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.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Bus Report #1057

Dense, dense fog this morning, so thick it moved down the street in wide, fat ribbons.

I could barely see Andrew and his dog until they were right in front of me. We chatted a moment, and then walked on.

I waited for the bus with Jeannine, and we talked some more about cooking classes and how much we were both ready for the weekend.

The bus arrived, our driver new, friendly. She greeted everyone who got on throughout the commute, and said goodbye as each passenger disembarked. I like her.

At Dolores Park the lights were on and people were playing tennis even though the fog still obscured everything. How could the tennis players see each other? It was a mystery.
Dolores Park Cafe looked cozy today. The place was brightly lit, the windows a bit steamed up.
The special on the chalkboard was french toast and I almost went for it, but didn't. Their new-ish artwork is really lovely. I have to check it out one of these days.

They're installing traffic lights in a few places along 16th. While it might add a little time to my commute, I'm glad. Safety first, and all that.

Walked past the garage and said hey to the guys working there. The younger one was eating but raised his coffee cup in reply. I wished them a good weekend and walked the rest of the way to work.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Bus Report #1056

Be kind to your Muni drivers, friends.

Monday night around 8:15 pm I waited for the 33 after visiting C. and meeting her new kitten, A. - I recommend other people's cats, as they are fun, but you don't have to commit to taking care of them.

An empty 33 pulled up and I got on, said hi and thanks to the driver as you do.

As I walked back to my seat the driver looked at me in the mirror and said, "You know, you're the first adult to say 'thanks' to me all day. And to be friendly."

"That's awful," I told him. "I'm sorry to hear that. What's wrong with people?"
He just shrugged. "I like the little kids, though. They always say hi and talk to me and say thanks. It's

"Well, I hope you have a great rest of your shift," I said.
"I like your attitude, yeah," he replied.

It was a quiet ride that night, and we got to my stop faster than I'd expected.
I thanked him again and waved.
"Good night and god bless," he said.

A little sweetness, folks. That's all.

Last night I was late leaving for the bus after work, again. Ah well. It was a nice evening and I was in no rush. I walked down the block and turned to head towards the bus stop when once again, Stephan stopped the bus near the corner and gestured for me to hurry on. So I did.
"Thank you thank you," I said, tagging my Clipper Card.
He just smiled. "You're welcome, you're welcome," he said.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bus Report #1055

Yesterday afternoon I left work a few minutes late, since I wasn't in a rush to get over to Divisadero. I turned the corner and saw Stephan roll down the street. No problem, I would catch the next one.

But no. He opened the window and gestured for me to come on, and he idled the bus for me.
Which I appreciated, of course.
I ran down the block and across the street, got on and thanked him and went to sit down, aware that the other commuters were eyeing me as I walked down the aisle.

I sat down between two young guys in grey zip-up sweatshirts who were unhappy to have to move their backpacks. The girl across the aisle looked up and smirked, winked at me. I grinned right back at her.

This morning was quiet and dark as I walked down to catch the bus. Greeted the older, slightly bowlegged man I see most days, and then said hi to the bakery owner.
I waited for the 33 by myself today. No Jeannine, Alain or Olga.

The bus arrived a moment later, and we were on our way.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bus Report #1054

Hello, and how are you?

I just got home from London, where I had the opportunity to take the Tube, as well as the bus. Loved it all, for these reasons:

1. You can pay with a transit pass, or with a credit card, no need to get a special pass if you don't live there, no need to fuss around with tickets. Just tag your card the way you'd tag a Clipper card, and you're golden (you need to have a chip and pin card, so ask your card company!)

2. It is cheap! None of my rides cost more than $1.31. Most likely because it was off-peak time, but still. Cheaper than Muni, and we rode all over the place.

3. Need I say more than this: clean double-decker buses? No, I need not. But I will. While waiting in the queue at the bus stop, where everyone was waiting quietly, an older woman started talking with us, grinning and telling us about her history of broken wrist, broken arm, smushed finger.
"We need to wrap you in bubble wrap," I said, and she agreed.
Upstairs in the bus (the Holborn 8), a man was studying, while other passengers napped or played with their phones. It was so quiet, and calm, and wonderful.

I will say, the Tube must be a nightmare for anyone requiring accessibility. Not all stations have lifts and sometimes you have to take stairs to even get to the lifts. This afraid of heights traveler had more than a few moments of eyes closed, handrail gripping near-panics while navigating a couple of the Tube station escalators. One station had 96 steps down a spiral staircase to get to the train platforms. Their lift? Out of service.
I saw a family carrying a stroller down a steep set of stairs and several others with the strollers on the escalator. Heartstopping, I tell you.

Five hours after landing back at SFO, I hopped on a 33 in the Mission to get home after the Dessa show at The Chapel.
The driver smiled, asked how I was.
"I just went to a show," I said, feeding dollar bills into the machine (I'd run home, ditched the suitcase and gone back out, forgetting my Clipper card). "Got back from the airport with just enough time to get there. Just in time for the headliner."
"Cool, cool, I'm just working," he said. For the rest of the ride, he greeted all the passengers, told everyone to get home safe when they disembarked. That's why I love this so much, I thought. Drivers like this guy. Let's call him Matt. He seems like a Matt.

Yesterday morning, Jeannine, the early morning nurse on the 33, told me about a cooking class she took, and now I want to do the same. She learned how to make croissants! Who wouldn't want to do that? We chatted about her class, and then wondered why we haven't seen Olga lately. I hope she's doing well, and just getting a later start to her day these days.

Stephan is our super-trouper afternoon driver. Always has a wave and a smile for me. I really have to remember to get him a coffee card, soon.

This morning, the mom and her two sons were on the bus. The older son being a typical (yet as always, lovely) tween, the younger son sitting quietly next to his mom.
A man got on at Mission Street, pulling a cart behind him. He sat across from them and talked with the mom, made goony faces at the little boy.

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.