Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bus Report #249

Today was the first Spare the Air day of the summer (yes, it's August, but here in Fog City our summer doesn't hit until the fall).
On Spare the Air days, public transit is free during rush hour, and all buses are free all day. It's a great idea, and nice, but regular commuters will tell you otherwise.
You see, Spare the Air day means more commuters, more clueless people, and slower bus rides.
Not good if you need to get somewhere.
My 22 Fillmore was crowded, and people didn't want to move away from the doors no matter how many times I loudly said, "Excuse me. EXCUSE me. EXCUSE ME."

I was grumbly about it this morning, and still was right up until lunchtime.

A man came in to our office carrying a thin tube of documents.
"Is S. in?" he asked.
We said no, that S. had gone to lunch.
"I'm homeless," the man said. "and I found this package addressed to him downtown in the Financial District. It must have gotten lost so I'm dropping it off."
"Thanks," I said. "I'd tip you but I don't have any cash."
He walked away.
Upon further investigation, it turned out that early this morning our bike messenger company had lost the package on their way to drop it off to us. They had been frantic, as had been our consultants.
I thought, if not for free bus rides today, that man would never have been able to get down here.

We tried to track him down, thinking he might be hanging around outside, but he was gone.

Thanks, Spare the Air day... This time, at least.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bus Report #248

This morning while waiting for the 38, I saw Nikolas and the friendly elderly lady with the bad perm.
On the bus I walked right past Carl, who I used to work with downtown, and Wonder, who used to work at the Haight Street Cala Food.
We pulled in to the Fillmore stop just as a 22 was arriving. I ran for it and ended up getting a seat near the back of the bus. My seat mate was asleep against the window, his legs sprawled out a little more than they should have been. I gently nudged his leg until he shoved over enough for me to be comfortable.
Our bus filled up quickly.
Not a lot of regular adults today, but all the regular kids were there.
The boy with the glasses grew a couple inches over the summer.
The foul-mouthed 6-year old got a terrible haircut. He had a shaved head with a triangle of hair at the back of his head, right above his neck.
His older brother unfortunately had the same bad cut.

At Mission St., my seat mate got out and I got a new one, a man reeking of tobacco in such a way that he almost smelled like nutty coffee.
He had a strange instrument with him: at first glance it looked like some sort of large plug-in thermometer or temperature gauge. He put it in his mouth. That's when I stopped looking.

When it was time for me to get out, he grumbled and slowly shifted his weight so I could get up. I was barely out of my seat when a rather awkward woman who had been reading a sci-fi book smashed in to me to claim my seat.
I sucked my teeth at her but I don't think she noticed.
The man getting out in front of me had the same back as the handsome South Asian chef, but it was somebody else.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bus Report #247

I had only been home in the US for two hours last week when I got the best welcome home I could have imagined at 9 PM on a Thursday.
As I passed the doughnut shop on my way to get some milk I noticed the Alien Donut Man standing with his back to me as he stirred sugar into his coffee. I was glad to see him after so long.

Friday morning the smiley bus driver said, "It's been forever, I've missed you."
I thanked her and went to sit down.

Today marked the first day of school for the Public School kids here in San Francisco. They mobbed the bus. For the first time in a long time, seats came at a premium. I had to force my way past a woman who refused to move herself or her massive backpack. Twice. She decided not to move when it was time for me to get out, either.
Nice of her.
Hope I get to sit with her again.
One girl got on the bus with a black and white checkered backpack, black and white checkered suspenders, tie, bracelet and earrings. I didn't check her shoes but I'd be surprised if they weren't black and white checkered, too.

I saw the Mom and Dad with the cute little now first grader at the Catholic School near work. The little girl had a shiny, pink, new backpack.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bus Report #246

The week so far...

Afternoon commute with Ebony. We discussed the bizarre stuff going on in Oakland (Newspaper man murdered in broad daylight! Group of thuggish bakery owners/employees implicated! Other crimes related to the bakery!) and wondered why there weren't more people over by the ballpark yesterday (when Barry hit his record breaker. I'm sorry, but I'm not impressed, spelled s-t-e-r-o-i-d-s).

