Riding the Yahoo Shuttle Bus

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I knew I was going to miss my bike because for the 10 years I have lived in the Mission, I’ve taken it everywhere. I ride it to get my groceries, late at night after dinners or to go to bars with friends. When I had film shoots around the city I loaded my tripod, camera and microphones on the bike. But there was no riding it to my new job at Yahoo — for that I would be on one of the shuttles.

On my first day of work I prepared my coffee at 7 a.m. The instructions from the contract company said that if I was going to use the shuttle bus I had to be on 21st and Valencia streets, the closest stop to my house, around 7:35 a.m. They later changed it to 24th and Valencia streets in front of Muddy Waters Coffee House.

That first day I was nervous and excited about the job, but ashamed to ride the shuttle. Up to that point, I saw the buses as a symbol of a lot of changes in the neighborhood that I didn’t much like. I made myself a little more coffee to drink on my way to Sunnyvale and then headed to the corner in front of Dog Eared Books.

I was the first to arrive and I double-checked the time to make sure I was in the right spot as normally I am not the first one to arrive anywhere.

Finally, after a couple of white buses passed, a big purple bus stopped. A young woman who had arrived earlier got on and I followed, showing my yellow badge to the driver. Later I learned the company has two types of badges — yellow for contractors and purple for Yahoo employees.

The bus was large, but not as large as I imagined it. Inside it was grey and very clean. The riders were nearly all under 40, some slept, others looked at their phones or at their laptops. The bus stopped twice more in the Mission before turning onto Highway 101 to Sunnyvale. I thought to myself, well it is time to catch up with the books that had been stacking up next to my bed.

I opened Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill. Out the window, the bay looked beautiful. This would be my commute for the next seven months.

Over that time, the buses got fuller and I got a sense of the different personalities that rode on alternate routes because going home I liked to take a different bus so that I could get off outside of the Mission and then walk home. The Mission bus riders were mostly young — some of them long term Mission residents.  The bus that dropped riders off in Glen Park had a few older riders and its passengers were more staid.  The bus that stopped on South Van Ness near Civic Center before going on to North Beach, carried the youngest group. They were more typical young professionals and definitely the rowdiest on Friday afternoons when a sense of thank-god-it’s-Friday pervaded all the buses.

My first day at Yahoo, I was blown away by Yahoo’s glass buildings and how clean and cold they were. But mostly I was overwhelmed by the food. I followed people to the cafeteria where there was coffee, pastries, eggs, a juice bar and oatmeal — anything we wanted. It was like being at a massive, free and very good buffet.

At 5:15 p.m., the ride home was less exhilarating. Highway 101 North was full of traffic and that traffic would become the hell I had to face everyday for the rest of my time working in Silicon Valley. Even as a passenger it was daunting and exhausting.

The bus scene inside became mundane. My fellow passengers were very quiet in the morning, some on their laptops some on their phones, some sleeping, one or two reading an actual book. One day someone was reading a newspaper, which made me happy — not only because I was seeing this on the bus but because seeing someone stretch out with an actual paper is rare anywhere and it has an almost romantic allure.

Oddly, we bus riders never talked about the bus protests. People worked non-stop in Sunnyvale and on the way home, there was a general exhaustion that disappeared for just one day — on Fridays.

I made very good friends on the bus. There were people who had lived in the Mission for more than the 10 years I have lived here. Like me, they just happened to get a job at Yahoo. Others who were newcomers just liked the neighborhood’s vibe and they were nice and interested in the neighborhood. It is like with anything, once you get to know people, they don’t seem terrible or evil — they were just working for good wages, but not flaunting them. More than talking about the Mission, we all complained about work, talked about architecture, work situations and pixelated eyes.

The shuttles saved and, in part, killed my quick experience at one of the monsters of the tech industry.  Above all, the shuttle made it easier. The work itself was grinding and never-ending and I finally found it too much to arrive home at 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. only to start thinking about getting up 12 hours later.

At times, working at Yahoo felt like being in the Sci-Fi version of Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” The buses were just another part of the machine.

27 Comments

  1. 24-24

    the authors name is One Rider?

  2. John

    Probably a very frustrating read for people who want to hate on those who take the shuttle buses, because it essentially shows how normal and mundane the experience is, and how ordinary the riders are.

    Interesting in particular to see that some of the riders are long-term residents of the Mission and the arrivistes portrayed by critics. Never let the facts get in the way of a stereotype.

    In other words, the story is a non-story – it’s a big old nothing.

  3. jeremy

    Thanks to the author for writing this and MissionLocal for publishing it. I’m usually dismayed/shocked/morbidly amused when I read articles/comments on places like MissionLocal and SFGate because people’s narratives are so pathetically partial. A tribal “us vs. them” mentality is on full display. But I always think that such close-mindedness can only operate in the absence of detail, i.e. through a reductive, partial way of viewing the infinite complexities of reality. This article works against some of our more base tendencies by humanizing the situation and expanding our viewpoint. So thank you.

  4. Rent control has over 30 years ceased a pool of envious SLACKERS who resent and hate anyone with drive and goals. Ignore them like the petulant children they are. Let them seethe in their misery and ride your shuttle proudly !

  5. Missionite

    Thanks for posting. As a sometime poster and daily shuttle rider it’s great to see someone show the realities of the shuttles and it’s rider base. As an 8-year Mission resident I left a job in SF to take a job in “tech” for more money to accelerate my dream of owing a house in the city I love. The opportunities that shuttles create for me, One Rider and thousands of other San Franciscans is a story that never seems to be told.

