Midnight madness on the Muni Metro M line

Steve sent us this dispatch from the M at midnight, when many of San Francisco’s creatures have gone to sleep—but not all of them.

Midnight. The platform at Powell Street is deserted except for a few derelicts and drunks. I jump on a M train outbound and take a seat near the front of the empty first car. At the next stop, Van Ness, an enormous man with a linebacker’s build and a shaved head boards. The sleeves of his grey sweatshirt are cut off to accommodate the rippling muscles of his arms that clutch plastic bags stuffed with water bottles, old clothes, newspapers and blankets. His eyes scan the rows of empty seats. Without a word, he sits beside me, his bags press against my face.

The train rocks into motion, he pulls out a yellow plastic walkie-talkie, the kind sold years ago in toy stores. Into the mouthpiece, he grunts, squeals, snorts and shouts gibberish. I lean forward and peer around the overflowing bags into eyes that are dark and intense. I raise my hand slowly in an effort to catch his attention. He shifts his gaze in my direction, but does not acknowledge me.

At Civic Center, I rise, push past the bags and exit the car. I walk quickly down the platform, step into the second car as the trains exits the station. Relieved to have escaped, I sink into a vacant seat.

‘Begone, Satan!’

I turn and see the car’s only other passenger in the next seat. He’s shriveled, hunched over with wild neon eyes, a mass of tangled hair and a wizened, tattooed face. He forms a cross with his forefingers, thrusts it at me and snarls, ‘I curse you, Spawn of Evil.’

I jump up, run down the aisle and, returning to the first car, retake my seat beside the big man, He holds the walk-talkie to his lips and rambles on in his secret language. There is much to report from Planet San Francisco.

Sometimes, taking a seat next to the guy with all the bags and the toy-store walkie-talkie is the right choice after all.

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Photo by cbcastro on Flickr

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