Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bus Report #917

Last night, Muni meltdown.

Well, it was actually a major San Francisco traffic meltdown, but I was feeling it on Muni.

I had to be in Chinatown by 6 PM - no big deal usually.

But I knew the 10 Townsend would be a nightmare so I did my new (yet seemingly counter intuitive) Muni route - the 19 Polk to the 1 California. Crazy, I know. But last time I did this, I was in Chinatown in less than 35 minutes. It was faster than taking the 10.

So I waited for the bus yesterday afternoon with some students from a local hippy-dippy alternative medicine school in the neighborhood.

When the 19 showed up, the driver was my favorite driver along the 19: A bearded, turbaned man with a wide, friendly smile. His turbans always match his uniform in some way, shades of bright, beautiful orange or pristine golden yellow. He is a star. He is, in my opinion, one of Muni's best.

He slowed the bus and opened the door. We greeted each other and I sat down next to a man who leaned out into the aisle to keep an eye on his bike, which was mounted to the front of the bus.

It did not take a genius to know there was a traffic problem. Cars, buses and trucks were backed up even further down 17th Street, 16th Street and it did not look like it was any better anywhere else.

What's a girl to do? I couldn't walk to Chinatown and with such bad traffic, any other mode of transit was bound to get stuck, too.

So I hoped that we'd be through the roundabout by 5:10, up at Market by 5:20, hell, I would have been happy to hit Polk Street at 5:45, where I knew I could easily grab a cab to take me the rest of the way.

5:20 and we were still barely past 7th and Townsend. My seatmate said, "I usually ride my bike but since I'm going downtown, I thought this would be a good way to go."
"Oh, man, you could be there twice already," I said.
"We'll get there, I'm not in a rush. Besides, this driver, I know he'll get us there."
"He is great, but I have to be somewhere soon," I told him. "Let's hope for the best."

Meanwhile, a few rows behind us, a woman was talking at the hippy-dippy girls, asking them if this was normal or an aberration, blaming an unseen and unknown accident somewhere "near 9th Street" for the problem.

5:47, and yours truly tumbled out of the 19 at Market and 7th, and flagged down the first cab I saw.
Pure and utter traffic chaos on Market and all throughout downtown. Lots of honking horns, dozens of people waiting at bus stops for buses that were no where near arriving.

We got caught in the traffic too, for a few minutes, but transit miracles can happen.
I got to my destination at 6:10, sweaty and tired but unscathed.

Across town, The Teacher's Pet was caught in the meltdown, too. She texted me the evidence: Nextbus app reporting three 22 Fillmores within a minute of arriving, then a photo of... nothing. Not a single bus to be seen in any direction. She eventually got home, but not on any of those ghost 22 Fillmores.

Three hours later, E. and B. and I walked down a quiet and dark Grant Ave. towards Market, and BART for E., the 7 for B., and the 38 for me.

Chinatown at night is my favorite iteration of Chinatown. The neighborhood was closing up shop for the day, tourists hustled out of storefronts, the menu ladies still trying to get some takers. The great neon signs in Chinatown glowed orange and red. The lanterns hanging above the street swayed a bit in the slight wind. Smells of garlicky food, of trash and compost, of freshly washed laundry and of incense mingled in the air.

We chatted along the way, watched some filming over by California Street and Grant. A car commercial, perhaps? And then I ran to catch the 38, the guys went to catch their rides home, and that was that.

My driver careened down Geary and I was home by 9:45.


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