Tag Archives: creative writing

Where the Muni Buses Sleep at Night

Muni busses at nightMuni buses are the red blood cells of San Francisco, which makes the people the oxygen. The Mission is probably the city’s belly, and Oakland is its liver.

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.

If you liked this post, you might like Me and God Kicking it at Six Flags and God in the Kitchen, Making Casserole

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“Spit in My Mouth and I’ll Tell You”

Try me. Just try me.

So I’m at a party, in line for the bathroom or staring out the window wondering what it would be like to be free and somehow I get talking to a stranger. We exchange pleasantries, place our palms together and grip firmly, and then as the banter inevitably dies down and we’re breathing out the tail end of our last haha, one of us reaches for the easiest conversation topic possible:

So…what do you do?

The “do” question is innocent, merely an attempt to understand the other person better, or maybe even form a connection, “Oh you do that? I do that too! Do you know her? I know her too! Wasn’t that one thing crazy!?” And so on and so forth.

But the question can be problematic. What if, for example, I currently spend most of my time making money doing something I hate? Should I put this forward as the best summary of my person, that I’m someone willing to subject themselves to mental torture day in and day out for a couple of bucks?

What if I’m unemployed, but doing everything from hiking the Sierra Nevada to creating a large-scale bronze sculpture Gumby, to compulsively poking people on facebook?

Or what if the things I do to make money are unrelated to how I define myself? What if they’re only a way to make money? What if, in theory, I make money by babysitting and working at a restaurant, but what I really want to do is write and be an incredibly successful author read and loved by the masses? What should my response be to the “what do you do?” question? I can’t tell the truth because the other person will have no idea what to do with me and try to leave and I’ll be forced to follow them. But if I say I’m a writer, I open up a whole other can of worms.

The first thing they ask is: what do you write?

I’ve been asked this God knows how many times and I still don’t have a good answer. My shortest response time is slightly over a minute. Somewhere, an Olympian just ran a quarter of a mile and I’m still fumbling around trying to explain what I write. I end up blabbing about the blog and humor writing and exploring different writing styles and it’s very boring for the other person and just plain stressful for me because then I’m like, “Oh my God. Am I even a writer? What are all those words I typed out yesterday? Why didn’t they fit into something I could describe to this guy without sounding like someone who might steal his wallet when he leans over to look at the event brochure on the coffee table?

So the next time someone asks me what I do, I’m going to assume they mean, “What would you do if you could do anything?” and I’m going to tell them I’m a writer, and then when they ask me what kind of writer I am, I’m going to ask them to spit in my mouth.

What, they’ll say.

Yeah, just go ahead and spit in my mouth and I’ll tell you what I write.

They won’t do it, I won’t have to figure out and then tell them what I write, and we’ll both leave the party with interesting stories. Win win.

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