Got Art?

Dao of Doug Canvas Wraps and Glossy Mounts Art Show

Photography has been a long time passion of mine. Ever since Dad bought me my little Petri camera at K-Mart by the popcorn and hoagie counter, I have enjoyed taking pictures. I would always convert my pictures into slides–and I’m glad I did–this format is easy to convert to digital files in the Facebook age of electronic social media.

Now, I’m selling my photographic art on Flickr, through SamCart on my products page. David Emmons’ webinar link from a YouTube video ad was just the information I was looking for–guys we’re in a totally virtual digital sales world. Changes in the past five years are dramatic–a social distancing and shelter-in-place have only accelerated online shipping and shopping. My friends and closest buddies are artists. I love going to art shows, and finding out what the artist is like.

If you’d like to meet an artist who has done vast amounts of research to find his audience–his peeps who like his work, he has some videos you can see to get an idea of who he is. If you really want to be blitzed like a fan jet sprinkler on the golf greens, check out his webinar link

Blocked Zone Bus Bunching

When I get into trouble, it becomes difficult to know what action to take, especially if I am in a rush. Paradoxically, it is when I am in a compromise, that my choice needs to be decisive and clear. If I am not in a good space, I am apt to be in “an accident.” This is no more clearer than when operating large machinery with lots of souls on board, and a rescue vehicle or ambulance emerges on the scene.  

A car tries to overtake on the left, or cuts in front from the right to make a right turn at a congested intersection. This one ideal—to sit back and watch the show, allows us to avoid the odds for a need to “back up” or make an abrupt maneuver that could cause danger or collision.  

Meditation or quiet time on a regular basis about our “show” in life, has helped me immensely in knowing that when the time comes, I am ready to make a choice.  Experience in driving a Muni bus has given me that intuition that can also arise if we take quiet time before our day opens, and when we retire at night. The patterns of my daily journey on the road become predictable, so when I see something different, or that is out of place, I immediately adjust so as to keep a space cushion around the impending threat.  When I was new, I would charge ahead of a taxi picking up or dropping off in the zone, but I have since realized that by pacing myself to the pull-in to the curb, the taxi customer usually alights or departs, and the taxi has room to move away, thus giving me full access to the zone. I also find it easier to find a cab when I am in uniform going home from work!  

I now try to avoid blocking any vehicle in the zone by slowing, and see if the extra time cushion works.  Nine times out of ten, it does.  And then the key was for me to be sparing on the horn.  And sure enough, I rarely need to use it.  And when I do, I try to keep it to a friendly toot and not a ship to ship foghorn!  Blaring does nothing for keeping my serenity, and I usually get a blast back later in the day, as the equation always needs to remain balanced.  I would get awful angry horns when my tail end blocked an intersection because I had rushed ahead in to the zone behind another coach.  I became aware of the frequency of the angry horn directed at me, and I looked at my part leading up to that situation. I also recalled the last time I gave an angry blast at another vehicle, and the hostile energy seemed to be about the same in intensity and force.  So I stopped using the horn and got light on the power pedal. The longer the time passed with me not using the horn, the fewer horns I got. I started applying this invisible karmic ledger to other behaviors I found offensive to me on the road.  When shocked about a car cutting me off, or a flyby or drive-by that seemed scary, I tried to recall when I made a similar action not anticipated by pedestrians or motorists. My compromising situations decreased dramatically. The suggestion to sit back and watch the show,  started to be a working part of my mind, and I got it.

The hardest part of all of this was to be able to check and scan left-right-left every five to eight seconds, and see what was amiss. Construction delays and lane closures were a biggie in realizing that I had to shift my mode of thinking, and drop speed and allow others behind me to react and have time to make the decision to pass before squeeze-play became too immediate and required sharp turns.  I really hate sharp turns in life.   

