Friday, November 30, 2007

Bus Report #272

I got a pleasant surprise last night while waiting for the 10 Townsend. I looked down 17th Street and saw someone who looked very much like my friend Dave, who doesn't work in my neighborhood anymore. I figured it was just my terrible vision, but as he got closer I realized that it WAS Dave.
He had dropped his car off in the neighborhood for his wife to pick up.
I'll admit, it sounded a little espionage-ish to me... You know... The cars at the secret rendezvous point, see you later...
I was glad to see Dave, as he is always a treat.
We rode the 10 Townsend downtown together.
Nice to see you on the bus, Dave.

My 38 Geary home was packed.
Our driver would yell out, "Anyone need this stop?" and if no one did, he just drove right past it. Much better than the usual situation, where a full to capacity bus gets packed even tighter.
The girl sitting next to me was talking loudly on her cell phone. Does this sound sketchy to you? She said she was moving in to a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment and that the rent was only $1,500.00 a month. Unless it's seriously rent controlled, it sounds too good to be true.

This morning my 22 Fillmore was a little late. Our driver leaned out of the bus and told a homeless man with a huge wheelie cart that he couldn't ride her bus, that he'd have to wait for the next one.
Our bus wasn't even crowded, so it seemed mean and discriminatory to me.

The only open seat for me was next to the woman with the trashy neck tattoos (Chasing my dreamz, A.J., is scrawled in cursive across the left side her neck, and she has something else on the other side that I can never catch) but she had her backpack on the seat. I asked her if I could sit down and she gave me a look.
I shot her one right back.
If she bought two transfers, one for her and one for her bag, fine.
If not, guess what, I get to sit there.
She spent the whole ride text messaging someone and shifting her weight around, I think in an attempt to make me move. I just ignored her.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bus Report #271

Fuckin' Al!

So last night I took a 33 Stanyan bus to the Mission, to meet up with some friends for my birthday dinner.
I got on at my usual stop, and a few stops later we pulled into the Arguello and Geary stop. A man in a wheelchair got on. He was very quiet, was probably in his late thirties or early forties but he looked much older, and sick. He pulled the hood of his parka up over his head. He buckled in and we kept on going.
At Haight and Cole a man got on, we'll call him the Black-Clad Kansan (BCK). BCK was wearing a black leather jacket over a faded black shirt and a pair of tight black jeans. His black hair was long and messy, and stringy. He had a sickly greenish pallor to him. Maybe it was the light on the bus (never flattering), or maybe it wasn't.
He loudly asked the driver if our bus would go to 18th and Valencia. The driver said yes. BCK paid his fare and stepped into the bus. He was barely past the fare box when he pointed his fingers like guns at the guy in the wheelchair and said, "I know you man, I know you."
The man in the wheelchair mumbled something. BCK smiled and said, "Fuckin' Al! I can't believe it's you! Fuckin' Al, man!"
He put his stuff down on a seat near the wheelchair and thrust his hand down to shake Al's hand. They shook. BCK said, "Man, this city, I tell you, I had to go back to fuckin' Kansas man, and I just got back, and here you are, Al, I can't believe I'm seeing you again after all this time."
BCK handed Al some money. "You keep that as a bookmark or something, hey, Al? You still smoke Al?" he asked, and he handed Al a pack of cigarettes.
Al mumbled something else.
BCK continued his amazing (to yours truly) monologue. "Al, I got this, you know, this website and you know, I put like, all my poems and short stories on there, and you were a total inspiration to me, man! I put some of my poems about you up on the site, and my readers man, they really loved them. I put those photos up too, remember, from that day we spent together? When we had a few beers, some chips, some smokes? You remember that, Al?" BCK reached for Al's hand again. He brought it up to his lips and kissed it. "Man, I got my camera with me, mind if I get a few shots? Man, my readers will be so totally blown away if I put this up..."
Al must have agreed to another photo shoot, because BCK immediately went to stand behind Al, leaning in close and taking three or four quick snapshots.
A woman with a huge, brown and white pit bull got on at Castro. BCK and Al started petting the dog, who wagged his tail excitedly. The woman tried to pull the dog into a seat.
"Come on, Turtle, let's go," she said.
A mom with a little boy got on. The baby started pointing at the dog and tried to say "woof, woof."
BCK said, "Aw, man, this is so beautiful, this dog is bringing together me and Al, and this kid, and it's just so nice."
The woman nodded.
At 18th and Dolores the driver jumped out to fix the poles.
BCK grabbed Al's hand again for another kiss. Then he went to the door.
"You take care man, you hear me? I want to see you again, Al, so you stay healthy, you hear?"
and then BCK was gone.

