Friday, September 30, 2005

Bus Report #101

The kids are all right/Mutiny on the 22 Fillmore/It's Friday and 70 Degrees out

The 22 Fillmore was late today, and when it came Carmen said she'd been waiting a half hour. We chatted as always until the bus became so crowded we couldn't see each other across the aisle.
For most of the ride I had a knobby teenage knee pressed against my leg and a stick-thin teenage boy leg and hip against my arm. And two mammoth backpacks swinging dangerously close to my face with each new passenger let on.
"What is up with this guy?" one boy asked.
Another shouted, "hey, brother, ain't no one else gonna fit on this bus, quit stopping."
The driver stopped to let a wheelchair on, and the crowd was forced back even further to the rear.
No sight of Carmen at all.
A few people got out on Haight and I could see Carmen again. We kept looking at each other and then at the mass of passengers.

At Market street, the kids mutinied.
When the doors opened to let people on and off, they started yelling, "there's no room, there's a bus behind us, you have to wait!"
They were very insistent and the funny thing was, people listened.
Meanwhile, one of the boys had wedged himself into the seat where Carmen and her seatmate were. The kid was standing up, facing Carmen, their knees touching.
He said, "I bet you've never been this close to a black man before," and he smirked at his friends.
Carmen shook her head. "I am just enjoying my life," she said. "this is fun."
Then she said, "you remind me of my grandson."
This made the boys laugh. "Yeah, right, I'm sure," said the kid.
"No, really, he's about your age," she said. Carmen rummaged through her backpack for her wallet and took out a snapshot of her grandson. He is half black and I knew this would be a kind of funny punchline for the boys.
They took a look at the picture and smiled, laughed some more.
At 16th and Church the kids tumbled out of the bus.
Carmen and I looked at each other and smiled. "This is fun," she repeated. "This is a good time."
And it was.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bus Report #100

This morning I waited to cross the street while a whole fleet of 38 Gearys flew by. It was not a good sign.
Ten minutes later I was sitting in the back of the bus. The man sitting across from me kept staring at me, so I stared right back.
To get out the bus I had to slip past a man with a gigantic duffel bag.
I was a bit dismayed to see the crowd of people waiting for the 22 Fillmore.
I took off my headphones because the Teen was talking to me.
"I've been here since 7:30," she said.
I looked at my watch. It was 7:45.
"This is going to be fun," I told her, but she didn't get the joke.
She was too preoccupied with worry: when the kids are late for school, they are kept in the cafeteria for a while and then have to stay after school to make up the lost time. This doesn't seem fair to me, as she was waiting for a bus that never showed up.
When the bus came, it was predictably crowded.
I sat squished up against the window. There were two little boys sitting beside me: a second grader and his little brother who was in kindergarten. The little guy fell asleep against my arm. It was cute.
The Snappy Dresser got on the bus right behind a woman in horrible, mismatching flowered skirt and flat shoes. I thought: The Snappy Dresser and his Woman's Wear Daily (he is never without it) will be against that look!
Torn-jacket girl has a new jacket, no tears.
The driver would not let the cat lady get on, much to the relief of the front of the bus, which was already packed tightly.
I felt a little bad for her as she stood at the curb, with her pushcart and cats and shawl that kept blowing off her shoulders.
At my stop, my seatmate was gracious enough to move so I could maneuver my way out of the crowd. Several other people were not as kind: they got smacked by my bag on my way out.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bus Report #99

