I can’t think of how many times I’ve thought of a witty comeback too late, especially when someone behaves badly in public. But have you ever imagined what it would be like if you actually said what you wanted to say in that moment? Storyteller Justina Wu shares a story of an encounter when she spoke her mind in the moment, with some surprising results.
Our previous episode featured Smiley Poswolsky, a self-described Millennial workplace expert who quit his stuffy Washington, D.C. job to become a writer in San Francisco. His story about personal growth and change, with NOPA/Western Addition in a prominent guest-starring role, really got our listeners talking more broadly about the state of our city—a hot topic lately.
For this episode, we invited Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight from The San Francisco Chronicle, and Bernalwood blog founder Todd Lappin, to give us their take on San Francisco’s oft-discussed existential crisis, and to share their own experiences with this town we call home.
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.”
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.
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.
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 Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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: