Last week, a few really weird things happened on the SF Muni.
First, and perhaps weirdest, I caught the 14 bus after waiting just a few short minutes—on the way to work AND home. Catching the bus immediately one way is an atypical but lucky fluke; catching the bus both ways without having to wait 20 minutes or more is an unheard-of blessing, a luxury that sweeps away the imagination, an inspiration to dream of what it must be like to live in a city with decent public transport. This bus was neither overly crowded nor noxious with the fumes of the homeless. It took me a few minutes to orient myself, but what I saw next snapped me to immediate attention. As a group of people boarded the bus, I heard the driver stop one of them.
"I didn't see a pass in your wallet, sir," he said.
"It's...uh..." muttered the passenger.
"Please put some money in the bus, sir," the driver said.
The passenger sullenly deposited a token and muttered a semi-unintelligible but discernibly rude remark. The driver just shut the door and drove on. I sat and stared, mouth agape.
It was a bizarre experience, the likes of which I have never seen on SF Muni, where people brazenly board without paying as a rule. This same driver seemed even to be keeping the back door shut (remember, this bus wasn't that crowded, so exiting through the front door was no problem). It seemed he was trying to prevent farejumpers from hopping on that way. But maybe that was just my imagination, delirious at the joy of seeing someone enforce the rules even once.
I wondered if maybe things had changed, maybe the new SF Muni Commissioner had heard all the complaints about the 14 and told his drivers to shape up, maybe there was hope for SF public transport after all.
But this week, as I walked into work half an hour late after the bus ride from hell, I realized that everything was back to normal.