Bus 8662

It happened again on the way back from my improv class. On Tuesday night, at around 10:15 PM, on a 43 Masonic bus headed south, I found myself in David Lynch territory. I’ve long believed that the true San Francisco nutjobs can be found in the so-called affluent neighborhoods, and yet, stupidly, I remain puzzled why the “safer” lines in the City prove to be the strangest. (My previous MUNI tale, if you will recall, happened on the 7 Haight.)

I climbed aboard Bus 8662, flashing a smile and my Fastpass. The driver gave me a lengthy leer and stared down at a paper bag I was carrying. My crime? Holding a bag containing an overpriced pita. How dare I take home a long deferred dinner! On his bus, no less!

I was delighted to find one of my classmates on board the bus. So I said hello to him, complimenting him on the progress he had made in the class. As I was getting situated in the double seat across the aisle from him, the bus took a curve through the Presidio at about 45mph, tossing me back into the adjacent seat like a potato bug flicked over by an eight year old.

“Well,” I smiled after my rebound, “this should be an interesting ride.”


For some reason, I thought that this had come from some passenger who was experiencing a harmless bout of psychosis and had somehow confused himself for the bus driver. Someone whom I could quite easily ignore while my classmate and I chatted. But when this statement was followed up with diabolical laughter and a sudden shriek of the brakes, causing us all to lurch violently forward, I suddenly realized that the man who had uttered these words was, in fact, driving the bus.

“HAVE A NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICE EVENING,” he said to some passenger exiting the back door, sounding distinctly like an undertaker who hadn’t left the mortuary in years. “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”

The bus suddenly grew terribly quiet as this dawning realization settled in. The driver was fond of jerky transitions between lanes, unannounced slams on the brakes and gas pedal, and slight weaving in the lane he was driving in. Thank goodness there were very few cars on the streets.

We were at the mercy of a maniac. I began watching other passengers getting on the bus and they were utterly terrified.

Clearly, there was only one thing to do.

“So anyway,” I said nonchalantly to my classmate, “great work tonight!”

Suddenly, I heard diablolical laughter from the BACK of the bus. One of the passengers, an inebriated, long-haired and quite possible homeless man in his late thirties, had cracked!

Now I should note that my classmate and I were sitting in the middle of the bus. And at each pole of the bus’s axis, there was a maniac! One a driver, one a passenger. It was the perfect metaphor for MUNI’s problems. I wondered if we were part of some psychological experiment, perhaps an homage to Milgram that involved game theory and kinesiology. But then I recalled the MUNI assault that went down on Sunday. Clearly, if I was driving a bus after that, I’d be more than a little frightened myself. But taking it out on the passengers?




My notepad was in my pocket, but I didn’t need it. I wouldn’t be forgetting this bus ride even if Alzheimer’s struck me down. The number 8662 was clear as a bell — its white permanent digits nestled within the black expanse of the front, where the driver was laughing and weaving and presumably cradling either a .45 or a Zooka Pop Pistol.

I witnessed a cab pull in front of the bus. The driver skirted the bus around it.


The drunk at the back laughed again. Clearly, he had found his soulmate. I decided to laugh along with them. After all, shouldn’t psychotic laughter come in threes?

“Well,” I told my classmate, “if I have to die this way, you’re a standout guy to leave the earth with.”

I then asked my classmate if he was a religious man and if he wouldn’t mind a non-ordained, self-declared minister baptizing him in the event of his untimely death.

I pulled the cord for my stop and wondered if the man would actually pull over. To my amazement, he did.

I wished my classmate long-term health and safety.


“Good night! Good therapy!” I responded in my best Shakespearean theatrical tone.

The pita, incidentally, was quite tasty.

Public Transmogrification

I’m not much of a public transportation critic, but I’d say that this morning’s bus ride was unsatisfactory. It had nothing to do with the 350 pound woman who sat next to me, shoving her backpack into the veneer-like threshold between us, permitting me a space buffer of approximately 1.2 millimeters (less than a trusty bullet caliber) and the compression of my body into the area of (roughly) a burlap rucksack designed for someone of Twiggy’s physique. It had nothing to do with the extenuating circumstances of this. Because I was actually able to open my book and read, even if it involved an acute open book aperture angling approximately 27 degrees, with educated guesses on how sentences ended on the left page and began on the right page. (“It was a dark ______________. ____________ better things were afoot when the gentle ________________.”)

It had nothing to do with the bus arriving late, or the extremely crowded confines within, or the body odor and the vociferous cell phone conversations carried out over such substantial topics as Paris Hilton’s new TV show, of which I haven’t a damn scrap of knowledge about. It had nothing to do with what the MUNI ridership comes to collectively expect under these circumstances. I’m convinced that people have only the sweetest intentions at heart when they deliberately collide into your back and seethe, “Get out of my way, motherfucker.” And you respond with something along the lines of “Blessed are the peacemakers” or “Have it your way, my dear Boswell.” Of this, I remain irrevocably convinced.

No, the problem had much to do with the wavering velocity of the vehicle, the origin of which could be traced to a very militant driver who seemed to confuse a trundle up Market Street with the First Battle of Ypres. “Enter through the front,” she barked at some hapless passenger trying to garner pivotal square footage through the back door. I could only imagine what this driver would do with a Glock gun in her hand. The volatility was manifest in the bus’s motion. The bus alternately moved at a snail’s pace or hit the ground running with a sharp slam on the gas, followed by a sudden brake, buffeting people forward from time to time. I’m not sure if the physical results of this eccentric two-step can be adequately described outside of a dance floor, or if they have underlying value in an aerobic environment. But it did have a unifying effect on the passengers at large. We were united. United in contusions, united in bumping into the metallic seats in front of us, united in being terrified of the bus driver quite possibly working the thirteenth hour of her shift, though being paid a lot more than a lot of us.

Overall, I’d have to conclude that the bus ride was unsatisfactory.

Nureyev By Subway

Who’s Got the Biggest Balls of All? “Does one really need the perimeter of three subway seats to provide salvation for the sensitive seed?….Bizarre that the same boys who cringed at junior high school calisthenics are now exercising their manhood with the barbaric bravado of Baryshnikov.” (via Maud, who has more to say on the subject).

The odd thing is that here in San Francisco, only the young gangsta wannabes seem to do this. But then the fact of the matter is that our subway cars are too crammed at rush hour to allow for this. But I suspect there’s a correlation to the male need to read while on the crapper. (Oddly enough, while I’ve been known to read in the buff, I don’t like the idea of reading as I defecate. Or shortly after.)