To most people, the buses are ordinary vehicles of public transit, purely utilitarian pieces of equipment with no other purpose besides shifting around the city’s biomass.
But I like to believe the Muni buses have a life of their own, that they think their own thoughts and maybe have crushes on the other bus lines (the 38L is pretty cute), that they have worries and fears and hopes and dreams and that maybe when they grow up, they want to be something like astronauts or ballerinas or social workers and preschool teachers.
They spend all day giving up their bodies to the abuse of a city with many hills, wierdos, fruits, and lots and lots of kale. They ferry the humans and their pets around daily, with some also taking on responsibility for the nighttime people, an entirely different breed. They worry about doing their duties properly, about the weird guy in back bothering their patrons, about their Muni operator who seems to be having a bad day. Just like everyone else, they want to get to where they’re going and want to know that they’ll be safe on the way home at night.
The Muni bus is a social creature, and depends on interaction with others of its kind for personal fulfillment. They greet each other in the streets as they pass, tell each other jokes through the electrical wires and share stories about the crazy and wonderful things that happened to them during the day and at night. They race each other and comment on the quality and personality of other buses’ patrons and on whether or not anyone said thank-you to the operator.
And at night, they all go to the same parking lot, except for the ones out taking care of the night walkers, and they cuddle up together. For a while, as everyone’s arriving there’s plenty of chatter and asking about what the other ate during the day and what did you do and how is your back pain or your friend doing. But then everyone settles into their rows, and the chatter gets quieter, and it’s about deeper concerns and worries. “I just don’t know what to do.” “You can tell me anything.” “I don’t know how to tell her I don’t love her anymore.” “I want to believe there’s something out there but I’m not sure.” “You know we’ll be together always.” “I don’t know…I just don’t know.”
As these words float into the night, the buses drift off to sleep, surrounded by everyone they know, resting for the challenges of the day to come. Under the stars they huddle with the sounds of shifting machinery and deep sighs of loneliness or contentment. They wake early the next morning, ready to do it all over again, wondering if they’ll ever know the answers to their questions.