Monday, October 13, 2008

Cable Car Confessions: The Suspended Conductor

Ding ding all aboard. "Next stop Powell Street Chinatown. Tickets please show me your tickets please." These sounds are very familiar to San Francisco tourists and locals. Here is one of my favorite conductor stories.

During the weekday mornings, the cable cars on the California line are usually filled with locals that are commuting to work to San Francisco's financial district. When I ride in the morning, I see suitcases, people on their cell phones, fancy shoes and laptop bags. If you ride the same California cable car line at 1:00 pm, the cable car is filled with tourists. Tourists holding San Francisco maps, taking sight pictures and smiling from ear to ear. If you ride the cable car at 6:00pm the car is filled with both local commuters and tourists.

My home is located on the California cable car line and I have lived there for five years. At night I can faintly hear the ding of the cable car. When I leave in the mornings to go to work, I can tell if a cable car is coming or not, as I can feel the vibrations of the line in my apartment. Taking the cable car to work every morning is a great way to start off my day. It makes me smile. I can stand on the platforms and stare at the scenery or when its a foggy morning, I stand inside the car. I have ridden the cable car so many times, that the drivers have started to know me.

Last week one of my usual drivers sat down next to me and confided this cable car confession.

Bill confessed to me that he had recently been suspended from driving the cable car for 10 days and fined $5000.00. How you may ask? What did he do to get suspended. Forget to ask for tickets? Be rude to a rider? Well.......

Bill was driving the back of the cable car one weekday morning, when a group of tourists got on. They sat on the seats in the outside platform and stood hanging onto the side of the cable car to take pictures. One of the ladies, who was apart of the group, didn't listen to Bill's instructions when he suggested that she not block the entry way to the door or keep her feet inside the car. So they already had tension. The group that this lady was with, 'Sally', asked Bill to get off at the Chinatown stop. Sally didn't hear this.

When it came time for Sally's group Chinatown stop, Bill shouted at the top of his lungs, "Next stop Chinatown." As the cable car came up to the stop, Bill slowed the  cable car down and instructed the group that this is their stop by saying loudly "Chinatown Stop." Sally didn't seem to hear this or see her group get off the cable car. Sally was still standing on the platform of the cable car as Bill started moving the gears again and the cable car starting moving to it's next stop.

"Oh no!" Sally exclaimed "My stop." Sally jumped off the '15,000 pound cable car' to try and catch her group.

This is where Bill was suspended and fined. He didn't stop the cable car. He just kept going. Riders on the bus called the cable car company to complain. They wondered if Sally was hurt. When Bill was questioned by the higher ups at the cable car company about this incident. They asked him why didn't he stop to check on Sally?

"Oh sure. I should have stopped the cable car during morning traffic, put out yellow emergency cones, messed up the entire California line even though I could see Sally walking, fine and meeting her friends."

They suspended Bill. The next time you are in San Francisco look around and listen to the riders. Ding ding next stop suspension. Cable Car condcutors - you gotta love them.


Georgie B said...


Definitely the wrong answer to give to the higher ups. No matter what you may really feel, never tell them how you really feel.

Nice story though. Local perspective on something that is known from coast to coast.

Pink Peony said...

Ok my thought is the woman jumped then it's her own issue. He saw she was ok so why stop?I'm sure she had a cell phone she could have gotten off at the next stop , called her friends and had one of them meet her. Poor guy. Getting blamed for someone else being dumb.