Muni is the lifeline that powers our city, and its importance in everyday life stands out especially in a time of crisis. We recently got a letter underscoring this fact from new mom Cole Brennan, whose newborn was in the ICU for two weeks. Sharing her letter with us via Instagram, she says:
Dear Muni Operators, When I yell “Thank You!” to you, through my double masks from the back door at the stop at 3rd & 20th, please know it is the most sincere thanks I’ve ever given a stranger.
It’s true that I’m the sort of person who always thanks the bus driver. And it’s true that after many months of not riding the bus I was likely to feel an extra surge of gratitude once I finally started riding again. But the gratitude I’ve felt for you this month goes well beyond my usual thankfulness.
For two weeks you helped me get to the Children’s Hospital so I could visit my newborn in the Intensive Care Nursery.
You, Muni operator, are part of a small galaxy of helpers that held my little family be together during the longest weeks of my life.
Sometimes when you see something that really speaks to you—you gotta have it. Rider David G. sent us the story of how he came to own a piece of honest-to-goodness Muni poetry, and we’re convinced it was meant to be. Here’s his story:
In the ’90s, the group Streetfare Journal and bus-advertising company TDI placed literary placards on Muni buses, streetcars, and cable cars. When visiting a friend’s apartment, I saw one of the posters. It featured a poem about fascist leaders and was written by the Serbian poet Aleksandar Ristovic. The last three lines read:
Time of fools is coming,
time of the know-nothing teacher
and the book that can’t be opened at either end.
I loved it and asked where she found it. Were they selling them?
She chuckled and described how she saw the poster while riding the 30-Stockton through the Marina. She was struck by the words and so she asked a random fellow rider to hold her coffee. Then she simply took it down — in a bus full of commuters no less. She said that people stared, but no one uttered a word. “If you’re nonchalant, no one will do anything,” she suggested.
Being less adventurous, I didn’t follow her advice. Of course, one day all the placards were removed.
I was living in a residence hotel and taking the California cable car to work. Months later on my morning commute, to my utter surprise I saw the Ristovic poster. They obviously missed this one. Unfortunately, there was no chance of stealing it: in the closed confines of a cable car, both Muni operators were nearby.
I resolved to go to the cable car barn that evening and see if I could ask someone for it. I believed it was my last chance.
Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the barn and was met with strong welding fumes. I gingerly stepped between rows of vehicles sitting on tracks. A middle-aged mechanic was on duty and he emerged from under the tracks. Nervously, I explained the situation: I’m looking for poetry.
He seemed surprised but he told me to “look around and take whatever you need,” and returned to his tools. My footsteps echoed as I explored the empty carriages. I finally found the poster and tucked it under my arm.
On the way out, I noticed the mechanic in street clothes and cleaning his work area. We nodded to each other as I departed. Not only did I walk out with the Ristovic poem; I also found one with a verse excerpt from Muriel Rukeyser.
Time comes into it.
Say it. Say it.
The universe is made of stories,
not of atoms.
Thank you, David, for submitting this story, especially in the midst of missing Muni—and all semblances of normal life—lots. Fun fact: For Muni’s centennial in 2012, we partnered with SFMTA for a “100 Days, 100 Muni stories” competition, where the most quotable winner earned placement on a placard just like these.
Since the universe is made of stories, we know there are many untold ones in our corner of the world. Indulge us with that tale that’s been burning a hole in your pocket by emailing email@example.com, or by connecting with us @munidiaries on all the socials.
We like to say that Muni is San Francisco’s living room, and you never know where a conversation with a fellow bus rider will lead. We’re unearthing some favorite stories from our archives, and in today’s podcast episode, rider Timo shares a story about the time when someone on the bus asked him why he was wearing his yarmulke.
Muni Diaries is made of stories by everyday San Franciscans, and in these times, your stories are more important than ever. We will continue to publish stories from our archive and hope this takes some stress off of your day while sheltering in place. If you have stories you’d like to share, our inbox is always open! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
@themarinabambino met his wife thanks to Muni. Recalling that fateful day(s), he says:
We met in August, 2011. It was her first day at a new job. I saw her on the 30X, she turned around and apologized because she was “probably going to fall on me.”
I saw her again the very next day (which…how does that even happen?) and we started chatting. I got her number on that day and the rest is history! We got married last August and had a 30x shaped cake at our wedding!
Like a scene right out of Richard Scarry’s Busytown, this incredible railroad model perfectly captures the F-Market as it goes past the Castro Theater. Look closely and you’ll see details on the F car, including its overhead wire power lines. The model is built by Muni rider Harvey Simon, whose son, Dave, posted about it on Instagram. This is what Harvey had to say about his project:
I’ve been involved in the model railroading since my teenage years, and when Dave and his wife, Jennifer, settled in Oakland I decided to build a working model of the F-line. My layout is about 2/3 finished—the Castro and downtown San Francisco sections—with the unfinished area what will eventually become Fisherman’s Wharf.
You’ll notice that the cars are models of the actual cars that serve passengers today on the F-line. I built the orange Milan, Italy car using parts I obtained from various suppliers, and was able to also include lights and sound in the car. Looking at the video, you’ll see how the car gets its power from the overhead wire, just like the real ones.
The hobby is wonderful, and provides a very rewarding creative outlet. I can’t imagine not having something like this to keep me busy during my retirement years. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue with it the next several years, provided my eyesight holds out!
If you’re also a fellow model railroad fan, you can read more about it in Simon’s article in the July 2018 issue of Model Railroader magazine. Thanks, Dave and Harvey, for pointing us to this delightful mini Muni world.
Our fall show is back next Saturday at Rickshaw Stop! Join us at Muni Diaries Live on Nov. 2 to celebrate (and commiserate) the strange and wonderful tales from our commute. Tickets are on sale now!