Saturday, May 16, 2020

What is a bus rider without a bus to ride?

Hello and I hope everyone is doing well.

I haven't had anything to report since I haven't been on a bus since before the shelter in place order.
I haven't left my neighborhood since then either. I circle Mountain Lake, I wander down to Arguello or up to 14th Ave., but that's about it. I love to walk but I miss my commute. The early morning quiet, and the fog, watching the markets in the Mission open up, the proprietors stacking all sorts of fresh produce in neat pyramids on their display tables.

I miss everyone - Jeannine, Alain, Olga, all our wonderful drivers, and my fellow commuters. 

I miss the folks along the "Miss Rachel's Neighborhood" route. And you know I worry. How are the guys from the garage? The folks at Safeway and Noah's? Are any of the drivers sick? What will it be like when we can go back to work?

But there have been sunny spots in all of this.

The third week of shelter in place I ran in to the Frenchman and his daughter over near our bus stop. It's a funny thing, seeing someone in a different context, in the middle of the day, and while you're wearing masks. We laughed and said hello, and it was so good to see him.

Another day, I visited E., standing out front her building and calling up to her window. I'd forgotten that she is neighbors with Olga. Olga sat outside on her little balcony, and E. leaned out her window, and I waved and called up to them both. Olga laughed when I tugged down my mask for a moment to show her who I was. In a jumble of English and French E. explained to Olga that we are friends. It was afternoon but I good morninged Olga in Russian, making her laugh again.

Walking home from the grocery store last night I saw another familiar pair - the obsessively religious mom and her daughter. They looked good, the mom less checked out than usual, the daughter taller than before, tanned, rolling down the street in a pair of roller blades. I smiled at the mom but she didn't notice. I was just glad they were okay.

I've crossed paths with the friendly woman from Schubert's a half dozen times. The bakery is open again and seem to be doing a good, brisk business.

At the bank the other day, the security guard held the door open for me. "You take care of yourself, young lady," he said.
I grinned and said, "I will if you will."
He chuckled and replied, "I'll do my best."

And I hope you all do, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stay safe out there, friends, commuters, and strangers

I've been home for a week now, like many of you but not all of you.

Thinking today of Jeannine, working at the hospital, and of our wonderful drivers: Leon, Keith, Stephan and all the rest. The essential personnel we automatically think of and those we do not.

If you can stay home, STAY HOME.

If you have any masks, hand sanitizer or other items that our local medical professionals and other front line workers could use, please donate them to your nearest hospital or fire department.

Order online from your favorite bookstores, get gift certs from your favorite restaurants, and above all remember that this is the time to be selfless, not selfish.

Remember, so many of our friends and neighbors are at risk so only go out when necessary and do your best to maintain a good 6 feet of distance from each other.

Even when we aren't together in body, we're together in spirit.

I miss you all and hope we can be together again soon.

On a more personal note - readers in Boston or Salt Lake City or Tucson - I have people that need supplies for hospital and social service organizations and can get you in touch with them if you have anything you can drop off.
realitycoursepress (at) gmail.



Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Bus Report #1064

Coronavirus edition.

The Teacher's Pet asked me yesterday how commuting is going what with this virus scare.

Well, a lot of us still need to get to work, and we need to use transit. There's no getting around it - unless I want to walk for an hour and a half, up and down hills, in the early morning dark. I've done it before, but I have no desire to arrive at work already tired, and sweaty, and done.

The buses have been quieter and, when on time, less crowded. The evening commute on the 22 Fillmore has had a holiday vibe to it. Just us workers who can't telecommute. People picking up kids from school or activities. Homeless and marginally housed folks. Your friends and neighbors.

Mornings, everyone is sleepy but watchful. Any cough, sniffle or sneeze and everyone turns, looks, evaluates. But it has been okay so far. Quieter, less anxiety-inducing than I'd expected.

You wash your hands at home before you leave, but what do you touch on the 33? The handles and the bars, to keep your balance or swing yourself into a seat. Your bus pass, pressed to the card reader. The signal buttons, the signal wire, the windows to pry them open for some air.

Your seatmate, their leg pressed against yours. Their elbow nestled against your side.

Are the buses cleaner? Supposedly everything is being wiped down, but it doesn't look like it.

Some drivers wear masks, others don't.

Everyone is just that much more wary.

The smell of hand sanitizer wafts through the bus. Fresh and lemony at best, overly fruity or floral at worst.