Vest at Rest

How I got my Job

On my trail to be fired by my previous employer for poor job performance, I was given an ultimatum: Show up at EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) office at 9 a.m. sharp on Monday, or be fired. I rang the security bell at 8:58 a.m., and no one answered. I re-rang at 8:59 a.m., and still no answer. I left with my tail between my legs. Two weeks later I received my termination letter for failing to appear. But I showed up, I said. No, you were instructed to show up at 9 a.m.— they must have really wanted me to go!  Talk about being on a schedule!  

So about two weeks later, I got up the courage to file a grievance with our union rep.  She got on it right away, and she had an urgency to her voice.  Sure enough, the time to file a grievance was within two weeks of the fire date. Fortunately, the Thanksgiving Holiday happened to fall within this two week period—and the contract states ten business days: The Holiday didn’t count as a business day!  I successfully saved my old job!   

Sure enough, almost to the day, I got the new job at Muni two years later.  This timing of coincidence was incredible. I heard an inner voice that told me my time with the old employer was done.  What’s all this got to do with sitting back and watch the show?  It means as long as I keep my purpose clear and my direction and motives honest, nothing but good  follows. This spiritual law seems to hold as true as water seeking its own level, and the law of gravity dropping an apple off of a tree. I have become adept at valuing my physical laws, but spiritual laws are just as valid. We are spiritual beings in a physical body.  So when I pause to sit back and watch the show, I can avoid dramatic choke points.

And this concept of watching the show can be applied in the macro world of our life goals. I don’t know how many times I applied to jobs because I was in a financial crunch and dumbed down just to get a job I could get right away to pay rent. To be sure, there is a wisdom in this: Get immediate needs met, then go on to bigger and better later on. I never seemed to get this. Once employed, I became too busy to think bigger.  But as the months turned in to years, I realized I was content to maintain my status quo by rationalizing that life’s simple pleasures as a worker among workers was enough. I never gave a thought to moving upstage in my goals. 

As long as happy hour beckoned after shift, that was enough.  Until my life got hit with a reboot at age 39, I began to get a place where I could actually, sit back. Not lazy, as some would say, but to avoid the drama without being the lead actor on stage. I finally made the split between getting a job for paying rent now, and to put in for a job that would take longer to get and pay more with a long term future. My answer was to be a civil service worker in the Department of Transportation in the City and County of San Francisco.  

I was always too worried about what others were doing and always sought the lowest common denominator rather than bring up the equation to a new, more aware level.  Its been found that when an angry or pessimistic person enters a room with a group of people, such as a break room early in the day, productivity is reduced by all for the rest of the day. The energy I bring to a bus full of people can sometimes make a difference.  Is riding the bus a drag, or is it fun? 

I noticed early on in my bus riding days, some drivers looked relatively relaxed. Nothing seemed to phase them and some were actually fun to talk to. There did seem to be a way in which to make their work look easy and relaxing, and yet at a high paying job.  So the seed was planted early on that this might be a good job for me. As a Gemini sun sign, transportation and continual movement fits my sign. My 4th grade art project, What do I want to do when I grow up?, was a picture of the silver GM coaches that serviced the NY Port Authority from Jersey during the 60’s. Bus driver was a job I wanted to do since the fourth grade. I have heard  those who are successful in their jobs later in life, had a passion for those activities or skills from an early age.

Sure, it would take some doing, but in the mean time, why not put in for it and wait and see what would happen? I got menial easy jobs in the meantime, construction delivery, housecleaning, and non-profit residential pick-up truck driver. This sense of service kept me going as I put in and waited for the better job. Indeed, when my ‘number’ came up with the Municipal Railway, I was ready to move.

Unlike Civil Engineer, Medical Doctor, Dentist, or Lawyer,  Bus Driver did not seem to appear on the success roster. I didn’t really care. Ralph Kramden was my hero. I saw no matter how half baked an idea was that I could hatch, as long as I had my friends, and made a connection with others, everything would turn out okay, just like a 30 minute sitcom!  When Jackie Gleason would exclaim, “How Sweet it Is!”  I got it.  I guess you could say the in a way, The Honeymooners was my imprint version of The Wonder Years,  that many followed in their youth in the eighties.

