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Traffic Koan: A Zen Bus Driver's Guide to Life, the Muniverse, and Everything 

Wednesday, Mar 5 2014

A Muni bus is a tough place to find your Zen, but a Muni bus is where Douglas "Driver Doug" Griggs finds himself confined for up to 12 hours a day. So, the author of The Dao of Doug: The Art of Driving a Bus — a self-published tome that has, thus far, earned him $83 — has navigated the long and winding road toward rolling nirvana.

This, he can attest, is no express route.

Unwanted bodily fluids are more common on Muni than within the realms of total consciousness. And yet the fluids mentioned in Griggs' book aren't the ones you'd first think of: The 15-year driver recalls the instances he broke down in tears when buses conked out on him before he'd even pulled into service. There are times when he has run through three coaches before being able to head out of the yard and serve you, the people.

This, however, is the path Griggs has chosen; he's aspired to drive a bus since grade school. "As a Gemini sun sign, transportation and continual movement fits my sign," he writes. And, just as Zen practitioners meditate upon impossible metaphysical queries, driving a Muni bus comes with its share of impossibilities — and much time to meditate. "Transit operation," Griggs continues, "does seem to offer the ultimate challenge." His Zen approach, he admits, is the healthy alternative to insanity, unemployment, or both.

In any event, the gregarious 55-year-old seems more concerned with your day than his. Over the years, he's amassed a repository of Muni wisdom for riders. You may never attain transcendent transit. But you could enjoy one of those idyllic rides Griggs calls "the Zen zone." To wit:

• If tagging your Clipper Card results in a BLOOP BLEEP noise instead of the regular BLEEP, you've just used up your last dollars. Plan accordingly.

• For a more harmonious Muni experience, be sure to shake off your soaking umbrellas and coats before boarding. Wet passengers lead to wet seats — and, via a process not unlike transubstantiation, any liquid spilled on a Muni seat becomes urine. Also, wet riders cause dangerously foggy buses.

• Avoid electric buses during high winds. Avoid electric buses during rainstorms. Avoid electric buses when temperatures exceed 80 degrees: Carbon buildup on sensitive components causes them to overheat. Avoid electric buses on the day after a rainstorm: Graphite dust has been washed off the wires, leading to excess friction and "dewirements."

You may never reach enlightenment. But you will, more often than not, reach your destination. That, after all, is the Muni mantra.

For more sage advice from Driver Doug, visit

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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