The N Is Near

My new commute, until now, has been pretty innocuous. We get on the train, we sit there and read for thirty minutes---I have rediscovered reading! I now have a time and a place to read!---and then we get off at the other end. We do this twice a day and it's fine. Sometimes I get my phone out and Yelp all the restaurants and bars we're passing because we move through entirely different neighborhoods now and it's always nice to know where you can get a decent falafel. Sometimes Sean and I chat, sometimes we don't. It's different from the brisk 20 minutes we used to walk to and from work each day, but it's not at all awful. I have resigned myself to the fact that in order to have a garage and a yard and a study and my very own washing machine, PRAISE THE LORD, I have to sit on a train for thirty minutes twice a day. No biggie. In fact, I figure it's a pretty good trade.

But I guess I'd forgotten how wacky people can get on public transport. Did you know this? Did you know people get a little wacky on public transport? Because I'd forgotten this, I'd forgotten it all. For a start, it's sort of eye-opening what people will do on a train at 7:45am, even when wedged in among large crowds of strangers. This morning alone, for example, I saw someone putting her mascara on, someone brushing her hair, someone taking her birth control pill, someone eating a peanut butter sandwich, and someone having a supremely douchey conversation at top volume in which the phrase "yo, can you hit all your media contacts with the deets?" was bandied about with alarming frequency. 

People! It's called public transport! You are in public!

My ride home was the best part, though. First there was the grey-haired grandpa who sat there sweetly for a few stops, and then whipped out a harmonica from his pocket all of a sudden and started playing. The sun was setting just right between a couple of paint-faded Victorians, I had half a bottle of wine in me---uh, I went out after work, I should clarify; wouldn't want you to think I'd been drinking at my desk---and for a couple of minutes everything was good and right and perfect, albeit in a rather stereotypically San Francisco sort of way.

But then the girl behind me started throwing up. Well, not throwing up, quite, but retching. Oh god, there was a lot of retching. She was seventeen or so and hammered, and she leaned into her boyfriend and retched, retched, retched, and you could feel the collective shudder thundering down the MUNI car, and then she started shouted things like "HEY DOES THIS TRAIN GO TO THE OCEAN? DID WE MISS THE OCEAN?" and then just to kick it up a notch, the guy a few seats down from her got up and started wandering the aisles, announcing to anyone who'd listen that he was a professional pickpocketer.

(Really, dude? You can't be that professional. I mean, I'm pretty sure the first rule of pickpocketing is that you don't talk about the pickpocketing.)

A fratty guy in a red shirt took offense to this bold-faced announcement from the professional pickpocketer and words were had and voices were raised and there was a DON'T TOUCH ME and a NO DON'T TOUCH ME, MAN, and there we all were, staring intently at our iPhone screens, pretending it wasn't happening---retch, retch, retch going on in the background---while a mild scuffle went on behind us and the fratty guy's friends did their best to hold him back. The doors opened and the fratty boy got out, shouting obscenities at the professional pickpocketer who smiled and shrugged, and sat down next to the retching girl, who by this time had stopped retching and was instead conducting one of the navel-gazing conversations of the highly intoxicated.

"Emeralds," she was saying. "Emeralds. Isn't that a weird word? Emeralds. I can never say it right. EMERALDS. See, I didn't say it right! EMERALDS. EMERALDS! EMERALDS!"

"I'm a professional pickpocketer," said the professional pickpocketer. "But it's okay, I'm getting off the train soon."

"Emeralds!" said the retching girl. "Why can I never say emeralds?"

It was at this point that I looked around to double-check that I hadn't stumbled unknowingly onto the set of a Harold Pinter play and, upon discovering that I hadn't stumbled unknowingly onto the set of a Harold Pinter play, did a second check to make sure I wasn't being Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher instead.

But no, I wasn't. I was just riding the N Judah home at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night. Par for the course, I guess. Who knew?

Jul 14, 2010

Public transport in Europe has NEVER been this entertaining... It must be the San Francisco twist.

Jul 15, 2010

I agree with Joy.

