Keeping Zen in San Francisco Transit: A Line Trainer's Guide
Book Cover & Preview Text
Not A Bus. . . A Person Driving A Bus. . .
One of the most frustrating aspects in the bustle and tussle of a large, dense city is just missing a connection. This chapter is for the regular transit rider that may still be missing transfers to another bus that can be averted by one simple rule: your desire to catch that trolley bus actually hinges not on the caricature of one massive entity called a Municipal Transit Agency, but rather, an individual seated behind the wheel of a car. Yes, we call coaches or cars by their number, and it is okay to call a bus a car, such as car number 5505. If you are aware of car numbers, chances are you have a good handle on understanding the system. If your awareness extends to run number, car number, cap number, and line number, then your status is elevated to that of a Muni God. By reading this book, you too, can be elevated unto that Heavenly Status. Gods can get angry. Gods can cause major damage. Gods can cause a rush of change. But when they are benevolent as angels, good things can happen!
Most of us have been given the incorrect model on how to affect change. Heck, I can't even spell the distinction correctly! Do you desire an effect, or an affect? We believe that expending a burst of loud, hostile energy is a fast way to make change happen. Or anger can be harbored for years, yet nothing changes. We become comfortable with our anger and nurse it and polish it in to a fine object that can become attractive to all who come in contact with it. I know I have loved my deepest and longest held resentments against a large organization, and loved telling you about these over happy hour! Now, however, I write these down on my inventory list with my 12 step recovery sponsor. My most exciting challenge is to take this wonderfully polished and shiny resentment about missed transfers in to a missive about the approaches to catching a bus, and the mistakes people make in doing so.
If you are on a one shot deal, then all I can give you are the facial expressions or body language that cause me to wait for you, and hope that they work on a transfer you may never have to make again.
The Wounded Puppy.
Aw, poor baby. Are you all alone on the corner without a warm, dry bus for shelter? This works if I have room and time, and I know there is no bus behind me. A smile at the last minute works great if timed correctly. A Homer Simpson "dough," or one loud profane exclamation also works if timed just as the front door passes by. This works great when traffic is light or nonexistent. Twilights and Sundays are good prospective times for wounded puppy. If not young and pretty, a sigh of sadness, with quivering cane uplifted to an invisible Kaiser also works. Dropping the shoulders Charlie Brown style after "Lucy" also works wonderfully. But note that these all require the eye contact of acknowledging that it is a person driving a bus, and not just a bus.
The Plea Bargain.
This was used in the movie "Speed." Annie makes it to the doomed bus as Sam the bus driver jokes that this boarding point is not at the bus stop. I have expanded this with the train and plane analogy of quetions. " Where do you catch a train?" "At a train station." "Where to get on a plane?" "On a jetway at an airport." "And where to we get a bus?" Some of you latecomers are so puffed up with pride, you may never get on a bus. But if you pronate yourself as if praying to the Muni God of Nigh, the Transit Operator, Grace has been known to open the back door! (occasionally.) This would be a good chapter for a movie. I wish I could call up some clips on the plea bargain. The plea bargain can come silently with the eyes, or with a huge, loud, profane word! The more over-the-top, the better!
Only works with blessed folk. Those that attend church regularly and have a comfortable sense of self-righteousness that does not infringe on others. Those who pray regularly without self-centered fear can stop a bus from any location just by a simple turn of the head and a smile. It is always a wonderful rush to pick up someone like this. Rare, indeed, but all the more meaningful. Quality, not quantity is definitely the Dao of this pick-up.
The Lost Puppy.
Unfortunately, these are most dramatic and visceral because of their stand alone nature. If you are traveling from the East Bay for a job interview, for example, and are new to the system, the time you are allowing for transfers may be inadequate. The image of successfully dashing across the street to a streetcar from a trolley is easy to get, especially if you have heard our service is frequent. The reality of the situation is that you need to add 20 minutes for every mode or bus transfer to your first time journey. As you become familiar to the transfers, transit time can be reduced, such that a trip that may have taken two hours and twenty minutes to complete, can be shaved down to 45 minutes.
We operators become aware of the places where intending passengers ask us for a destination behind us. On cross town routes, we see that by a BART station, people board busses going in the opposite direction that they need to reach their destination. By traveling for fifteen or twenty minutes in the wrong direction, they can add an hour to their travel time. This is sometimes a sad and frustrating conversation. It can throw off my concentration of staying alert to road hazards. This unfocussed energy can be just as harmful to the bus driver as to your missed appointment or interview.
If you have been given an address, it is important to search this on a map system so you have a good idea about which corner you need to wait. If a delay creates a gap in trolleys, this lack of knowing where to stand can add twenty minutes fast. Waiting for the wrong bus, and then changing direction, can create a bombshell at the door of the next bus. Keep the zen by knowing which corner to wait. There can be four different lines on each different corner, with the same bus line going in two different directions on either side. Such is the case at Jackson and Fillmore, where people chronically wait on Fillmore instead of Jackson to take an outbound 24 to the Castro or Bayview. Seeing the sign post is not enough. You need to know which direction the bus is going. Asking others at the stop is a good idea, especially if we are running late on a weekend afternoon!
“Yes, I do, and you’re sitting in it! Today’s car number is 5481. I get a new car everyday, and I can hold up to fifty people at once! I get to take you where you want to go and get paid to do it. I don’t have to worry about parking, because it is free. I don’t have to pay for gas because this car uses free city hydroelectric power. I have a camera to send a bill to someone blocking my parking space. If there is any trouble, help can be here in three minutes. I sold my truck when I moved here and I haven’t had to pay for tires, batteries, gas, parking, or insurance. My employer is my insurance company. The money is coming in, not going out. I am kind of like the ultimate in ride share, without any carbon emission!”
About the Author
“Driver Doug, how long have you been driving?” “Since about five this morning.” Laughter “Oh you mean how long I been at this job! Since December 1998, and boy are my legs stiff!” The flow of humanity passing by my door while driving an electric trolley bus is not unlike being a greeter at a Zen center. Am I putting service first? “Thanks for Riding!