Friday, October 21, 2016

Bus Report #942

Once again, people surprise me. Or perhaps it is just that I'm a cynical and jaded jerk.

I took the bus back to work from the Potrero Center this afternoon.
The other folks waiting for the bus were friendly and chatty. Pleasant.

When the 22 arrived, the driver was a familiar one. He grinned, said, "What are you doing here?"
"Just taking a break," I replied, "If that's okay."
"I'll allow it," he said.

There was a slightly creepy guy hunched over his battered suitcase, quietly cursing to himself. Dirty, wild hair, feet splayed out into the aisle, suitcase blocking the way.

Two moms and their babies sat in the front of the bus, the babies babbling and grabbing, the moms softly speaking with them.

When the bus got to De Haro, one of the moms struggled to get her stroller out the back door. The creepy guy jumped up and grabbed the front of the stroller to help her lift it down.
"Hold up, hold up, driver," he said, "we got a stroller coming out."

A few stops later, the other mom, a young girl with her sweet baby strapped to her chest, a huge stroller in tow, needed to get out of the bus. Again, the guy hopped up and helped her out, and then once she was out, he picked up a fallen baby toy and handed it back to her.

I held the door for him so he could get back in.

He was a good man, not creepy at all. I wondered if he had kids, or grand kids.

I hope he has a great weekend.

Bus Report #941

This morning the bus pulled up right on time, and I got on.
The driver had been waving and honking at the driver of the 2 Clement, the two of them trading honks and grins as they passed each other.
"You're always so cheery in the morning, I really appreciate it," I told him as we did our usual "good mornings/how are yous."
Another regular, a woman who I think is a construction worker, chimed in, "I know, I appreciate it too, it really makes my morning before my coffee's even kicked in yet."
The driver just smiled at us and continued along our route.

I haven't mentioned him lately, but the giant genie has been on the bus a lot recently.
He was gone most of the summer but as soon as school started, he was back. Imagine if he were your teacher! I like to think his students are really young, and that to them, he is truly a giant.

His beard maintenance routine continues to mesmerize me. This morning he applied his beard balm, and then combed and combed and combed. He combed his eyebrows, too, and then squirted some lotion on his hands and moisturized his hands and then his head. I could watch him all day.
Maybe he should make YouTube videos!

Last night my 22 Fillmore driver grinned as I got on and said, "Here she is! Right on time!" He's funny, and friendly. I don't remember him from before but he seems to know me from the route, from years ago. "You've been catching an earlier bus, haven't you?" he asked me, when I first noticed him several months ago.

In the back of the bus sat the Roche Bobois guy. We always say hi to each other, even if it's just a quick head nod of acknowledgement.

Later, on the 38, a polite kid with a backpack and extra sneakers dangling from his hand had to squish close to me to let people off and then on the bus.
"I'm sorry," he said, as he pushed against my shoulder.
"No worries," I told him. "Nothing we can do about it."

The 38 let me out at 6th and I walked home. An elderly woman I often see in the mornings walked by. We always chat a moment as we pass each other at 7th and Clement.
"Hi," I said, and she stopped walking and held out her hand.
"I'm Joan," she said.
"Rachel, nice to meet you," I replied.
"Nice to officially meet you, too," she said.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bus Report #940

The 33 was late this morning. Not five minutes late, not ten. Twenty five minutes late.

I was annoyed and every time a 33 whooshed by in the opposite direction I thought, finally, this guy will turn around in a few minutes. But no. Late, late, late.

Finally, I saw our friendly driver, the one who looks like Jason, the original headphones guy.
As he passed by my stop, he leaned all the way out the window and hollered, "Can you believe it, I broke down this morning! That's why I'm so behind!"
He smiled and shook his head.

"Aw, man," I yelled back. "That sucks!"

A few minutes later, a different driver picked me up. He said, "Hey, good morning to you."

I couldn't really be mad any more. They were doing their best - which is hard to do when the electric buses get stacked up behind an out of service vehicle.

The bus was full the entire commute, people from what would have been my bus and other buses in between.

I got out at my usual stop and waved goodbye to the driver. As I crossed 16th Street, I could see another 33 pull up right behind him.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bus Report #939

Walking to the bus stop this morning, I could feel the promise of rain in the air. There was a soupy heaviness to it, and the sky was a dark shade of blue-black-green.
The wind grabbed my hair, twisting and pulling it in every direction so that my shadow on the sidewalk made me look like a Medusa.

