Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Incredibly Common Muni Chicken Story Reappears

Soon after I moved to SF years ago, I heard a story that went something like this:

My friend's brother was on the 30 Stockton one time near Chinatown when this little Chinese lady tried to get on board with a live chicken. The driver says, "Hey, you can't bring a live chicken on the bus!" So she snapped its neck and just walked on.

Quite a tale, huh? Over the years, I've heard it at least 4 or 5 more times, each time recounted as having happened to a friend of a friend of the narrator. (In the universe of urban legends, this person is called a "FOAF," an acronym for "friend of a friend.") It surfaced on Muni Diaries not too long ago.

So yesterday, on one of SFGate's super-duper-look-Ma-I'm-doing-New-Media blogs, a variant of the story appeared yesterday. In this one, thankfully, the chicken escapes its premature transit-occasioned demise:

Muni buses may be getting less crowded when service cuts are partially rolled back in September, but there still won't be room for loose chickens on board.

That's what a guy tried to do today on the 30-Stockton bus line in North Beach. He hoped to hop onboard at the corner of Union Street and Columbus Avenue with a fully grown, brown-feathered chicken tucked under one arm.

The driver shook his head, saying, "You can't bring that bird on here."

After a futile moment of pleading, the birdmaster, looking a little scruffy and sporting a baseball cap turned backwards, replied with a curse.

The morning commute continued.

First off, note the completely unsourced nature of the story. Did the author, "John Cote," witness this event personally? Did he hear about it from someone else? A FOAF, perhaps? It's suspicious from the get-go. Imagine if real journalism could get away with shit like this!

The three guys at your corner store are actually Al-Qaeda members.

When they say they are going in the back to get more Yoo-Hoo, they are actually working on a bomb to blow up Cha Cha Cha.

Anyway, nevermind that the wretched fowl escaped unscathed in the SFGate blog version. Unleash the SFGate commenters, eager to recount the urban legend again and again and again!

joeyjess 2:40 PM on July 7, 2010

This happened many years ago on the same line, when I was a little kid....when the bus driver told the lady she couldn't bring a live chicken on the bus, the chicken's owner promptly broke its neck and tried to re-board.

sockmonkey 2:44 PM on July 7, 2010

Years ago I was riding the 30 Stockton when the driver pulled up to a stop and an old Chinese woman started climbing the steps to board. That's when the driver noticed the bag she was carrying was moving and squawking. "Lady!" he said, "You can't bring a live chicken on this bus!" She quietly stepped off the bus, reached in the bag, snapped the chicken's neck, climbed back on and that was that.

phreakshow 2:51 PM on July 7, 2010

my sister saw this happen once with a little old chinese lady on the 30 Stockton. She was told she could not board with a live animal. She broke the chicken's neck and boarded the bus.

capdragon 3:03 PM on July 7, 2010

True Story.......

A couple of years ago my wife was riding on a bus headed towards the Haight. A Chinese woman got on around Powell. She was carrying a live duck. The driver told her she couldn't bring the duck on board. So in front of everyone she proceeded to twist the duck's neck until it cracked. There was a collective gasp from the passengers, but the driver then let her on with the dead duck.

Wouldn't it be nice if immigrants who come to America had enough respect for our values that they learn, not only English,but some of our cultural values as well, like common courtesy.

Vampirella 3:37 PM on July 7, 2010

About 10 years ago I was on the 30 Stockton when this same thing happened. Only is was a little old Chinese lady who promptly wrung the chicken's neck and then got on the bus.

sandiegopete 4:04 PM on July 7, 2010

I was riding a Muni bus years ago when an Asian woman started to board the bus with a live duck in a bag. The driver told her no pets were allowed on the bus. She said it wasn't a pet it was dinner. He still wouldn't let her on so she reached into the back and snapped the duck's neck and said to the driver, "Now its food". He let her board.

scientific 4:44 PM on July 7, 2010

There is an old, old story going around about a lady in Chinatown (probably on the 30 Stockton) trying to get on the bus with a live chicken. When the driver told her she couldn't bring a live chicken on board, she simply wrung its neck. Problem solved!

That's a lot of dead chickens! Let's see here. Joeyjess, Sockmonkey and Vampirella all say it happened to them - always "years ago." Capdragon doesn't go all the way to FOAF, but goes with the more conventional "happened to someone I know." Maybe it's easier to just skip the FOAF when you're an anonymous Internet commenter.

You also have to love the fact that Capdragon, being an SFGate commenter, can't resist a little side of xenophobia with his entree of urban legend. Yeah, why can't the fake people in my made-up story stop acting so, y'know, foreign?

Anyway, I think the story persists for a couple of reasons. At the root of it, it's kinda funny, and shows a clever way to solve a vexing problem. It's got that surprise twist ending that all good urban legends have. Plus, it plays on the general unease white people have about foreigners in general and Chinatown residents in particular. My kids'll probably hear this story one day.

Some SFGate commenters have it figured out!

bridgeofbardo 6:07 PM on July 7, 2010

There must have been, like, a million people on that 30-Stockton bus "years ago" when that "old Chinese woman" got on with a live chicken and the driver said et cetera, and then she et cetera. You guys who re-posted that ancient urban myth here today (that everybody has heard) just lost all credibility. Ha ha ha!

Who knows? Like many urban legends, there's probably a grain of truth in there somewhere. The fact that people bring live chickens on Muni has been pretty well-documented:


Greg said...

This take down of SFgate bs is epic. I just re-tweeted it to the world. Excellent!

Rachel said...

Well done, TK!
I saw this story yesterday too and I think I rolled my eyes when I read it.

periqueblend said...

Capdragon is right. in america our cultural value states that meat comes in plastic.

too bad you can't get hazard pay for reading the sfgate comment board

Brett said...

And the call was coming from inside the house!!!

Stoney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stoney said...

Oy. Who ARE these people? Like, if I'm walking down the street, is it possible that one of these SFGate Comments maniacs could be walking next to me? Scary thought.

generic said...

We walk next you, listening to Michael Savage on our iPods.

We are among you, but not of you.

Anonymous said...

That video is ridiculous. Who cares if people bring chickens on transit? You couldn't even tell what was in their bags. I'd rather be sitting next to someone with a chicken than the drunk guy who looks like he's about to projectile vomit all over everyone within 10 seats of him.

Did you see the picture someone tweeted during the week of a woman with a chicken in her coat? It's head was up by her head; she looked drunk as hell--no telling when that poor chicken last got fed.

bearclause said...

I've heard the story before, and I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't actually happened before.

I do remember when there were live chickens and ducks in crates in Chinatown. However, the City and County of San Francisco outlawed the sale of live birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals for meat. It has to be slaughtered before delivery to the customer now. I've seen employees killing and skinning frogs, as well as hacking turtles. I think some of the places that sell poultry actually receive live ones in the back, but slaughter and defeather them onsite before displaying them.

You can still buy a live fish or crustacean.