Archive for February, 2013

February 12, 2013

Life is Like the SF MUNI Bus: You Never Know What You’re Going to Get Next.

Unlike most San Franciscans, I don’t have a routine commute on public transportation every day. My schedule is anything but routine, as I work remotely from home but travel very often for meetings and events via various types of transportation ranging from walking, taxis, driving, flying, and also very often relying on the all too popular, San Francisco MUNI bus system. And while I most definitely appreciate and am grateful for the public transportation provided in our wonderful 7×7, any San Franciscan can tell you the obstacles, or should I say, frustrations, that come along with MUNI. I was recently waiting for a severely delayed 30-bus after a long day of meetings downtown, was starving and so very eager to be home. It was then that I couldn’t help but notice a parallel in being so frustrated with something that I also very much needed at that moment.

For those of my out-of-state readers that may have never had the luxury of riding on MUNI, let me give you a little bit of background. San Francisco has many different forms of public transportation, more than most big cities and certainly more than any city I’ve lived in before. MUNI operates approximately 80 routes that can pretty much take you anywhere in the city you would need to go. It costs $2 a person (75 cents for seniors), which can be used over a period of 90 minutes. Depending on the hours of the day, busses typically travel every 10 minutes and some routes even offer expedited service during morning and evening traffic times. I have a bus stop right in front of my apartment that can drop me off at the steps of Fisherman’s Warf, North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, Market Street, and more.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

Sounds great right? It is. But getting on a MUNI bus almost always makes for some interesting experiences, certainly some laughable ones. I am aware that most populated cities with prevalent public transportation systems share some similar stories, but I think SF might have a slight advantage with our ‘crazy characters’ (shall we call them?), our near vertical hills, and the fact that our city is only 7 miles by 7 miles small.

When you walk onto a MUNI bus, you never know what you may see. Typically, people get on the bus and head for the back as signs indicate to make room, also allowing the front to be open for seniors and those with disabilities. After finding your seat, or perhaps you have to stand, you then typically put in your headphones and listen to music, pull out your book or Kindle, or start playing a game of WordsWithFriends on your phone. But if you don’t do any of these, you see much more than just a bus full of strangers. You could see the standing guy shamelessly trying to flirt with the seated cute girl, although her headphones are blaring so he can’t get her attention. You’ll see high school kids traveling to and from school, talking about the ‘cool’ guys in their class and unfortunately using unlimited amounts of profanities. You’ll also see many tourists visiting this exceptional city and needing help with directions, but quietly trying to understand the map. You’ll see people from many different walks of life; young, old, rich, poor, students, seniors, gay, straight, happy, or sad. You might get stuck next to someone who won’t stop talking to you even though it is very clear you’d rather be left alone. You will most likely overhear someone else’s private telephone conversation that makes you feel extremely awkward or annoyed. You’ll pass through many different neighborhoods that each have very unique personalities, riding up and down hills you wouldn’t ever imagine a bus can travel on, and see some out-of-this-world views of the bay, bridges, tall buildings, apartments, parks, and the hustle and bustle of a booming city. And of course, you will most likely get to your final destination.

Life is like an SF MUNI bus; you never know what you’re going to get next. As much as it tries to be, MUNI will never be 100% predictable. You may miss the bus occasionally, or not be prepared and forget your bus money. Sometimes, the bus might just drive right past you and won’t even give you a chance to get on. Other times, you’ll walk right up to the bus stop and within minutes an almost empty bus will pick you up and drop you off exactly where you wanted to go. Maybe you weren’t paying attention, and got on the wrong route and headed in the opposite direction from home. But once you are on the right path, you never know who you are going to encounter, who is noticing you, what you may see by looking around, or what view of the city is around the corner. It sometimes isn’t perfect, but eventually you are going to get where you’re supposed to go. Just like in life, MUNI can be a great experience or it can be one you’d rather forget. Just like life, the journey can be frustrating, annoying, uncomfortable, entertaining, random or comical.

You never know what is going to happen next, so just love life (and MUNI).