Friday, January 18, 2019

Bus Report #1022

I left the office a few minutes later than normal last night. As I turned the corner onto 17th, I saw my usual afternoon driver - I call him Kevin but that's not his name - and my usual bus.
I waved, figured I'd catch the next one.
But Kevin stopped the bus and gestured for me to hurry and get in.
I jogged across the street and got on, thanked him profusely.

At Hayes I caught sight of the tree that had come down the other night in the storm, huge limbs torn off and everything still piled in the street, covered with caution tape.

Down the hill by the church at McAllister, another tree hanging heavily over the church fence.
Those ficus trees, they do not do well in bad weather.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bus Report #1021

Rain.
And lots of it.
I've learned a few things this week: My trusty old Dr. Marten boots are perfect rain boots if I wear wool socks in them, my umbrella is actually decent, and I love how dark the sky gets just before the rain comes.
I've also learned how generous some people can be. The other night I didn't have the umbrella with me and I crowded into the Fillmore and Geary bus shelter with a handful of other folks. A woman looking at the NextBus console had a bright yellow umbrella and she automatically shifted it so it covered us both.
A few minutes later, the water was fast collecting in a couple potholes right at the edge of the sidewalk. I moved to stand by the Boom Boom Room mural to avoid getting splashed. I'd have been fine in the rain for the few minutes before the bus arrived, but a smiling woman in a bad sheitel beckoned me over to stand under her umbrella with her. I told myself to be nice but it was a very bad wig and I had to force myself to stop staring at it.

Yesterday I was woken up by that 4:40 in the morning earthquake.
Couldn't get back to sleep and ended up just laying awake until my alarm went off.
NextBus wasn't showing Tasha's bus so I lingered over my tea, until suddenly her bus was on schedule, in 18 minutes. I threw on my coat and grabbed my bag, slamming my lunch container against the wall as I went out (sorry, neighbors!).

Hustling down Clement I ran in to neighbor Joan, and we greeted each other and stopped a moment to catch up. I resigned myself to missing the bus but what can you do? I'll take the human connection over the early bus any day. We talked about our holiday breaks and her klepto sister in law.

She headed to the donut shop and I walked to the bus stop. Figured I'd missed Tasha's bus but that Annie would be along shortly.

A moment later, Tasha pulled up.

"I thought I'd missed you," I told her.
"Nah," she said. "That earthquake this morning messed with everyone's schedules, cause of BART."
It made sense. If you drive for Muni but take BART to get to work, you're waiting around for BART to finish post-earthquake inspections before you can even start getting into San Francisco.

This morning, another earthquake. I thought my fridge was doing a death rattle, but nope.
Waiting for the bus with Olga, the two of us pantomiming earthquakes and last night's rainstorm.
The bus came into view. I can never read the display but her eyes are sharp.
"The three three," she said, pointing at the bus.
I squinted. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, three three," she replied.

We greeted Tasha and I went to sit down.
At the next stop Olga got out, as usual. I said goodbye to her in Russian as she'd taught me, and she smiled.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Bus Report #1020

And just like that, it is a new year.

I bussed around town quite a bit over the holiday break, the city looking and feeling very different than it does at 7 AM or at 5 PM. Less people on board, more people queuing up at bakeries. I took the 33 the length of the entire route (just about), while I checked in on the L. household pets a few days around Christmas.

I walked back to the bus the long way, cutting through the heart of the Mission to catch it up near Valencia. Bought plantains along 24th Street. Stopped in a cafe for a while, to re-read M Train by Patti Smith. There's nothing like being the only reader in a cafe of laptops. Of tearing up on page ten, needing to compose yourself, and then getting right back to business.
Thank you for your words, and happy belated birthday, Patti.

One afternoon a very volatile woman was yelling at a sweet family because she didn't think their toddler was safe in her stroller. The little girl was fine, her family was baffled but polite, and the woman just kept yelling. Everyone on the bus got involved. Either yelling for the woman to sit down or get off the bus, or lamenting the lack of civility on public transit. I said nothing but was ready to spring into action if necessary.
A homeless couple sat near the family and they chatted and smiled with the kids to help defuse the tension. When they got out at Castro with their backpacks and walking sticks, the family waved good bye and the little girl called out, "Bye! Bye! Bye!"
The woman, by that time mumbling about something else, got out a block later. The little girl waved good bye to her, too.

New Year's Eve, headed down to Nob Hill for dinner with S. and C. The man sitting in front of me was beautiful and stylish. Light green hat with matching Chucks and a dark-wash denim jacket with complicated-looking pleating on the back and shoulders.

Twice I ran in to Axe body spray guy - he spotted me from a block away on Clement Street both times, waved with both arms, smiled widely. Merry Christmas, he said the first time. Happy New Year, the second time. I wished him the same and grinned right on back.

