San Francisco Diaries: Who gets to define this city?

Smiley Poswolsky left his suit-wearing days behind in Washington, D.C. to start a new life as a writer in San Francisco. Today, he’s an expert on Millennials in the workplace and author of the book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough. A few years in to his life here, he found himself realizing that some of the things he enjoyed about the city were also having a negative impact on his beloved new home. This prompts him to consider a timely question: Who has the right to define a city and what it is (or should be) all about?

This has been a hot topic as of late, even in national news. This prompted us to turn to our listeners: If you could give the city a cultural health score, what would it be and why? 

Listen to his story:

Got something to say about Smiley’s story and the current state of our city? Email us your thoughts at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us #munidiaries on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Rider thwarts would-be bike thief on Muni

Rider Michael Z. cuts and polishes stones for a hobby. Since the stones are super heavy, he decided to go multi-modal this day, jumping from his bike to a Muni bus. The journey didn’t go exactly as planned. In his own words:

Rush hour traffic on the #7 to the upper Haight:

I, an avid bike rider, already had a long day messing with a lot of heavy rocks and minerals all day long. I was backpacking about 55 lbs of rocks in my pack while riding my bike and decided to ride the bus to my destination.

I boarded at Market and Van Ness with my bike on the rack in front of the bus; it was so crowded that I was standing right at the front of the bus. The driver and I struck up a conversation about bikes and we were pulling up to Market and Haight Streets; some passengers got off and some got on.

The driver was about to leave when this kid ran up to the bus, threw down this pink sorry thing of a bike, ran to the bike rack, and proceeded to pull my bike off the bus.

The driver said [to me], “Hey, isn’t that your bike?”

I looked and said, “Yea.”

The door flew open for me as the kid was trying to figure out how to shift gears to go faster. That was not going to happen since my bike was only geared for single speed.
So, with 55 lbs of rocks on my back, I ran and caught up to him and clotheslined him over the handle bars of the bike and got on top of him. I was about to nail him in the face. But seeing how young he was, I decided against it and told him it was his lucky day (or not so lucky) and told him to get a job and buy a bike.

I got my bike, and, to my surprise, the bus driver had waited for me. I put my bike back on the rack and got on the bus, and the whole bus started clapping their hands, some saying good job and so on.

What a crazy day. Thanks to the bus driver on the Haight Street line who waited for me at the scene of the bike-jacking. There IS a story to tell on every line.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a fixie and an action-movie-worthy chase scene beg to differ. Thanks, Michael, for this cautionary tale! (Legit wondering what happened to the pink bike, though.)

Photo by @superlightslover

Applause-worthy way to combat prejudice on Muni, especially during Pride…

Yesterday I crossed over. I became one of “those people,” the ones who fail to pretend not to hear the crazy shit that people say on public transportation.

“White people always pay their fare,” white dude sitting across from me said. Loudly, because I could hear it through the music I was listening to in the earbuds. He said it again. “White people always pay their fare.”

“That’s not true,” I said.

He looked shocked and surprised that someone had responded and that someone was me.

The conversation continued as you might expect: “What country are you from?”

“I was born here.”

“I wasn’t raised a racist. I’m not racist. I’m not prejudiced. Are you?”

I confessed that sometimes I did harbor some prejudices and that I thought most people did.

“Speak for yourself!” He said.

He had the gall to try to cozy up to me by talking up our shared historical cultural experiences (because railroad building apparently), trying to create an “us vs. them” connection, presumably “us vs. other black and brown people.”

And then when he figured out that I was a “bleeding heart,” he started accusing me of being someone who would hire a bunch of “illegals from China” if I could, [just] to undercut his wages.

“In America,” he said, “we don’t live like they do.”

“I’m tired of hearing you,” piped up a young white man from the back of the bus to this dude.

“This is America. This is my First Amendment right,” the dude said.

“Well, it’s my First Amendment right to tell you to shut up.”

“Fuck you!”

Angry dude starts to get off the bus and young dude in the back of the bus said, “It’s also my right to do this!” and began sexily kissing his boyfriend sitting next to him.

Angry dude starts screaming, “F____t!” But the door of the bus has closed, and we’ve started moving.

It was the weekend of Pride. 

