Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Bus Report #1035

Yesterday morning I went to Safeway in the morning, in the rain.
Emerged with a container of milk and an ice cream cake for an office birthday, too ungainly for me to carry the rest of the way to work.
I crossed the street and got on a 22 Fillmore - one operator instructing another new guy about the route.
"Hey, hey, it's been a while," said the instructing operator as I got on. It was James, who used to drive the 33 in the mornings.
I smiled and said, "How's it going?"
We chatted in between his instructions to the new driver.
I hopped out at Connecticut and hoped they both had a good day. As I turned the corner, another 22 Fillmore pulled up, this one piloted by a waving and honking Leon.

In the afternoon Keith helmed our 22 Fillmore - no nonsense as people shoved in, blocking the doors, everyone else just generally being weird or creepy or both. My seatmate had been drinking and he kept dozing off, the weight of his body sagging against me. I didn't mind until we were going down a hill and gravity pushed him right up close, tight to my side.

Across from us sat a man I see from time to time, vacant eyes, open mouth, trying to sell people drawings he made with sharpies on regular copier paper. No takers.

Geary and we missed the 38R, no big deal, the Hemulen was at the wheel of the 38 right behind it.

I was back in the neighborhood 20 minutes later.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bus Report #1034

This morning, walking to the bus, I passed A. who was walking on the other side of the street in the opposite direction. We waved.

Approaching the bus stop but still a block away I saw the bus pull up and then peel off again. I slowed my pace - no need to rush now - and glanced in the window of the clothing boutique near the corner. Pretty summer stuff, I might check it out one of these days.

My bus arrived shortly, no other passengers besides me.

We rode in silence for quite a while, until we picked up a few regulars in the Haight.

On the corner by Hobson's Choice, a homeless woman stood surrounded by bags of stuff. She looked confused, her mouth open, a saucepan overturned on her head instead of a hat.
It was odd, though not the oddest thing I've seen on someones head before. That would be the person on the 22 Fillmore last year who looked to be wearing a jaunty sailor's cap, but it was actually a paper hot dog container, leaking food onto their hair.

I stopped at the store for some fruit and kept walking down 16th to work.
Exchanged "good morning" waves with the guys at the garage.

A bus honked behind me and I turned around to see Leon piloting a 22 Fillmore, honking and waving at me as he passed by. He pulled in to the next bus stop and I hurried to get on.
"I've been looking for you now I'm back on the 22, but I think you're earlier than I am usually," he said, grinning.
"It's good to see you," I replied. "How've you been?"
We caught up on the past few months, joked and laughed until we got to my stop.
"Have a great day and stay dry," I told him.
"You too, see you later," he said.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Bus Report #1033

Early mornings at the bus stop with the Frenchman (Paul?) and with Olga.
She can spot a bus from a mile away - her knees may not work anymore but those eyes, sharp.
Paul asks me questions about this country that I am at a loss to answer. Why so many guns? Why so much racism? I wish I could answer him. But I just don't know.

Twice last week, in less than 13 hours, I ran in to people who used to work in my building. J., who I haven't seen in over three years, and A. who I haven't seen in almost four years. A. still lives in my neighborhood and since last week we've taken to saying hi in the mornings as we both cross paths by the donut place.
J. I saw in the Castro. He's always friendly, always seems on the verge of saying something profound, but then he just smiles and ducks his head and wanders off.

In the afternoon I ride Kevin's bus, then catch the 38 driven by a man who reminds me of a children's book character,  the Hemulen from the Tove Jansson books.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Bus Report #1032

This morning I was early to the bus stop, but so was Paul so we got to talking.
He'd been nervous about passing his driver's test the other day, though he has licenses in several other countries. This was his third try.
"Good morning, how are you?" he asked.
"I'm fine, the question is, how are YOU?" I said, grinning.
He made a face. "Ah, yes, the test. I am.... I am great!"
"Yes!" I smiled and punched the air. "That's good news."

