Back in the primordial days -- 1996 or so -- young, daredevil Muni riders devised a way to satiate their thrill-seeking urges, and do so on the cheap.
On the electric buses of the era, a pair of non-conducting wires descended down the back of the vehicle. They were spooled around a pair of dish-sized objects resembling the bells you'd see on a schoolhouse wall, which were mounted about a shoulder's length apart. Buses had a large rear bumper.
You can see where this is going; it'd be hard to design a more natural hand-and foothold. "We used to call it 'Coasting,'" recalls LaRon Mayfield. He and his younger brother Karim lived on Central but hung out in the Fillmore. So they'd snag a free ride on the back of the 5-Fulton.
The so-called "fad" of young people forcing open the back doors of Muni buses in motion -- "riding the surf" in the parlance of our times -- didn't resonate with Mayfield. Sure, dangling off the back of a bus is dangerous -- but it's also utilitarian. "We just wanted a free ride up that hill."
"Riding the surf" splashed across the pages of both dailies and was described as a "fad" and "trend" -- despite no one having yet located a single video of said moronic activity on YouTube.
"Riding the surf" apparently has a long way to go before it catches up with the Harlem Shake, or even pouring milk on yourself. Maybe the term "fad" or "trend" is a bit strong for something authorities claim has happened 15 times in the past 11 days on a transit agency pulling 700,000 people a day. The purported price tag of fixing doors to make them "riding the surf"-proof, perhaps $2 million, is staggering.
Notes to the SFPD and Muni querying how many electronic devices have been reported stolen on Muni this month have not yet been returned. Here are two guesses, though: A. It's more than 15, and; B. There isn't a $2 million fix in mind.
Two years after Mayfield and his mates "coasted" up San Francisco's hills, a small set of vandals figured out how to pop open Berkeley parking meters via a hammer-strike on the back of a well-positioned screwdriver. "It's so easy!" lamented a city official, who demonstrated to a TV news crew just how easy it was.
The next day no intact meters remained in the city.
Let's hope a spate of articles decrying "riding the surf" don't have a similar effect.