I kept waiting for him to mention his website's name, I'd love to see it. But he didn't. So sad.

Also seen on the bus this week:
The grown woman who wears the frilly dresses.
The man who looks familiar from the back.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bus Report #270

I walked out to the bus stop this morning, half asleep. It felt earlier than usual even though my watch assured me I was right on time.
Nikolas walked up and smiled. "Where have you been? I haven't seen you in a month," he said.
I said, "You know, either I've been late or I've been early, but I just can't tell."
"I think early," he said.
The Smiley bus driver stopped on a dime so that Nikolas and I could be the first people on the bus.
She said good morning.
I told her, "long time no see, good to see you."
And we were off.
We flew down Geary. Oddly, there weren't any people waiting at most of the stops.

I got mean at my least favorite stop, Scott Street.
If I ran MUNI, I would discontinue this stop first thing. I've had a weird hatred for this stop the entire time I've ridden the 38. There are never more than 1 or 2 people waiting there and the stop is very close to the Divisadero stop.
So we were about to bypass Scott Street (which had me cheering inside!) when one of the regulars (who could have just as easily gotten our bus at Divisadero) came tearing down the street towards the stop.
Smiley driver slowed down. The regular was running as fast as her short legs could carry her, until she dropped her water bottle. She turned around and went back for it. I wanted to tell Smiley driver to go, just go, let this late person wait for the next bus.
But Smiley driver is too nice. She waited.
The regular finally caught the bus, gasping for air, panting, barely able to get her MUNI fast pass out of her bag.
She collapsed into the seat next to mine.
I ignored her.

On the 22 Fillmore, someone was wearing bad cologne so I opened a few windows.
People on the bus seemed to be in a reading mood.
The guy sitting next to me was reading: A hardcover book from the Eureka branch of the library, written by someone named Kim but I never got the name of it.
Across from me, one woman was reading a bodice ripper novel, in Russian.
Next to her, someone was reading a Harry Potter book, also in Russian.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bus Report #269

Last night I caught the 2 Clement in front of the Aztec Building (I actually just learned it's Mayan, but I haven't gotten around to calling it that yet).
I got a seat near the back door. It was early enough that it was a mostly downtown crowd, men and women with briefcases and designer suits, too much 'nice' perfume and cologne.
And of course, yours truly.
With too much stuff and old sneakers and a jacket a little too warm for the weather.
The 2 made good time rolling down Sutter.
At Sutter and Van Ness we stopped to let on passengers.
A little girl and her mom got on. The girl was tired and mom had to lead her to a seat, where the little girl lay down with her head in her mom's lap.

A man got on wearing a ripped up trench coat and carrying a few plastic shopping bags.
As soon as he'd moved past the driver, the driver jumped up and proceeded to open all the windows he could find.
It took a minute to figure out why, but then the man in the trench coat planted himself in the back door stair well and we all got a whiff of his dirty, chokingly awful smell.
I suddenly wished for the people with their heavy 'nice' perfume or cologne to come back.
The woman sitting in front of me had a shawl on, which she immediately re-wrapped so a part of it covered her face.
The driver caught the end of the light and we were off again.
I felt bad for the smelly man. It didn't seem like he could help it.
He got out at the stop across the street from the mega-chain-coffee-place in Laurel Heights. I wondered if he was going inside, and how long they would let him stay before people started to complain.

At Arguello and California, a woman started hassling the driver about his liberal use of the brakes. She kept looking to the rest of us for an ally, but no one seemed interested. We just wanted to get home.

I was waiting to hop out at 6th Ave. when I overheard the following:

Little blonde girl: When's Christmas so I can get all the toys?
Blondie's mom: Well, it's coming up, but you won't get all the toys. Not even half, by NEXT Halloween.