I applied as truck driver with a non-profit retailer for the upcoming Thanksgiving— Christmas rush. I was so grateful for the timing in getting that truck driver job, when I needed it most, that I refused my first training class with Muni, and finished out the holiday season. I got one first refusal when starting with the city, and I took it, knowing that I was close to starting a training class.

Fast forward to San Francisco and the late nineties. Newly elected Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., Esq., was mandated to fix Muni in his first 100 days, and he took immediate action to hire more bus drivers. I went to the Moscone job fair and put in to get on the list.  Finally, at age 39, I was finally making a plan about choosing a job that seemed more like a career or occupation than just a need to get another paycheck fast. 

I encourage anyone living paycheck to paycheck, or between jobs, to pause a look deep about what kind of service they want to provide to others. I would always sit in the front seat when I rode the bus with Grandma, and liked it when the bus drivers would talk to me. I still do that now, conditions permitting, and I feel like I am actually in a recruitment mode. Early first impressions can and do have a lasting effect on our life decisions later on down the road.  Get them when they are young, and so I present myself as doing a fun job. 

The events around this hire date are so incredibly unusual, that I think they bear testimony that when our motives are pure and not self-seeking, God has a way of showing up and helping. 

Watching the show can also take on a religious tone.  I have heard that the path to a God given life is broad and wide and very much unlike a tightrope. Yet my life to this point seemed just that.  I put in for the truck driving job on Friday  I prayed. I kept the faith. I took in a deep breath and said that this is it:  Am I just doing another wishful thinking?  Or am I on sure footing? Indeed I was: Next Monday, I got the job. I had asked with a non-self serving attitude, and got a good response.  This last minute break through was only another series of coincidences that seemed as though there were forces at work that were beyond my control, helping me.  

When Muni notified me that I have been selected as an applicant, only a two week window exists in which I must answer, else wise I have to start over and reapply.  At this time, in 1996, job apps were not online as they are today, so I put in a card that was self-addressed, and when the window for application was open for those two weeks, I had to send back a mail in response that you I was available for hire. 

Luckily, I still had kept a post office box near my old house, so that my address would be stable and not change.  One big problem many applicants have when applying for city jobs is that the address that they use when they first apply changes in the time frame when the hire notice arrives. As I went about my business, I forgot about what address I used when I applied. This has been the cause of many an idea I am not good enough, or I have to know someone to get in. This just is not true. If I put in for a city job, I will get a response back.  

Just as a thank you letter can be as good as gold after a job interview, a follow up letter to a new employer is always a good idea and really has no downside.  What negative could develop if I checked back to see how my name on the list was progressing?   So, when I went to make a journey to my mailbox in another neighborhood from where I was staying, I saw the last letter in the pile.  It was from the city, and as I tore it open I dropped my jaw.  The deadline for applying had passed. It was last Friday!  

I rushed on the bus to the address on the letterhead. Oh, well, I thought, if I have to reapply and start over then so be it.  As I was riding on the 43 bus to the Presidio Division, I forlornly looked at the cancellation stamp on the outside of the original envelope.  When in the heck did they mail the letter?  Oh, not too long, only about two weeks ago—I couldn’t believe my eyes. 

There were two different dates on the cancellation stamp: November 16 and November 17. I did the math. November 17 meant I had one more business day to report my positive response to agree to be hired.   I couldn’t believe this last minute hope.  When I got to the hiring office, I was all smiles.  “Sir, I realize the deadline for the next class expired last Friday, but take a look at this.”  I showed him the double cancellation stamp.  I was in!  He accepted the cancellation date of the 17th and allowed me to start.  I knew there was a power greater than myself at work here. 

It has been said that a spiritually fit person has no regrets about the past.  And so, by trying over and over to not be resentful about why I was let go or quit in the past, I looked to where I had success, and what I enjoyed about what I did. Even if the job description seemed lowly or without promotion, what had I done in those jobs that was helpful to my employer, and how could I carry this forward?  My job evaluations were mediocre and average. When I took an honest look at my part, and how I had become my own worst enemy, I saw that when I could reflect upon the stage of my life, and see the show, I would excel.