Jul 15, 2010

Once a strange guy on a bus leaned in and blatantly smelled my hair. Then he told me it smelled good. In my awkward and desperate need to get away from him, I stuttered out a thanks for the compliment as I switched seats, which basically means I THANKED A STRANGER FOR SNIFFING MY HAIR!

I've definitely witnessed weird things on European public transit, but at least my personal space hasn't been invaded. That bubble remains intact.

Jul 15, 2010

I had a crazy tell me on our local bus system that you need to shake all the carbonation out of your soda or it will cause you to blow up. No lie.

I can't fault the people taking pills or eating sandwiches though. I tried not to eat on buses, but once in awhile it was the only time I could fit it in.

Cell phones + public transport = a no-no. That's one I tried to never break.

Jul 15, 2010

I absolutely love public transportation shenanigans. If I could drive I probably wouldn't just so I could keep enjoying such hijinks.

Jul 15, 2010

Twice on the metro in Paris I was flashed by 70 yr old men, not my idea of a good time!! Also once on the Tube I saw a guy about 20 go into a fit screaming I am too young to die and generally freaking out and at the next stop three guys shoved him out the doors. Scared the shit out of me gotta say.

Jul 15, 2010

Regular public transport user here in Ireland but usually I'm on the 'commuter' bus - regular ol' working folks going to work on a bus around 8 am and heading home around 6 pm...but boy do I get a shock when I take a later bus home - the state of some people! (hope they don't say the same about me!) :0)

Jul 15, 2010

I have just started getting the overground train into work, and I'm sad to say it's nowhere near as entertaining or funny. It's full of normal city suit types. London isn't as crazy as I thought. Well maybe on the tubes...

Jul 15, 2010

Public transit is the best. Especially in San Francisco. Once last year, I was sitting on the bus when a guy got on, his head covered completely in a blanket, and just sat there for the entire ride downtown. It was amazing.
P.S. Excellent falafel can be had at Yummas in the Inner Sunset.

Sarah Franklin
Jul 15, 2010

It was when someone waved a gun around on a packed tube carriage that I decided to start walking. An hour and 15 minutes walk vs 15 mins' public transport, but SO worth it. Not long afterwards we moved to Seattle and my car commute involved 3 bodies of water, which made for a perfect change of pace.
Generally though, I hear you on the peace of the commute and all that gained reading time...

Jul 15, 2010

I take a commuter train to work, and every day an unsmiling little old lady spends ten minutes diligently wiping down the seat with paper towels and disinfectant before she sits down. And every day I have to restrain myself from sneezing on her as I exit.

Yeah, I'm not sure what it is about public transportation, but it really seems to focus the weird.

Laura B.
Jul 15, 2010

I take the BART everyday to work. I've read so many books this year! But the other day, I kid you not, some 20ish year old girl sits down (while on cell phone, of course), reaches into her purse, whips out a razor, and starts shaving her toe hair. Now, I'm not averse to admitting that I too shave my toe hair, but I do it in the privacy of my own shower. You know, like when I shave my legs! Ah, but BART is always good for some entertainment, that is for sure.

Jul 15, 2010

Funny - I was just thinking the same thing on the crosstown M50 bus this morning. The girl next to me reeked of last night's booze, and she was wearing about 48 squirts Victoria's Secret perfume to try to cover it up. There was a guy who pushed me aside to get out the door first, and another guy having a supremely douchey convo on his cell. I see public transport insanity is a bi-coastal problem!

Jul 15, 2010

HAHahahahahhhhh! The "N" is near! Annnnd the best punny title award goes to.... you!

Saucepan Man
Jul 15, 2010

Sometimes it's dead funny though. Remember the story I told you about the wonderful falling-down-drunk man on the Waterloo to Haslemere train one New Years Eve who was so out of it he pulled the emergency stop chain in the toilet thinking he was flushing the loo!?

But then there was the horrible incident on the way back from the famous Dylan concert at the Albert Hall... so good and bad.

Kate (and Ben)
Jul 15, 2010

I miss public transport.

