Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Bus Report #1053

Monday morning I waited at the bus stop with Jeannine.
"Haven't seen you in a while," she said. And then, teasing, "Where's your scarf?"
I laughed. "Don't need it today, but I've been wearing it, I promise."
She went on. "It's been since Thanksgiving, hasn't it? And I haven't seen the old lady or the French guy, either." She paused. "I don't think I even know his name."
"Me, either," I said. Didn't tell her that we here at FCN call him Alain.
She said, "And you know what? I don't know your name, either. I'm ____."
I said, "Hi, ____, I'm Rachel."
"I just used to call you the lady with the curly hair," she told me.
Fair is fair. I said, "And I called you the lady in the scrubs."

Just then the bus pulled up.
We said goodbye, wished each other a good day. By name. For the first, but not the last, time.

Last night I caught the 22 at a different stop, after dropping off some mail up the hill at Post & Parcel.
Stephan pulled the bus into the stop, saw me, and grinned.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Just keeping you on your toes," I replied.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Bus Report #1052

Yesterday morning I walked down to the bus stop in the early morning dark.
It was deliciously foggy and charcoal grey out. My weather.

Near one of our local cafes, a man sat on a bench, a few bulging tote bags nearby.
He said hello and gestured for me to stop.
It was early, I was alone, and I was in a bit of a time crunch.
I didn't want to stop, but I did.

"Miss," he said. "Can you do me a favor?"
He asked me to call 911 for him.
He didn't look ill, but when he raised his arm to gesture to me I could see he was wearing a hospital bracelet. He didn't ask that I stay, just that I call.
Better safe than sorry, I thought, so I called as I walked.
The dispatcher took my name, and the vague info I had about the man.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know anything else, but he's still sitting on the bench."
As I walked the rest of the way, I saw a couple police cars gliding down the street. I hope at least one of them went to go see what the man needed.

Last night, on my way to meet S. at the Castro, the 22 was late, and already full when it arrived at my stop.
No matter. I moved to the back of the bus and settled in, listening to music as I held on to the plastic hanging strap. The man sitting in front of me offered his seat, but it wasn't necessary.
I thanked him. We kept going.

A few stops later, a handful of people got in, including one man who was wheezing, coughing, and generally not doing well. This is actually an understatement. There was something very wrong with him.
He pushed his way to the back, strings of saliva and snot all over his face and collar. His shirt was soaked. His clothes were dirty and his hands were covered in blue dye. He needed a seat and three people stood to give him room.
He sat down, heavily, and proceeded to cough loudly - an oddly staccato-sounding cough. But also what someone would call a 'productive, wet' cough. Ugggh.

It was gross. He was gross. Really, he should've been in the hospital. But what can you do.

People tried to give him a wide berth, impossible on such a crowded bus.

At Mission and 16th, most people got out. The rest of us in the back shuffled around, taking seats, until the sick man got up and moved back even further. We stood up. We turned away.

At my stop I got out, waited to cross the street. Stephan leaned out the window. "Why are you getting out here?" he asked.
I smiled. "Going to meet my friend," I said. "See you tomorrow."

I'm not proud of ignoring the sick man. I should have gotten up and gone to the front of the bus and told Stephan, and Stephan should've called an ambulance for the man. There's no excuse.

I hope the man got where he was going okay last night.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Bus Report #1051

Several damp days in a row, bundled in my coat and the scarf from Olga.
It is worth it, though, when she sees me wearing the scarf. She nods, smiles, points.
"Is good. You not cold," she says.

This morning neither of us could remember what day it was.
"Is today Tuesday?" Olga asked as we waited for the 33 this morning.
I thought about it for a moment. "Yes," I said. "Yes, I think it is."
Then the bus appeared around the corner.
"Is three three," Olga said, nodding. "Not trolley bus."
And as always, she was right.


It is that most lovely time of year, when the cable cars are garlanded, dogs on Muni are wearing festive sweaters, and this Jewish lady can just sit back and watch it all. I like the lights and the trees, the coziness of a damp and foggy day.



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Bus Report #1050

M. used to say I had a charmed life. He's the one who coined the "Miss Rachel's Neighborhood" phrase, and sometimes it is so, so apt.

This morning at the bus stop we had a mini reunion - The Frenchman, Alain, the woman who works at the hospital, Olga, and I.

Olga was the last to join us, and the woman who works at the hospital (I can't remember if we have a name for her, but she looks like a Jeannine, so let's call her that) grinned and said, "Looks like we're all here."
I said, "We got the band back together."
We talked of Thanksgiving plans, or at least, Alain and I did. He is traveling up north. Jeannine is working over the holiday, which shocked Alain. Olga just stood there, smiling at the three of us.

Olga moved next to me and fiddled with the zipper of her purse. She took out a folded bundle of cloth and handed it to me saying, "Yes, you take, please."
I looked at what she had given me. It was a very soft, woven scarf, blue with a Burberry-esque pattern.
"Oh, no, I can't," I said, but she kept pressing it into my hands.
"Cold," she said, gesturing to my neck.
I know when I'm beaten. I thanked her, and hugged her, and wound the scarf around my neck.
She nodded, smiled. "Yes," she said. "Now, not cold."
Now not cold, indeed.