I have been doing this ever since, and now have an abundance level I never thought possible.  I was always too worried about what others were doing and always sought the lowest common denominator rather than bring up the equation to a new, more aware level. It’s been found that when an angry or pessimistic person enters a room with a group of people, such as a break room early in the day, productivity is reduced by all for the rest of the day.  The energy I bring to a bus full of people can sometimes make a difference.

I’ve heard time and time again that my worst moments can be actually the turning point for the best. It’s easy to type this now, and to talk from a platitudinal point of view over coffee, but this spiritual law seems to hold as true as water seeking its own level, and the law of gravity dropping an apple off of a tree.  I have become adept at valuing my physical laws, but spiritual laws are just as valid.  We are spiritual beings in a physical body.  So when I pause to sit back and watch the show, I can avoid dramatic choke points, keep my bearing, all will turn out well.

Leave your Heart in San Fran: Not your iPhone

it’s okay to leave your heart in San Francisco

Lost and Found

It takes a certain earnestness to make a commitment to read a book of essays by a bus driver, this exposition being no exception.   What am I saying?   Thanks for reading!   The journey to publish a book has shown me who the avid readers are, the state of the brick and mortar book store, and the online mega monster that is as large as a subtropical river delta in South America:   Amazon!   It has also brought me back to the door-to-door sales mentality as a young scout.   Carrying around my newly published book for sale is not unlike the cold call of door knocking and selling tickets to a movie as a boy scout raising money for new tents for our troop.  The interplay of selling self to another, in a compressed time frame, is truly a Gemini trait that ranges through almost every emotion and sense of self-esteem and self worth.

The number one question on people’s mind when they find out I am a Muni bus driver, is, What is the craziest thing that happened to you on the bus?  And I tell them about the spread eagle Folsom fair goer in nothing but chaps, jumping on to the front of the bus, holding on to the windshield wipers and bike rack, baring all to the riders and those at the stop:  Or being offered a loaded crack pipe in the inner mission,   placed on the fare box, with  lighter,  as fare payment.  Hmm, do tell.   I understand the mission statement of Balboa Press, which is to be a nature-friendly new age  publisher.  Does a publisher in Bloomington, Indiana desire to publish everything that goes on inside a Muni bus, especially at the back seat?  The addition of cameras on all buses has been a mixed bag. And so goes the range of emotion in promoting myself, and editing for interest and genre category.  I guess this is a good time to state, “The views contained herein do not necessarily reflect those of the SFMTA or its’ employees!”

The first book, “Finding Zen” has a preface from me.   This sequel, “Keeping Zen,” has an epilogue, an update on attitudes about our transit future.   I also wanted a chapter that had an air of finality to it, such as with, “When Worlds Collide,” in book one.  The idea came to me at Sacramento and Fillmore on the 22 line:  Lost and Found!  I had lost this idea in my head because I didn’t write it down when it came to me.  Fortunately, I got the idea back upon awakening.  I had “found” the idea again!  Indeed, the items found on a bus were as diverse as the riders, and the thoughts and emotions about such seemed worthy as a chapter with the human interest angle.  If you want to start an interesting conversation with a Muni bus driver, ask them about their most interesting lost and found story!  

So back to the Fillmore on the 22.

I had returned a Mac Book Pro to a woman who had left it on the bus.   This was at Jackson, an affluent neighborhood where the bus is relatively empty.  She had been on the phone, and was distracted by the attention given to the caller.  She forgot the fact that she had her computer with her.  A passenger alerted me to the laptop, left on a seat at the back of the bus by the rear door.   I immediately called on the radio, stating my run, line and coach number.  Operations Central Control (OCC) would be able to locate my bus, should the rider call 3-1-1 about leaving an item on board.    I never describe the item in full, on the air, so that only the owner would be able to identify the item when Central calls me back.  But the call back never came.  I put the computer in my bag for safe keeping and out of sight.  Having a laptop on the dash certainly would not do.   

