Back in 1996, during my first visit to San Francisco and mid-journey on the 21 Hayes, the driver noticed a group of teens occupying the front seats, leaving several seniors stranded on their feet. The driver slammed on the brakes.
"Hey!" she yelled, loud enough to render the entire bus silent. "If you're sittin' up front, your head better be bald or grey! Do you hear me?! Don't make me come back there!"
The next day, a driver on the 22 abandoned us mid-ride for 10 minutes to go get a cup of coffee. The day after that, I was elbowed into submission on the 30 Stockton by elderly women carrying the biggest shopping bags I'd ever seen.
It was immediately clear to me—having taken buses and trains across Europe, Australia and the United States, and never seen anything quite like this—that the beautiful daily chaos on Muni was something very specific to San Francisco. In the decades since, I've learned that, while effectively getting us from A to B, Muni is really just a microcosm of city living.
This is why Muni buses show up in graffiti and murals all over San Francisco; it's why local underground artists have filmed music videos on Muni for years; and it's why MuniDiaries.com—a website that documents "the good, bad, gross, and great parts of our lives in transit"—is now in its 11th year.