Noe Valley Voice April 2001

New Subs on the J-Church Line May Be Full of Holes

By Commander Sal Waddle

Since the first day Muni began testing its new fleet of diesel-powered submarines on the J-Church line, the city has been flooded with complaints.

A survey of local residents reveals that many are concerned about the broken water mains, the annoying pinging, and the occasional torpedoed Victorian. But the loss of parking is number one on their list.

"With all that water in the canal, it's been hard to keep our cars from floating off the sidewalk," said Ethyl Leaded, president of the Four-Wheels-Good Coalition, a local chapter of the San Francisco SUV Me. "And my husband has been forced to carry the kids out to the car, because the baby keeps getting washed out of her stroller. We shouldn't have to put up with this."

Wyatt Owl of Valley Street is upset about the depth charges. "I work the night shift. It's hard to sleep during the day with all those explosions. I'd rather have squealing Breda cars."

Church Street merchants are frustrated as well. "Our scones are soggy, and there's just too much saltwater getting into our tea," said Madge Hatter, proprietor of Lovejoy's Tea Room.

The sonar is what's riling Deborah Cur of Noe Pet Company. "I can't hear it, but the dogs sure can, and they're howling all the time." She admits, however, that the subs have brought some benefits. "We now sell fish toys -- we're the only place in the city that stocks collars for octopi!"

What do Muni's passengers think? Well, most are happy with the smooth ride, but some have a few quibbles.

"The subs don't always surface all the way, so sometimes you have to swim down to meet them," said Ishmael, a 27th Street commuter who refused to give his last name. "Just call me Ishmael," he said.

Riders also complained about the cramped, claustrophobic conditions. "You can't even open the windows," said Erin Brockovich, "unless, of course, you're riding the F-line [restored nuclear-powered subs]."

Muni's bunching of ships can be a problem. "Sometimes you'll see a whole school of 'em going the other way, and then you won't see hide nor hair of them for hours," said Mark Spitz, while treading water at 24th and Church. "Thar she blows!" he shouted, scrambling to pull up his galoshes.

And then there are the accidents.

On Feb. 31, one sub bumped into another at the 27th and Church Street stop and surfaced in the carp tank at Lumberjack Sushi, causing the restaurant to send its customers to Eric 'n' Alice's across the street. An unverified report said drunken Bavarians from Speckman's Restaurant retaliated by trying to sink the vessel.

In another incident, a Muni sub with 43 passengers was trapped underwater for three days after a local teen got his fishing line caught in the propeller. "For the first 40 hours it was fun," said passenger Brian Quequeeg, while recuperating at S.F. General. "Captain Clooney brought out the grog, and we started playing cards and singing sea chanteys. But then we were glommed onto by a giant squid. At that point, we all wanted out. "Shiver me timbers!" he shook at the memory.

Meanwhile, residents are starting to question whether the Muni should have ordered more subs (a dozen more are already in the pipeline). "I've had one tsunami too many," sighed Lotta Mildew of 25th Street.