I fell in love with San Francisco again last night.
I took the 22 Fillmore from work to the Marina, to time how long it will take to get to my class that starts next week.
The bus was crowded and at first I was sitting next to someone who reminded me so much of awful people, I had to move.
The bus reached full capacity at Mission. I had a window seat and watched people walking and riding their bikes.
Parents picked up little kids from the day care at 16th and Dolores.
Headphoned, messenger-bagged boys got out at Church and Market, heading for the Castro.
The sun was setting and it was a brilliant orange color, so bright I felt blinded.
The whole ride, I kept thinking how amazing it was that we passed through so many neighborhoods, each with it's own flavor and rich sense of community. It's what drew me to this foggy city in the first place.
We rode the hills of Pacific Heights, an activity that always makes my heart jump into my throat. The homes up there are so beautiful to begin with, then with the sun setting and the view of the water behind them, it was perfect.
The bus turned onto Steiner and then Union and then back onto Fillmore. The big houses gave way to little markets and cafes. The flower shop near the bus stop had sunflowers in three different colors, irises and plenty of roses. Several men in suits and women in jogging clothes stood around in front of the grocery store nearby.
The bus deposited me, the last passenger, right out front of Marina Middle School. I looked at my watch: it had taken 45 minutes to get there. Not bad.
I crossed the street and waited in the 22 bus stop for the bus to take me home.
It had grown chilly out. I withdrew my scarf from my bag. I knitted it two falls ago to match the color of the leaves falling outside of my building. I wrapped myself up, hopped on the next bus, and headed home.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bus Report #98

This morning someone on the 38 had a cello with him, and he took up three seats. When we reached his stop, he struggled to get the cello out the back door. Both the man and his cello got stuck in the doorway, and there was a collective catching of breath from all of us in the back of the bus.

The nice, smiling woman who gets on at Divisadero sat next to me. I said hi, we smiled, and when it was time for me to go I said a quiet "have a nice day," to her.
On the 22, the shaved-head-clark-kent-glasses driver chatted with the people in the front of the bus. He made sure to stop and pick up all the regulars. He brazenly ran two red lights.

There are two beautiful trees on 16th between Shotwell and Folsom. I don't know what they are but I am always taken by their lacy, delicate branches and the perfectly formed leaves. The trees are dark brown or black, it's hard to tell, and they look like they are cast in iron. There's just something about them.
Someone has finally (after 3+ years) painted over the "Lillypadhouse, Will You Marry Me?" sign on the side of a building on Folsom. Sad. For years, someone would touch up the sign every now and again. I always wonder if Lillypadhouse said yes.

On 16th: A man built like a fridge with a crazy shock of fried hair carrying a fridge out to a pickup truck.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bus Report #97

There is no good way to start a Monday, but this morning was not bad.
My bus was packed full of loud kids and some really creepy looking people but there were also some familiar faces.
Ebony, smiling and waving from the front of the bus.
The friendly and polite teen, asking me how my summer was.
J., who I have not seen in months. She is all right, but won't be around for a while as she has family stuff to do in the Mid-West.
And as I got out of the bus, sleepily blinking my eyes, my favorite sweatshop lady nodded at me and waved as the bus rolled by.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Bus Report #96

With the weather growing cooler, the crazy people of San Francisco have taken refuge on the bus.
Yesterday it was the crazy red-eyed homeless man that usually hangs around in the Haight. He was on crutches, taking a long time to get out of the 38 Geary at Fillmore Street. To add to the fun, he yelled and shouted weird half-threats half-come-ons to the Muslim girls and their babies who were waiting to get on the bus.
The driver said, "Calm down and hurry up, man!"
The man finally got out of the bus. The girls hurried to get on, to avoid him.

This morning on the 22 Fillmore, the shaved-head-clark-kent-glasses-driver had a bus with windows that were stuck closed. It was awful because there was a hideous smelling, mumbling, spastic crazy man sprawled in the back of the bus. People tried to avoid him, but as the bus filled the kids had no choice but to move back.
"You stink," said one girl. Her friends agreed.
A boy said something to the man that I could not hear.
The man said, "You stay in school, I mean it, I made my choices in life." It was a pretty lucid and coherent statement from him, I was surprised.
The next minute, he was spastically dancing off the bus at Haight Street. He practically danced right in to some moms and kids. One little girl who could not have been any older than five gave him a wary glance and walked a wide berth around him to get on the bus.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bus Report #95

