Cable car ringing competition held without Muni drivers

Cable car ringing competition held without Muni drivers

September 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
What if they held a cable car bell ringing contest and nobody came? In San Francisco that's kind of what happened. There were people there, just not the most important ones.

In San Francisco on Tuesday the annual cable car bell ringing got a lot more interesting, but for all the wrong reasons.

This year's contest looked like a bunch of amateurs because they were amateurs in the equivalent of a bell-ringing sick-out because Muni's real stars of the show boycotted it.

So where were the real bell ringers?

"We are also asking that question. We found out last night that the contestants that we expected to participate decided not to participate," said SFMTA executive director Nate Ford.

Meantime, while the bell ringing competition went on, it is worth noting that on Powell Street the cable cars never moved due to a broken cable.

There might have also been a broken heart for grip man bell ringer Leonard Oats. When asked if he was a hero or a villain Tuesday, Oats laughed and said, "Depends on which way you look at it. I'm just trying to do what I can to help out my fellow workers."

Last year, Oats won his third straight bell ringing championship and he wanted to play this year.

When asked how hard the decision was to come to work today, Oats said, "Very hard... because there are lots of politics and I don't want to get involved in the politics."

Neither did the Transit Workers Union, which claims it had nothing to do with this.

"Well, we definitely have issues. We have issues with the way they've been running over our contract," said union treasurer Walter Scott, III.

"Right now, our challenge is to make sure that our revenues and the expenditures we have protect as much Muni service as possible," said Ford.

So if there was bell ringing, it sounded more like the start of a fight than a celebration.

However, one consolation is when Oats played a few of the riffs he would have used this year for a first place trophy which ended the day uncontested, unclaimed, ignored, and now, ignominious.

When asked if the competition would ever go back to the way it was, Oats replied, "I hope so."


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