Danger isn’t regulated to just the streets, but on public transportation as well. You’re stuck in a confined space with no easy access surrounded by total strangers. Assault, robbery, and molestation are the standard fare. But, there are other dangers that are more off the beaten path, especially in a city like San Francisco. Even moreso when MUNI is brought into the conversation. But there are less unlawful dangers to look out for, more annoyances really.
You may find yourself standing next to a crazy lady conversing with herself over the importance of fine dining and the proper use of etiquette. If you try to join the conversation, don’t expect to leave with your sanity intact. Off to the side would be a normal looking blue collar worker on the outside, but after a minute you realize he has a very bad case of Tourette’s syndrome. During the winter days, a number of riders cough and sneeze without covering up. A few even spit their phlegm onto the back of seat. Disgusting.
One of the worst though are the drunkards. Not the sleepy drunks or the depressing drunks, but the crazy, angry drunks. They always stumble onto the bus bellowing at anyone nearby and raising a ruckus. Now, take this crazy, angry drunk, combine him with the most foul-smelling body odor and he becomes the worst possible encounter you can have on a bus!
Today, I was late getting out of the office and worried the last bus had passed me by. Luckily, there was a major traffic jam happening on Mission and the bus I took was still a block away. So, I’m on this accordian bus near the 2nd exit minding my own business. Two stops later, the back doors opened up and a flood of riders climbed inside. The last person to climb in was dressed a dark hoodie and baggy slacks. He was yelling slurs at the people in front to get out of his way. That wasn’t so bad. It’s late, people just got off work, and get easily agitated. You get use to this stuff after awhile.
But, once the doors closed, this heavy stench started to waft throughout the entire bus emanating from the angry guy. It didn’t smell like someone laying down a silent killer. It had the sharp sour smell of a sweat-drenched sock soaked in cheap whiskey. Windows were opened and immediately a two-foot radius around the guy opened up like the parting of the red sea. Need I remind you, this was after work and the bus was packed. The fact that there was space to around the guy was astounding. I tried to breathe through my mouth, but the air actually burned my throat. What the hell! I resorted to holding my breath and taking quick gulps of air.
The blessing of the traffic jam quickly became a curse. The MUNI bus was moving so slow that fresh air couldn’t even get into the bus to push out the smell. I was surprised the guy didn’t even notice his own b.o. The smell can probably make milk curdle. About two blocks from the last block before the bus hit the freeway, the guy finally took the hint although he seemed to play it off as someone else.
These were the words I heard while trying to stave off asphyxiation, “Wooo, it smells in here. Oh dear Lord Jesus, open the door!” The building tension in the back of the bus broke and laughter ran out. I couldn’t help it. Standing there, barely breathing, watching people making the stinky face and then hearing the culprit calling out, I broke down and had myself a laugh. It was so surreal.
I’m sure it won’t be the last time having this experience, but that’s what makes public transportation so unique. You never know who you meet or what to expect. Fun times are had by all!