Monday, December 04, 2017

Bus Report #997

Yesterday afternoon I took the 38 Geary downtown, to meet Civic Center Michael and a couple of his friends at the SFMOMA, so we could experience our beloved The Visitors sound installation again before it closes.

The bus was already fairly packed. I sat down in the back and at the next stop, a trio of burnout guys got on and one of them squeezed in beside me. He reeked of beer. It was coming out of his pores and smelled terribly stale. He balanced a beer, a folded piece of newspaper and two self-help books on his lap. He talked, loudly, with his friends.

A mom with two little kids got on and sat in the very back. Her daughter carried a thick book but I couldn't see the title. Her little boy wore a Pokemon hat and sat quietly next to his mom.

At Arguello, three older folks got on. One woman held an envelope with an address scrawled on it.
She asked me if we were on O'Farrell. They were headed to the Curran.
"This is Geary," I said, "But we'll switch over to O'Farrell. And then you'll just walk up one block to get to the theater."
"Thanks," she replied. "You really know your way around Muni!"
I smiled. If only she knew.
We chatted a little. Her friends were from Quebec and she was taking them to see Bright Star. Last night, they'd all gone to see Beach Blanket Babylon.

Divisadero. An older man got on, with his cane and a smart-looking little brown case. He hobbled up the stairs and joined all of us in the back of the bus. By now, my beer-odor seatmate had moved to the back and he helped the older man sit down. He picked up his fallen glove and tossed it up, caught it, tossed it up, caught it again, and then handed it to the man.
"Bless you," said the older man.

When the little boy in the Pokemon hat started to fuss, the beer-odor man said to the mom, "Man, I've got two daughters - 25 and 19 - and a grandkid, and I just love them all to death." I snuck a glance at him. He didn't look any older than 45. I tried imagining him as my grandfather. I couldn't do it.

The mom and kids got out a few stops later. The elderly man said, "You take good care of those kids, you hear?" and the mom nodded, smiling.

The Curran-bound folks smiled and the Quebec wife shook her head. The woman with the envelope directions just said, "That's Muni for you."

And it was.

Once downtown I went to go meet Michael and his crew. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at SFMOMA. Inside The Visitors, people were really into the exhibit. One woman sat cross-legged on the floor, sketching the musicians. Several children danced the music or sat, enthralled, in front of the bathtub screen. As usual, people entered the exhibit talking and playing with their phones, but eventually most of them found a spot to stand in and they stayed rooted in place for quite a while.

A grandma in a beautiful red coat whispered to her little granddaughter, "Look at him, in the tub with his bubbles. We wouldn't want him in our bubble bath!"

I smiled. Said to Michael, I wouldn't mind him in mine.

This morning the bus was almost empty, save for a few regulars.
The mom with the two little boys, the little one still sleepy in his stroller.

Three men got on at Corbett and chatted in sign language. Well, two chatted and one did his best to not participate, looking away almost the entire time.
The little boy with the wire-rimmed glasses was entranced. His mom scolded him not to stare, but I don't think the chatty men really cared.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Bus Report #996

Waiting for the bus last night, former 33 driver Ken drove by in his hot, hot car (I'm not a car person at all, but whatever car this is, whoa, hotttt). It might be a Cadillac but I'm not sure. It is a deep orange-red, and he takes really good care of it.
He leaned out the window yelling, "Hey, Rachel! Rachel!"
I pulled off my headphones and called back, "Hey, what's going on, man? You have a good holiday?"
"Yeah," he called back. "See you later."
They don't come much sweeter, folks.

Lately, in the mornings, there's a mom and her two little boys who get on at the stop just after mine.
Her older son is in elementary school, all uniforms and lanyard ID and wire rimmed glasses. Cute kid. He carries a Transformers backpack and always has a book with him.
The little boy is still young enough for a stroller, a big kid but no older than four.
The mom lifts the stroller onto the bus even though the driver offers to lower the lift for her.
The little guy is beautiful. Big brown eyes, wavy dark hair, a truly gorgeous baby (toddler? kid?). I didn't notice it at first, but I think he may be some kind of developmentally delayed. He doesn't talk and when he looks around, I get the impression he is looking past everyone. Lovely kid, nonetheless, and his mom and brother are just as lovely. They smooth his lap blanket and stroke his chubby little cheeks, and give him his sippy cup when he reaches for it.
It is nice to see their gentle, familial love so early in the morning.

Today, a man walked an Australian Shepherd puppy up Ashbury. My favorite dog breed. I smiled and watched the puppy prance down the street and bite at her leash.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Bus Report #995

Last night, a crowded 19 Polk, headed inbound to my ceramics class at Fort Mason.
Our sweet bus driver smiled and said hello as I got on. Throughout the duration of the commute she called out all the stops and transfer points. Nice of her.

The bus was already full of kids from the school up the street, so I pressed my shoulder and hip up against the Plexiglas near the back door, my bag and legs almost smushed against an older, well dressed man sitting in a single seat.
He looked up and smiled. I tried not to stand too close to him, as Muni etiquette dictates.

