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There’s nothing that says SAN FRANCISCAN like knowing how to ride the bus with the bored confidence of someone who understands that public transportation does not equal ‘my big car’ or ‘the thing I don’t understand how to get off of,’ or ‘the place where I make sure grandma always stands while I sit’.

You may think that because you are standing at a place labeled “bus stop” and because the buses’ number matches the number on the “bus stop” that the bus is going to stop there. But riding the bus isn’t some number matching game you played in kindergarten.

Buses are like wild ponies – fickle, dangerous, and only easily mounted by Robert Redford – and can only be tamed by a person with patience. You won’t see a San Franciscan running out into the street every 5 seconds to check whether one is coming in from the fields for its salt lick, or staring forlornly after it when it skips their stop and the smug cowboys inside are looking out with the successful wrangler’s mixture of pride and pity.

No, you will know a real San Franciscan by the way they hardly even glance up at the bus, like they could really care less if it stops or rolls on, like a one night stand they’re too busy to acknowledge or the quarter on the sidewalk they’re too rich to pick up.

If there is any self-righteous indignation like that of a San Franciscan telling a stranger how to exit through the back door of a bus, I am sorry that you have had to witness it. By the tone in their voice when they screech in unison to STEP DOWN, you would think that children were taught from birth that the back doors of San Francisco’s buses don’t just open like the front doors do, but are equipped with high tech motion sensors that activate only if a human shape takes exactly 1.5 steps down the stairs and presses LIGHTLY on the middle of door, while whispering, “God are you there? It’s me Margaret.”

The front seats are for seniors and persons with disabilities. But how old is ‘old’? How disabled is ‘disabled’? And is a decorative cane more of an accessory than a physical need?

These are not the kind of questions a San Franciscans has the patience to deal with no matter how open their schedule is. Instead, a healthy San Franciscan will choose to stand, swaying lightly to an NPR podcast as the 71 catches up with the herd.

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  • anna pulley

    i once tried to mount robert redford – compared to that, riding SF buses is a BREEZE.

    very funny article. kudos.

  • wheniwasarobot

    True test:
    Those that aren’t afraid of the bike rack.

  • wordygirl

    Loved this article. Thanks for the laughs!

  • DT

    I’ll sit on your lap if you won’t fold your supersize stroller.

    Native San Franciscans predate bike racks on MUNI by decades and we know how to fold our reading matter too.

  • modelenoir
  • Belgand

    It’s not an issue of it being intuitive or learned from birth, it’s simply a matter of having spent the modicum of effort required to actually read the signs. The hate in my voice when you fail to get off the bus correctly (or, even worse, try to get off in the front) is because you are yet another person blindly pushing their way through life without bothering to look, listen, and learn, but hoping that everything will either magically make sense or be explained to you without you having to make the effort yourself.

    People who ride the bus incorrectly are the worst sort of scum who exhibit the real thing San Franciscans like most: self-entitlement.