age of 7.

Obviously nobody in my family told my mom because the next year, my mom said, “I think you’re old enough to ride the bus by yourself.” I was 8 years old. I lived in Upper Haight and my school was in the Lower Haight. I went to the French American International School which is now on Oak but at the time it was on Haight and Buchanan. At the time there was a bus line that doesn’t exist any more called the 7-Haight. And this is where I learned to be a tough ass bitch at the age of 8.

You know how 8 year old’s are. I feel like every time I get on Muni now you don’t see snarky poorly behaved children any more unless you ride the 22. That is the only bus line now that has unattended children. Am I right? At the time there was a bus called 7-Haight that runs up and down Haight street. We would get on the 7-Haight, me and my brother, my best friend and this other girl who wanted to be my best friend because I was very awesome. So we get on the bus with our Barbie’s, our mishmash French and English, our Hello Kitty stickers, and our Chinese jacks. There was this man who was always at the back of the bus and we never sat in the back of the bus.

And as we got older, we decided we were cooler and we needed to sit further back because you’re only cool when you sit in the back of the bus. So we move to the back of the bus one day. We realized that no one was sitting back there with the one man we paid attention to, because he was masturbating every morning on the bus.

He was the kind of man who you’d expect to masturbate on the bus. He had the hair that’s never been washed. The coke bottle glasses. The weird grunting sounds. You know the kind of man who probably has someone in a box in the basement of his house. He lives with his mother but his mother has no idea.

Instead of being traumatized by it, we decided to empower ourselves as 8 year old girls. Once we realized what he was doing, we decided to go to the back of the bus and point at his little penis and laugh at him. And after that day we never saw him on the bus again.

And as I got older, Muni became something different for me. It became a rite of passage. When I was 12, there was a wannabe chola named Lupe who decided to pick on me. She was 16. I was 12. Who the hell picks on a 12 year old when you’re 16? Lupe does. I guess that’s how you get jumped into the gang that used to be in Dolores Park before the hipsters found out about it.

She would just harass me all the time. She’d say, “Don’t you know I am crazy? I’m Lupe but they call me Loca!” And I’m like, “I just want to read my ‘Are you there, God, it’s Me, Margaret’ book in peace on my way to my flute class! Just leave me alone!”

One day I just couldn’t take it any more. I had my roller skates, and she kept bothering me. She tried to force feed me a donut, and I channeled a hood rat and said, “Bitch you gotta get off the bus.” At which point my best friend said, “What did you just say?” And I’m like, “I don’t know!”

We got off the bus and I had my roller skates with me in my backpack. Lupe was like, “Bitch I’m gonna kick your ass!” She was one of those cholas: big bangs, no eyebrows, and like, who outlines their lips in black? We were at the bus stop on Balboa, where the 31 and the 43 meet. She was saying, “Bitch, I’m gonna…” And I just started crying hysterically: “I’m tired of you bothering me!”

I took my roller skates out of my bag and hit her in the mouth, knocked her unconscious. The 31 rolled up and I was like, “Perfect timing.”

As an adult, I moved to Potrero Hill and I would ride the 19. I love riding the 19 because there’d be hood rats on the back of the bus all the time. And as Potrero got gentrified it would be hood rats and the techies. I gravitated towards the hood rats because I needed to know who the new hip hop artists were and the hood rats were the only ones that were gonna tell me since I got rid of cable.

One day I was on the bus and I was talking to this white lady who worked in tech about clothes — she always had cute handbag and cute shoes. She and I were sitting next to each other when this hood rat sitting behind us does this: “Holla!” (yells into her phone) “Damn bitch, holla!” (yells into her phone).

The white lady turns around and said, “Can you lower your voice please.”

And the hood rat said, “I know this white bitch ain’t…”

I said, “Don’t pull the white bitch card. Keep your voice down. Keep it the fuck down.” And I must have looked like her mom because that’s how old I am getting because the hood rat was like, (speaking meekly into her phone) “I’m gonna have to call you back.”

I’ll leave you with this: I was able to share my wisdom with a new generation of Muni riders recently. I was on the bus and these girls, who obviously just moved to San Francisco, they were wearing moccasins, leggings, and flannel shirts, so you knew they were new to San Francisco. They were talking about all the things they love about San Francisco and all the things they want to do when this homeless man hovered over them and went, (breathing heavily) “Shut up…shut the fuck up! Shut up!”

The poor girls were speechless. I tapped the homeless man on the shoulder and I said, “Leave them the fuck alone and go sit in the back of the bus.”

And this is the life lesson I learned on Muni that I was able to share with these girls. I looked at them and said, “Welcome to San Francisco. Never make eye contact with them. And never show them fear.”

One comment

  • Dexter Wong

    I, too started young riding Muni, although I didn’t run into the kinds of people she described (times were different then). As I grew older and more experienced I discovered that there usually was more than one way to go from point a to point b on Muni and the less direct way often showed me parts of the City that I never saw before.

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