Monday, December 28, 2009

Entrances to Hell in San Francisco #499
The S.F. Muni

Frequent riders of the San Francisco Municipal Railway have often had opportunity to reflect upon the perfected hellishness of this desperately inadequate public transit system. Few may still recall, however, that calamitous New Year’s Eve in 1972 when disaster overtook a 47-Potrero electric overhead bus at the bus stop at 20th and Potrero, directly adjacent to San Francisco General Hospital. Filled with drunken revelers singing obscene lyrics to Motown songs, the bus suddenly disintegrated in a blinding flash of light. Its twisted, smoking ruins were subsequently hauled to the storage hall pictured above, where they remain deposited to this day.

Police inquiries quickly established the calamitous course of events. The bus stop in question was located directly under the hospital’s Psych Ward, in which Mustafa Pancho “Hotfingers” O’Rourke, a recently returned Vietnam veteran, had been placed for observation after having threatened Mayor Joe Alioto with a chef’s pastry gun loaded with gorgonzola at an Italian-American wedding celebration in North Beach.

Further investigation revealed that O’Rourke had managed to construct a home-made bomb out of polyester resin, carbon rods pulled from cheap batteries, a Piezo electric ignitor taken from a Scripto electronic lighter, paraffin, a 9-volt battery clip and insulated copper wire (about 20 to 22 gauge), and a half-eaten plate of chicharrones con queso which he found in a hospital janitor’s closet. These elements he then fashioned into a projectile and dropped out the window upon the doomed electric overhead bus as it pulled into the stop three stories below.

The catastrophe led to the ultimate dissolution of the 47-Potrero line and its conversion into the present 47-Van Ness. As a further consequence the windows of the Psych Ward at General Hospital, whose operations in many areas remain as vigorously ineffective as ever, have been permanently sealed with cement.

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