Storyteller Kathleen Auterio moved to San Francisco from Massachusetts to do new things, just like in the Bee Gees song. It was the year 2000, and everything seemed to be on track: she had an apartment, a roommate, and a job at SF Weekly managing the adult ads in the back of the paper—a job that accepted her as a proud metalhead. After meeting a new guy at the paper, though, they would soon come face to face with a relationship trust exercise involving a field hospital surgery.
(We can’t wait for you to listen to the episode so you can fully get all the puns we stuffed into this post. Our mouths are still agape.)
We want to hear your story about how San Francisco changed you—or vice versa! If you have a story to share or know someone who does, pitch us your story idea by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of these true tales from the city.
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.
@pfungcollects shared a relic from when we partied like it was 1999 with Limp Bizkit and Live 105 at the Family Values Tour—founded by nu-metal sensation Korn—and a grumpy Muni bus headed to the Cow Palace.
Yikes. I challenge anyone to come up with a more “Bay Area in the late-’90s” sentence than that. ^^
After a disturbing post-apocalyptic (or was it simply apocalyptic?) week, we’re bringing you a throwback tale of simpler times when the highlight of your year is when the Muni driver let you in on a few secrets. Today’s podcast episode was brought to you by rider Tara, who caught a Muni driver in a bit of a casual mood and fun ensues. Yes, a Muni ride that was actually…fun!
I hurry over to a bus, after seeing it parked at the stop I needed. No need to hurry, though. The driver jogged up behind me, asked where I was headed, and if I wanted a ride. I naturally assume this is driver humor; Haha! A ride, I get it. On the bus that I was trying to get on, that’s going to the very neighborhood I needed? Ha!
I guess it wasn’t really a joke. I walked over to the doors as he unlocked them, and saw the number for a line I totally didn’t want. At this point, Woman Reflex kicked in. Is this the worst kind of Muni Loony, the kind who beat up or killed a real Muni driver and stole his bus and outfit, and is now giving “rides” to women walking around alone? Instead of overreacting, I asked him what line this was. He told me what it was, but said he was just coming off his shift, and was going to be dropping it off at a Muni lot near(ish) where I was going. My intuition is pretty good, it wasn’t an odd hour, and I needed to get to where I was going ASAP. Also, I knew I could deal a pretty hefty kick in the nuts if I needed to, and it was pretty clear that he didn’t have a gun in his Muni outfit.
My intuition served me well, because he was indeed harmless. He strapped himself in the driver’s seat right away, limiting any no-goodnik-mobility, so I relaxed some. Oh, and I got to change the side and front banners to “Not in Service.” That’s right. Did you miss it?
I got to change the banners to say “Not in Service.”
It’s a pretty simple task on the older buses. Unlike the digital ones that can probably be changed with a couple stabs at a button, these signs move if you flick a switch that scrolls through all the different Muni numbers. Indicators from the inside of the bus tell you what it says on the outside, so I stopped once it got to what I wanted. Easy. And awesome.
Listen to the rest of her story, read by reader Amanda Staight:
We’ll keep the stories coming on our podcast all the same, so if you have a story to share about life in San Francisco, pitch us at email@example.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on any of your favorite listening apps.
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.
This episode features songwriter Jefferson Bergey, a professional musician based in Oakland and a regular performer at Bawdy Storytelling. He wrote a new song called “Give Up Your Seat” just for Muni Diaries, and even added a sexy love song about BART as a bonus to this episode. We highly recommend you put on those headphones (or blast it at full volume!) to add some levity to your day—especially now that “NSFW” is mostly “Are your kids in the room?”
While many of us haven’t been on a bus lately, we will continue to bring you stories from everyday San Franciscans. Nothing says “we’re in it together” more than that collective shout of, “Back door!” forever burned into our brains and hearts.