Friday, June 26, 2015

Bus Report #880

Gorgeous foggy morning today. As the 33 made its way through the Panhandle and the Haight the fog was thick and alive, completely shrouding JFK Drive, crawling its way over Oak Street and climbing up the hill to cover Twin Peaks.

The sun came up just as we began our descent into the Castro - and this is when I should have known today was destined for greatness. The Castro was only just waking up and beginning its day. All down 18th Street, from Castro to Mission, newly hung rainbow flags draped from windows and balconies.

The bus dropped me off at Potrero and I walked the rest of the way to work, waving to the guys at the garage, stepping around trash strewn beneath the freeway, trying not to wake up the man sleeping in a sunny spot on the corner of Vermont and 16th.

And then I got the news on my phone, the Supreme Court making gay marriage the law of the land, and I smiled. And then I cried tears of happiness for the Professor and JD, and for my cousins and friends, and for all of us, really.

Happy, happy Friday!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bus Report #879

It was late, and I was tired, blinking in the florescent light of the 22 Fillmore.

A man sat down beside me. He didn't leave any space between our bodies and I tried to slide closer against the window but it made no difference. The entire length of our ride I could feel his thigh against my thigh, his shoulder and arm against my shoulder and arm.
He smelled peculiar; like cigarettes and fresh mint but something earthier, deeper than cigarettes and mint. Something I've never smelled before. Almost astringent.

He had two plastic shopping bags, heavy with groceries. He set them down between his legs and spent most of the ride keeping the bags upright, and trying to catch my eye.
I've had a cold this week and my voice was shot, my mouth and throat dry, a cough trying to free itself from my chest. I did not want to talk to my seat mate. I wanted to go home.

Near Turk Street he rummaged in one of the bags and took out a red delicious apple, slightly bruised.
He held it out to me and his bloodshot eyes seemed to be imploring me to take it.
"No, thanks," I said, shaking my head. "No, thanks."
He said, "Me, Jordan. No English."
"You're from Jordan?" I croaked. My voice was not behaving.
"Jordan," he confirmed, trilling the 'r' and the 'd' just slightly.
He held my gaze and didn't look away. I didn't know what to say. I thought of his full grocery bags, of the apple.
I smiled and said the only thing I could think of that he might understand. "Ramadan?"

His eyes bore into mine for another moment. I tried to telegraph what I really meant to say to him: I hope you have a good Ramadan, I hope you have friends and family to share it with, and thank you for offering me your apple. You may not be from here, but you are welcome and I wish you well.

He nodded, slowly. "Yes, Ramadan. You? Jordan?"
"No," I said. I jabbed my finger at my chest. "American. From here."

The bus pulled in to Geary and I gestured that we'd reached my stop. "Good night," I called back to him as I ran down the stairs and dashed across the street to catch the 38 Geary.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bus Report #878

This week's warm weather has brought a much beloved (by me, at least) side effect - deliciously thick early morning fog. The foghorns have been going off all night long and into the early hours of the morning, lulling me to sleep at night and nudging me awake just before my alarm clock.

At the bus stop I can feel the morning damp against my face and neck and it feels so good. The Recology truck rumbles by and the driver steps down to collect trash and recycling. He smiles and waves and tosses the cans into the truck. He pulls a marker from his vest and scribbles something on top of one of the trash cans. When he leaves, I walk over to see what he wrote: Please call and request a bigger trash can.

The bus arrives, three women already on board. The Russian woman who works at UCSF is spread out in the seat in front of me, her swollen feet propped up against the side of the bus. Luckily for me, she does not loudly Skype her son this morning as she does so many mornings. When she sits in front of me she often angles her phone to get the best picture of herself and half the time I see the side of my face or my sleepy-looking eyes peering out behind her.
I don't think her son needs to see me when he talks to her.

The 33 Ashbury climbs up Ashbury and straight into the fog - fog so heavy it obscures the homes up on the hill, and further on, as the bus hairpin-turns onto Market, the fog coats everything below us. I can't see the Safeway sign at Church and Market, or any of the houses cascading down the hills towards the Castro.

The giant genie is unperturbed. Lotion, mustache balm, dandy comb, lotion again, and then we reach his stop on 16th and he stoops down to get out of the bus.

Further on down 16th a broken ceramic mug lies in three pieces scattered across the sidewalk.

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.