I waited in the dark for the bus. My new favorite morning driver, the one who reminds me of Jason (the original headphones guy), sped by in the opposite direction. He waved at me as he passed by. A few days ago he told me he thought I must love fresh air, since I spend so much time waiting outside for the bus. I told him he was right, I do like fresh air. But I also like catching the bus on time.

Just a few minutes later he was headed back. He stopped and I got on the bus. "You don't take a break before you turn around?" I asked. "You're always so quick."

He smiled. "Well, I could, but this time of the morning I'm still fresh and I'd rather just get out there." He picked up a piece of paper - it was the schedule of when he is supposed to get to each stop. "See, it says here I'm supposed to hit Castro and 18th at 6:14, and then Stanyan and Haight at 6:26,* but that's crazy cause sometimes it takes fifteen minutes, and then it throws everything off."

"Wow, they should re-time the distances, that seems a little fast, even in the morning," I replied.

"Yeah, it can really mess you up for the whole shift," he said.

We chatted some more and then I went to sit down.

Everyone who got on the bus was wearing their version of foul weather gear. One girl, who usually had sandals or flip flops on, wore black Hunter boots. Another woman traded her sweatshirt for a heavy-duty rain coat. I am never dressed properly for the weather, my only concession to the day was my tall boots, worn for the first time this season.

Later, walking down 16th Street, I saw a man who I always think might be named Richard or Ricardo, not that I have any real idea. We've been commuting in the same direction for years. We have finally started saying hi to each other when our paths cross. Today he was on a 22 Fillmore, sleepily staring out the window. We acknowledged each other with a slight tilt of the head, a nod. He grinned.

*The times may be different than what I reported above, what can I say, it was early in the morning!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bus Report #938

Last night, on a crowded and stuffy 22 Fillmore, the woman sitting in front of me took out a plastic food container from Safeway and began eating sushi.
Nothing against Safeway but the sushi was... fragrant. She should not have been eating it, it smelled off.
She just kept shoveling it in. Piece after fishy piece.

I hopped out at McAllister and waited for the 5 Fulton. Nearby, someone smoked a clove cigarette and the scent of cloves washed the bad sushi smell away.

Bus Report #937

On Tuesday I took the 19 Polk down to meet up with the Tuesday night folks at our cafe on Polk and Washington.

Just as the bus was turning from Larkin onto Geary, a petite, blond woman stepped off the curb. I thought she might get hit by the back wheels of our bus, but she didn't.

Instead, a man who had been talking to her as she walked rushed up behind her and slammed her in the back of the head, and she fell down into the gutter. The man shoved her and grabbed her bag. He stole something from her purse, but I couldn't see what it was. A bottle? A phone?

Everyone on the bus stood up, simultaneously exclaimed something - someone gasped, I think I said "Oh, god," or something similar, and several other people tried to get the driver's attention, or yelled out the window, or just went, "whoa, whoa, whoa."

The bus stopped to let people on and off.

I looked back to see what was happening. I wanted to call the police but by now, the woman had wandered off and the man had stalked down the sidewalk a few feet, then turned, yelled at someone, and then entered the building next to Woerner's Liquors. What could I even say? That the man had a blue shirt, the woman was blond and looked years older than she probably was, that they seemed to know each other?

I did nothing. Spent the rest of the evening hoping the woman was all right.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Bus Report #936

Chatty, happy people on the 22 Fillmore this afternoon - unusual.

My first seatmate was a tall older man (he would later tell me he was 51) in shorts and a T-shirt. He had just gotten some free acupuncture at the Chinese medicine school up on the hill.
He needed to talk, so I let him.
He grew up in San Francisco and was currently staying with an elderly relative out by the zoo.
"Did you know the Zoo is free once a month?" he told me. "Sometimes I like to just go and see the animals."
"Just swing through and say hey, huh?" I replied.
He got nostalgic, telling me about his Inner Sunset elementary school days, the lumpy oatmeal his dad made, the powdered milk his mother reconstituted and served.
He got up and shouldered his fanny pack and stepped out of the bus at Mission and 16th.

My new seatmate was a stocky kid, 22 years old at the most. He had a 49ers jacket and matching hat, a scraggly beard, jeans. He had a folder that he held in both hands. If it wasn't for his round cheeks, he could have been tough.

He looked at me - the kind of barely sneaky sideways glance that says: I'm checking you out. I'm checking out out but I'm trying to be cool about it.
He said, "Hey, I like your pins."
I've got three small buttons on the left side of my jacket right now: one from City Lights, a vintage Clash pin, and a pin that the Teacher's Pet gave me that says WRITER.

