I should have known it was going to be bad day when the traffic reporter on KQED radio said there was still a problem on the N line after telling us about an as-yet undiagnosed problem on the L line. San Francisco’s mass transit system (MUNI) of buses, light rail, trolleys, cable cars, carrier pigeons, sleds, and roller blades always has its problems, but it usually doesn’t make the traffic report, which is mostly devoted to the highways. (“Hundreds of bras are scattered over the two left lanes on westbound 280 near the Monterey exit. The highway patrol suggests you take 101 as an alternate.”)
I ride the L line to work every day, but it sounded like the problem was outbound, so I thought I’d be okay. This thinking was, of course, stupid. One problem on MUNI screws up the system; two is as a disaster.
But it didn’t seem that way as I walked from my house to a nearby train stop, Looking westward down Taravel from 14th Avenue I saw the Pacific Ocean under a blue sky and an L train heading my way. I hopped onboard and off we went. But as we approached West Portal, which is where the line enters the tunnel on its way to the Castro (headquarters of the homosexual plot to take over the United States), the driver stopped and told us to get off the train. Apparently there was a problem in the tunnel.
Hundreds of people were milling about, trying to figure out how to get to work. “There will be shuttles on that corner,” said a MUNI employee in a day-glo vest, pointing one way, and we all moved that direction. Then another MUNI employee directed other people to another corner. The police arrived, more MUNI people showed up, and more commuters kept arriving by the bus and trainload. Mysterious helicopters flew overhead and news crews pointed their cameras at us. No one knew what was going on.
When I finally got to work I noticed that I had a message on Facebook from an old grade school friend. We were in intermittent touch and I was curious to see why he was trying to reach me. I saw a link in his email. Normally I would have hesitated, but, flustered from the difficult commute and hurrying to get to a meeting, I clicked.
Gotcha! Just like that I had contracted a computer virus. I discovered this a moment later when my colleague Laina Adler showed me her Blackberry, a grave expression on her face. Apparently my computer had sent her a suspicious message on Facebook. Virus!
I ran and found Chris Cosbey, the tech guy at HarperOne. By this time I was getting emails from people who had also received the suspicious message from my computer. Jason Headley said he could never again look me in the eye because I had contracted a social networking disease. I spent hours working with Chris to fix the problem, but in the end he had to put me to sleep.
The day just kept going like that. But it wasn’t just that one day or only me. The world is falling apart. The planet is getting crowded. Traffic is getting worse. The security lines at airports are long and difficult. Viruses are going around. Alaska wants to secede from the union. Nations are at odds with each other. The governments of the world are unable to handle these growing problems, and the United Nations is too busy flying mysterious helicopters over San Francisco. Who will step into the breech? Who will be our savior?
Disney. If Disney was running the world the lines would be orderly and there would be little dioramas to enjoy as we waited to get on our ride. There would be convenient monorails everywhere and a train running around the edge of the world. There would be no evil viruses in our computers; Peter Pan would see to that. Mickey Mouse and Johnny Depp would be our neighbors. Each night there would be a parade and fireworks. The worse thing that would ever happen is once in a while a ride would be closed for renovations.
A world run by Disney. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it sooner. And we already have an anthem:
It’s a small world after all . . .