When I pulled-in I talked to the dispatcher about what to do–the laptop’s owner’s phone numbers were on a business card that was inside the sleeve of the computer’s cover.  We called both numbers but got no answer.  When we have an item for lost and found, we are to tag the item with our cap number, coach number, and line in which we found the item.  We leave the item to be picked up the next day by the mail room and to have it sent to the main Lost and Found department at S. Van Ness and Market. 

The dispatcher was hesitant to leave the computer on the console by the other lost and found items overnight,  and  said I could return the item to her as I lived close by.   This was a rare event in my employ in that I was being trusted to do the right thing.  I returned the laptop to her that next evening, at my front door in the building where I live.  Returning an item to it’s owner is fun:  I love the look on your face when you are reunited with your cell phone, computer, or billfold.   

Not so for the dispatcher once the superintendent found out what happened.  Many times a call for thanks for an above and beyond action carries discipline, not commendation.   By describing my action to return the laptop, off-property, as a commendation from the woman, the dispatcher was disciplined by our boss for not following protocol.  I never saw him at the desk again.  I must follow the wisdom that the rules have for my own protection, and protection of the railway.  

Most of my actions of knighthood and chivalry seem not to be welcome in this age of   Tina Turner’s verse captured in Beyond Thunderdome.   The lyric rings true as a bus driver in San Francisco:  We don’t need another hero!   Even so, I relish the challenge a found item can have. 

Another example:  A loaded wallet is in the gutter in front of me as I pull up on Mission at Third.  A back and forth homeless rider, on the sidewalk,  spots the wallet in the gutter seconds after I do.   But as I am closer to the wallet, I pop the brake and snatch it seconds before she gets to it.  And it is here that I am confronted with my own prejudice and fear revolving around lost and found.  

Who am I to say that the homeless woman on the street is no more or less a help to return the wallet to the owner than I am?   Her desire for a reward for doing the right thing is no more or less valuable or assured than with my wish, even if that be the case.  Or why am I so prepossessed  to assume she would follow the Law of the Sea better than I?  This Law being: Finders keepers. Losers weepers.  Which many believe to be, the cash is mine, a sort of finder’s fee, and be thankful you got your license and credit cards back. 

In this instance, her license showed an address very close to the line and easy to ride by on my way home.  I stayed off the air about it and gave the wallet to the doorman in her building after I pulled-in.  She had already alerted the doorman about the wallet, but didn’t know when she lost it. 

The curb by the back door is another common collection point for lost belongings,  but, technically, is not on railway property.   This gets in to the issue of what constitutes a bus stop, and the zone considered our responsibility as a driver.  Anything within four feet of the bus zone is part of our responsibility, such as with  intending passengers and the determination of pass-up.  

This gets to the core of why I love this job.  I am confronted about my own beliefs and values by the diverse sedimentation of deposits laying all around me at a bus stop!  Is the dispatcher’s fear of leaving the laptop in the office any different than the fear I have that a wallet and the cash inside will disappear before or after the mail room employee comes to pick it up?  Can the trust of Lost and Found or another employee be higher or lower than a person on the street?    The opening of the heart reveals so much more.

One sweet grandma had left the entire contents of her wallet with coin purse on the bus with about six paper dollars and heavy change.  I described the item as soon as I found it on the seat where she had been sitting across from me at the next stop, when I called Central.  She was waiting for me back on the other side when I came back outbound.

“I am sorry I can’t give you anything for returning this.” she said in a gentle voice.  “Oh but you have.” I responded without hesitation.  The feeling of reward without monetary consideration is such a rare wonderful feeling.   True abundance may be found without counting money.  Once I start figuring on the dollar amount of where finders keepers becomes the reward theory, I am already in trouble. Trouble with karma, trouble with dharma.  I also question my belief as to why a wallet loaded with twenties is “less valuable” as a return item than a coin purse full of nickels and pennies.  The thought that some young tech professional does not need her twenties, but a senior’s pennies from heaven do, is a value judgement full of lessons and experience that may or may not be true.  