As these things go, though, more people got in and soon my bag was pressed into his arm and my torso was almost grazing his shoulder.
All the way down 7th Street I was overly conscious of how close my body was to this stranger, the strap from my bag tugging my already low-cut shirt down even further, and it was an odd feeling.

Usually, I don't care - crowded buses mean everyone crushed up together - but there was something about the way he kept glancing up at me that was unnerving. You can tell when someone is eyeing you up and down. Appraising.
As we approached Mission, someone elbowed me from behind, catching me off guard.
I almost stumbled against the man.
I apologized, saying, "Sorry about that, I'm trying not to fall on you."
He raised his eyebrows, said, "I'm not bothered. I wouldn't mind.  I'm not complaining, about it."
Then he winked.
"Are you complaining about it?" he asked.

And for the millionth time in my life, I couldn't think of a decent answer.
Just stood there, my face hot, knowing I was probably blushing beet red and that even the blindest person on the bus could tell. Blushing more from my inability to say something back to him than from anything he'd said.
Because really, as women know, as everyone else is learning, this stuff happens all the time and it doesn't matter if you're in tight jeans and a revealing shirt or if you're buttoned up to the neck. You can be ten years old, or well in to your eighties. Our bodies and our style choices are, sadly, not ours to a lot of people.

We hit Market Street, and he asked if I was getting out. I said no, but moved so he could stand and get out. He smiled again as he left.
I slid in to his seat and stared out the window for the rest of the ride.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bus Report #994

Last night I dreamed that a scraggly, wired, long-haired, droopy-mustached, thin-T-shirted man got on the 33 and stood in the front of the bus. After a moment of incoherent mumbling at the driver, he unbuttoned his jeans and proceeded to shoot up right in front of us, into in his thigh.
Ugh.

Friday morning the kind nurse and I were talking as we waited for the bus. She said, "I'm glad your cold and cough are gone, you had that for a while." I was touched. And yes, almost all summer, though I did not say that to her.

That night, on the 10 Townsend, we had just pulled in to 4th and King when a guy got out of his (too big for the city, extra fancy SUV) car and came up to the bus to tell our driver we'd just sideswiped him. Um, no, we did not touch your car, dude. We'd have felt it, something that big and useless.
Plus, there were no scratches on the SUV or on the bus.
The driver had no choice but to go out of service, despite several of us telling him we hadn't touched the car. I was annoyed, channeled it into filling out a witness card for our driver. I walked all the way out to Market Street and did not see any inbound 10 Townsends the rest of the evening.

And yesterday evening, three teens got on the 22 Fillmore by the Castro Safeway. One kid had a juice with an open top and as they got on the bus his bottle tipped and he somehow managed to fling what smelled like guava juice all over the floor and near some seats. An accident, nothing a few napkins or tissues wouldn't have remedied immediately. Of course the kids just laughed and cursed at each other and headed for the back of the bus.
Our driver eyed them, wearily, in the mirror but said nothing.
As the kids continued cursing and shouting, an older woman in the front of the bus called back to them to please stop it, as there were little kids in the front. She looked like a younger version of K's mom, and I was immediately rooting for her.
The teens laughed her off.
An older man tried to say something too, they laughed at him as well.
The driver stood up and came back to look at the juice puddle. "You guys gotta get out," he told them. "You know, everyone here wants to get home just like you do, and I'm not moving until you leave."
Yeah, those kids weren't going anywhere.

One man started in on the kids but they just kept laughing and cursing, made some obnoxious comments about him.
The driver got out and grabbed some old newspaper from the nearby trash can. The kids howled and made fun of him for it.
He waved over a supervisor who had been across the street talking to some N Judah operators.
The supervisor was bigger, taller than our driver and as the driver wiped up the juice with the newspaper (and a few napkins provided by the older woman) the supe coaxed the kids off the bus. "Come on, guys, you can take the next one. Let's go."
They eventually acceded, but not before getting in a few more verbal swipes at the man who had been trying to reason with them.
He didn't seem to care, but talked back to them anyway.
As the supervisor ushered the kids away, they pounded on the window next to where the man sat. He just shrugged and fiddled with his phone and we drove off.

This morning, smoky air again. Coughed my way to the bus stop, coughed my way down Arguello to Fulton, and most of the rest of the way.
The giant genie got on. Dandy comb, lotion, beard wax, the whole routine. Then he lotioned his legs and his knees, as he was wearing shorts today.

Walking the rest of the way to work I passed a handful of new tents right across from Safeway and UPS. Another dozen or so needles (of different sizes today, what a treat!) to report to 311.

