munitoken.jpgIs there a term for the concept where in which you can criticize someone or something close to you, but you get your back up when “outsiders” do the same? (Example: I can talk shit about my husband, but if you do I will go bonkers.) If not, someone needs to invent it, for the complicated feelings some of us might have upon hearing that a New York-based writer unfavorably compared Muni buses to the transit system in her home city.

“Chances are you don’t know WTF Jennifer 8. Lee is. No matter. She visited our fair city last week and actually had the gall to declare that she ‘prefers the NYC’ buses to Muni,” Muni Diaries’ Jeff Hunt reports.

Lee, a journalist is perhaps best known for her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (which I devoured, heh, in one sitting at Booksmith while waiting for my husband, WHO IS ALWAYS LATE JESUS) and for her tenure at the NY Times, which she left during a mass-buyout (it’s like layoffs, but you volunteer) in 2009.

In a post on her personal blog, Lee says “First time in a San Francisco bus. Think I prefer nyc ones…Whats with the brown?”

In a nerdishly moment of ironic juxtaposition, the very next item in my RSS reader was a piece on SFist called “This Is Why People Hate San Francisco: Volume 8,” focused on “(o)ur ultra-unreliable, intracity public transit system known as Muni.”

In the piece, SFist’s Jay Barmann asks “Why can a world-class city such as ours not have a public transit system that gets us from A to B without constant heartache and strife? It’s a vexing question, given our inferiority complex in re: New York City.”

Brittney Gilbert, who was responsible for CBS5’s “Eye on Blogs” before moving to New York last fall, says that she, too, prefers New York’s buses, saying that “they come on time and often, which beats the fact that they are often overly crowded to the point of suffocation.”

Jackson West, who’s lived in both SF and NY several times over the past decade plus, also picks NY, saying “there are more (buses) and they actually work. Of course, bus routes? SF has the best routes, just incredibly shitty buses running those routes (and way, way too many stops along them).”

West, Barmann, Gilbert and Lee are certainly not the only ones who have unfavorably compared Muni to New York’s (or Chicago, or DC, and on and on) transit systems — hell, even US News and World Report ranked us 6th behind, among other cities, NY, inspiring many to wonder how we ranked so high!

Perhaps some would be more comfortable if Lee had been less generic in her statement of preference (after all, what’s wrong with brown? White Corinthian leather’s probably not an option), and had gotten more specific: “I can walk faster than this bus!” or “Am I the only one paying to ride this thing?” maybe?

Or perhaps we can convince Lee to move here (trade her for Ramona?), to develop more elaborate reasons to prefer NY’s transit over SF’s, which she can then express safely, as a local.

Because, believe me, there’s more at issue here than just color choices.

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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