We met Courtney Brousseau at Muni Diaries Live last year, and he was so immediately warm and full of joy that I thought we must have met him somewhere before. He walked right up to us to introduce himself, and it was clear he loved the city so much and wanted to make it better for bus riders.
On Friday, Courtney was shot in the Mission, a bystander caught in what The San Francisco Chronicle says were 50-60 bullets that were fired on that block. This was just minutes after he tweeted that he was enjoying a burrito in Dolores Park and that “for a brief moment everything felt okay.” He died Monday night. He was 22.
We can’t stop thinking about the evening when we first met Courtney. He was wearing a jacket full of transit buttons and had just hosted an afternoon transit pub crawl with Chris Arvin (one of our storytellers that night), which terminated at the show.
Driving Muni is probably one of the most challenging jobs in the city, and a writer-artist pair is working on a book to honor their contributions to our community. Artist Keith Ferris and writer Lia Smith are creating an art book about Muni where Muni operators who participate will get their portrait drawn and participate in an interview to help us get to know the folks getting us from Point A to Point B.
Whether they are doling out life advice or playing Jedi mind tricks with you if you don’t pay attention, Muni operators have been a big part of the storytelling on Muni Diaries. Lia tells us that she and Keith have already interviewed 17 Muni operators, and are looking for eight more participants, particularly drivers who might be new to the job. The pair is also keen to interview Muni mechanics for the project.
If you are interested in participating in this project, or would like more information, you can contact Lia Smith at ljsmith[at]ccsf.edu. Lia and Keith sent us the portraits above, featuring Muni drivers David Chin and Veronica Jackson.
A second Muni operator has tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, and we are hearing from our operator friends that they’d really, really like you to be mindful of everyone on the bus when riding Muni.
One driver who contacted Muni Diaries said that while they always remind passengers that they want to keep everyone safe, not all passengers are as careful as they could be. “We have many passengers who don’t take this seriously,” this driver confirms, and we can only imagine how much more stressful it is to drive Muni under these circumstances.
Earlier last week, several operators took matters into their own hands to protect themselves on the job, as reported by The San Francisco Examiner. Drivers were taping fare boxes close and shutting the front door to try to keep riders at least six feet away. Recently the SFMTA announced that backdoor boarding is required except for those with accessibility needs, which we hope would help with keeping safe rider-driver distance on the bus.
Our driver asks that if you ride public transit to get to your jobs or other essential services, please practice the recommended measures, like covering your mouth while coughing, keeping at least six feet of distance from others, and stay home if you feel ill. And of course, if you can avoid touching surfaces on the bus (which, even in peace time, we would recommend because of stuff like this), that would be extra great.
p.s. If you haven’t already, take a minute to read up on the service changes: there is no subway service, and some rapid routes have been cancelled for the time being.
Remember when we told you about the two Chronicle reporter who rode every Muni line for an entire day? Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight gave us a sneak peek of their plans last year, and in today’s podcast episode, they came back to the Betabrand Podcast Theater to tell us how it all went.
There are 84 Muni routes covering our 7×7, and the duo had meticulously planned their one-day adventure. But as we all know, just when you have a plan to be on time somewhere, Muni has other ideas! Heather and Peter told us that in the middle of their journey, a fellow rider reminded them that the 2-Clement (also my line!) doesn’t run late and that they might miss their goal if they don’t catch one soon. Already exhausted from waking up before dawn, Heather and Peter thought they might not make it, but this rider revamped their plans so that they can catch all the routes they need.
They also told us how they found an adorable lost dog (who they lovingly named Felton, after finding him on the 54-Felton) during their Muni journey. In the end, surprisingly, riding Muni all day made these two seasoned journalists fall in love with our city again. Who would have known?
“She faced the man squarely, looking directly into his eyes and telling him firmly, ‘You have no reason to threaten this woman.'”
Rider Ramona watched a brave woman defend another rider from a verbal attack; here’s her eyewitness account:
Down in the spookiness of the Forest Hill station, a man in a trench coat suddenly loomed up and started shouting at an older woman waiting for an inbound train. As he lunged toward her, hurling threats, Heidy suddenly appeared.
Heidy quickly stepped in between them, turning first to the woman, looking her in the eye and asking, “Are you OK?” The woman nodded and stepped back.
Keeping her body between the woman and the agitated man, Heidy now turned her attention to him. She faced the man squarely, looking directly into his eyes and telling him firmly, “You have no reason to threaten this woman.”
The man’s anger was now focused on Heidy. She held her ground, not moving. Whenever he shouted something, she spoke back to him firmly but respectfully.
Eventually he backed off and sat down on a bench. He was still shouting, but as he lay down, his anger got more specific: “I have no money! And I’m hungry!”
“I’m sorry to hear that, sir,” said Heidy. “I don’t have any food. But would you like the last of my coffee? It’s just cold coffee, but you can have it.”
“I don’t want coffee. I need food!”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“I hope you get it.”
The train rolled into the station, and the man was now calm enough to board without threatening others.
There is food to be had, and he was headed down to get some. But, as I saw it, Heidy had given him something much greater: she SAW him. She showed him respect despite his outrageous behavior, but she wouldn’t let him get away with victimizing an innocent person. She held him to a higher standard, and this eventually caused him (despite his fragile mental state) to focus back on his real needs.
I approached her on the train and told her, “Thank you for what you did. That was a textbook example of how to handle that situation.”
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “I try. I figure if you live in the city, you can’t leave your house and be afraid. These are valuable skills to have.”
And…I want to be her when I grow up.
On the Muni Diaries Twitter feed and inbox, we’ve seen many stories of riders standing up for one another, including when an entire group of women formed a line of defense, and when fellow riders refused to tolerate body shaming. But it takes something special to truly see people, even at their worst. Kind of gives you hope for humanity, doesn’t it?