It is understandable in this busy bustling city why we forget to do certain things we need to get done for our own well being. Some years I miss getting my free flu shot at The Permenente Medical Group because I never slow down enough to review my day or prioritize deadlines. The good news is that anyone riding Muni on a daily basis may need not get a flu shot. Riding the bus qualifies!
There are enough fluids in the aisle and on the seats to qualify for any quarantine protocols. Airborne cough particles, or the de-gasification of body odor, cigarette smoke, methadone leaching, and any number of party p-n-p inhalants greet our nose upon entry. And the age old angst against all prayer: “Why do you have to sit directly behind the cockpit?” “Please move back.” “I am handicapped.” No shit Shirley!
Much has changed since this blog was written in 2015. My last pull out at Woods Division on a motor coach for the 33 Ashbury was sparking clean with the extra attention from the car cleaners due to the Corona virus conditions with shelter-in-place: the steering wheel wasn’t sticky! I took out my windex wipes and ran them over the wheel and horn button. The white glove test came back clean–no carbon black on the wipe! Indeed, many surfaces were much cleaner than usual, and a disinfected check off post-it note was on the fare box, with the initials and date of the cleaning. To be fair, I thought I should add this paragraph to let my readers know this dramatic shift in attention to detail since before the spring of 2020.
So the one drawback a disciplinary video playback can never show is the olfactory component! A blessed homeless woman gave me her secret tonic to kill all smells. It was in a cologne bottle, but it wasn’t glass. It was a non-breakable Muni-proofed rounded plexi container with a killer spray nozzle. One spray, when aimed correctly at the seat behind the cockpit could buy insurance for at least two trips down Mission Street!
I was doing the 22 Fillmore with triple headway on a regular basis when the stinker of all stinkers got on at Eddy headed towards the Marina and Pacific Heights. No way was I going to put up with this shit all the way through sweet upper class Grandmas and seniors going to Jackson or Union. I started to pray. There were two very well dressed executive types that also boarded at Eddy at the same time this awful smelling guy got on. This is when my overthinking head really gives me serious emotional pain. I have so much invested on what you think of me and how I look at doing my job. My fear of telling off the stinker and how to get rid of him, versus doing nothing ignoring the smell, as if I don’t care for the welfare of riders new to mass transit, had me in that rock and hard place not unlike Alcatraz Island.
The prayers worked. At Geary, I saw in my rearview courtesy mirror a stirring in his seat behind me that signaled he was getting off! Whew! But my hours of being on edge with extra headway finally exploded. I got up out of my seat as he started down the stairs. Oh I think you forgot something. I took out my secret weapon and sprayed the back of his coat as he went out the door. Thank God he’s gone!
This was one time the video playback worked in my favor. My superintendent and those in the office at the time laughed so hard at what they saw that I didn’t get in trouble. The nice looking executive types had called in on me to complain. I could never figure out how they were unaware of his smell, but my boss couldn’t bring herself to write me up over this incident.
I avoided a Passenger Service Review simply by the humor of having another operator as a boss, and not someone unfamiliar with what we go through. She got it. Unfortunately, she got promoted and I had to start all over with a new boss. This ‘starting over’ is actually one of the most difficult aspects of discipline with Muni. Having to prove myself to someone new almost negates all the stink of past passengers!
Its an old Scottish saying, What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The same could be said of riding the bus in San Francisco!