I thanked her again. Patted her arm. She touched her own scarf and nodded.

The bus arrived and we four trooped on.

Happy Thanksgiving, Olga, Alain, Jeannine and our regular driver.
And Happy Thanksgiving to you all, dear readers.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Bus Report #1049

A week of late buses, or no buses.

The woman who works at the hospital joined me at the bus stop last week, dressed head to toe in denim: denim shirt, jacket, jeans, even denim shoes and a bag made from an old pair of jeans. Usually she's in scrubs.
I smiled, said, "Oh, is it denim day at work today?"
She frowned. "No, I've just got an all day training today."

Days and days with Olga. She always dresses so smartly, down to her earrings and always a nice brooch on her coat. Monday she shivered and plucked at her turtleneck. "Cold," she said.
I nodded. Shivered myself, exaggerated shoving my hands deep into my pockets.
We manage to understand each other, sort of. I know she goes to her son's house most days, to visit with her granddaughter. I know her granddaughter's name.
But I still can't explain to her that my good friend E. is apparently her next door neighbor.
Slowly, slowly.
Maybe I'll wake up one morning with perfect French. Or passable Russian.
Wouldn't that be something?

The mom with the two sons always has her older boy put on face lotion while we ride down Arguello. He removes his glasses and she squirts lotion into his hands, and he dutifully smears it all over his face and his neck. The mom puts lotion on her younger son, when he'll sit still for her.
He is a beautiful, beautiful boy, obviously loves his brother and his mama, but man. I feel for that mom. It must be hard to have such a different little child. Everyone smiles at him and at the mom, people understand why he flaps his hands some times and stares past them. No one minds when he babbles. But still.

When Stephan drives my bus these days, we call out to each other as I get out.
"Have a great evening, RACHEL," he says, emphasizing my name.
To which I reply, "Thanks, you too, STEPHAN."


This morning a young woman got on with a baby in a stroller, sat in the front. There were a few hard-luck women sitting nearby - too many backpacks and tote bags, the tough, leathery look of someone who has been outside for far too long.

It barely took a minute for the those women to melt completely - grinning and waving at the baby, flirting with him, telling his mom how sweet he was. It was lovely.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Bus Report #1048

A couple hours ago, I was walking back to C's house after a delightful night at the Dia de los Muertos procession and viewing of the altars in Potrero de Sol park. We were on an unusually busy block of San Bruno - costumed folks walking around, so many beautiful people, kids in tow, marigolds everywhere - when I saw a familiar smiling man standing out front one of the nearby homes.

It was my afternoon 22 Fillmore driver, the man who used to be our DHL guy. He waved, I waved, and he said, "What are you doing in my neighborhood tonight?"
I laughed. "What am I doing here? What about you?"
"Hey, I'm just living here," he said. "Nice to see you."
"You too." I asked, "This is strange but did you used to work for DHL or Airborne Express?"
He reeled back, and then grinned and tapped his temple. "I did," he said. "I knew you looked familiar when you first got on my bus. Ah. Now I do remember you."
"I recognized you, too." I held out my hand. "I'm Rachel, by the way. What's your name?"
He shook my hand. "Stephan," he said.
C., her mom and I set off walking towards her house. "I'll see you Monday, Stephan," I said.
"Yes," he said. "See you then."

Friday, October 25, 2019

Bus Report #1047

Two days in a row, sweet Olga on my bus.

Yesterday she arrived at the bus stop, wincing and pressing her hand to the small of her back.
"Oh no, did you hurt your back?" I asked her.
She shook her head. "Is no good," she said.
The bus was still far enough away that I couldn't read the signage, but Olga nodded and said, "Is three three."
"I don't know how you can see that, I can't see anything." I shook my head and waved my hands near my eyes. Rachel sign language for, I can't see anything, these things barely work.
She just grinned. "Is three three, you see now?"
And I did.

This morning Olga and I waited together for the bus, which was a couple minutes late.
I think she was trying to teach me some French but I didn't understand.
"No English," she said.
"No French, no Russian," I said.
We laughed and stood there together, and waited.

Yesterday afternoon, 22 Fillmore. The nice driver who used to be our delivery guy stopped and I got on. the bus was fairly empty for that time of the evening - but no one was complaining.

At Potrero Center a man got on carrying a dog bed and a huge bag from the store. As we rode down 16th I watched him take everything out of the bag and go through it on the seat beside him.
They were really cute little outfits - rompers and something with a hood and bunny ears, and a little yellow rain slicker. For his child? No, I realized a moment later. They were dog outfits. He was carefully going through about ten dog outfits in various sizes.
I couldn't figure it out. Were they for him, and his dogs? Dogs of a friend? How many outfits does a dog need?
At Mission Street he packed everything back up, and disappeared into the plaza and down into BART.