Jul 15, 2010

Oh San Francisco! I had a very colorful homeless man once serenade me for the ENTIRE ride - complete with dance moves. His singing was off key at best and VERY loud. Everyone was giving me dirty looks as if I had anything to do with it! I draw my line at the nail clippers, though. That is just disgusting and I will usually ask them to stop.

But, for good stops on your route home:
Underdog on Irving between 17th and 18th has really good hot dog/sausages and The Taco Shop at Underdog's (confusing!) on Irving between 19th and 20th has delicious tacos the same style as Nick's Crispy Tacos in Russian Hill. It actually is run by Nick, who had a falling out with his co-owner up at the first place and decided to start this place instead.

Jul 15, 2010

The Harold Pinter reference is why I read you. I'm so proud of myself that I understood exactly what you meant! The Harold Pinter reference is also why I'm finishing up my degree, it never would have made sense to me if I didn't have my education.

Jul 15, 2010

I commute by foot but whenever I take the subway here in NYC (after work or on weekends) I am generally grateful that I'm not dealing with it every day. For every entertaining crazy thing there is someone smelly and/or pressed too close up against you. Although I will say I do miss the reading I used to get done on the train.

Jul 15, 2010

I would ride this train from here to eternity if it meant having my own washing machine!

Jul 15, 2010

All I ever say on my phone on public transportation is "I'm on the bus/train - can I call you right back?" though my texting has gotten LIGHTENING FAST. I've also found that it's perfectly acceptable to physically react (laugh, shake my head, say "awwww") to the personal cell conversations I'm hearing around me. I mean, they are for me to hear, right??? Right?

Jul 15, 2010

The Chicago rail system has graciously been providing me with blog fodder for the better part of the last decade. Including toenail clipping next to me, a 1-hour marathon of drunken "yo mama" jokes by some VERY unfunny teenagers, a blissfully ignorant man blaring Meatloaf repeatedly so loud in his headphones that we could all hear, and the most offensive of them all to date? The time I felt this weird tugging on my ponytail, and thinking that it was getting caught on the back of the seat, I grabbed it to flip it over my shoulder - and realized the dude behind me had been stroking my hair the entire ride out to my house. GAAAAAHHHHHHHHH

Jul 15, 2010

My sis sent me the following text during your public transit ride after work in DC. "OMG, on bus and this woman next to me is reading a book and highlighting stuff. Which means she is putting arm/elbow/etc ALL over me. It seriously is making me uncomfortable, like I'm being molested on the bus. Would I be a biotch if I said, 'Um, excuse me, you are very liberal with your arms and it's making me uncomfortable. Touch my thigh one more time and see what happens.'" I was laughing, so had to share.

Jul 15, 2010

I miss public transportation! Not because of the vomiting and resemblance to some strange space in Harold Pinter's brain, that is a magical experience I could do without. But I love the old man with the harmonica. :)

Jul 15, 2010

"I mean, I'm pretty sure the first rule of pickpocketing is that you don't talk about the pickpocketing."

This made me inappropriately guffaw aloud. At my desk. In my cubicle.

Nothing But Bonfires
Jul 15, 2010

Marcheline, I am afraid I cannot take credit for "The N is near." I saw it on a t-shirt once (a t-shirt I now desperately want to own, mind you.)

Jul 15, 2010

the BF saw a woman punch another woman on muni once. remember that video that floated around of a girl fight on muni? oh the public transportation. taking caltrain on new years is the worst. a LOT of puking girls around.

btw - i saw someone who looked a LOT like you at the grilled cheese place at south park. was it in fact you?? :)

Jul 15, 2010

BART is much more civilized super early in the morning. I take a 6:24 train into work, and people are so tired that it's dead quiet on the train.

I think MUNI gets more wacky people since practically anyone can jump on for free.

Jul 15, 2010

welcome to the N, possibly one of SF's most interesting lines in the entire Muni never fails to entertain at the very least.

BTW, we've been selling a popular T Shirt re: the N is Near for a while...check it out!

