William and the Disappearing Magic Muni Bus

Written by William Chadwick. Posted in Arts/Entertainment, Opinion

Published on May 03, 2010 with 6 Comments

By William Chadwick

May 4, 2010

Once upon a time… no, no, you’ve got it all wrong. It may sound like a fairy tale, but it doesn’t have a happy ending. There aren’t even any heads chopped off bad guys or witches thrown into ovens.

Actually, it starts on a sunny Saturday afternoon on my way to work. I left my house in the Mission and walked to the nearby bus stop, leaving myself 45 minutes to get the bus to Nob Hill Masonic Center. As I arrived at the bus stop, the NextMuni LED display indicated the 49 Van Ness-Mission bus was arriving in 4 minutes.

This was great news: I would arrive at work with plenty of time to spare. I glanced over again at the display. Three minutes til my bus arrived.

A man tried to sell me some cheap cinema tickets, but I declined them. I looked up again: one minute…

I stepped out into the road to see if I could see the 49 bus trundling down Mission Street towards me, but there wasn’t a bus in sight.

One last glance at the LED display told me the bus was now “Arriving,” but where could it be? This bus must have a cloaking device, I thought, only becoming visible at the bus stop. The cinema ticket man asked me for a cigarette, but I told him I didn’t have any. Looking around at the display again, I discovered to my horror that my bus was no longer arriving but was now a full 28 minutes away!

How, in the name of all things mechanical and electronic, could my bus go backwards in time? Was it a magic bus? Is it some sort of ironic joke that no-one told me about, that the bus you desperately need in order to get somewhere on time doesn’t actually exist?

I blinked several times and stared at the LED display hoping that there had been some mistake. But no, there hadn’t been: the display calmly began to count the minutes down from 28 til the next 49 bus would arrive, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I must mention at this point that this is not the first time this has happened, but it has been quite a while since I have suffered this fate, and it was still quite a shock.

The 48 Quintara is a repeat offender in this field. I quickly gave up waiting for it when I used to live on 24th Street. And the former 26 bus that used to (supposedly) run along Valencia was also a bit of a mystery. In all my attempts at waiting for and hoping to ride the 26 bus, I only ever caught one glimpse of it.

Once I missed it by a matter of seconds, but all the other times it simply didn’t appear. I have asked many of my friends about it, and so far only one person I have met has actually ever ridden the 26 bus, with many others agreeing with me that its elusiveness simply made it too hard to catch. (I believe, however, it is currently out of service due to the road works along Valencia, so I don’t hold much hope of riding it any time soon.)

If there is anyone at the department of transportation who knows the whereabouts of my 49 bus, or indeed several 48 and 26 buses, I would be delighted to hear the explanation. Perhaps it is a result of the lack of funding that Muni buses are merely sucked back into the ether, from whence they came, once SFMTA stops paying the installments? In this alternate dimension, the buses float around covered in the socks you put into the dryer and never got back.

In the end, I had to walk, jump on BART, and take a taxi in order to get to work, costing me four times the price of a bus ticket.

Still, this story ends with me happily getting to work on time.

William Chadwick

William Chadwick

William Chadwick is a young English writer who has recently moved to San Francisco from London. He has worked on-and-off in journalism for almost ten years. He is passionate about the theater, and has directed and written several plays. He is currently trying his hand at teaching English.

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