Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bus Report #877

Well, really more of a bus driver report...

I went to lunch in Potrero Hill with my coworkers today, and as we were finishing our food a familiar figure walked in to the restaurant.

It was my favorite driver, he of the dark glasses, lovely white-teeth smile, and his ever-present cap.

I slid off my stool and walked over, said, "Driver!" because though I think I know his name, I just wasn't sure.

My coworker, who also loves this driver (though it took us a while to realize we had the same favorite), joined me and we chatted with our favorite bus pilot for a few minutes. He hugged us and we told him we missed seeing him, and he told us he missed us too and that he was now driving at a different time of day, and had started driving an additional route as well.

It was great to see him.

See you soon, we told him.

And he smiled that friendly smile and went to order his lunch.

Bus Report #876

Saturday evening I headed to Cole Valley via the Inner Sunset, for a birthday party.

It was the kind of overcast and cold day that made me feel slow and a bit useless. I walked down to 6th Ave. to catch the 44. The bus arrived and I got on, sitting in the back.

We cruised down the street and through the park. No one waiting at any of the park stops.

I hopped out on 9th and Irving and transferred to the N Judah. I sat near the window so I could see where I was - I never remember my friend's cross-streets though I've been to their place many times.

A man sat across from me, staring out the window with unfocused eyes. He wore a hairnet - no, not a hairnet - it was a red mesh plastic bag that once held a few pounds of onions. Okay. Other than the plastic mesh hat and a dirt-streaked sweatshirt he seemed fairly normal. Maybe a bit out of it, but not completely in his own world.

A kid sat next to him, the kid's girlfriend a few feet away on the other side of the door. The kid and his girlfriend texted each other instead of talking across the aisle.

The man with the onion sack on his head turned his attention to the kid. He pointed to the phone.
"You texting?" he asked.
The kid nodded.
"You texting about me?"
The kid blushed, of course he was texting about the onion sack man, but he held his phone screen-in against his thigh and shook his head. "Just about a movie we're going to see," he said.

Three boys in skinny jeans and loafers got on, settled a few rows back. A man with curly hair and a big skateboard reminisced about the old days with his seatmate. His skateboard slid back and forth across the floor as the N Judah rolled down Irving.

I wasn't sure where my stop was so I pulled the signal cord and got out with a few blocks to go.

I almost walked past my friend's place but then I saw the open windows of their apartment, a handful of people sitting at the table. The room looked warm and inviting and I crossed the street, waving at the birthday girl before I had even reached the sidewalk.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bus Report #875

Friday before Memorial Day and I was a few minutes later than usual to catch the bus home after a long day.

Which of course meant that when the 22 Fillmore eventually arrived it was already packed and the only available seat was in the back of the bus, a front facing seat, across from a couple of guys nodding off in their seats, and a woman having a loud cell phone conversation.

The bus grew more and more crowded.

The nodding off guys tumbled out of the bus at Mission and 16th, were replaced by a tourist couple armed with camera and map. The wife studied the map, then closed it, then opened it again at each stop along 16th Street.

Later, by the Market Street Safeway, a couple of shaky, sunburned guys got on and made their way to the back of the bus. One of them was skinny and silent and he slumped into a window seat.

His friend, stockier, redder, twitchy, carried a large white bucket - the kind catering mustard or peanut butter comes in. The bucket was full of packs of ribs and a few cans of Coke - and I was almost certain everything had just been stolen from Safeway.

As soon as he was sitting down, the red man held up a packet of ribs and tried to sell it to the kid sitting across from him. The kid, like the rest of us, had no use for ribs of unknown provenance.

The man's voice did not match his appearance at all; it was as high pitched as the cartoon characters Alvin and the Chipmunks. The same effect you get from nitrous, right? But no sign of spent balloons or nitrous cartridges in sight.

He spent the rest of the ride trying to sell the ribs, the Cokes.

The tourist couple kept looking over at him, then looking away as soon as he offered them his products.

I got out at Geary and transferred to a 38R - and was soon on my way to a long weekend away from work, away from itinerant rib sellers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bus Report #874

This morning I waited over 45 minutes for the 33 Stanyan.

Yes, I could have taken the 38 to the 22, or taken a cab, but NextBus kept promising the bus was on its way, and I can't afford to take a cab every time Muni fails. Because that would be a lot of money.

So I waited. Waited with the guy who wears too much Axe body spray, waited with the mousy woman who always stands in the Ballet School doorway with her coat and hood gathered around her.

Waited while more and more people walked, ran, biked and drove by.

Waited while the sun grew brighter, so that I had to put on my sunglasses.

Listened to an entire episode of the Scott Free Podcast.

And then, yes! The bus arrived.

We got on and then the driver hollered back, "I'm only going to Mission."

I was angry. "What's going on this morning?" I asked her. "We waited for 45 minutes."

She explained there had been an accident (she did not say where) and that the buses had been stuck behind it. "There's another bus behind me," she said.

I got off the bus and waited for the 'bus behind her'.

Ten minutes later it showed up and we slowly made our way towards Potrero.

But not without the wires coming down twice.

And not without some Upper Haight street rat kids cursing out the driver for not picking them up. The kids cursed the driver, and their dogs barked, and then the kids threw cups of coffee at the bus.

The rest of the ride smelled like milky coffee and cheap cologne (once the Axe body spray guy got back on the bus at Mission).

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bus Report #873

Another morning with the giant genie and his beard care routine.
He shakes a few drops of his oil onto his comb and quickly combs it into his beard. I can't say if it makes a difference but he seems to swear by it.