"Thanks," I said.
He gestured at my City Lights button. "You work at the bookstore?" he asked.
"Nope, I just like the place," I said.
He put the folder down on his lap and held out his hand. "I'm Fredo," he said.
I shook it. "Rachel."

"I asked about the store cause I'm looking for a job," he said. "So I thought, maybe you knew if they were hiring."
We talked a little about how hard it is to find full time retail work these days. He had a line on a job, an interview set up for tomorrow.
I wished him luck.

"So, what are you doing right now?" he asked.
"Oh, I work in an office," I said.
"No, I mean, like right now. You want to get something to eat with me? I'm thinking of grabbing some pizza."

Oh, Fredo buddy. A nice kid, but no.

I told him I was on my way somewhere.
He asked for my number, but I declined. He offered his number.
"Or is it like, you like chicks?" he asked.
Not into chicks, I told him.
We chatted a bit more and then we got to his stop. "Maybe I'll see you around," he said, shaking my hand again.
"Maybe," I said. "Good luck with the job interview."

He was sweet, I hope he gets the job he wants.

A few stops later, two dads got on with their kids. One dad had a little boy, a smiley kid who was so cute that even the humorless man standing by the back door had to grin and wave to the boy. The other dad, an older guy, sat down while his pretty tween daughter leaned on his shoulder and teased him about his hat.

They were lovely, the dads and their kids.  

A toothless drunk man swayed in the aisle but it was okay - he smiled at the kids, said "excuse me" when he bumped in to people, and eventually slouched into a seat in the back of the bus.

I got out at my usual stop, a little perplexed at the amount of good citizenship and good cheer on the 22 Fillmore, on a Monday afternoon.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Bus Report #935

This morning, the heat in my apartment kicked on as I was getting ready to head out.

Outside it was cold and dark. The sky was blue-black with a thin ribbon of white-blue at the top. No fog, and no wind.

A few people sat huddled over coffees at the doughnut place.

The homeless woman I worry about, constantly, was still asleep in her blankets in her usual doorway.

Further down the street, past the steamy windows of the Chinese bakery, past the propped-open door at Schubert's and the open door to the wetsuit landing, a man stood in a shop entry way. Was he talking to himself? Was he peeing? No. He was talking with, or at, a girl who sat cross legged on the ground with her back against the door. He wandered away up the street. The girl said, "She's the one. She's the one who did it."

I hurried past her, not wanting to be the 'she' the girl was talking about.

As I neared the bus stop, the woman who is always running past me to catch the 38 walked by.
"I think I'm on time today," she said, pausing to chat for a moment.
"Have a great weekend," I told her. "Hope you catch your bus all right."
"Thanks," she said. She waved and continued on her way.

Across the street from the bus stop, the blinds in two second-floor apartments were open and the lights were on. In one apartment a man sat with his toddler son. They ate breakfast while a TV blinked bright light that cast a weird shadow across the man's face.

In the other apartment, to my surprise, a man walked around the room naked, his back to the street. He stretched. He bent over and picked something up. Then, he sat down - on a bed, I imagine? and embraced his partner, someone I could not really see except for their black shirt with long sleeves.

I turned away. It was their moment, not mine.

In Potrero Hill I watched three crows fight over slices of pizza that had been lying on the sidewalk for two days.

Robins hopped across the green grass at Jackson Park. They are fearless little birds. One of them hopped closer to the fence and I swear he was watching me.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Bus Report #934

This morning while I waited for the 33, the 21 sped towards our stop, as it has done for the past month. Muni must be routing it from the yard on Presidio.

But today was different. Instead of passing right on by, the bus slowed and the driver opened the door.
"You're a 21, not a 33, right?" I asked, peering in.
He nodded. "Yeah but I'll give you a ride to Stanyan if that's where you're headed."
How very nice of him!
I thanked him and told him I'd wait, and wished him a great day. He waved and drove off.

Five minutes later, my bus arrived. The driver was the man with the recently sprained wrist.
We greeted each other warmly.
"Hey, how's the wrist?" I asked.
"Aw, it's great, I don't have to wear my splint anymore," he replied.
"That's great news," I told him, and then walked back and took a seat.

Later, crossing the street in Potrero Hill, the smiley driver from a couple weeks ago rode by in his accordion bus, waving and grinning as he went.