Jul 15, 2010

Chicago's L is chock full of the crazy!
Mimi Smartypants describes it better than I ever could, but if you doubt any of it, know that I'm backing her up 100 percent. Riding the red line always makes me think of the movie line "go sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here."

Jul 15, 2010

sounds a lot like new york city. one of my favorites are the fingernail (and toenail!) clippers... yikes.

Jul 15, 2010

My worst Muni stories include:

-Woman trying to take a live chicken on the bus, who, when told she could not bring live animals on the bus, pulled out a knife, slit the chicken's throat, and THEN got on the bus

-Junior high kids holding a farting competition in the back of the bus

-Man sitting in a seat, humming into a styrofoam cup SEWN TO HIS MOUTH

Erin @ Fierce Beagle
Jul 15, 2010

Funny, I just wrote about my Mom getting into a scuffle on the D.C. Metro this very morning. Well, she got in the fight last week. I wrote about it this morning.

Being jammed together seems to bring out the worst/weirdest in people. And then it's like being in a cage match on wheels.

Jul 15, 2010

Yes! I mean no! Yes, strange behavior on public transit - I've seen fist fights, some guy grabbing my hand to try and write his phone number on it with a ballpoint pen, and drunk girls puking on the train. But, no, sadly, all of this took place in Minneapolis, so I'm pretty sure San Fran doesn't have all the bus riding crazies in the world.

Jul 15, 2010

I live in Atlanta and a girl threw up in her hands and partially on my pants once while I was taking MARTA (the transit here.) There was also the day I found the balled up dirty diaper in the seat I was about to sit on and of course, this video:

I didn't take it, but oh yes, that's our transit.

Jul 15, 2010

We get a version of that via our neighborhood email list, only safer because you're only reading what the crazy people are saying, not listening to it as it's being shouted in your face when you have nowhere else to go. Good times!

Jul 16, 2010

Oh God public transport. I spent 45 mins each way on a train every day in and out of central London, and my main comment is that men require training on how to behave on trains. It is not acceptable to sit next a woman and rub ones thighs up against her. It is not acceptable to sit opposite a woman and stretch ones legs out between hers - I don't care how long his legs are! Keep papers out of other people's faces and, to the girl who regularly attempts to rest her bottom on my shoulder whilst standing in the mornings - NO!

fashion jewelry
Jul 16, 2010

We proude a very good serives.I like james.I like basketball.I like bobie.I love jackychen.Actrelly right
discount nfl jerseys

online jewelry storesa

Jul 16, 2010

I see one of those quick read books in your future, Riding the N. Judah. :-)

Jul 18, 2010

Two weeks ago my cousin was visiting Vancouver and I was touring her through the city on the skytrain. She told me after we got off the very crowded train that there was a guy standing behind me who was looking down over my shoulder and down my top. He then put his pointer finger in his mouth and pulled it out slowly and started to drop his hand. At this point she looked him straight in the face and bent over to watch where the finger was going. He saw her and stopped. I'm afraid to know where that finger was headed if she wasn't there to stare him down.

Jul 21, 2010

once I saw a bike messenger EXPLODE at the very nice man who commiserated with the fact that the bike messenger had a tire stolen, just because the very nice man asked "did your tire get stolen?"

D.C. metros are pretty entertaining. But I can't fault the BC taking person. I take mine in public places too. hey, AT LEAST I'M TAKING ONE! is my feeling. Also, if I don't take it when my alarm goes off I'll forget.

Jul 21, 2010

Also, one of my co workers slugged a guy on the metro because he squeezed her butt in the crowd. I was really impressed.

Jul 27, 2010

I rode the N Judah for almost 3 years and it has given me many entertaining stories to tell. But definitely know your backup bus routes for the days when it runs late or sends a crammed shuttle bus because a train has broken down!

On another note, Sunrise Deli on Irving and 23rd has delicious falafel.

Aug 13, 2010

They had cool N Judah t-shirts at Villians in the Haight for a while.

May 18, 2016

I found myself nodding my noggin all the way thgohru.

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