#10 x 2

April 25th, 2007

The #10 bus!

Someone at the Magic Theatre recently hipped me to its existence. My new monologue, Citizen Josh, opens at the Magic on (yipes!) May 19, and we started rehearsals last week. The challenge for me is how to get there.

I love performing at the Magic -- it's a great, storied, theater, and it's at Fort Mason, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. But as a (still) non-driver, my options in getting there from the East Bay are all a bit clunky. The first leg definitely involves taking BART to the City. But after that, the possible routes diverge.

Take the #30 Stockton bus? Well, that would work -- but man, it stops and starts and stops and stops and -- and it doesn't even exactly go to Fort Mason! Same for those brave, clunky buses that inch along Van Ness -- your #47's and your #49's, for instance. It kind of sucks to be nauseous even before you get the theater (that's the playwright's job!).

Now, what I'm building up to -- and I'm very excited about this! -- is to get off BART at Embarcadero and then bike to Fort Mason. Everyone tells me it's a lovely, quick ride, and involves a maximum of one killer-ish hill. I just need a little more time to prepare for this option, emotionally and mentally. My main fear isn't the hill, it's the glares from my fellow riders on BART. People get really peeved at bikes on BART sometimes! I have witnessed not just glares but also actual shouting matches. Some really gnarly bikers will even respond to a glare with an impassioned rant -- about how it's their right to be on the train, and they're saving the world, and so hey man, get over it! And I agree with them, for the most part. But ... but ... well, I don't like being glared at! And I'm not a good BART-ranter! So ... I'm building toward the Ultimate Bike Option, and will implement it shortly.

But in the meantime, as I said, I heard about the #10 bus. I took it yesterday for the first time. It was magical! I got on downtown -- the bus, as if by intuition or divine grace, was pulling up just as I arrived at the bus stop. The driver was really nice; I asked her how long it would take me to get to Fort Mason and she said, "Not long." Then, smiling, added, "Trust me." I told her I did trust her and took my little transfer thingie.

A few painless minutes later we were already in the Marina! My driver packed up her things and got off, exchanging pleasantries with another woman driver who took her place. I gathered from their conversation that my driver's mom was ailing, and that she'd be taking some time off to care for her. The new driver expressed her best wishes. I didn't hear everything they were saying, but they spoke in the rhythms of collegiality and friendship, and I was moved.

The new driver hung a Trader Joe's bag of snacks next to her seat, and we continued on. A couple of stops later, a third driver got on -- not to drive, but to ride, and to talk with my new driver. This third woman was raucous, loud, and funny. In her constant stream of chatter, she began pretty much every observation with "Girl? ..." In fact, the first thing she said when she got on the bus was, "Girl? You would not believe what happened to my pants today!"

Now, I don't know about you -- but that's the kind of opening line that gets me leaning forward a bit. I mean, what had happened to her pants?

Well, I had to wait to find out. With a certain amount of decorum, Driver #3 looked around the bus, noted that there were still several passengers, and then added, semi-sotto-voce: "I'll tell you when I get off."

By a few stops later, it was just the two drivers and me. And apparently the third driver decided that I was to be trusted. (Hah!) So she went into an elaborate explanation of the pants situation -- involving a completely ripped seam right up the butt, and a providential second pair of pants that she had brought with her to work and was now wearing under her Muni pants.

Driver No. 3 got off a couple stops before me -- and as she debarked, she was passing along some information about an excellent Mexican caterer who was the sister (or something) of another driver they both knew. (Apparently, Driver No. 2 was arranging a big gathering -- I didn't hear what it was, but decided to imagine, happily, that she was about to get married.)

Driver No. 2: "Why didn't you tell me about her before?"

Driver No. 3: "Girl? I'm tellin' you right now!"

Even after the door shut and we were pulling away, my driver was yelling, "Give me that number!" I wanted to say, "I don't think she can hear you," but I was too busy trying not to look at the back seam of Driver No. 3's pants as she walked away.

So we got to my stop -- the last stop -- and I said thanks to the driver, who gave me a nice smile, and then made my way to the Magic.

Cut to about an hour and a half later, and I'm back at that stop -- actually, across the street, where the route starts. Again, magically, as I arrive the bus is about to depart. And it's still Driver #2! I see her get out of the bus and head into a little concrete structure that I imagine is a bathroom/locker room for Muni drivers. As she comes back to the bus, she's on her cellphone, going over catering stuff. (So she did get that number!) She opens the bus and waves me on -- indicating with her eyes that no, I don't need to show her my transfer (a wonderful gesture of complicity and trust).

She adjust her Trader Joe's bag, shuts the doors, and we rumble off, with me -- again -- being the only passenger. What a lovely feeling! It's how Donald Trump must feel in his limousine -- well, at least it's how I hope he feels!

A couple stops later, who gets on but ... Driver No. 3 again! "Girl? I got to make this transfer -- let's go!" Now she sees me. With great mock drama: "You again??! What's happening to me?? Where am I??!" Then to No. 2: "Girl, hurry! I gotta make the 39!"

At the next stop a bunch of people -- clearly stunned and exhausted after a day's work -- clamber on. Driver No. 3: "Hurry! Hurry! Quick!" They smile, though tiredly.

"Girl? There's the 39! The 39!! Honk your horn!!!"

My driver dutifully honks, but the 39 doesn't wait -- and No. 3 isn't pleased. Shaking her fist: "Damn you, 39!!!!"

Passengers are grinning: this driver is one of us.

By the time we got back downtown, the bus was packed with commuters -- though it no longer contained No. 3, who was presumably still waiting for the 39 and trying not to move her legs too much, lest the pants situation should worsen. As I got swept out the rear exit with the flood of people who were also transferring to BART, I wasn't able to get back up front to say goodbye to my driver. But maybe I'll see her again today.

Ah, the #10 again! I can't wait to get an update on the catering and the pants.

Entry Filed under: let's digress


  • 1. Michele Leese  |  April 26th, 2007 at 12:51 am

    I moved away from San Francisco last year and miss it—and you, Josh!—so badly, but I didn’t realize how much I missed MUNI until reading this wonderful post. Such a great snapshot of city life.

    Good look with your new play! I wish I could be there to see it… :-(

  • 2. Julie Bernstein  |  April 26th, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    I walk to Fort Mason myself (for voice lessons) so hadn’t realized the #10 went there. I used to walk partway and then catch the 47/49 until I realized that only saved me about 5-10 minutes. Either way, I get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge every week! (Fog permitting, of course.)

    I enjoy reading your public transit stories. Maybe they could become the subject of your next monologue! :)

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