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E-Ticket: Going underground on MUNI's new shuttle.

Elana Koff

Millie goes for a ride on the new E-train shuttle

By Millie

This fucking rain is driving Millie bananas. Twenty-five inches are predicted through May. Who knew El Niño would be such a size queen? Millie's got to get out of the house, walk around, see people, ride MUNI. Ride MUNI? Millie really is bananas. Millie is soaked by the time the F-Market gets to Castro Street. (That damn SF Weekly doesn't even keep you dry.)

For a leisurely ride down Market the F-Market can't be beat. Millie watches out the window as people scurry from one awning to the next, homeless people and tourists sharing close quarters. By Van Ness, the car is packed and smelling of musty wet umbrellas. Everyone is generally pleasant, happy to be sheltered from the elements. No one is getting anywhere on time today and that's just fine. Not unexpectedly, the streetcar's overhead electric arm jumps the track. The F-Market comes to a slow stop in the middle of the intersection of Market and Sixth. The burly driver throws on her rain gear and wrestles with the machinery outside. It takes an hour and 40 minutes to go from Castro to the Embarcadero. Millie uses a transfer to board the new E-train shuttle underground at the Embarcadero station.

This line features those new silver and gray cars that make lots of noise and have folks in the Sunset up in arms. They're roomy and attractive; however, they clash with those sexy chocolate and camel MUNI uniforms.

After riding underground briefly, the E-train emerges near its first stop at Folsom and Embarcadero. Look up and see the Bay Bridge looming overhead, gray and steely against the slate cold sky. The platform stops along the E-line are a design treat with walls of undulating glass to protect you from the wind and rain. This afternoon, the platforms are bare and the E-train rumbles happily down to Brannan Street, Second Street and finally to China Basin and the CalTrain station. The whole ride takes 15 minutes. With the expanse of the Bay on one side and the refurbished South Beach on the other, Millie comments to no one in particular, "Admit it, San Francisco looks fabulous in the rain."

Millie gets off at the CalTrain station and treks back to the Financial District in the rain. All along King Street, Millie enjoys smartly designed plaques explaining the history of the area. Etched right into the sidewalk are the 104 known words of Rammaytush, the language spoken by the native tribes that made their home on Mission Bay for more than 1,500 years.

Along one stretch of King Street, a line of copper meanders along the sidewalk. A plaque near the trail's end explains this as the shoreline, prior to the man-made landfill that created the coast of today. Other highlights of the Embarcadero: the weirdly beautiful, tri-footed, steel-girder sculpture, a menacing nautical instrument with slowly revolving parts; a photo display of the majestic homes that once stood in this area previously know as Rincon Hill; historical plaques explaining the lives of Townsend and Brannan and that crotchety old battleship Jeremiah O'Brien. (Not Jeremiah Tower!)

Millie ducks into the Delancy Street Restaurant, where everyone is an ex-con or ex-prostitute or ex-drug addict. Millie fits right in, and the food's great, too! Next Millie checks out the Embarcadero YMCA, a nice family gym with a very cruisy steam room. (Dad! I was just looking!) Thank goodness, Millie never leaves home without an extra towel, moisturizer and his sense of humor. They come in handy during the intense aerobic workout that ensues.

Back on MUNI for the ride home. The K, the L, the M--who knows--a stop inexplicably between Powell and Civic Center. A little Chinese woman says something about Willie, El Niño and Linda Tripp that gets big laughs from the crowd. Exactly one hour later, Millie gets off at Castro.

OK, sure MUNI breaks down, sure it's full of kooky people. But after days shut in watching Montel, Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer, it's nice to see that the people on daytime talk shows are really only on TV.

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From the March 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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