Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bus Report #885

Thank you to all the new folks who stopped by yesterday, your visit and comments are much appreciated.

Last night I dawdled at work a little longer than usual and then walked out to catch the 22 Fillmore.
The bus was crowded when it arrived. I sat in a rear-facing seat at the back of the bus - something I don't mind but that is often a bit disorienting to me.

Sitting across from me was a person in black overalls, black boots and a black denim jacket. Gender not obvious to me. They had tattoos on their hand - one in cursive that read: Auntie, and another that was the outline of a tooth. They spent the bulk of the ride on the phone, laughing, eyes wide and bright.

The bus filled up. At Bryant we idled for over five minutes but I wasn't sure why.
One man who had been sitting in the back row of seats sighed loudly and then bolted to his feet.
"Let me out," he growled, pushing his way through the other passengers to the door.

We rolled, slowly, down 16th and then up Church to Fillmore.

The man who always yells at buses on the corner of Church and Duboce was not there to yell at us, maybe he needed a day off.

A couple of guys got on at Turk and flopped in to the seats across from me. One of them looked so much like someone I used to know, he could have been his slightly beefier twin. The twin had a freshly trimmed beard and a baseball cap. His friend had a mop of curly hair (an expression I never use but which is perfect to describe this guy) and looked like an old friend from college. They kidded around with each other and chatted, gazed out the windows to get their bearings.

At Fillmore and Geary I ran for the 38 - there were two regulars and a limited - oops, I mean a 'rapid' - but just as I got to the stop the buses all pulled away.
The two guys who had been sitting across from me ran over, too, and started yelling at the drivers and thumping the sides of the leaving buses. They shook their heads in disbelief.
The three of us caught our breaths. "There's another couple buses coming," I said, pointing down Geary.
"Good," said the man with the curly hair. "That was just wrong."
"Happens all the time," said the twin.
"It's been a crazy week on Muni," I said.

A 38R pulled up and then a regular 38 pulled up in front of it.
They got on the 38R and I got on the regular.
It was a quiet and fast ride the rest of the way home. 

Back in my neighborhood I bought tomatoes at the produce market, as I do almost daily during tomato season. The proprietor, a petite older man with thick glasses, smiled at me and said, "I know you getting the tomatoes. You always getting them."

"It's true," I said, handing him my tomatoes to get weighed.

As I left the shop, he and his wife waved goodbye.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bus Report #884

Tonight on the 19 Polk:

NextBus was down and I couldn’t get updated schedule info for the bus, so I walked out to the stop a few minutes earlier than usual just in case.
The 4:47 PM bus never showed up and the 5:02 PM showed up at 5:10.
It was crowded so I sat beside a girl who took up too much space in the seat. I tried to slide further into the seat but she refused to budge.
We slowly, slowly made our way through the roundabout and down 7th Street. Behind me, a man yelled in to his cell phone. “Wait outside. Just wait there. Someone will be along soon and then you can go in and sit on the steps.”

At Civic Center, a tourist couple got on with their suitcases. The woman sat down but her husband stood in the aisle beside the suitcases. They almost blocked the door but not quite.
At the very next stop, two homeless men got on with their even larger suitcases, bulging backpacks, a foam bedroll, a garment bag and a duffel bag. This maneuver took the span of three light cycles and when they were finally on the bus they were completely blocking the stairwell and one of the men’s backpacks knocked a seated woman on the head and then rested on her shoulder for the duration.
The girl with the backpack on her shoulder did nothing. Just sat there and put up with it.

The man held the bedroll above his head, pressed up against the ceiling.
Ridiculous, honestly.
The driver didn’t say anything. Instead, he warned a man in the front of the bus to stop swearing. “There are kids on this bus,” The driver said. There were no kids on our bus.

The tourist couple laughed and laughed and the wife took a few pictures of the craziness with her phone.

We turned on to Geary and that was when all hell broke loose.
The driver shouted for the swearing man to get off the bus, which triggered a fit of swearing and fighting. Nothing really printable here. It sounded like there was a scuffle going on in the front of the bus but I couldn’t see anything.
The suitcase guys wrestled all of their luggage onto the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, a bicyclist rode up to the driver’s window and said something to him, then thumped the side of the bus a few times, hard.
The swearing man, now standing on the sidewalk freaking out, slammed his hand against the door several times.
“Why isn’t our driver just leaving?” I grumbled to my seatmate, a 27-year old woman who’d recently had a birthday, according to the info she’d just given to her credit card company over her cell phone.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I take this bus every night and it is never this bad.”
The woman in front of us, the one the man’s backpack had been resting on, turned around. “This is seriously bad,” she said.