  6. Skelton

    Good to see the bus riders perspective for a change.

  7. FormerFP

    I have taken that same shuttle bus, I too no longer work at Yahoo! because of the long commute. My favorite part of the bus ride: I could catch a nap in the a.m. I’ve lived in SF for 12 years. I’m not poor, I’m not rich. I’m pretty boring. Am I a “techie” or not? I’m a former English major who couldn’t make enough money to live working at newspapers–a shrinking pie on a sinking ship situation if there ever was one.

    My work at Yahoo! was exciting and I miss my colleagues, but, they are bleeding talent these days, at least in the editorial department. My guess is that Mayer doesn’t finish out the year, but, we’ll see….

    My tenure there was longer than most of the CEOs, so, I’m jaded to the whole thing, and decisions like Katie Couric (really, and you want a *younger* audience?) don’t give me much faith. Tone deaf is a good way to describe Mayer, and that’s exactly the opposite of what the company needs. I do truly wish it the best.

    • ThatGuy

      People here assume that people who ride buses love commuting. Welcome to bizarro land.

      • boo

        Yup. I’ve commuted on a tech shuttle for 8 years. It doesn’t get any less grinding but I do it because I would hate living down there and I love it here . This is a good account.

  8. marcos

    “The Left” in San Francisco operates in two modes, collect sinecure pay for doing little or nothing and freak out blaming others for social problems once the fruits of their failure to engage become apparent.

    There is little other than wait for your opponent to fuck up and then scare people that it will get worse unless they change course. But once in power, once coronated “King of the Leftists,” “The Left” in San Francisco stands down and does not substantially contest capital’s dominance.

    “The Left” in San Francisco is so thoroughly watered down liberal in the neoliberal context that it is really a misnomer to refer to them as “left.”

  9. This author is obviously new to SF (ten years these days is new, the Mission has been the New Marina since about 1998) — he is unaware that bicycles are just Two-Wheeled Google Buses, same type of people.

    • John

      How can ten years in the Mission be “new” if we are to believe all the anti-gentrification mob who claim that turnover here is undesirably large?

    • monstro

      You are obviously new to The Mission, as a third generation San Franciscan, I know that The Mission is really an Irish Catholic neighborhood that was taken over by a bunch of newcomers.

  10. OhYou

    “The work itself was grinding and never-ending and I finally found it too much to arrive home at 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. only to start thinking about getting up 12 hours later.”

    Well, welcome to the real world. This is not a bad schedule and is the norm for most folks who work in tech or have a 9-5 job that requires a commute.

    • Joe

      I agree! If he’s on the bus at 7:30am and then again at 5:15pm, is he even working a full 40 hours?

      I think it’s pretty common these days to work 8 to 6 or 9 to 7.

  11. Jaime

    thank you mission local for publishing this. any thinking person knows that the commuters and the buses are NOT the issue in SF. they are simply the lightening rod for displacement and rising rents. we all understand that long commutes are boring and really much the same anywhere (except on the 14 bus).
    i’m afraid we’re not going to solve these problems by pointing fingers and vilifying.
    But we might by being thinking outside the box.
    SOMEBODY needs to come up with a plan – we can’t leave it up to the planning department and certainly can’t leave it up to our supervisors.

  12. Chris

    I don’t understand why so many people make a big deal out of these “tech” buses. I clearly see both sides of the argument but some of these comments are just plain stupid and pathetic. Yes the presence of these buses may be welcoming more techies into the city, subsequently spreading gentrification. But then there are those who whine about those protesters and put them down as if they have no say if what should happen their neighborhood. You guys are all idiots. In the end these buses are a simple solution and good method of transporting individuals from certain companies. Shuttles will always be convenient.

  13. poor.ass.millionaire

    Glad this article, and all these supporting comments are helping to debunk the cheap and reactionary hysteria over tech shuttles. Talk about scapegoating; yes, largely conscientious tech workers using a pollution and congestion reducing transportation method are the root cause of SF’s housing problems. That is completely ridiculous, and anyone who gives this topic half a thought knows so.

  14. You should never be ashamed to ride the shuttle. It is everyone’s right to find a decent job. You pay tax and you minimize you traffic an carbon footprint, not just complaining.

    The protesters act as if they have moral authoritative. Most of them are actually new comers to SF themselves and they do they share of “displacement”. Other than expressing their hatred, I don’t hear any implementable policy that can make tangible improve to the city as a whole. Blocking bus is plain stupid. If anything they can think logical they should advocate for ban of personal automobile in SF altogether.

  15. alf

    There are whole groups of people who meet around the Mission to ride their bikes down to Mountain View, Sunnyvale (though Yahoo is a bit far) and many other tech companies. You can ride in the am, and take the bus or train home.

  16. Matt Smith

    What is the point of this article? That highly paid tech workers who toll in Sunnyvale are just like you and me? No, I dont take a lux bus to work I take public transit.

    • poor.ass.millionaire

      Well I don’t take a tech bus either, but I am sympathetic to all the bullshit thrown “tech workers” way. And this article, from their POV is a rare occurrence, as most media and blogs prefer to feed off the hysteria. So there is an important point to this article.

  17. Cindy De Losa

    Long term isn’t 10 years go home and take your bike too

  18. nutrisystem

    The bus-riders are only pawns in a very large, very dark game.

    The game is the creation of a privately owned Omni-Surveillance Organism. The destruction of San Francisco’s culture is just a little collateral-damage sideshow.

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