Late-night Muni always provides

Over on the Muni Diaries Twitter wire, readers tipped us to Michael’s late-night N-Judah Muni tale, which he captured in his Flickr account. Oh, how we miss the after hours “Temporary Autonomous Zone” on Muni, where you never know who you’ll meet or what will happen.

It was just after closing time at the bar, and two groups of skaters got on the bus along with a host of other characters. Somehow, different strangers on the bus offer our narrator drugs, booze, and a surprisingly thoughtful detail for both. Here’s Michael’s story:

Both of my preferred seats are occupied so I’m sitting in the last row + middle seat. There’s Junkie Guy to my left who is sitting in the corner seat and has turned the seat between us into his living room where all of his worldly possessions are spread out as he frantically rearranges his living space. A bunch of skaters in their 20s get on and sit in front of me and one of them starts playing a country western type song on his phone and they all start singing along to lyrics that are all about a love song to cocaine. 

Junkie Guy instantly looks up and starts asking if any of the skaters have cocaine and they’re all, “No, it’s just a song.” Then they further explained that the guy singing on the phone does not have any cocaine to share either. Sorry, Junkie Guy, false alarm.

Then another group of skaters with a case of beer get on the back of the bus. They recognize the first group of skaters and start talking about their night. I get the impression that their paths crossed earlier in the day and now they are crossing again on the Night Owl on the way home.

I really like those moments where everyone’s story comes full circle and these different storylines converge, like the end of Dazed & Confused. I also like getting to know all of my neighbors that keep the same hours that I do but are part of different scenes.

Here we all are, the disco queens, the punk rockers, the junkies, the preppies, it’s the 2AM Breakfast Club. This is where we all End Up. All the people that did not feel like paying money to take an Uber home in a timely fashion, all on the crazy train headed off into The Sunset, all in the No Man’s Land Temporary Autonomous Zone / wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the back of the bus. 

Skater Group # 1 is talking about getting kicked out of the Kilowatt earlier and other adventures of the night. Beers are passed around and opened, I’m offered one but politely decline. The leader of Skater Group # 1 starts to roll up a joint and the bus has now officially become Dazed & Confused. “Alright, aright, alright.” 

Skater Guy then hands the joint to me for the first hit (how did that happen?) but then Asian girl sitting between us objects because of her emphysema. The Skater guys are encouraging me to light up anyway but I politely decline.

Sorry guys, this was fun a few seconds ago but as soon as someone objects then it stops becoming fun for me. The bus travels on in buzz kill silence for a while when the leader of Skater Group # 1 motions to me with his fist and I think we’re doing a fist bump thing, but he ends up palming me a handful of pot from his stash.

Wow! Thank you, Skater Guy. That was incredibly nice of you. I was not expecting that. So now I have a fistful of pot in my hand and realize that I’m now responsible for transporting this home. It would be like if you were in Whole Foods and someone just gifted you a $25+ handful of spices. If only someone on this bus had an extra bag that they could help me out with in my Time of Great Need. 

As soon as that thought crosses my mind, Junkie Guy nudges me and offers me a tall skinny Ziplock bag. Wow! Thank you, Junkie Guy. That was incredibly nice of you. I was not expecting that.

The Ziplock bag looks like it’s the exact size to fit several plastic syringes and is kind of ragged, but it’s very real help in my Time of Great Need. It’s amazing also that Junkie Guy who is obviously not well in several ways was able to instantly recognize when the person next to him needed some help securing their drugs and took action to help.

This is also very serendipitous for me because I just had another late-night Muni adventure recently where a girl in the back of the bus was throwing up and dude in the corner seat was able to gift her a trash bag in her Time of Great Need. I’m a Boy Scout and I pride myself on being prepared but lately I’ve been really impressed with how the person in the corner seat is prepared for whatever chaos MUNI throws at them. The Island put you in that seat for a reason, my friend. 

After I’m done safely securing my cargo Junkie Guy goes, “Here, you can have this if you want to hide it.” And offers me an empty cigarette pack which I politely decline. It’s 2019 and I’m not breaking any State laws here. You should probably keep that to hide your Schedule 1 narcotics, Sir.

We’re flying down 25th Ave so I say my thank you & goodbyes as I get up to Muni surf the last few blocks to my stop. I have to crawl over Skater Group # 2 with a “Excuse me, excuse me. Fat Guy, coming through.” And one of the girls by the back door laughs and offers me a beer for the road and I politely decline. That’s the third time this night that a stranger has offered me a free beer on Muni. My trilogy is now complete. 

As we pull into 31st Ave I can see and smell that the joint is now being passed around the back of the bus. Sorry, Emphysema Girl. I did what I could, but… Law of The Jungle. 

If you’re coming to San Francisco be sure to wear a flower in your hair & carry some extra bags with you. You will be the hero in someone else’s Muni story.

The sense of community on Muni (and about Muni) is why we’re all gathered here, isn’t it? There are many great stories about riders looking out in their own way: we had Kristee Ono at Muni Diaries Live recalling the time she got the vomits on Muni, and confirmation that a lot flies under the radar on a busy bus, including discreet morning sickness. “Sick on Muni” stories don’t always have a tidy ending, but at least this dad was very sorry his son threw up on someone on Muni.

We really do miss busy buses—or, at least the feeling of being on a busy bus without worrying about Covid-19. Stay safe out there.

Photo by Michael Bolger.

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