Last night's commute will hopefully not be repeated tonight, or ever.
I left work and went to wait for the bus, figuring I'd take whichever came first, the 10 or the 22.
There was a guy waiting at the stop, young, probably from the college down the block.
He asked me if I knew when the bus was coming.
"No idea," I said, "they're sort of striking today. They're all 'sick'." and I pretended to cough into my hand.
"Oh yeah, I heard about that," he replied.
We waited together, quietly, and watch a tightrope (or maybe slack rope?) walker across the street in the park. He'd tied his rope between two trees but it was windy out so he had to wait for the rope to stop shaking.
Eventually the rope settled and the man climbed on. He walked a few steps before jumping down to the grass to try again.
A bus came around the corner, the 10, and when it arrived it was pleasantly empty. So far, my ride home was looking good.
We cruised up to Market Street quickly. The only sign that something was not quite right was the lack of 30 Stocktons idling by the 4th Street Safeway. There are usually two or three of them, but there were none at all and a dozen or so annoyed-looking people waiting at the bus stop.
At Market Street I went to wait with at least 40 other people for a 38, 31 or 5 - I wasn't picky.
A 38 arrived but it was already completely packed, no room on the stairs, even. And this was only the fourth stop for the 38.
The 5 Fulton was no better. Sardine packed.
I walked down to Fremont and Market, hoping for some better odds.
There were 30 or 40 people crammed onto the transit island, and no buses in sight.
Think about that, actually - no Muni buses on Market Street, in either direction, for most of the time I was waiting.
No sound of hydraulics or sparks, not even the clang or rattle of the F Market.
The sight of Golden Gate Transit buses and private tech shuttles filled me with envy, I have to say. I thought about trying to convince Golden Gate Transit to take my monthly Muni pass, drop me off somewhere before the bridge.
When the 38 came, after waiting 25 minutes, it was, predictably, jammed.
I managed to get up to the second step. A pregnant woman stood on the step below me. We exchanged exasperated glances and scrabbled to hold on as the bus lurched into traffic.
At the next stop one person tried to get out, eventually managing to squeeze her way through the tangle of angry commuters trying to get on board.
But no one could get on, not a single person.
The driver skipped the next stop but opened the doors at Geary and Kearny, where despite everything, a few people tried to get in. The pregnant woman and I stepped down to let someone out, then stepped back in. As I crowded in beside her, I heard someone outside call out, "Good luck, Rachel!"
I looked up and saw a client of ours from work. I called back, "You, too!" and then the doors closed, opened again, and tried to close again as a stubborn man pretended he was not the reason the doors couldn't close.
A man in a red parka, standing above me, yelled, "You have to get out, there's no room, the doors won't close!"
After another minute of yelling and public shaming, the man admitted defeat, stepped down, and we were off.
It really only got worse.
People kept trying to crowd in. I understand completely, it was that kind of a night, but it just wasn't physically possible.
I was squished as flat as I could get, my bag clutched against my neck to accommodate the man who's sack of crushed soda cans was poking into my back. The pregnant woman had a little space but not much, and as another woman tried to push in against her she said, "You're squishing my baby, can you please, please try not to do that?"
Then she turned to me and asked if I had the time. My arm grasped the pole behind her head and since my other arm was trying to keep hold of my bag, I said, "I can't reach my watch but if you want to pull up my sleeve to check it, go ahead."
So she did.
The ride went on like this for another few blocks. The pregnant woman got out at Van Ness (though she'd wanted Larkin and the bus decided not to stop there, despite her signaling that she wanted the stop) and soon I was able to step up into the bus and get away from the stairs.
It took me an hour and twenty five minutes to get home from downtown, not as bad as some people's commutes but definitely pretty terrible all things considered. Plus (but really, more like a minus), I can honestly say I've never been in such intimate contact with complete strangers as I was last night.
When I heard this morning that the 'sick out' was still going on, I yelled at my radio. Then I got ready to leave for work earlier than usual.
It took an hour an a half to get to work today.
May your commutes be normal or at least not terrible today, everyone.