I was not the only person laughing as I got out of the bus.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bus Report #268

Saturday it rained all day.
I had to go to the library, which meant the 38 Geary bus. I didn't have to wait long for one to arrive at my stop. I got ready to get in, but this man started to get out through the front as I was getting in. Then, even though I was right there, he opened his umbrella right in my face.
I rolled my eyes at the driver, who gave me a 'what can you do?' look.
On my way back from the library I waited under the cover of the bus shelter with two middle-aged women, a little boy, and his grandma.
The little boy climbed up on the seat, quickly lost his balance, and fell.
The rest of us waiting gasped.
He was all right.
The bus came and it was warm.
Out the window I saw the ghost of someone I used to know. It was strange.
I saw the ghost again yesterday along Clement.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bus Report #267

I rode home tonight on the 38, from downtown after watching the film Wristcutters. It’s great, go see it, then read the story it’s based on, called ‘Kneller’s Happy Campers’ by Etgar Keret. He also made it into a great graphic novel called ‘Kamikaze Pizza’.
Anyhow, nighttime buses always make me sad. Something about the poor lighting and the mix of passengers that is so different than commute hour passengers.
I spent ten minutes watching the kid/boy/man in front of me pop his ear plug (you know, those rings or plugs people use to stretch out their earlobes) in and out of it’s hole.
Then some USF students got on and crowded the aisle in front of me.
I had my headphones on so I didn’t hear their conversation.
I got out a couple of stops early to walk and stretch my legs.
Clement was a ghost town already. There weren’t even people hanging out near Pizza Orgasmica or Coriya Hot Pot City.
I came around the corner and was about to cross the street near the donut shop. As usual, I looked through the glass windows to see if the Alien Donut Man was there.
And he was.
For the first time in at least two months.
Same blue ski jacket. Same rigid posture.
I was glad to see him.
I walked past the donut shop quickly, not wanting him to see me.
But I know he did: as I went by I could see him out of the corner of my eye.
Instead of turning his head to watch me go by, he turned his whole body.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bus Report #266

I still haven't called MUNI about the Next Bus thingy at my afternoon stop. I might tonight. Along with not having all the buses listed, the times on it are completely inaccurate. This tells me that what I have always thought must be true: they are going off the printed schedule and not the actual real time arrival of the bus.
If you know different, let me know.
It just seems like it wouldn't be too hard to put GPS on the buses, or something.
Keep the people happy.

The other night I got out of class and walked quickly to the bus stop. There were a couple people there waiting. I asked one of them, a guy who looked cold (he was only wearing a T-shirt) which bus he was waiting for.
"28," he told me.
"How long you been here?" I asked.
"Dunno. Maybe 2 minutes?"
Hmmm.... It was a tough call. I stood there for a couple minutes. Then I decided to call 311, the new 'information line' that was recently set up by the city.
I was immediately connected to a perky young woman.
"Can you tell me when the next 28 hits Lombard and Fillmore?" I asked her.
"Sure," she said. "That's um... Let's see.. That's 24 minutes."
Great, I thought.
Yeah I'm not waiting for a bus that might come in 24 minutes. I stepped into Lombard and hailed a cab.
My cabbie was new to San Francisco.
"We'll get there together, sweetie," he said.

I waited for the 10 Townsend last night with a kid who was weighed down with bags. He was either a CCA (California Culinary Academy) or a CCA (California College of the Arts) student.
He grinned at me and asked, "Do you think they'll notice if I use a Canadian quarter?"
I smiled back. "I don't know, I've never tried," I said.
"I mean, it's worth more now anyway," he continued.
"True," I said. "It's almost a real quarter."
The bus pulled up and I got on. Behind me I heard the kid dropping his handful of coins in the meter.
It beeped, he got his transfer, and he came and sat down somewhere behind me.

Next Bus showed another 7 and 20 minutes for the 22 to arrive, but as we left the stop one pulled up right behind us.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bus Report #265

Yesterday while I waited at my stop I noticed they gave us a Next Bus console (or whatever they are called)!
I was excited until I realized that it was only giving the time for the 22 Fillmore, and not the 10 which stops there and the 19 Polk which is across the street.
If it still doesn't show those buses when I go out there later, I plan on calling them about it tonight.

Today I voted, did you?

I ended up taking a 2 Clement and it was so empty, it was great. I could have started pulling wads of cash out of my pockets to count it and no one would have even seen me (If I had wads of cash, that is).
At Fillmore I switched to the 22. Unlike at my usual stop, there were only a couple people waiting, AND there was a Next Bus console.
It was like, 'See what your life could be like if you changed your morning route?'
What a tease.
Took the bus all the way down to work with no problems.
It was a little strange to be bereft of regulars, but I survived.