Thursday, August 31, 2006

Transit-- Nicaragua Style

Think MUNI is tough?
Try riding in a flatbed truck for 2 hours through the campo...

Bus Report #159

I waited for the 38 this morning with the Russian businessman and the quiet woman.
The man noticed I wasn't wearing my headphones and asked, "What? No music today?"
I just smiled and said, "Nah, not yet."

At Fillmore I waited with some students and the dreadlocked security guard. When the 22 came, right on time, I was excited to see Carmen saving a seat for me.
"You're back from vacation!" I said, slipping into the window seat.
She has a fresh new haircut and a new backpack, and looked happy.
She told me all about her recent summer vacation to her hometown in Mexico. As usual, as I like it, I could barely get a word in, in any language!

A bus must have been off schedule because when we got to Mission there was a huge mob of people trying to get on the bus. The people trying to get off the bus had to squeeze and push and say, loudly, "coming out! I'm coming out!"

A girl with bad neck tattoos, a bad purple dye-job wearing red plaid pants and a horrific pink belt stood in the stepwell and did not understand why the doors wouldn't shut. She finally got it, squeezing up onto the platform and balanced against the Plexiglas.

A middle school kid pushed by one of the homeless guys that gets on at Church.
"Where are your manners?" the man asked the kid.
The boy just sucked his teeth and ignored him.
"You off to school?" The man asked. "Huh? You gotta say excuse me, son."
The kid got off the bus and the man sprawled into the seat behind me. No one would sit next to him because of his smell.
Right before my stop, a teenage girl said, loudly, "Man, someone here smells like mildew."

I quietly opened the window.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bus Report #158

Back to school edition!

Today was the first day back at school for the public school kids of San Francisco. There were lots of new and familiar faces on the bus.
Jeans so new they still had creases in them. White shoes waiting to get scuffed. Pristine backpacks.
In the Lower Haight, right in front of Walgreen's, a neighborhood group had a table set up and a sign that said "have a great school year! From your Lower Haight Neighbors".
It looked like they were giving out goody bags, or something, to the kids passing by. It was nice.
The obsessive-rear-of-the-bus-man got on at Mission and barrelled his way to the rear of the bus.
I saw the Chef, the dreadlocked security guard, and the mom and daughter off to Kindergarten.
Typical Monday.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bus Report #157

My commute this morning was of the frustrating-why-does-MUNI-suck-so-much variety.
I got on the 38 at my usual time (Russian businessman, check. Annoying backpack guy, check. Sweatshop ladies, check) and made it down to Fillmore 10 minutes later.

Things were looking good: the dreadlocked security guard was there and a couple of the day laborers, so I knew I hadn't missed my bus.

D. from my old office building was there, too. He was grooving to some music on his headphones until he saw me. We started to chat about vacations and work, and soon realized that it was 7:20 and our bus hadn't come yet.

We waited at the curb with the dreadlocked security guard for another 5 minutes.
A bus was coming. D. bet me a quarter it was a 22 Fillmore. I bet him the same that it was a 3 Jackson.
I won, but did not take his quarter.
A 22 Fillmore finally showed up. We did not recognize the driver.
The back door of the bus wouldn't close all the way, which was scary but at least it meant we got some fresh air.
The bus was fuller than usual. I ended up sitting next to the smelly man I always try to avoid.
At Valencia, the depressed CCA student got on. I noticed he has a snake tattoo on his forearm.
At Mission, people poured onto the bus before anyone could get off. A very large woman blocked the rear door and did not move for people to get by.
The driver skipped the next stop, and D. and I shared a smile. Earlier, he had been telling be a nightmare MUNI story while we waited. It was about a driver he sometimes had who skipped stops maliciously and (possibly) did some drug deals at Burger King.
We were just about at work, pulling into the Potrero Ave. stop, when the driver announced it was the last stop (even though the sign on the front said it was destined for 3rd and 20th).
Everyone got out. D. and I decided to walk the rest of the way.
Three 22 Fillmores passed us as we walked.
Damn it, MUNI.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bus Report #156

As seen on MUNI this week:

New signs at Needles and Pens and Familia Lopez Cafe. They look great!

The 16th Street BART plaza that has been under construction for months is finally done. It looks good. Two of the palm trees are still tied up, which makes them look like paintbrushes.

From the window of a 5 Fulton: A woman (or possibly a very busty man) dressed only in a brown leotard and flip flops, walking down Market Street.

The mom and daughter who get on at Church and Duboce: The little girl was wearing a brand new school uniform. She must be off to kindergarten this year. She and her mom both looked excited and ready for the big day. Adorable.

And heard on MUNI yesterday:
Well, I actually can't repeat the conversation since it was too raw for a family blog, (and for MUNI, I must say) but it was a heated discussion between two guys and a girl (all three swigging from a shared bottle of Kahlua) about what pierces and tattoos women should have and on which body parts. Just when I thought they couldn't go into any more detail, they did. It was.... Enlightening? Disgusting? I really can't say. The driver kept looking at them in his mirror, but did not say a word.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bus Report #155

Back in San Francisco.
MUNI is a picnic compared to Central American modes of mass transit: Packed tight yellow school buses, standing room only flatbed trucks, oxcarts and rickshaws.
I loved every minute of it, though, Diacachimba!

As seen on MUNI this week, to re-ground me in my normal reality:
The nice, dreadlocked security guard.
The chatty sweatshop ladies.
The depressed CCA student.
The shaved head bus driver, pulling up right in front of me.
People blatantly cruising each other on the 2 Clement.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Not A Bus Report

Let's call this... A state of the world report, shall we?

The State of MUNI: Crowded. Hot. Lots of people with short tempers and not enough deodorant. Tourists lost in the Fillmore. Students loose in the Mission. Marathoners last week, conventioneers this week, College kids back the week after.

The State of California: Hot. Playing host to Tony Blair. Electricity shortages and rolling blackouts.

The State of the union: Troubled. Too depressing to say anything else.

The State of the world: Well, there's potential for a lot of upheaval in Cuba today/this week, with the announcement that Fidel Castro has transitioned power to his brother Raul (temporarily) while undergoing/recovering from surgery.
I just found out this morning, and I am anxiously awaiting more news. My sources are mixed on what is happening or going to happen, but I predict a lot of news coming out of Cuba this week.

As for Fog City Notes, we will be going on hiatus at the end of this week so I can take my yearly trip to Nicaragua. I will be back in mid-August, hopefully with some Fog City Notes-worthy stories to report.
Until then, enjoy the summer and see you on MUNI....