This morning I headed out early. I was carrying a new electric kettle and french press for the office, and I didn't want to have to juggle everything on a crowded bus.
As it was, I had an easy commute. The attractive, pierced-nose-South-Asian-chef sat next to me. We were both listening to music on headphones, but managed to nod and smile at each other when he got on and off the bus.
They have pasted signs to all the back doors on all the buses, big red STOP signs and a note to ENTER THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR ONLY in English, Spanish and Chinese.
So far, no one is heeding this new plea. I have only seen one 22 Fillmore driver who was enforcing it, too.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bus Report #94

Actually, a British Rail report about 'the chavs'. The Teacher's Pet reminded me about this story from our trip... Read on...
So, we went to Durham, England for the day on Thursday, taking the train from Edinburgh to Durham.
The train was hot, stinky and made a ton of stops. It was not long before The Teacher's Pet was not feeling well. Meanwhile, Our Intrepid Friend In London sat in a window seat, playing with his mobile phone.
At Berwick-On-Tweed, several passengers came into our car, and as luck would have it they sat right in front of us.
These passengers, henceforth known as 'the chavs' (Our Intrepid Friend In London says this is the term for what these people are. I have a feeling it is the British equivalent of white trash, or something similar) were a man, a woman and a teenage girl.
The man was covered in bad tattoos. The woman looked completely worn out and the teenage girl looked like most teenage girls: hair pulled back tightly into a bun, too much jewelry, unflattering too-tight jeans and a soiled white sweatshirt.
Two things were immediately apparent: The girl was not related to the couple, and none of them were too bright when it came to using the woman's mobile phone.
The phone kept cutting out, and each time it happened they had the same conversation:
Man: I can't hear ye, are ye there?
Girl: It's dropped, because of the train. The signals interrupted.
Woman: Call again.
Man, to girl: How can ye know that?
And on, and on, and on.
The Teacher's Pet needed air and was sick of listening to the chavs, so she left the car.
As we traveled closer to Durham, the truth emerged slowly. I won't keep you in suspense: The man was a friend of the girl's dad, who was in Durham Prison. He had "promised the lassie" he'd take her to see her dad. The woman was his wife and they had several sons who were at least a decade older than the girl, yet they kept teasing her that she was in love with the son named Clive. She snapped her gum and bragged about her nice set of tits (nothing special so far as I could see from my seat). She bragged about getting arrested for shoplifting. She whined about the man's teasing.
The girl and the woman left for the cafe car. The man made another call, this time telling someone to "take care of things for me, you know what I mean" and saying some other cryptic stuff which made this eavesdropper think: This guy is arranging a hit. He probably was. They were disgusting.
They got off the train at the same stop we did. As The Teacher's Pet and Our Intrepid Friend In London and I walked into town, I laid out the whole story for them.

On our return train hours later, I saw the chavs in back of us in the queue. I told The Teacher's Pet that I would not sit in their car under any circumstances. Luckily, they got into a different car.
The chavs, everyone. The chavs.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bus Report #93

I am back from the land of driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, double-decker buses, the Underground, British Rail and Scots Rail.
My trip was great. Since this is a public transit blog I won't talk about it, but if you want the details of the trip, call or write me!
Regarding the UK style public transit: I have nothing bad to say about it. Every bus we caught was more or less on time, the trains were comfortable and even the Lothian Buses in Edinburgh got us where we needed to go.

Most memorable ride:
The train to Glasgow was packed full of football clubs headed to the Scotland v. Italy game. It was 10 AM and they were drinking already, offering around their wine and whisky and singing their club songs. They were darling, at least on the morning ride.
The return train was full of exhausted, drunk, happy fans. They slept, snoring loudly. I talked with a Glaswegian named Alec who bore a striking resemblance to British-Look-Guy while the Teacher's Pet took a nap in the seat behind me. Some people argued politics, others smoked (now officially against the Scot Rail rules). We all poured out of the train at Waverley Station. Several people promptly threw up.

San Francisco bus reports will resume shortly...