Photo and story submitted by Shirley Huey on Instagram.

Oh, that sweet, sweet bus revenge as the back door closed in on the angry dude—and on Pride weekend, too!  Thank you to rider Shirley for submitting this tale. It’s good to know that your fellow riders have your back.

For another tale of homophobia and other F-bombs on the bus, check out former Muni haiku champion Jesse James’s story about his Little Mermaid backpack. And, for other empowering bus justice tales, tuck into the time when an unwelcome hand wandered the wrong direction, or when someone tried to body shame another passenger.

Our commutes are a mere microcosm of life in San Francisco, and we are always looking for your stories to round out the experience. Add your own diary to our collective online journal by tagging us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter, or email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com.

This public transit plus Pride mashup sticker is 100% awesome

The good folks that brought you these fun transit enamel pins have a mashup for you this Pride weekend: these “Gay for Transit” stickers celebrate our love for public transit and features accurate (and adorably illustrated) vehicles in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.

What’s even better is that all the profits made by June 30 will be donated to local Bay Area orgs that support LGBTQ+ people: Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, Larkin Street Youth Services and Trans Lifeline.

The San Francisco stickers are also available with a BART design, as well as in t-shirt form if you so desire.

Thanks to rider Lauren P. for tipping us off the transit.supply store goodness.

How do you express your pride? Join us to add an entry to our collective journal. Tag us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter—or, our email inbox is always open to hear your Pride weekend stories!

Artist tips his cap to Muni, a refuge in tougher times

As he carted his belongings to the bus stop, Kurt Schwartzmann knew that he relied on the kindness of the Muni driver, lest he face another cold night on the streets of San Francisco. When the bus door opened on one particular night, he was relieved to see the familiar face.

This was a lifetime ago, before Schwartzmann conquered his struggle with drug addiction, found his way as an artist, and met his now-husband. While he was homeless, Muni had become the refuge for Schwartzmann.

Schwartzmann, who has lost sight in one eye due to complications to AIDS, dedicated his art series, “Yellow Line,” to the Muni drivers whose empathy helped him survive those difficult times. His art has been exhibited at the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and at City College of San Francisco.

We first met Schwartzmann on Instagram when he posted about his art series, and we were thrilled that he told his story at Muni Diaries Live in April at Rickshaw Stop.

Growing up in Fresno as a young gay man, Schwartzmann said that San Francisco had always been a symbol for “freedom of expression and refuge from intolerance.”  In honor of Pride weekend, we are sharing his story in today’s podcast episode. Take a listen:

If you have your own Pride story to share, email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com, or tag us on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook @munidiaries.

Photo credit: RightAngleImages.

One Muni driver’s plea about your phone habit

tammy

Muni driver Tammy has a very reasonable request: could we please look up from our phones as we get ready to board the bus?

From Tammy:

I wanted to ask you if you could start a dialogue with your followers regarding “Passengers waiting for the bus while distracted by [their] cell phones.” It has become increasingly frustrating to provide great customer service when my passengers are not prepared to board the bus…

Muni Driver Tammy

In case you’re wondering: the bus doesn’t stop at every stop by default: Tammy says that drivers pay attention to body language, especially when it’s a multiple-line bus stop. “In order to keep the service going, we look at the potential passengers standing at the bus stop to see if they want the bus, and then if we see that they do, we stop.”

Tammy says that passengers are looking down at their phones, or worse, with earbuds in their ears. As the driver approaches the stop, often nobody is looking up. “It’s not until you get ready to pull off, they look up and then all of a sudden they start waving” when the bus is already in motion.

Yikes. That sounds about as annoying to the drivers as it is for the riders. You might remember Tammy as the Muni driver who threw a surprise party on the 33-Stanyan for her riders when she was switching routes. Years later, she continues to brighten days for riders, even inspiring two visiting travelers to write to us recounting their experience with Tammy. We still get occasional dispatches about Tammy sightings, which are always a delight.

We have to admit that we’re also guilty of feeding the phone addiction at the bus stop while we wait. It sounds like it would make everybody’s lives easier if we looked up every once in a while with our Clipper card or fare in hand, and make some kind of motion to the bus driver to stop. What do you think?

Got other Muni-riding tips? Tag us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter, or email us at muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com

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