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Bouncer: Hanging with drunk folks on the 38 Geary 

Wednesday, Nov 10 2010

Last week I finally figured out why people like to watch baseball. They like the slow pace of it. They like the players. They like the ritual. I got drawn in, and no one was more surprised than me. I had made a solemn vow years ago never to set foot at any sporting event ever again. Life was too short. But I found myself watching and rooting for the Giants this year. Bizarre.

Time will tell if I actually tune in next year. I still think I can't handle that many games in a season. Baseball was invented for people with Asperger's. It is a statistician's dream come true. I am not that left-brained or patient. Plus, even if I did become a baseball freak, I would still have to deal with other baseball fans, who are 70 percent of why I hated sports in the first place. It's like Bruce Springsteen — I love to listen to his albums, but going to a concert is another story.

But it was nice to feel the whole city come together over this. Police seemed to look the other way when it came to any open-container laws, for one thing, and city blocks were one gigantic Lefty O'Doul's. I have never seen more public drinking in my life. And where was the most active imbibing taking place? Why, on Muni, of course. Muni is the perfect place to carry out anything illegal. Its buses and trains are motorized apathy, with brain-dead passengers and drivers who seriously don't give a shit.

On the night of the first game of the World Series, I was working in Golden Gate Heights until about 10. When I got off, I waited for the 38 Geary, gingerly taking my seat at the bus stop amid young men with bottles of Mickey's and giddy, postgame expressions on their Springsteen-fan faces. The bus came and we all boarded. The driver didn't seem to care that they had booze. The guys headed to the back of the bus, where they saw other Giants fans, also with beer, and of course huge whoops and manly barks ensued.

As for me, I sat in the middle of the bus and worked my acrostic. Occasionally I exchanged eye-rolls with a kid across from me when the party in the back got especially raucous.

And the driver? Not a shit did he give.

I was doing my usual counting down of streets along Geary, each one bringing me closer to my final stop of Powell, where I could hop off and be that much closer to home. Then two middle-aged dudes boarded, drunk out of their minds. These were class-A goombahs — not even Bruce fans, more like Bon Jovi. They instinctually headed to the back of the bus, arms raised in fists of victory, and volunteered new whoops to the whoops already whooping.

[Eye-roll between kid and me.]

There were yelling and revelry and boisterous goodwill. The big galoot was so happy I thought he was gonna squat right there and poop with a mighty roar. Then I heard it, out of the corner of my ear, one word I knew would change everything: "Yankees." I don't know who said it, or why. I only knew it wasn't good. From what little I know about sports, I figured there were two words you don't want to say on the back of a post–Giants win on a drunken bus: Dodgers or Yankees.

A melee broke out, naturally. At least six men had a gigantic fist fight. One guy had another in a headlock and was kneeing him in the face. The old drunk guys were flailing around wildly with faces full of pure hatred.

And the driver? Not a shit did he give.

The wheels on the bus went round and round. He kept on driving. The rest of us just sort of sat there — what could we do? It was actually pretty entertaining. That is, until the violence started moving en masse to the center of the bus. Men were holding other men's heads and bashing them into the bars. The Bon Jovi guy had blood spurting from his mouth. We all skedaddled to the front of the bus, which was enough to finally get the driver to stop. "Call the cops," I said, thinking that surely a Muni bus had some special button that would immediately notify Commissioner Gordon. But the driver just sat in his seat and looked at the fight.

We all got off, leaving only the Ultimate Fighters on board, who now took advantage of the space by ramrodding one another. "Call the police," another person said. Finally the bus driver got on the phone, but this was to his dispatcher.

About 20 minutes later, six cop cars pulled up, but the perps had already dispersed. Once the fight died down, they got the hell out of there. We all had to wait on the street while the hazmat people cleaned the bus. A few more drunk people wandered up and tried to board, completely unaware of what had previously happened. When we were finally allowed back on, the same driver took his seat, started the engine, and continued on his complacent way.

I took my same seat, across from the kid. This time we shared a look two soldiers in a war might give one another after dodging a landmine. All I could think about was how bad the fight might have been if the Giants had lost. Yes indeed, this is why I hated sports. Shit like this.

The bus trundled down the street and to its next stop. A well-dressed but extremely inebriated man loped on, then proceeded to sit in the lap of an elderly woman. A few people helped her out from under him and he barely noticed.

And the driver? Not a shit did he give.

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Katy St. Clair


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