Drama on the 22… When is there NOT drama on the 22? I was sitting in the back in the rear-facing seats with a bunch of pre-teens and some Cor-O-Van guys.
One of the pre-teens was staring at a man standing in the aisle. As far as I could tell there was nothing unusual about the guy: he was your typical 30-something, bearded, future-farmer-looking guy.
So the girl was staring at the guy. As anyone would do, he stared back.
"Oh no you ain't staring at me," she said.
The guy replied, "you're staring at me."
"It's creepy for old men to be staring at kids," she snapped. "Don't fucking stare at me or I'll cut you, I'll fucking cut your ass."
The guy, another adult woman and I stared at the girl. What a mouth she had! Her friends cackled, the guy shifted a little, a mix between uncomfortable and annoyed. The woman and I exchanged eye rolls and smirks. I sucked my teeth.
The girl went on and on, getting louder and louder, repeating her completely uncalled for threat until the guy got out at Haight Street.
The kids got out a few blocks later and the woman and I just couldn’t stop shaking our heads.
And that is why the kids should take school buses instead of MUNI.

This morning's commute was okay, considering I was running a little late. That's the price you pay for eating hot oatmeal for breakfast.
I waited for the 38 with Nikolas. He stood in the street trying to see what buses were coming.
"First is a Limited," he said. "Then, an Express. In the back is the Regular."
I squinted down Geary. I saw the buses, but the signs were blurs and I couldn't tell what any of them said.
I shook my head. "Man, but my eyes are bad," I said.
He grinned. "Don't say that, Rachel. I am way, way older than you. You are too young to say that!"

On the bus, my smiley 38 driver said, "I missed you yesterday!"
I had been late yesterday, too, and missed the bus. I thanked her, and went to sit down.

Fast forward to the 22 Fillmore this morning, somewhere along 16th Street.
A man got on, mumbling to himself, dropping, picking up, and dropping again a ratty plastic bag. He did not have bus fare and the driver told him to get out.
Did he get out?
On the contrary.
He came and sat next to me.
The driver said, "We're not leaving until you get off the bus or pay your fare."
The man said, "I guess we're not going anywhere, then." and then he started mumbling about the cops.
We sat.
The man shook his plastic bag. "I got a bag full of brand new hats, I'll sell them for 12 cents each to pay the damn bus fare."
He pulled out a stack of cheap baseball caps. "Brand new, fresh hats," he went on. "they still got the tags on them. Brand spanking new."
Everyone was staring at him now, trying not to laugh. Smushed against the window, I couldn't help but smile too, even though I was annoyed.
The baseball caps were faded and stained, regardless of still being tagged. "I got all different colors, only 12 cents. 12 cents only."
No one was biting, no surprise.
A woman stood up and paid the driver. She brought a transfer over to the man. "Well bless your heart, ma'am," he said.
I was annoyed that she bought him a transfer, because really, if the rest of us have to pay our fare, he should, too.
The punch line?
He got off the bus two stops later.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bus Report #245

Recently on MUNI...

Thursday afternoon as I walked to the bus I saw Ramon standing on one side of the stop and Ebony at the other. They both smiled and waved at me.
Oh, no, I thought, who to talk to first?
I chose Ramon since he was closer to where I was walking. We hugged and caught up for a minute before the 10 Townsend came. I got on and sat beside Ebony. As the bus pulled away, Ramon waved at me again.

Saturday night I was out late, celebrating J's birthday. We ended up leaving the bar as it closed. Coming down the street was a 22 Fillmore. KTT and I ran for it, calling our goodbyes as we ran.
We were planning to catch a cab, but when the bus is coming, you take it.

This morning I was talking to Nicolai at the bus stop. Turns out he's Greek, not Russian, so let's call him Nikolas instead.