Monday was as close to a day from hell as my morning commute ever gets, starting with my getting to the stop late. A major reason to leave early every day is to escape the crowds starting to work in the morning. There is a major difference in traffic both on the roads and in public transit, between starting at 6:00 and 6:30. If you wait until 7:00, all hope is lost for zipping along at the speed limit or getting a seat if you are boarding a train in the middle of the line.
Anyway. I’d checked the NextMuni predictor before leaving the house, and as I expected, a F car was due in about 8 minutes. The F line would be fine because I wanted a slower ride in that morning. It runs above ground, and the place where I get off at Market and Fremont has a Starbucks. There are three Starbucks on the four blocks that face that intersection, but only one makes muffin sandwiches.
That’s what I looked forward to as I opened the front door to discover heavy drizzle. I don’t mind walking in the rain but standing in it is another matter so I reached back inside for the umbrella before heading up Santa Rosa. And once there I did indeed wait. And wait. And wait some more, the predictor assuring me a streetcar would be along in three minutes, then 5, then three again, and then announcing one was arriving. Except there was nothing on the tracks but heavy mist, and the occasional car tire, as myself and several other people stood waiting for anything to show up. A woman near me took out her phone and spoke to someone in Chinese. A few minutes later a van pulled up and in she jumped. Two women across the street that I see every morning called out to ask I heard anything. I crossed to tell them what the predictor said. Suddenly a J car approached from downtown, and I dashed to the platform to learn what he knew. But he did not even stop, making a slashing motion across his throat as he he flew by. One of the women decided to walk to the BART station, a half mile away, and after a few minutes so did I. And that was the morning commute.
In the evening I left early to get a haircut. I took the F since it gets closest to the barber shop, but the wait was long and the F was too slow. It’s summertime and the line is crowded with tourists. The F is as bad as the cable cars when it comes to attracting people looking for a fun San Francisco ride. I should have taken the underground and walked the extra two blocks.
After the cut, I walked down to catch the J back home. It was a ten minute wait and when it arrived, it was only going as far as 30th Street. There we were all ordered out of the car, which turned around and headed back downtown. The next car was due in five minutes according to the predictor, but from 30th you can see the track for ten minutes of length and there was no J in sight.
But then the most amazing thing happened. An old Italian F car rattled up, and the irascible operator stopped, opened the doors and said “Get in.”
You have to understand, the F never stops going inbound. Once they are done hauling the hoi polloi up and down Market Street and along the Embarcadero, F operators head for home like greyhounds after a rabbit. They wouldn’t stop for a San Francisco fare if you waved fresh sourdough and a basket of steaming crab at them. The folks standing on the 30th Street platform piled into the rickety streetcar like it was the last chopper out of Saigon. The operator engaged the drive and we were off.
Five yards later he stopped.
One of the passengers that boarded had been angrily berating a light pole while we were waiting. I’m sure the pole was just as apologetic as it could be, but the man’s anger wasn’t any less as he took a seat and continued his tirade from inside the streetcar. His vocabulary would have made the crew of the Carl Vinson sit up, and the passengers had all given him spitting distance clearance in the car. But the operator was having none of it. He set the brake, opened the rear door, strode to the back of the car, and ordered the man off. The guy looked at him and raised the invection a couple of levels, but he collected his bags and got off the car. The operator pulled a switch that closed the doors behind him, and went back to the controls.
And no one said a word the rest of the trip.
God, I love the F.