The bus shot out of the bus stop, the driver trying (I assume) to shake the swearing man and the bicyclist.
We went maybe a block when the bicyclist was back, riding alongside us while cursing out the driver and hitting the side of the bus again.
The driver got on his phone. “Tell the SFPD to get here right now to arrest this bike rider. Right now. They gotta get here and arrest him. He’s messing with the bus. He’s damaging the bus.”
Everyone squinted and leaned forward to get a good look.
“It’s that guy in the sports coat,” I told my seatmate and the woman in front of us. A gangly guy on a bike, wearing a dark blue sports coat yelled something else to the driver and then rode off. The driver kept calling for the police as the bicyclist disappeared down Polk Street.
We drove past a sign advertising pedicures and spa treatment. I thought we should all pitch in and get a gift certificate for our driver or something. If anyone (else besides me) needed a spa treatment, it was him.

I hurried off of the bus a few blocks later.

Bus Report #883

This morning when I got to the bus stop, the man who reeks of body spray stood by the edge of the sidewalk instead of sitting on his usual bench.

He shot me a quick glance and then rolled his eyes toward the bench - where one of our yelly/screamy neighborhood crazy ladies sat, organizing the contents of her overstuffed granny cart.

Ah, yes. That was why he wasn't hanging out in his normal spot.

We waited for the bus as the woman muttered and tidied her things, occasionally bursting into loud and angry bouts of yelling at no one (at least, no one we could see).

She only became louder and potentially more volatile as the minutes passed.

When the bus pulled in to view I thought about asking the driver not to pick her up, but I felt guilty about it at the same time.

Luckily, she decided not to get on the bus this morning and we enjoyed a quiet ride for a little while, until the Russian woman sitting in front of me pulled out her cellphone for her daily (loud) call/Skype to her son.

Further along our journey, two men got on at the same stop, both in red pants and plaid shirts, but they did not sit together and I saw no indication that they even knew each other. Curious.

Along 16th Street the police were rousting the sidewalk tent campers, and a clean-up truck from DPW waited for further directions.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bus Report #882

Late night at The Academy of Sciences for Nightlife (thanks for the tickets, GoGoCraft!).
Afterwards, after making a bow tie and seeing the penguins and the famous albino alligator, Claude, I waited in the dark at the bus stop with half a dozen other people.

SFMTA, please put in some lights at this bus stop. It's dark and didn't feel very safe, even with all the people milling around after the event.

The bus arrived and I got on, sitting next to a girl who looked asleep but wasn't. She clutched her phone in her hand and stared in to space, her mouth hanging open, slack.

A man in the front of the bus messily ate an ice cream bar. It was disgusting and fascinating to watch him eat. If he could have eaten the Popsicle stick, I think he would have.

Another man with a crumpled map kept asking his seatmate for directions but the seatmate shrugged and looked away. He eventually got out a few minutes later.

At 6th Ave. the bus mostly emptied out.

I asked the driver if I could hitch a ride for a few more blocks even though 6th was the last official stop.
"I think you can," he said, and then tried to give the man who needed directions proper instructions on where he could catch another bus. It turned out he was going in the complete opposite direction of where he wanted to be.

An elderly Russian man sat down and pointed to the puddle of chocolate ice cream left on the seat by the ice cream eater. "You have napkin?" he asked me.
I handed him some tissues.
"It's no good," he went on, swabbing the seat with the tissues. "Someone sit here, he get chocolate on him."

Someone touched the driver on his arm and as soon as the person got out the bus, the driver started telling me how much he hated being touched, how old ladies were the worst but the men were just as bad sometimes.

As he pulled in to my stop he said, "Have a good night, dear," and I thanked him for the ride and crossed the street, headed for home.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bus Report #881

Tuesday, late afternoon on the 19 Polk.

It's crowded but I've got a seat near the back since most of the other people who boarded when I did were afraid to sit back there with the laughing teens and the man drinking a beer wrapped in a paper bag.
Amateurs, I thought, slipping past the knot of CCA students to an open seat next to the beer drinker.
So he's a little drunk, and the kids are laughing so hard they're sliding out of their seats. Who cares?

At the roundabout another regular gets on. He's always reading something interesting. Tonight it is a book by Donald Goines. Last week, it was a Swedish mystery novel. Eclectic taste.

At Civic Center a man gets on. He's a dusty, smelly zombie staring straight ahead, standing and then sitting one seat away from me.
When he gets up to leave the bus a few blocks later, his pants fall down to his ankles but it doesn't faze him and he steps down from the bus, pants bunched up on top of his shoes. He's not wearing any underwear so we all get an eyeful of way more of him than we'd like to.

A woman sitting across from me can't hide her shock. She catches my eyes and mouths, "Oh my god."
I nod my head, say, "Yeah."

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.