Near the park, my favorite orange flowers and their vines have taken up most of the fence. So beautiful. Almost enough to wash away the grime this morning.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Bus Report #993

This morning, walking to catch the 33.
The sky was a smoky matte black - actually black - and I coughed the whole way down Clement.
The fires up north are bad, bad. Hearing the stories of the loss and devastation is almost too much.
When the bus arrived, the nurse, a twitchy dude, and I got on.
All the seats had a thin film of ash on them which must have blown in through the open windows.
I hoped Potrero would be clearer but it wasn't by much, at least not at 7:30 this morning. It looks better now.
My throat and eyes are still irritated from the smoke.
But I shouldn't complain.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Bus Report #992

Muni Heritage Weekend was a couple weekends ago, and C. and I went to check it out.
We took a 1 California down to Embarcadero, sat in the back.
We'd been sitting apart from each other, talking over our seatmates, until a nice man switched seats with me so we could sit and chat together.

For a few blocks, we had an absolutely adorable little blond kiddo as a fellow passenger.
He couldn't have been much older than three or four, blond bowl haircut, little blue t-shirt, cute.
Riding the bus was too much for this little guy - his excitement was uncontainable.
He wriggled in his seat, and smiled, and hopped up and down, and couldn't stop giggling and pointing at everything in the bus. His joy was infectious and those of us in the back of the bus could not help smiling and laughing at his pure, pure excitement.

The Railway Museum was mobbed with Muni workers and fans, and there were several vintage Muni buses and streetcars on display.

I thought I was a Muni fan, but I was nothing compared to some of the people there! We spoke with a man who had traveled from Pennsylvania to attend, and to some other transit buffs from around the Bay Area. These folks were laden with cameras and they knew the specs of each bus and streetcar there.
C. called them "foamers" - because they supposedly foam at the mouth when they see the objects of their devotion; the buses, the streetcars.

We rode a vintage bus - and I can't tell you much about it except that it was cool, and maybe from the 70s (?). The driver wore a jaunty cap. I told him I liked the Red Sox enamel badge pinned to it.

We tried, twice, to flag down my favorite streetcar, the boat car! But both times it was already full to capacity.

Instead, we rode Car No. 1, a streetcar dating back to 1912. How fun! I loved the woven straw seats and the friendly conductors. The car didn't even have a fare box, so the tourists trying to pay for their rides were out of luck in that sense, but perfectly lucky to get a ride on such a beautiful streetcar.

All in all, a fun adventure. I recommend everyone go next year!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bus Report #991

Sunday afternoon on the holiday weekend, on my way to join the Teacher's Pet at Zine Fest.
I walked down to California and 8th to wait for the 44 O'Shaughnessy. Normally I would have walked but the heat. Oh, the heat.

The bus was running late. The only other people waiting for the bus were a big-for-her-age but very young teenage girl and a sunburned, tattooed man with two tattered backpacks.

The girl leaned out of the bus shelter and saw me, and immediately began talking. I couldn't figure out if she was just chatty, or if there was something slightly off with her - but she was sweet. She couldn't believe how late the bus was, shaking her head and giggling. She had a pretty smile that stretched the length of her round moon face.
"He's late and he was supposed to be here ten minutes ago and how can they do this when it's so damn hot out?" she said. She rambled on about the heat. Cursed a lot. Still, I looked at her and thought, sweet girl.

The man nodded. "Yeah, it's hot, but it isn't Belize in the rainy season hot."

I've been to Central America during the rainy season, though not to Belize, but I agreed with him.
He told the girl about the rain and the steam and humidity, about how wet everything got. How wet it stayed.

"We learned to basically take a cold shower in our clothes and then lie down in bed, and just sort of hope we'd fall asleep before they dried out."

The girl was hooked. "For real?" she said. "That's crazy."

He went on. He'd moved his whole family down there for two years; wife, three kids. It sounded idyllic at first. Big house on an even bigger plot of land. Farm animals corralled near the house. Wild animals out in the forest. Coconuts in the trees, and his little son would shimmy up the tree to get coconuts for his mother. No electronic gadgets for the kids, so that they grew to love and respect their Belizean friends and let go of some of the trappings of modern-day life in the States.
But then he said something that made me think we weren't getting the full story. "My youngest," he said, "She'd be about oh, ten or eleven now."

He went on, describing how he and his buddies had dealt with poachers on their land, about the kids learning Spanish.

"Those were the best two years of my life," he told us. "It was sort of... It was like the end of our life as a family, but it was also the best time for all of us."

The girl grew quiet. Sipped water from her water bottle.

"We split up," he said. "My wife and I... We still love each other, you know? But it was like mixing fire and gasoline. A real beautiful explosion, but, an explosion nonetheless. And with my addiction..."
Here he trailed off for a moment.
I felt for him. Felt for his wife, his kids. For their perfect two years in Belize.

"Anyway, we came back and I haven't seen them in oh, three years? But, you know, the love is still there."

I nodded. Right then, the 44 pulled up and a moment later we got on the bus, followed by a tourist family, cameras swinging from their necks.

The man got out at 6th and Clement. Strange.

The girl stayed on, chatting loudly on her phone for the duration of my ride.


The next morning, on the way downtown, the 2 Clement was empty for the first 20 minutes of my ride. Unusual. The driver and I kept catching each other's eyes in the mirror.

Off of Polk Street, a cheery sight - silky pink curtains with a matching pink rug hanging out of the window of the Merit Hotel.