Muni, Red Zones, and Faith in Humanity
Heather and I live in a small apartment building in a lovely little San Francisco neighborhood called Cole Valley. And right outside our front door is the convenient N-Judah Muni line. We can take it just about anywhere in the city at a moment’s notice. That’s the upside.
The downside is that we hear it. All the time. If we put the glasses too close together in the kitchen cabinet, they rattle with every approaching train. The trains come out of the Sunset Tunnel and turn down Carl Street with a metal on metal screeching like giant angry robots. But that’s not the worst part.
Because of the turn in the tracks, Muni trains swing their butts out toward our building on every pass. And because of that, there’s a big red zone smack dab in front of our home.
You know what red means when it’s painted on a curb, right? It means Don’t Park Here. I know this. And you know this. But the collective intelligence of San Francisco drivers seems to go out the window in front of our apartment, because every day, several times a day, some idiot parks there. And when they do, the trains can’t pass without inflicting bodily harm.
On a good day, they just smash the car and Heather and I lean out the window and cheer. On a bad day, they stop and belt out a nuclear powered horn blast so loud, it could shake the crowns off your molars. That, my friends, is the worst part. And after six years of hearing those blasts, I’ve developed an extreme hatred of anyone who parks in that spot.
There’s a silver lining to this tale of human stupidity. Every once in a while, after a few minutes of Extreme Horn Blowing, the Muni driver gives up and opens all the train doors. The street is filled with San Franciscans of all shapes and sizes, ages and colors, rich and poor, all joined together in hating whoever parked there and having someplace else they’d rather be. Most of the time this crowd just gathers, bitching and sighing, until the tow truck arrives. But sometimes something magic happens.
All it takes is one rabble-rouser. One troublemaker to throw up his hands and yell, “My friends! We can do this!” And suddenly there are a dozen people gathered around the car, lifting.
You know, cars aren’t nearly as heavy as they look. At least not when you’ve got a dozen people united in their desire to get back on the train and on with their life.
The troublemaker yells, “one … two … three!” and the car moves as if on water. It drifts over to the curb and stops, the crowd cheering. The driver eyeballs it and nods. Everyone gets back on the train and goes back to being strangers, just on their way to the rest of their day.
But three stories up, Heather and I sit watching, a tiny portion of our faith in humanity regained.