This morning I waited for the bus with Olga. We exchanged our trilingual pleasantries (she slips into French sometimes) and she taught me - or rather, attempted - to teach me how to say "It's cold" in Russian. I think I need more lessons.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Bus Report #1019

Yesterday morning the sky was charcoal grey and black, such subtle gradations I could not stop looking up as I walked to the bus. My boots could use some love. I could feel the heels flop just a bit as I walked. I guess it's time to take them in for resole/reheeling.

I got there earlier than usual, waited with a kid who kept kicking his skateboard and a man who looks like Rich from the show Community, very... preppy and pretty and clean. Too clean. He has a habit of standing too close to me, less than an arm's length, and usually right behind me. It is unnerving and I always end up having to move.

Men of San Francisco, hear my plea: while waiting in a bus stop (from a tiny shelter to a big one that takes up most of a block), find a spot to stand that is not right behind or right beside the only other person waiting there, especially if she doesn't see or hear you approach and it is dark out.
Odds are good you aren't about to commit a crime but we don't know that and there's no one else around.

Today I caught the earlier bus again. Humorless Russian woman who is always facetiming her son, the woman with the noxious garlic tea, and the Axe body spray guy were all present and accounted for.

I got on and immediately opened a bunch of windows. It wasn't enough and now I can still smell that bad, bad cologne on my jacket.

Near the office, stopped into Philz where a man ordered a Mint Mojito coffee... without the mint.
I wanted to intervene, but I try not to involve myself with the unstable, so I didn't. A regular coffee would have sufficed, and been cheaper for him. Ah well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Bus Report #1018

Yesterday morning the bus was late for the second day in a row (no Tasha, but Annie was our friendly driver twice!), but at least my sweet, elderly Russian friend was also waiting for the "three three," as she calls it.

We always try to talk to each other, now that I call out my Russian good morning and she replies in English. But it is hard. I've never wanted to learn Russian or French before but I do now, just so I can chat with her and make her laugh.

I stood near her as she sat on the bench by the pizza place. I think she forgets sometimes, about the language differences, because she started speaking in Russian. I just shook my head and apologized for not understanding.

"You grandparents Russia?" she asked. I'd mentioned before that my great-great grandparents were Russian - or at least from that part of the world, depending on where borders were from year to year.

"Yes," I said. For simplicity's sake.

We stumbled along as we do. Where was the bus? It was late. How were here knees? Not so good.

Finally, the bus was in sight. We stood up and walked to the curb. She pressed her hand against her chest. "Olga," she said. "And you?"

I smiled. "Rachel," I told her. "Nice to meet you, Olga."

"Rachel," she replied, sounding it out in her pretty accent. "Rachel."

She stood in the front while I made my way to a seat in the back. As she got out at the next stop, she waved and I waved back.


*Well, we will call her Olga, because I like that name, but it is really something else equally as lovely.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bus Report #1017

Back on the bus after an extended trip back east for the holiday and my sister's wedding.
Monday morning, Tasha behind the wheel. At Geary the mom with the two sons got on, sat right in front of me. We exchanged our good mornings. I asked how Thanksgiving was.
She smiled. "We ate so much food. Too much! And my mom, she made tamales, and they are so good."
"That sounds amazing," I told her.

Further along our route, the giant genie. Settling into his seat with his coffee and his oatmeal, his lotion, the dandy brush. His nail polish a subtle purple grey. He looks up from the oatmeal and smiles, and I almost die right there in my seat. Giant genie! Giant genie!

The cat in the window on 18th looks down on our bus and flicks his tail. We are all his subjects, and he knows it.



Monday, November 12, 2018

Bus Report #1016

I crisscrossed the city this weekend, mostly on Muni. The bad air quality made everyone a little quieter, more subdued.
I wanted to open the windows on the 28 on Saturday so I could smell the Eucalyptus in the Presidio, but the smoke was too thick.
Fort Mason was packed with people going to and from Renegade and Radhaus. My merry band of writers sat inside in Goody Cafe for a few hours, people watching in between typing.

Heading home I watched the parade of good and bad smoke protection masks. Most people were wearing the same thin hospital masks you can buy at any dollar store. Useless. Some people had slightly better ones but still. I can count the number of actual good, appropriate masks on one hand.

This morning the 33 was almost empty, I assume because people had the day off for Veteran's Day.
At Church Street a familiar smiling man got on. It was Mauricio.
He waved and grinned, said "Hello, Raquel," and slid into the seat beside me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him, because usually he gets on at 16th and Mission.
He gestured to the J Church that was just passing by. "24th Street," he said.
We chatted, in our usual mix of Spanish and English. Checked in on each other's weekend.

He told me of his Christmas shopping plans out at Serramonte with his seven year old "Grandbaby" - I think he's getting him a new shirt? It was unclear, but his love and pride for his grandson were the clearest things on this morning's commute.

We got out at Potrero and he waited for the 22 to take him the rest of the way.
"Have a good day, Raquel," he called after me.
To which I replied, "Que te vaya bien, nos vemos."