Tara Ramroop has laughed, cried, and commiserated with this amazing community from the start. She's been writing for as long as she can remember and riding Muni for more than a decade.
Stemming off Suzanne’s post about the mildly crazy man who baits you with a banal statement, then dives straight into the wackiness, I had a similar experience on the 38-Geary last week.
As usual, the 38 is filled to the brim by the time I pick it up at Geary and Franklin. There is a man with a large guitar case blocking one of the seats, so I politely (kind of) ask him if I could take the seat. He obliges, even adds a, “Oh, please have a seat,” and I’m ready to zone out until I get to my dinner spot. Guitar Man, a short, thin, 50-something punk type sporting David Byrne (recent, not Talking Heads era) hair, started chatting. As Suzanne said, morning commute is no time to be chatty, but I’d like to add that evening commute certainly isn’t either. Guitar Man makes a series of obvious observations, which include the fact that the bus goes faster once it gets to the Avenues, and that the 38 always seems to be crowded, doesn’t it? Harmless comments, and I quietly agreed that both those things were indeed true.
Perhaps at this point, because he started to become slightly annoying, I noticed his smell. And, if you remember my Pee-Pee Shed post, you’ll know how I have a knack for finding the stinky in Muni. Anyway, this person smelled like incense and whiskey. I don’t actually mind either of those things, but when you’re starving and tired, it’s a rather unpleasant way to spend a 30-minute bus ride.
I hopped on the 9x this week on North Point, right after work. Though this bus stop is on the same corner as my building, I’ve never needed to take a bus from it. I suppose we won’t count the time I tried in vain to grab a crowded 9x heading north toward work; that’s another dear-diary moment altogether.
I do walk by it quite a bit, and it always smells like an olfactory one-two of food garbage and piss. There is a garbage can nearby, and it is a Muni shed; so, months ago, I stored it in the Obvious folder of my brain and called it a day.
But now, we’re talking about now. And, now, up-close and personal, this thing smells horrible. Awful. Shit-awful, almost, but piss-awful is more like it. I sat in the shed for a second, until that rancid, nostril-filling smell of urine hit my nose. At first, it just smelled like a somewhat-dingy public bathroom. Then it smelled like a Port-a-Potty. You know, those really bad ones at beer or wine festivals that you wouldn’t be caught dead in, had it not been for the gallon of liquid now floating about your insides.
I’m generally pretty complimentary about the 31-Balboa because it generally deserves it. At best, this means it’s somewhat innocuous, boring and quiet, which can be a good thing when you’re riding clear across town.
Today’s ride home on the 31 was actually above-average, if you can believe it, and it had nothing to do with how punctual the bus was.
First, let’s discuss the “BACK DOOR!! BACK DOOR!” phenomenon. The back doors open when you step into the stairwell. Sometimes, you have to touch the door handles to make them open, which, on the 49-Van Ness, for example, is akin to licking your fingers after using a public bathroom. However, do not stand in the stairwell when the bus is trying to move from a stop, because it pretty much won’t if someone is still standing in the stairwell. This is complex exiting protocol for some, but I find it uniquely Muni, in its own irritating way.
I have a new name for the N-Judah. It’s the N-Nada. As in, “waiting for an N? Sorry, NADA.”
Preface: while I ride Muni just about every day in bus or F-Market/Wharves form, I rarely ride Muni Metro. I always hear that electronic lady saying “N (N echo) in 2 minutes!” when I walk upstairs from BART, and the metro line has a pretty satisfying whir to its machinery. But I’ve never depended on it; before today, the last time I used it was probably around February.
To those who were curious, “Muni Metro” is a slower, not entirely underground version of the New York Subway. It’s a rail-transit line that goes faster than the buses and goes to many parts of town. But that’s where the similarities to the Subway stop.
To those who use Muni Metro regularly, someone has to flippin’ tell me if you always have to wait this long for an N-Judah, allegedly one of the most popular Metro lines.
I heard something on the F yesterday (yes, I still take it when I’m too encumbered or lazy to walk downtown) that was moderately appalling. Though, truth be told, it was the end of the day and I was starving for dinner.
A woman and her son (dad and Other Sibling were elsewhere in the streetcar) got pretty awesome pole-standing spots right in front of the back doors, by the stairwell. As long as you hold your bag in front of you, it’s really not a bad place if you’re stuck standing. The stairwell space gives you room to breathe, and you get a pretty awesome blast of fresh air when the door opens. If you stand aside, it’s just mildly annoying to make way for people on their way out. Mom clearly realized this was a good place to be, encouraging her son to “stay in this spot, because it’s the best one.”
Had this been a full car with a smattering of standers, then, by all means, stand at the choice back-door spot until you’re blue in the face. But remember the Golden Rule of Public Transportation: if people are still boarding a standing-room-only bus…
keep moving to the back of the bus.
I had another harrowing experience waiting for my F car this morning on Market at Van Ness. Two alleged trolley-bus Fs (their signs said they were, in fact F buses, and included “Market/Wharves” and everything) came by after a long while…and both drivers said they were stopping at Eighth Street. If you didn’t know, Eighth Street is about 3-4 blocks from where I was standing. And the F train is a charming little streetcar that is mostly for tourists, and therefore hideously unreliable. It is, unfortunately, among the fastest ways to get from the Embarcadero BART station to the northeast end of town, second only to walking, if you have time. It might (might) tie the 10-Townsend or the 9x, though both are crazy crowded in the mornings.
I hadn’t seen an F train for 15 minutes at least, and Jeff, my partner in life and Muni Diaries, said NextMuni was estimating it wouldn’t be there for another 20 minutes. I thought I had to take a cab to work for the third time in a month – a ride that costs at least $10 more than the $0 it normally does. My golden solution was a 47-Van Ness, which hit its scheduled stop on Van Ness at Market right after I got there. The driver was helpful when people asked questions, and it put me a block from my office. Thank you, 47. I always liked you better than that dirty sister of yours, the 49.
Meanwhile, people gathered at the F stop across the way in greater numbers, looking expectantly up Market for a car that probably still hasn’t gotten there.
I wasn’t that late (got in around 9:25 instead of 9:10), and I don’t mind the ride. It’s just unfair (and highly lame) when you have to play guessing games with your commute. If this keeps up, I might just break up with the F train altogether – this time, I mean it.