We talked about driving (he was shocked I don't have my license), and then he wondered what earthquakes were like, so we talked about those, too.

Time passed. Too much time. Another semi-regular, the kid with the skateboard, got fed up and got a Lyft.

A moment later, Annie pulled up in the 33, her only passenger the rude Russian woman.

At the next stop we picked up a handful of regulars, including the mom with the two sons. The older boy has to be almost 13 but he is still sweet with his mom and his younger brother, who is still one of the most beautiful kids I've ever seen. Beautiful and getting too big for his stroller. What will they do when he outgrows it?

By St. Mary's we took on a wheelchair passenger, a woman wearing a very long, very matted, auburn wig. She couldn't figure out how to set the chair brakes so Annie had to get up and help her. The woman proceeded to start brushing the very tangled wig as though it were real hair. a cloud of red hair already clogged the bristles.

It became obvious that the earlier bus had simply never shown up, as we took on more and more passengers. The giant genie.other regulars. In front of our bus, I saw one of the women who gets on by the old fire station hop into a Lyft.

The bus turned the corner onto Market and just as we straightened out, the little boy's stroller tipped and fell over sideways. Everyone - and I really mean everyone - gasped and three men rushed to help the mom pick the stroller back up. Annie pulled over.

The little boy wailed - it seemed to be more from shock than pain - and the mom and big brother checked to see if he was okay.

Annie came over, asking in English and then in Spanish if he was okay, if the mom wanted her to call an ambulance. The mom said he was okay.
"Segura?" Annie asked.
The mom nodded. "Yes, yes." She comforted her son, stroked his cheeks and hands and whispered to him as we continued on our way.
She looked up an I smiled at her. We've got you, I wanted to say. All of us, any time, we've got you.

Bus Report #1031

Monday morning I turned the corner and there was Olga waiting in our bus stop. She waved her cane at me and pointed down Arguello. "Three three," she said, and sure enough the number 33 bus was arriving, early.

We greeted each other in our mixture of Russian, English and French and got on board.

"Dosvedanya," I said as she got out at her stop. She waved and said the same.
In the back of the bus, the Russian woman who always skypes her son leaned forward and cut her eyes at me, accusatory and rude as usual, no reason, just her personality. I doubt my accent was convincing enough for her to think I understood her marathon conversations with her son, but I'll keep her guessing.

That afternoon, I caught a different 22 Fillmore coming home. It was a driver I have occasionally. He grinned and said, "Hey, have you been cheating on me with that other bus?"
I laughed. "It's not you, it's me," I told him.

Tuesday morning, just me and the Frenchman (what are we calling him? Paul?) waiting at the stop. We ended up chatting as we always do, about his school, weekend plans, the differences between San Francisco and the other places he has lived. It's nice, talking to other people while waiting. It makes the time go faster. Which is especially important when the bus is running late.

After work on Friday I had plans to meet S. in North Beach, so I headed out to catch the 10, which was already running behind schedule. I waited, and waited, long enough to watch two 22 Fillmores roll past.
One was driven by the driver I call Keith. He opened the door and said, "Where you going tonight?"
"To North Beach, if the 10 ever shows up."
He nodded. "That's a decent bus, it should be here soon."
"I hope so," I said. Two people were running down the hill at breakneck speed. "You've got a couple people coming, hang on," I told him.
He waited, and the two runners slowed their pace as they approached the bus. They got on, Keith waved, and they were off.

Five minutes later I was on a crowded 10, headed towards North Beach and S.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bus Report #1030

Yesterday afternoon we were eating lunch in the park, sunglasses on, jackets off.
This morning the rain pounded the neighborhood and hit from all directions when the wind changed course. I huddled under an awning with the Frenchman, and we waited for the bus while bemoaning the overnight change in the weather.