And while we're talking, friends - as long as you can, please go to your favorite stores, your neighborhood cafes and produce markets, your bagel place, the bookstore. The care and keeping of small businesses is often tenuous, and it certainly is now.

Bring your shut-in friends a banquet's worth of Chinese food from that awesome place down the block. Drown your sorrows in a huge bowl of steaming Pho from your regular Vietnamese joint. As they say, chicken soup is good for the soul.

Local businesses are struggling, let's all do our best to support them.

Some of our indie bookstores are offering free shipping at the moment, why not take advantage? So far, I know of Green Apple Books and Books Inc. offering to ship books to you at home. Read to yourself, read to your loved ones.

Take care out there, Fog City Noters.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Bus Report #1063

Three days of the 33 being off schedule. Me and the skater kid waiting, getting annoyed.

Jeannine joined us. I hadn't seen her in a while and unfortunately it was because she'd been out of town at a funeral.

"I'm so sorry," I said.

She thanked me. Sighed. "Guess we're going to be late today?"
With no buses in sight, I had to agree. "I think you're right."

Alain wandered over. "Ah, good morning," he said to us both. "The bus will be here in six minutes."
He gestured to his phone, to whatever app he uses for the schedule.

"Mine says five minutes," Jeannine replied, grinning.

"Mine said five minutes ago," I added.

Another five minutes before the bus arrived, so Jeannine and Alain were both right, I supposed.

On the bus, the mom with the two sons was trying to calm the little boy (who was whining and flopping around on the seat) while she took a phone call. She mouthed a "good morning" to me as I went to sit down.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Bus Report #1062

Waited at the bus stop for a bus that wasn't coming. The skateboard kid and I had been there for ten minutes already.
"This is weak," he said, and then he made a phone call and skated away.

The Frenchman walked over, fresh from his shower. His hair was still wet and he smelled minty.
"You must be late," I said.
He shook his head. "Maybe, or maybe you are."
We caught up for a moment, discussed his trip to Southern California.
Across the street, a familiar figure smiled and waved. It was Olga. I haven't seen her in forever and I was beyond glad to see she was up and about, well coiffed and dressed as always.

Even though she was leaning heavily on her cane, she hurried over and greeted us.
She said good morning to me in Russian, then in English, and I responded in Russian as she'd taught me. The Frenchman just laughed.

Olga patted my arm, and I patted hers, told her it was great to see her.
She pointed to the large brooch on my coat, in the shape of a bug, that I wear sometimes.
"I like," she said, touching the enameled metal with her finger.

The three of us wondered where the bus was. And then Olga gestured up the block. "Three three," she said. I couldn't see anything and neither could Alain.

But, as always, Olga was right. The bus soon arrived and we all climbed in.
I patted her shoulder again as I went to sit down.
"Do svedanya," she said.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Bus Report #1061

This morning I walked down Clement to the bus and watched the obsessively religious mom and her daughter walking slowly down the street ahead of me.

It was early. Too early for the daughter to be going to school. She had her backpack on, and the mom carried three bulging tote bags. I hoped the mom was just being weird, that they still have a place to live and were only out early to get some breakfast.

I worry about them, especially about that little girl. You know I have for a while. There's nothing wrong with religious conviction but there is something wrong with the mom. It is sad. She mutters to herself, only seems to talk to her daughter in scripture or verses.

I was a half a block behind them for a while. Wondered if there was anything I could do to help them. But I don't even know their names, so really, there's nothing.
That little girl.
Oh, how I worry.

Even when I'm not in a rush, I'm a fast walker. I eventually caught up to them, smiled and nodded good morning, and kept walking.

The mom didn't acknowledge me at all, just kept talking to her daughter about Jesus. Her daughter nodded and said yes, and looked up at her mom.

I don't pray, but this morning I thought about the daughter. And now, the day almost over, I'm still thinking of her.

The bus was on time. The mom with the two sons, the humorless man who works near my office, and a handful of homeless men with their dogs were my fellow passengers this morning. The ride was uneventful, quicker than usual.

As we turned onto Market way up high on the hill, the lights of lower Market blazed bright.
A string of beads that twinkled in the early morning still-darkness.

The sky was blue-peach. A sign of warmer weather.

In Potrero I waved to the guys at the garage.

To Leon, headed outbound in his bus and to Keith headed inbound in his.

The quiet man who sleeps in the park shuffled down the sidewalk carrying a cardboard box in his arms.
He's looking thin these days. More out of it than usual. I hope he is okay.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bus Report #1060

This morning I walked down to catch the bus even though the schedule seemed a bit off. I figured better safe than sorry.