It gets back to the difference between the second and third grade.  Second graders want what they want and they want it now!   Third graders realize that listening and believing the first thought that pops into our head may not be good, or have a good outcome.  All of us need be taught that the first thought that comes in to our mind should not necessarily be acted upon.  This becomes no more evident in the dialogue of a crack addict or meth head on the bus mumbling or shouting in the seat behind me!  When impulse becomes primary, the circuit breaker of thinking about our thinking gets lost, or turned-off.  This results in bad decision-making!   God bless the angels that come our way on the bus!  

The number one big ticket tech item lost are cell phones.  Smart phones are left when the passenger falls asleep.  Most of us are so connected to our smart phone, such that the likelihood of leaving it has actually diminished from the text and talk clamshell flip phone of an earlier generation.  Older cells are easily returnable because they are unlocked.  

I can wait for a call to come in, pop the brake, step off the coach, and give the bus number and location of my coach, so their friend can meet and intercept.  Usually, the owner is with the friend, as they are asking them to call their phone to see if someone answers.  I love returning this item because it frees me up from making a lost and found tag when I pull-in.  I can’t get in trouble for not following protocol.  

Other times, a savvy rider realizes the item was on the bus, and they wait in the following direction to scan for me and the item on the seat.  Either they find the item where they left it, or I hold the item in my hand as I approach the stop. The look of  relief on their face is worth at least two or three profane disruptions that may also occur that day. Though it is interesting to note that the quality of the day is based on the energy I am putting out, good deeds and disruptions have a difficult time in happening close together, or side by side, if you will.  By keeping the Zen, I may be keeping the problems at bay.   In this case, somewhere near pier 90!

Flu Shot

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!


I had a group of youngsters bringing in food at the back door after I asked them to take their trash with them when they depart. My comment fell on deaf ears as they went to the back door with their ice cream sandwich and candy bars. Being a bully and demanding an action has never worked in the past, so I simply make a request in a calm monotone voice and let my control over any situation die after I take the action of a neutral toned statement and let the cards (ice cream, soda cans, juice bottles, fried chicken) fall where they may. 

Transfer points with fast food stores are the places were food gets brought on the bus. It isn’t too hard to see where the trash comes on board. Once I understand this, I can ask intending passengers to take their food or trash with them, and if they board at the front, I get a positive response. I see them take their bags and cups with them when they get off. The Seven-Eleven at 30th and Mission, and Popeye’s at Divisadero and Hayes are the key litterbug stops on the 24 and 21 respectively.

Yesterday, I had an off duty operator, riding my coach inbound on the 21, alert me that the man who just got off at 8th and Market dropped a full coffee cup on the back seat and the spill was creeping down the floor to the back steps. Cream and sugar, mixed with coffee make for a gross floor and sticky mess that can be tracked throughout the bus over the following hours of service. I had five more trips to make on this day, so the spill was going to affect all the commuters going home after a long day. No one likes to be forced into a sticky seat or floor when all seats are taken on the peak period commute home. Litterbugs don’t understand the effect they are having on all those who come after them on the bus.

I asked the riding operator to get a newspaper at the news rack on the corner, and he gave me a some copies at my window, and I popped the brake. I went to the back and laid the papers down on the floor where the streams of goo were moving and absorbed the coffee off of the seats that were affected. 

“Let’s go!” demanded one of the youth. “Not until I clean this mess, look here, there is an ice cream wrapper on the floor.” I responded. “All these seats and aisle are unusable as this coach will be out of service to wait for the car cleaners, and everyone will have to wait longer for the next bus. I am keeping this coach in service.” They begrudgingly got off the bus.

My follower on the 9 San Bruno behind me honked at the delay created by missing a light at the inbound stop. I was holding up the line. Losing a light was a small price to pay to keep my headway intact. I returned to the cockpit and left on the next green. I let the paper absorb all the sticky coffee, and then at the next stop where a trash can is right at the corner, I picked up the wet paper and throw it into the can. The mess is gone.

