random interviews: cable car conductor

So he has the emergency brake, he’s the conductor, not the real brakeman, I guess. I rode the car all the way to the end of the Powell line- well I usually get impatient by Union Square traffic and jump off near Sutter. On the way there, though, he and I got talking. He complained that the tracks are really slick when it rains, and he has to pull the emergency brake a lot. He has worked here 30 years, and used to drive the 38. I wonder if these MUNI employees know that I stalk them and suck dry all of their boring work stories? I can’t resist! More of our fascinating conversation after the jump.

He’s the shortest brakeman, and has a titanium shoulder- it was replaced a few years ago. He sees the Cable Cars as a real step up. When bus drivers get seniority, they can choose to get trained on the cable cars, I take it. I asked him if he ever just wanted to bag it, to quit his job. He said the first 10 years were the hardest, then the perks of seniority made it better. I can’t imagine driving the 38. “It’s crowded like that,” he says pointing to an accordian 38 pulling out of Union Square on Geary, “until 1AM every night.” We talked about SFists voting of “best MUNI line” and “worst MUNI line”. He told me his favorite would be the one that goes out to Fort Cronkite, across the bridge. “You drive back and the whole ocean is out there, spread in front of you.” The Treasure Island bus line would be cool. I told him about how I get ridiculed for using the cable car all the time, and he joked that “locals don’t really know that the monthly MUNI pass works on here.” I thought that was funy since I have had drunken arguments with people about the very same issue. Ah, to be proven right, it’s a nice feeling.

5 Comments so far

  1. Susan Holtzer (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 8:01 am

    Anna, conductors ARE the brakemen — that’s just a matter of terminology. And that’s not an emergency brake, it’s one of the regular brakes. Cable cars have three different braking systems. The emergency brake, called the “slot blade,” is that red handle up front, next to the grip.

    And if you’re interested in cable car stories, check out a book titled “Cable Car Confidential” by, ahem, Susan Holtzer. You can get it at the new Muni museum in the Hotel Vitale, or on Amazon.


  2. richard (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 9:09 am

    I used to live in the Tenderknob, and was shocked (shocked!) to discover that it was possible to use the cable car for Actual Transportation Purposes! Oh, the bliss of hopping on to an empty car in the middle of an intersection during the Tourist Mobbing off-hours…


  3. rocco (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 9:23 am

    You should become an urban ethnographer.


  4. anna (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 11:36 am

    Susan- I’ll check your book out, thanks for the correction. Strangely I actually spent some time looking that little fact up and couldn’t find anything decisive. I have found a wiki area in which to contribute! WoW!

    Richard- yeah it’s a dream. It’s so much more pleassant than the 30-crowded-life-fish experience.

    Rocco- I now have to look up what this is. Isn’t novelist an “urban ethnographer” but with a PhD, I guess. And more syllables.


  5. rocco (unregistered) on February 15th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    yep- except you are describing things as they are- or at least as you interpret them. bringing to life “some approximation” of “reality.” you would love to read some of the sh.. er stuff that I am reading. I think it is right up your alley!



Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.