wisdom on the 49

I was on a 49-Van Ness yesterday evening, as the results for several East Coast states were coming in and Election Day was gearing up for the good stuff.

First, I listened to a man chatting with someone on the phone, who gave the most recent play-by-play results he had been watching for all day. He then demanded a free lunch if Obama reached 350 electoral votes. Results right now (9 a.m. on Thursday) show he’s at 349, with no major network yet calling North Carolina for the president-elect.

Then two boys got on with their moms. They were buddies, clearly, talking about school and their Halloween costumes, particularly which Halloween superstore had the best Batman costume.

Boy 1 was Hispanic, and said he lives wayyy down the 49, meaning he probably lives in the Excelsior, or somewhere else near City College on the south side of town. He had a few things to say about Tuesday’s election.

Boy 1: Everyone gets to vote today. Where are you from?

Boy 2: Los Angeles.

Boy 1: Oh. That’s near Mexico, right?

Boy 2: Yeah, kind of.

Boy 1: Well, I’m from Mexico, and McCain wants us to leave. He wants all the Mexicans to leave and go back to Mexico. But Obama wants us to stay.

Make of it what you will.

Fleeing Fleet Week

Okay, okay, yes, we went to Fleet Week. And by “go to Fleet Week,” I mean we grabbed some sandwiches at the pretty people’s Safeway and plopped our asses on Marina Green for free to watch a bunch of screaming planes do tricks. A friend had never experienced the glory, and being the nice people that we are, we chose to humor her.

Getting over to the north side of town from the Mission was actually a pleasant exercise. The 49-Van Ness zipped us right down to where we needed to be. The bus was neither crowded nor slow. We got there in about 20 minutes, I’d guess.

Getting back home was a different story altogether.

We waited things out a while at a friend’s house on Chestnut, then boarded a nearly capacity 49, only to stand there for what seemed like a eternity (seriously, something tells me, hours later, that that bus is still there). We got off at the next stop, after peering up Van Ness (to the south) and seeing nothing but stopped cars with their brake lights on.

So we walked. We walked from Greenwich to Market, passing at least three 49s and three 47s. We walked all the way to the heart of the Mission. God knows whatever became of any of those Van Ness buses.

Anyone else experience meltdown over the weekend with all the hullabaloo? Please share.

tales of the 49, part 2

The two main buses running down Van Ness have a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually, scratch that, I do know what it is: they can’t run properly (i.e., on time) because that street is a horrible place to attempt a move from Point A to Point B.

6:19 p.m.: Time I step on a 49-Van Ness, heading toward the Mission.

7:11 p.m.: Time I step off the same bus and start walking to Jeff’s house.

Summary: I was on the same bus for 52 minutes, mostly on Van Ness, as it crawled along at an infuriating snail’s pace, to go a total of 3.3 miles. To put it in perspective, the 2.2-mile, straight-line leg from North Point and Van Ness to Mission and Van Ness took 40 minutes; 511 Trip Planner says that same leg should take about 24 minutes.

Crappy service on Van Ness is one Muni meltdown that usually isn’t the agency’s fault. Yesterday was especially not its fault, thanks to a brush fire on Yerba Buena Island that snarled traffic on the Bay Bridge and on the Van Ness approach to the freeway. Still, I think we can all agree that it really sucks to be on a bus for an hour.

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A Dose of International Homophobia on the 49

Judging by their accents, I’d say they were from some Eastern European country. When they got on, the bus was full, and the one man in the group took the open seat next to an extremely effeminate, probably-gay man. Probably-gay man was talking to his probably-straight female friend. Hands flailed, but in an oh-so respectful manner.

But that wasn’t good enough for gay-hating Eastern European man.

As soon as a seat opened across the aisle, he hopped over there and proceeded to stare back at probably-gay guy with a look that could cut glass.

Now, there’s a lot of speculation in this diary, to be sure. But that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My advice to homophobes, no matter where you’re from: We have gay people here in San Francisco. Maybe you’ve heard. Do your best not to stare, especially with such disdain.

– Jeff

Jeff has seen a gay person or 10,000 in his eight years in San Francisco, but he’s never stared at them dismissively.

The 31 diaries

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.

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