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The Darwin Awards Come to Muni & Caltrain, It Seems...

Recently I was on the N inbound, on my way downtown to do one of several tedious errands one Thursday (side note: Chase Bank sucks, bigtime, avoid them if you can), and was on a packed train. As we entered the tunnel, the operator announced something I never thought I'd hear:

"We have to slow down, folks, because someone is walking on the outbound tracks. Sorry for the delay."

Wait, WHAT?

At first I thought he meant "someone is on the tracks because they are contemplating something horrible etc" but no, he in fact meant that someone decided to take a stroll through Sunset Tunnel in the middle of the day. REALLY.

We sped up slightly as he announced that this Genius of Pedestrianism decided to walk on the outbound tracks, presumably because she realized, oh, I dunno, there was a double train weighing millions of tons right behind her?

As we passed by upon our arrival, our travel time delayed by someone dumb enough to walk through an active train tunnel in the middle of the day, some of us opted to give her a one finger salute, while others just had to stare at someone who is either crazy, dumb, or obnoxious to do such a thing.

Not only did they endanger themselves, had our operator not spotted her in time, he could have easily been involved in an accident that would have consequences for those of us onboard as well as fatal consequences for Ms. Darwin. Of course she had that serene look of "it's all about me, I don't care what I do, screw everyone else" on her face that too many San Franciscans have. And of course if something DID happen, the SF Internet's Band of Commenters would have of course immediately blamed Muni, when in fact it would have been the fault of the idiot walking in the tunnel.

A few days later, I had another Darwin contender. This time I was waiting for the N outbound at Judah and 9th. I watched in astonishment as Ms. iPod crossed the street against the light and RIGHT IN FRONT of an oncoming N. The operator frantically blared the air horn, but of course, she was in her own little world of Justin Bieber and was not paying attention. Even crazier, once she'd crossed she walked on the tracks in front of the train, totally clueless as to how near death she'd been.

I tapped her on the shoulder and said "you should be more careful, we don't wan't you to die by Muni LRV!" in a nice way but she was oblivious. The sound from her iPod was so loud, I doubt she could hear anything. Again, if not for the cosmos looking out for her, she could have easily been killed.

I do not understand how people in a dense urban environment can wander about, be it on foot, by car, or by bike and live in this little fog bank of their own making, completely unaware of what is going on around them and just expect Everyone Else will look out for them. It's crazy, but what's worse, if and when any of these folks are subjected to horrific injuries or death, not only would that be a horrible thing to happen, but Muni (aka all of us ) would be expected to pay the price.

It'd be nice to think there was some solution that The Government could come up with, but at this point you could have neon billboards in 50 languages telling people to do or not do something, and that indefatigable "me me me the rules don't apply to me" mentality of many people these days would render them useless. I just think it's unfortunate we have an unofficial death penalty for dumb behavior, but those can be the consequences when you walk in a tunnel.

PS: Please note that the truly sad situation about the woman who was struck and killed by a Muni bus last week doesn't fall into this category of situation, so don't send in nasty emails saying I think she "deserved" it - she did not.

From all accounts so far that bus was on a street it should not have been - cars have trouble on Hartford as it is - and it sounds more and more like a management/operator failure that resulted in tragedy.

Comments

What a missed chance for driver/passenger unity... the driver should have opened the doors for a good old fashioned boot party with the Sunset Tunnel pedestrian. Sometimes middle fingers just aren't enough.

Not to mention, the driver faced a stop sign and thus should have yielded to her...

It's a good thing you don't take Caltrain, there's someone either walking on the tracks or getting run over by a train at least once a week!

Thanks for bringing this little story to your readers' attention!

As a MUNI Inspector, I can tell you that while many of the delays we suffer certainly ARE MUNI's fault there are also MANY delays that MUNI has no control over, but we still get blamed for.

This would include people walking through MUNI tunnels, motorists driving their autos into - and getting stuck on - MUNI right-of-ways (especially J-Line @ San Jose Ave and T-Line @ La Conte/101 overpass), people throwing up/urinating/fighting/assaulting each other onboard coaches, and motorists double-parking on MUNI tracks.

All this stuff makes for regular and often long delays, and it's unfortunate that the public-at-large thinks it's all MUNI's fault. Thanks Greg!

A saying attributed to sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison and/or musician Frank Zappa: The two most plentiful things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

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