"It was so beautiful these last days," he said.
"I know. And the bus is officially late," I replied, checking my watch.
We chatted about neighborhood restaurants we liked, and pondered the new place on the corner that has yet to open. Is it a cafe? A wine bar? We had no idea.

When the bus arrived, the Frenchman held his umbrella over us both and we hurried inside.
Annie was driving. "No leader bus this morning, huh?" and she grinned and told us to hold on.

We settled into the bus, dripping water everywhere.

Everyone was wet - from the woman in the rain slicker and tall boots to the guy who's dog was wearing a bright yellow doggy rain coat.

When we got to my stop it was still pouring.
Waved goodbye to Annie and then several of us hurried to catch the 22 Fillmore bus that was stuck at the light.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bus Report #1029

Bus people.

We are legion, we're clustered on every city block, sometimes in a bus shelter, sometimes under an awning while rain drips down and soaks our coats.

We are the four year olds from the daycare on Dolores, colorful rain boots and tiny umbrellas, eating cheesy chips from little packets before dinner.

We are Olga, with our cane and our stylish winter coat, sitting by the pizza place for twenty minutes to wait for a bus to take us one block.

We're the neighbor who always thinks we're being followed home down the block late at night, despite living a few doors apart from each other for years.

We're teenagers, so, so many teenagers. On our way to and from sports practices and games, carrying our school books in enormous backpacks, being loud and yelling across the bus to our friends, but being sweet at the same time; flirting with babies and giving up our seats to old folks. Listening to music on our phones. Hunching over notebooks to finish homework before school.

We're Mauricio. Bright yellow sweatshirt, huge early morning grin, "Good morning, Raquel," chatting about our love of beer and the beach, our wonderful daughters, our clever grandson.

We're the Frenchman, so in awe of the vastness of California, so not in love with our San Francisco weather. "I did not think it would be so cold here, there are palm trees."

We are the adult chaperones from the youth center, trying to corral twenty sixth graders into a crowded 38R bus, holding the doors open while counting the kids who have streamed into every open spot on the bus.

We're the mom with the two sons, running for the 33 in the rain, and then wrestling a stroller through the open door and into the bus while our driver tells us there's no need to run, she'll always wait for us.

We're the man who coaxes a stranger to share his umbrella in last night's rain.
We're the stranger who says thank you and angles our heads and shoulders under that umbrella.

We're the woman reading Michelle Obama's book on the 38 yesterday, the man reading a bio of Elon Musk sitting next to her, the woman reading the fat romance novel across the aisle from them both.

We are your friend who checks three different transit apps while you're getting your Lyft.

We are your friend who can recall all the Muni lines where we've met men we've gone out with, but we can't remember the men's names.

We are a community of riders who worry when regulars disappear and rejoice when they return.

We have our favorite drivers, our favorite buses, our favorite routes, our favorite seats.

We are bus people.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bus Report #1028

Rainy afternoon last week, waiting for the bus. I wanted to take the 10 so I could run some errands downtown before a meeting, but the bus was nowhere in sight yet.
M., a friendly guy with a yappy little show dog, walked down the hill to stand and chat. We work in the same building and he's nice. We like to catch up and commiserate about work whenever we see each other. He zipped his dog into her carrier and we waited, the rain light enough that it didn't necessitate an umbrella but heavy enough that everything was getting wet.
"I'd love to be home already," M. said, "shoes off, with a nice single malt."
I smiled. "That sounds amazing. I might do that when I get home."
We got to talking about our favorite whiskys, and it turns out we're both fans of Islay single malts, though I like mine more peaty than he does. I confess to a moment of giddiness thinking about Islay, and Highland Cows, and sitting in the Lagavulin distillery last spring. I might have done a little happy dance, but I can't remember.
He told me about a new whisky bar downtown and we talked Scotch until the 10 Townsend appeared over the top of the hill.
"I hope yours comes soon, too," I said, heading for the 10.
The 22 was right behind it.
I hope M. got his wish that night.