At just before 7 p.m. yesterday, the outbound N-Judah came to a halt at Carl and Arguello near UC San Francisco; an Infiniti was ditched in the red zone, and its trunk was hanging over the tracks. The Muni driver popped the train's doors to let those who didn't want to wait indefinitely walk off.
Some did. But they did more than walk.
"In a very community moment, a bunch of guys decided they should move the car out of the way," passenger Phuong Mai tells SF Weekly
. "It took about half a dozen tries to lift enough … but they managed to pivot the car to clear it from the tracks."
While the men worked to move the car, additional trains idled behind the initially blocked N-Judah.
"I turned the corner in time to catch a ton of passengers working together to move the car off of the tracks," says passenger Kim Lianthamani. "Ten to 15 of these men had actually dropped their things in the street — briefcases, backpacks, jackets — and were lifting the rear of the car together, angling it away from the tracks."
The spontaneous action took place within five minutes of the train deboarding, and moving the offending vehicle took about five more. In the grand scheme of things, it was a blip. But it just wasn't the kind of thing you see these days in San Francisco — a group of strangers interacting, cooperating, getting something done.
Applause broke out on Mai's train as it began to move. On Lianthamani's N-Judah, the impromptu movers hopped "back onboard, feeling very accomplished and jovial. I saw a few high fives between them, and some were pretty excited to share the story later on with friends and family. I have never seen that level of camaraderie between strangers on a train."
The fate of the illegally parked car is not known; our messages to Muni have not yet been returned. It was initially parked in a red zone and jettisoned the same red zone. If the car wasn't towed, then its driver owes those passengers a debt of gratitude.
Running the car's plates on the Department of Parking and Traffic's website
reveals a balance of $132.50 due on a May street-cleaning citation. But nothing about blocking the Muni tracks and, for better or for worse, inspiring a group of strangers to feel pretty damn good about themselves.
This story originally mislabeled the car in question as an Acura. Our apologies to Acura and the city's law-abiding Acura drivers.
Update, 1:20 p.m.:
Muni spokesman Paul Rose says the car was cited and towed.
In a scene resembling one that might have been depicted in a black-and-white, moving-too-fast reel of yesteryear, passengers from a train blocked by an ill-parked car on Monday deboarded, muscled the offending vehicle out of the road, ambled back on the train, and went on their merry way.