You see a lot of interesting things on mass transit in San Francisco. With gas prices over $4.50 in the City ($4.80+ for my car), it has become too expensive for me to drive as much as I used to. As a result, I’ve been taking public transit with much greater frequency since April 1. In fact, since April, I’ve only driven to the East Bay twice.
In general, the incidents that I witness on Muni are either humorous or inane. That is until today. I needed to get home in the middle of the day so the plumber could come make some emergency repairs (entry about that sage to come in a few days) so I was on the 38 Limited headed from Downtown to the beach. While driving through the Tenderloin, a guy boarded the bus carrying a boom box (let’s call him “boom box man”). This is not terribly infrequent, although it is almost always a nuisance when such people sit in the back blasting their music for the entire bus to hear. This gentleman was no exception.
For the next 2 or 3 miles, perhaps, passengers on the bus were treated to a series of musical selections that apparently met with boom box man’s approval. As we were stopped at a red light on Geary at 3rd Avenue, boom box man stood up and walked to the door – he was going to get off at the 6th Avenue stop. Now, as he moved up from the last row of the bus to the rear door, the music became louder for people farther ahead. This did not go unnoticed by a guy sitting three rows in front of me – let’s call this one “angry man” – who turned around and said to boom box man, “thanks for sharing that with us, a**ho*e!”
Boom box man, now standing behind me and just to the right, wasted no time in responding angrily, “you’re welcome, fu**er!” Tempers were high between both of them and a yelling match ensued, with me sitting directly in between the two of them. I was just praying that things wouldn’t escalate until boom box man said, “I’m getting off at the next stop if you want to get off and settle this.”
Oh no. Little did I know, though, that getting off to settle it would have been better than what happened next. All of a sudden, boom box man charged forward and leaped on angry man and the fists started flying. Angry man shot up out of his seat and it was a true battle royale. Angry man and boom box man were throwing each other into poles and on top of other passengers; it was a disaster in the making. Thankfully the bus driver saw and heard what was happening and he immediately opened all of the doors on the bus. I tell you, I have never seen a bus empty as quickly as this one did. Within 5 seconds, every person, including me, was off that bus except those immediately involved in the tussle.
I have to admit that I was a little frightened by the whole situation. I mean, I barely avoided direct involvement just by virtue of the fact that I was in the seat I was. One or two seats farther forward and I would have been in the thick of it.
Once I had taken about 5 to 10 seconds to compose myself, I decided that this type of behavior could not go unchecked, so I called 911 from my cell phone and reported the incident to the police. While I was on the phone with the dispatcher, boom box man got off the bus and started walking around a little. After 10 to 15 seconds, he walked directly over to me, got right up in my face and said, “you like calling the police, huh? Do you want me to take your phone? Huh?” I said nothing to him and he turned and walked away. I was, naturally, a little shaken by that encounter, but I continued my report to the dispatcher, adding that I had just been threatened by boom box man.
Just moments later, the police arrived, but they arrived at the wrong bus! They went to a bus across the street. I was attempting to wave them over, but they boarded the bus across the street before realizing that the issue was not there. By the time they got over to where I was, boom box man was gone and the officer that intended to pursue him drove the complete opposite direction from that which I had told the dispatcher he was walking. Seeing that my presence there was no longer useful, I decided to get on the next bus and continue home. Just before the bus arrived, though, I saw another guy get off the bus. I’m not 100% sure if it was angry man or not, but he had clearly been involved in the fight. He appeared to be bleeding quite a lot from the head (over his left eye, in particular, I think) and the moment he stepped off the bus he collapsed in the street. I’m not sure what happened to him after that – he had an officer with him and my bus pulled up. As I was boarding the new bus, I told the driver of the incident bus that boom box man had walked north on 3rd Avenue in case he wanted to relay that to the police.
I’ll admit – I really hope that I don’t have to witness another Muni event like this!