We operators do have the ability to call for the car cleaners to come and fix the mess, but what these youth and old man seem not to understand, is the delay in coming to clean the coach means my bus blocks the terminal for my follower, who now has double headway. This one spill, along with the wrappers, gets dropped off in a second, but causes hours of dirty shoes and clothes by those who follow, or a delay in service that lasts over an hour. The best lesson I can give for change is to set an example by doing a spot cleaning when it happens and when they are on the bus.

It was made obvious to me from the operator who witnessed the spill,  that the old man intentionally dropped his coffee cup and had an attitude. I recall this was not the first time he did this. I file this away in my brain, and be alert for his boarding next time. Last time, I discovered the mess after a full trip to my second terminal.

Indeed, I do find many interesting articles when I do the rear board walk through at the end of the line, as our rulebook suggests. If a spill  has occurred, as we may not be able to see the mess when the bus is crowded. It is important to understand a rider can make a difference by letting the operator know . This was the case on this day, as I couldn’t see what happened. At the end of the line I whipped out my window cleaner pads and got the seats shiny and bright and then used the pads to clean the floor where the shoes would rest. 

It took two minutes to make the final wipe, and I left Ferry Plaza on time. Snap. Can I get an amen in here?

The youth may believe its cool to ride for free and eat on the bus, without a second thought, but the old man should know better. He was probably an operator who was let go, and is now a hater. He knows the rules, but in an odd twist, a resentment is nursed and fed about how they ‘did it’ to him, how unfair the outside world has treated him. I know his line of thought all too well, and I don’t have to react to it. I can insert a positive action of example, and keep myself on a higher plane. Or bus!

Signs and posters for litterbug fines don’t seem to get through. Positive action does. We now return you to the Trolleybus of Happy Destiny, complete with clean seats and floorspace!

back seat graffiti

I’d Never Do Your Job

Meet Driver Doug, transit operator for the San Francisco Municipal 'Muni" Railway.
Driver Doug ready for Muni Heritage Week in Historic Coach 776.

I come from a background where money may not be the root of all evil, and it was acknowledged that it did indeed grow on trees, but that there were two types of money: Good money and bad money. You never wanted to throw good money after bad. And there was a nuance between money earned and money given. Or money found by luck, or money made easy. I never heard too much about money made easy. Honest money made was the best money. A penny saved was a penny earned. But, boy did that sound like a lot of plodding and not too much fun. So it should come as no surprise, if I worked hard to make money, it should therefore be good money. I was pleased to find work as a transit operator in the city by the bay, the Bagdad by the bay, the city that never sleeps, which was a hard job but a good paying job. I hit the family ancestral jackpot. I was making good money at a hard job in line with my family history.

But I noticed early on in my Muni riding days, that some drivers looked relatively relaxed, and nothing seemed to phase them. And some were actually fun to talk to. And that there did seem to be a way in which to make their work look easy and relaxing, and yet is a high paying job. So the seed was planted early on that this might be a good job for me. As a Gemini sun sign, transportation and continual movement fits my sign. Read more here:

Mind the Gap

About the Author: Saturn in Sagittarius

This Astro reading really describes the how and why of my writing the Dao of Doug series; especially with my history of putting my English degree to work as a transit operator. Thanks for those in Douglas on the Isle of Man, and those in Leister and central England for your e-reader uploads in 2019. Your purchases were the largest group of readers, topping New York City and Montreal!

Information Gladly Given But Safety Requires Avoiding Unnecessary Conversation

I’d like to think I am an enigma as a Muni bus driver, because I do enjoy being of service and giving directions. Most operators, however, give the silent treatment. This posting on the bus should honestly read: Information rarely given, and when it is given, it is given with condescension and sarcasm: You only get three questions, and then it’s time to shut-up and ask someone else (a passenger, perhaps?) (for a completely different answer).

Look, now is not the time to ask a question. “I can’t talk right now.”

But Safety Requires You Remain Silent: The time to ask was before the yellow line when boarding. We have these things called the internet and Google or Siri, and you can get directions before starting your trip. “So please, shut up and sit down!”

Neon lighting with bells and whistles would not help get the message through to most folks.