By the grocery store there was a stack of pallets holding cases of oranges and onions. Have you looked at any produce box labels lately? They are still cool, interesting graphics and catchy names for the different brands and produce items.

The kid on the skateboard who I see most mornings sped by, nodded at me.
The door to the wet suit landing was open, for the first time in a while.

No one waiting at the bus stop except me and a woman who always stinks of cigarettes. I don't think she washes her jacket, and whenever she moves even slightly, a wave of stale smoke emanates from her clothes. She stood a few feet away, smoking, and I knew I'd have to open the windows when we got on the bus.

The 33 was late. Very late. I have a feeling my usual driver and the driver before him both missed their runs, as our bus was packed by the time we hit Fulton.

My seatmate had a tumbler full of coffee that smelled both burned and also weak, watery. She balanced it between her thighs so she could take a couple selfies.

I decided if she spilled the coffee down my leg, and if it was hot and burned me, she'd get a hard punch in the face. Nothing happened, and I mellowed out before we got to the Haight.

The mom with the two sons was there, as were the Mission High kids, and several women with septum piercings. A lot of them, actually. Maybe 15% of the women on the bus. Strange.

In the Castro, I watched a man jump up on the bus shelter seat and start patting the supports of the shelter. Had he hidden something somewhere and was he now looking for it? Hard to say.
We picked up a handful of more passengers and continued on our way.

When we got to my stop, a dozen of us streamed off the bus and crossed the street.
I slowed my pace to say hi to the guys at the garage, then walked the rest of the way to work. It was sunny by then, and my sunglasses didn't feel dark enough.

I blinked my way down 16th Street.

Bus Report #1059

Last night I went to Third Rail with the Teacher's Pet, to catch up.
Afterwards we caught the 22 at its first/last stop, across the street from what looks like an Amazon distribution center. At least 15 other people waiting for the bus, more than I've seen at that stop in quite a while.

Our driver? Stephan. He'd been getting some air and stretching his legs while enjoying a snack, but when he came around the side of the bus and let everyone on, he grinned at me and said, "Haven't seen you in a while."
"They changed your schedule, right?" I said.
"Not til next week," he said.
The Teacher's Pet and I rode together until we got to her stop.

I said good night and we waved. I slid over in my seat, put on my headphones and settled in for the rest of  the ride.

The bus was full for most of the ride, people crowding on at Mission and slowly filtering out.

A man and a woman, old friends, hadn't seen each other in forever and greeted each other with open arms and wide smiles. They chatted their whole commute, until he got out at Haight. He invited her to dinner and she said yes, and they wandered down the street.

A young man dragged his shopping bag, a skateboard and a child-size piano onto the bus. Picture the kind of 'classic-looking' tiny baby grand piano a dog might play on a talent show. He piled everything up on a seat and stood over it all until his stop. Then, he tossed the skateboard out the back door, followed by the shopping bag, and then finally shouldered the small piano and headed out.
We all watched him. I wondered about that piano.
For a child? For a dog? For him? And does it need to be tuned?

The 22 slid in to my stop and I got out, called a "see you later" to Stephan. He waved and said, "see you."

The 38 wasn't due for 15 minutes so I caught the 38R. I was home soon thereafter.

Bus Report #1058

Early morning, Valentine's Day.

Clement Street was quiet and dark, except.

Except at the florist's, the lights blazing, the window display crammed with the usual orchids and dozens of bouquets of roses and tulips and lilies.
The entirety of the Flower Mart stuffed into a Clement Street shop window.

The shop is usually closed in the mornings unless the owner is preparing funeral arrangements (always beautiful, if sad), graduation leis (always beautiful, and full of promise), or, as he was doing the other day, large and colorful bouquets. It made the morning feel brighter, special.

One man, one small storefront, but those flowers. More color than the eye can handle at 6:45 AM.

On the bus, just me and the mom with the two sons and some sleepy Mission High School kids.

Later, riding home, a girl holding just one deep red rose, careful not to squish it amidst the crush of evening commuters.

At the stop just before mine, a familiar person shuffles on. My heart grows three sizes; it is Mr. Taylor, the world's oldest school crossing guard. Still alive! Still taking the bus! Slower, of course, and using a walker. No crossing guard vest so perhaps he is retired. But the same intense eyes, the same lovely smile.

As I disembark and head to catch the 38, I call out to Stephan to have a good weekend. He smiles, waves back, and takes off.