Mike Jones at 24th Street Mission BART Plaza. Photo by Annika Hom.

As Mike Jones cleans, he’s on the hunt. He scans the dimly lit 24th Street Mission BART Station for any type of item, really, in the hope of gifting it to someone else who might be able to use it: a long forgotten coat, or a jacket left behind by a hurried passenger. 

Once, he said, he found a forlorn stack of children’s books on the platform, which he gave to a commuter that has kids. He’s handed off gloves or a spare jacket to nearby unhoused folks.  Sometimes, frequent riders simply tap him for advice. One, for example, wanted to know about applying for an ID, which would unlock a slew of other social services.

As he talks to a Mission Local reporter, an unhoused gentleman dressed in a red hoodie and sunglasses approaches Jones on the southwest 24th Street plaza and asks about a stray radio he heard that Jones had found and was saving for him. Jones smiles and tells him he’ll let him have the radio when the interview finishes, and the man lingers patiently nearby. 

Jones, a towering six-foot-six-inch man originally from Alabama, pauses for a second to watch the squawking gulls above, and takes in the sunshine lighting up the murals on the surrounding buildings. The commotion is why he loves the Mission. “It’s a vibrant atmosphere,” he says grinning. 

He joined BART four years ago as a maintenance employee, officially titled System Service. Already, he recognizes the regular riders. Not necessarily “names, but faces,” Jones said. 

Mike Jones laughs and exclaims, “This is my James Bond moment!” Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Jan. 22, 2021.
Mike Jones and Grammy award winner and American record producer Quincy Jones at his birthday party in Hollywood. Mike Jones often worked security at the nightclub that hosted the party. Photo courtesy of Mike Jones.

Before his bout in the Bay, Jones lived in Los Angeles and worked security for some of the most glitzy and high-end nightclubs and parties in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, he said. The job barely paid the bills, but the revolving door of new faces and celebrity meet-and-greets kept him satisfied. How often can one say that they’ve met Oprah and Ted Danson? Jones even once bumped into former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Most people he met told Jones they found his Southern accent “relaxing, like a bed of flowers,” he chuckled. 

Few moments left him as starstruck as the time he met Janet Jackson. Jones said he shook the pop icon’s hand around the year her ultra-famous brother died. “I looked her straight in the eye and told her, ‘I’m never washing my hand again,’” Jones said dreamily. 

He had lived around Los Angeles since he was 19, and about four years ago he decided it might be time for a change of pace. About eight years ago he visited San Francisco for the first time and he was especially astounded by BART, since LA’s public transit system relies mostly on a fleet of buses.

He thought he might like to work there, and thus the seed was planted. He scanned the site for job openings, and eventually came across the maintenance position. When he saw it paid much better than his security gigs, it sealed the deal and he applied. Shortly after, he moved to Alameda, where he currently lives. (Yes, he takes the BART to work every day.) 

Jones said he also took the job to explore the Bay Area. He still has a lot left to see and a lot of restaurants to try, and considers himself a man constantly in transit. 

Even as a Bay Area transplant, he often drives back to Southern California in his spare time to visit his old haunts, and works security at award shows at least once a year. (2020 was the only year without the gig, thanks to Covid-19, he said).

When asked if he would switch stations, Jones shrugs. He wouldn’t mind it, but he has a soft spot for the Mission. 

“I’d like it over here if I can remain,” Jones said. “Anything can happen here.”

Mike Jones at 24th Street Mission BART Plaza shows off a mask depicting BART routes. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Jan. 23, 2021.
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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Great story on a great guy. I really enjoyed it. Brilliant idea for the mask. Keep moving on up.

  2. My brother friends over 40 years always been upstanding guy love family and friends till the end.

  3. Read the story once I had to go back and read it again and share with others Keep On Keepin On Big Mike Jones

  4. Hola stoy felyz q por medio de la teknolojia, poder xpresar que este hombre ,es digno de respeto y admiracion, por su desempeno como parte de la cuidad. Y siempre con buena actitud y respeto, asia todas personas. Le agradecemos de todo corazon ,que siempre nos brinda una sonrisa ,apesar que no ablo ingles y talves el no abla espanol pero siempre apesar de estos tiempos dificiles ,el es uno de nuestros heroes, como son los medicos enfermeros(a) bomberos ,policias, y todos los seres humanos que trabajan como esenciales, Dios los bendiga, a todos. Y les agradesco que personalmente ,me an echo ver a mi ser ,el gran amor de Dios, amen. Mike J, gracias por ser como eres , con respeto te agradecemos todos los indigentes ,o amigos que nos juntamos donde tu trabajas. Eres nuestro super heroe.

  5. Mike is the man although he is big and tall, he never makes you feel small.
    He is the star Among Us.
    When I’m around Mike I don’t mind being in his shadow, it keeps me COOL

    Shout out to Big Mike from Lil’ Jess aka Jessie Androtti.
    Ps. I’ll finish by quoting Don Cornelius , I want to wish you love, peace and soul.

  6. Friend for over 45 years Big Mike has always been a ‘Class Act’ displaying impressive excellence. I’m so proud of him. Continue To Uplift & Inspire My Brother

  7. Since Day 1, “Big MJ,””has been Encouraging, and Inspiring for Me & My Daughter, Proud of Ya” . “Keep Showing your Love” My Big Cousin, Always Prepared for Some🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬ACTION 🎬😎

    Love this man!!! As humble as they come!!! Good to see you doing good my brother!!!

  9. Great story. You always had that charismatic personally and shined wherever you gone. They picked the right person to interview. I know they had as much fun interviewing you as you being interviewed. Keep up the great work in BART. I love that system and was glad you had the time to show me around when i visited.

  10. if he was in LA, he’d take “the something” to work every day, but here in SF he just takes BART, no “the” needed

  11. This is a great story about a great gentleman. I am very grateful to God for allowing me to be a part of your early life. Go get em my son.

    1. No, I was blessed that God brought you into my life although I had that desire to achieve you gave me the tools, such as hard work, education and not blaming other people for whatever negative things that happens to you. As you are aware that my father past when I was approximately 4 or 5 years old, you filled that void in my life. You wipe the board clean of that event and keep moving on. Thank you Sir I Love