Karen, the woman I split a cab with the other day, gets on and we say 'good morning' and wave to each other.

It's sunny this morning but there's still fog and when we turn from Corbett onto Market the city is golden with a dark grey fog ribbon hovering above it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bus Report #872

This morning, all was well on the 33 Ashbury/18th until we turned from Haight onto Ashbury - where our bus suddenly lost power.
The driver tried to restart the bus a few times but it was useless. At least she'd set the brakes so we didn't roll back down the slight incline into the intersection.
She called Control and, calmly and clearly, told them where we were stuck and what she thought the problem was.
They didn't understand, so she repeated herself three times, until they parroted back to her what she'd said, and then said they'd get right back to her.

She turned around and told us she was sorry but she had no power, and we weren't going anywhere. She said, "I'm really sorry I can't get you guys where you need to go this morning. But the next stop is just up there," and she gestured to the corner of the next street.

An elderly Russian woman frowned and said, "The same thing happened the other day and the driver he fix it."

I asked our driver if a bus would be able to go around her, or if it was an electrical issue.
"Oh, he should be able to get around me," she replied.
I tapped the fare box with my knuckles and wished her good luck.
She chuckled and said, "thanks, I need it."

The 10 or so of us who had been on the bus congregated on the corner. Most of the other riders were doctors, nurses and administrators at SF General, the man who reeks of Axe body spray and a woman I thought was a teacher at a school near the Castro.

One of the other regulars, a man with thick glasses and a pocket size radio he always listens to with the speaker jammed up against his ear, waved goodbye to the Axe body spray guy and walked off up the hill.

A couple minutes later another 33 bus came around the corner. Our savior!

But, no.

The driver cleared the corner and managed to come around the other bus, but then he too stopped and shook his head. No electricity in the over head wires, he said, getting out of the bus to come deliver the news to us.

Fantastic.

I could walk to work from the Upper Haight, but I really didn't want to. I've walked from Geary and Fillmore and it is a hike. This would be a mostly downhill journey, but still.

One of the SF General folks looked around and asked if anyone wanted to split a cab to General. The rest of the General folks agreed and they all clustered together to call a ride.

I turned to the young teacher. "Hey," I said, "You get out around Castro, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah, near there."
I asked her if she wanted to split a cab.
She looked at me, as though sizing me up, and agreed.

We walked down the hill to Haight, where I figured we'd have a good chance of getting a cab, or if no cabs were around, we could find a ride share.

Four cabs immediately streamed by. We caught one and headed down Haight to Divisadero.
The teacher's name was Karen. We chatted a little along the way. She likes teaching, and so far the year was going better than she'd thought it would at the start.

She got out at 17th and Church and I rode a bit further, and hopped out 16th and Bryant.

Well, I say hopped, but as uncoordinated as I am sometimes, it was more like a slide, then a stumble, and then a mad grab for the door handle.



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bus Report #871

A whole week and a half so far, riding the 33 Ashbury/18th Street (as the 33 Stanyan would now like to be called) with the giant genie.

The giant genie, his chatty and flirty friend, and the giant genie's beard grooming routine. And his eyebrow brushing routine. Good stuff. Beard oil. Dandy comb. Lotion and mustache balm and his black comb that reminds me of the plastic combs my dad always carried around in his pocket when we were all younger.

Much, much better than the man who was flossing his teeth on the 22 Fillmore last night. Ugggh.
The flossing was bad enough but then the man squirted something onto his finger from a tube, and I thought he was going to brush his teeth with his finger. Luckily, he was just applying lotion. Thank you gods of Muni, thank you. Most of the time I feel like it's more of a "are you there gods of Muni, it's me Rachel?" situation.

This morning my commute was made even better (better than the giant genie? But HOW?) by the New Yorker Fiction podcast. I listened to Tobias Wolff reading Denis Johnson. And my day was made.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bus Report #870

Last night on the 22, I sat across the aisle from one of the regulars, the friendly nurse.
My seatmate was a woman in a short jacket and an even shorter skirt, and flip flops. She was cold - I could see the goosebumps all over her bare legs. Not someone used to micro-climates and San Francisco layering practices, I supposed.

The bus filled up at Mission and someone who got on was blaring very loud music, I don't know what the style is called but it sounded like what you'd hear in a Bollywood film. Not bad music, but not something everyone on the bus needed to hear.

The problem was, the music was so loud it was hard to figure out where it was coming from. The friendly nurse and I exchanged annoyed glances. I turned up the volume on my headphones and tried to listen to my own music. Impossible.

I kept looking around for the culprit. Was it the woman playing with her phone two rows ahead of me? Was it her seatmate, with the peacock feather tattoo on the back of her neck? Or was it the woman in blue hot pants and the American flag halter top with the pork pie hat and the granny cart?

Everyone was a suspect.

Finally, at Church and Market, a man from the back of the bus walked forward, slowly, looking at everyone.
He zeroed in on the man sitting in front of me and said, "Would you mind turning it down, I can't hear my own music on my headphones."

The man sitting in front of me, heavy set, baseball-hatted, dusty-jacketed, overall incredibly non-descript, looked at the man who had just asked a very reasonable request. "Fuck you, I can do what I want. Why don't you use your headphones?" he spat.

The polite man said, "I already am," and returned to his seat.

The man sitting in front of me turned off his music to make a phone call. "Hold up," he told the person on the phone. "Lemme put you on speaker."

The friendly nurse and I exchanged disapproving looks and shook our heads. Someone else laughed, then groaned.

The jerk got off at the next stop and everyone, I am sure, was glad to see him go.