Friday, May 7, 2010

Is She Being Considered for the GM Job?


This comes to us graciously from Muni Diaries via Everhart, who gets a huge unsuck hat tip. No, that's not a WMATA uniform. It's a Muni uniform. The Muni is San Francisco's transit agency.

NextMuni.com says my bus arrives in 18 minutes and the next one comes in 32 minutes. Next I check it’s 9 minutes and 23. Then the ETA jumps up to 12/18 … then 13/16 … and finally 4/4. By the time I get to my stop, both buses are pulling in together. Just another typical morning waiting for the 33 in Upper Haight.

I hop on the first one, frustrated that yet again it would have been faster to drive. The bus driver apologizes, saying the two buses that were supposed to be in front of hers aren’t running today. Then she offers me my choice of wrapped candy from a dish by the fare machine, and for the first time I actually look around at bus 2442 driven by Tammy.

It’s like a Fourth of July party inside Tammy’s bus. There are red, white and blue streamers, balloons and coils that say “happy,” banners and party lanterns hanging from the railings. Large handwritten posters adorn the windows thanking her riders and spouting truths such as “Until Muni realizes that without our passengers there’s no Muni!” and pretty much everyone has a smile on their face.

As I sit in the bus watching new passengers board, I witness a Muni miracle: a sea of frowns turn into big grins as people enter and see what awaits them. I overhear nearly every newcomer commenting on the scene to either Tammy or their fellow straphangers. “How cool is this?" they ponder aloud.

“Is this for Mother’s day?”

“Is someone retiring?”

“I can’t believe I got candy.”

Even the woman on her cell phone discussing how her doctor just found a lump in her breast seemed upbeat, enjoying her Tootsie-Roll lollipop with her lips curled up from ear to ear.

Pretty much everyone who boarded asked Tammy a quick question about the decorations.

“I just want to show appreciation for my passengers,” was her standard response. Those who pressed further often heard “If not for the passengers, drivers and managers have no job.”

Tammy also was more than happy to advise passengers frustrated by the delay. “I strongly encourage you to call Muni and complain,” was advice that seemed to be doled out at every other stop.

The bus thinned out just before I got to my stop, and I had the chance to briefly chat with Tammy and ask her what inspired her display of gratitude. “It’s for all of you. I drive this bus every morning and have the most amazing relationships with my passengers.” She next revealed that her last day [was coming up], but when I wished her an amazing retirement she responded, “nope, not retiring, just moving to the 24 line.”

So, to all you lucky folks who take the 24, please greet Tammy with a smile and enjoy the ride, because she is one of the rare gems in the Muni system who makes the inevitable delays bearable.

See original post here, which has more pics of this incredible, and sadly rare American mass transit tale.

Other items:
MD to pay Metro after all. In exchange for greater transparency. Hmm (WaPo)
Greater transparency like this (WTOP)
Another near miss?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of those stories where "only in California..." is a good thing!

J. Thomas said...

While I've never been handed candy, pretty much every driver on the bus route I take to work is pleasant and friendly - this is on MTA Maryland in Baltimore.

Markin said...

Not only in California, Anonymous. One year, our very own Metro was running cars all gussied up for Christmas, some of them very artistically, indeed, with lights and sound and Christmas carols. (That would have been, give or take, 1990.)

I spent considerable time wandering about taking unnecessary Metro trips so I could find and ride on as many of these special cars as possible. But I gather there were complaints because some of the decorations took up passenger space. (I mean, there were Christmas scenes on platforms that spread over two, three seats, even!) So it never happened again, much to my disappointment.

Markin said...

Oh, and, @J. Thomas: I agree. I have yet to meet a bus driver in the WMATA system who wasn't a good sort.

JohnK said...

Markin: then you never dealt with a couple of the drivers who used to do the Vienna-Centreville runs and would pull away a minute or two early when they saw a train pulling up, or the ones who would go through south Centreville and not bother to pick up people at the Stone Road P&R. I'm so much happier that FC has those routes now.

Markin said...

@JohnK: Nope. They never drove any of the buses I was on. All of mine would pause if they saw you running for the bus, and wait long enough to let you leap on board. I'm sorry you had such a different experience.

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