Monday, December 31, 2007

Bus Report #284

New Year's Eve day, and not a lot of people out and about at 7 AM, fancy that!
I waited in the cold dark at Fillmore and Geary without any of the other regulars today.

Across the street, three limp, tired ex-Christmas trees were lined up against the side of a building.
The bus came and I got on. I sat against the window near the back door.
There was something wrong with the hydraulics on the back door, so that any time it opened or closed the whole bus shook. Even though I knew exactly what was happening, it still made my eyeballs shake and my heart burrow further into my chest every time.

As we drove past the police station and the laundromat on Fillmore near Eddy, I saw someone in a bright yellow watch cap running to catch the bus. It was the original chef!
I watched him run, and hoped the sort of mean driver would wait for him at the next stop.
She did.

16th & Mission was a ghost town, which was unusual. The sort of mean driver gave a woman some directions and the woman got out of the bus. A couple minutes later, the sort of mean driver started honking her horn, finally managing to get the woman's attention. The woman climbed back onto the bus, as the sort of mean driver said, "Potrero, that's what you want. Potrero."
As we pulled in to my stop, I noticed my seatmate, one of the sewing ladies, had fallen asleep. I carefully maneuvered my way around her so I didn't wake her.
A woman with the walker managed to beat me across 16th Street by a full minute.

Happy New Year, everyone, and here's to safe, fast commutes in 2008!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bus Report #283

Every morning on the 22, it's the same thing.
I end up staring at a dirty, lavender faux suede hat with a crushed brim that is on the head of a person (gender undetermined) who always sits a few rows ahead of me.
Sometimes, I forget what day it is and wonder if I've gone crazy.
Because this person is always sitting in front of me.
Every day.
Of course, that's not unusual since there are a ton of regulars on my route and I see them every day, too.
Like the Catfish Face man, or the woman-who-looks-like-a-model-but-isn't, both of whom were in their usual seats.

A woman got on at Eddy wearing black pajamas with pink bows all over them.
She had a jacket and shoes on, but she must have been cold. In a practical sense, I can't imagine wearing my PJs out and then going home and getting into bed with them on. I hope she doesn't do that.
The woman who always wears the frilly, girly dresses was on the bus, but she was wearing jeans. Still had her dark sunglasses on, though.
The creepy bearded dude, the girl with the bad dye job and the sewing ladies were all on my bus, too.

I decided to ride all the way up the hill today and get a coffee at Farley's.
Too bad they were closed (but set to open at 8 AM).
I walked down the hill. It was eerily quiet for Potrero Hill, and wet and cold and still.
It felt great, even though I was coffee-less.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bus Report #282

The Christmas or post-Christmas nuttiness continues.
Last night on my way home, everyone on my 22 Fillmore had some sort of weird issue going on.
The man across from me was wearing shorts, knee socks and bedroom slippers, and had a strange, vacant look on his face. Two drunks were slurring words and mumbling to each other, while one of them yelled into a turned-off cell phone.
People in the back of the bus started fighting, but I couldn't tell why.

At Church and Market, one of the drunks, a skinny boy in tight jeans, a black sweater and a black baseball hat got out and promptly went into the bus shelter opposite Chow, where he stood in the corner and peed up against the MUNI map. I didn't watch him, but it was pretty obvious what he was doing.

From Sutter Street I caught a 4 Sutter and rode it to the end of the line. I thanked the driver as I got out.
"That's the first thanks I've gotten all day," he called to me as I followed a mom and her daughter out the back door.
It was 6:15 PM.

This morning the smiley bus driver pulled up right in front of me, as usual. We exchanged 'hello's' and I went to sit down.
The couple who only ride a block or two got on, as did the bus flagger (who must have been running late, since she was not at the stop a minute earlier to flag in vain...)
The back door was stuck open so the smiley driver went to fix it. It took her a few minutes, with the help of a few guys who were sitting in the back.
One of the guys, who was wearing a ripped up blue pullover, picked up some trash that had been blocking the doors. The offending items? A dented, empty condensed milk can, and an empty plastic flask of some sort of alcohol (I couldn't see the label).
We were on our way a moment later.

On the 22, proof that Santa Claus is real:
A frail, sickly, elderly man with a cane got on the bus. He was wearing a duffel coat and worn-looking jeans, had a full white beard, and carried a bright red plastic sack.
The bag had a bio hazard symbol on it and said Peligro-Danger on it.
White beard? Red bag? You be the judge.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bus Report #281

On Christmas day, the crazies ride the bus.
Well, the crazies plus one.
That would be me.
I caught a 38 Geary yesterday morning to go to the newly renovated Kabuki to see Juno.
The bus was coming as I got to Geary, so I risked dying on Christmas to cross the street.
The bus was mostly empty, except for a few people wearing really weird hats (felt, torn up shirts, puffy paint... Wasn't sure what was going on there), several elderly grandmas and grandpas and of course, what bus ride is complete without a crazy?
Only we had 1 crazy per 5 people.
The first crazy was a woman wearing what looked like a sleeping bag belted around her body with a bungee cord or bit of rope. She had a hat on that could have been made of newspaper, but I couldn't really tell from where I was sitting. She sat in the back of the bus and argued with herself quite loudly in Chinese.
The second crazy was a skinny, sick-looking homeless man with bright, yellowed eyes. He said "Merry Christmas" to everyone he walked by. Everyone said "Merry Christmas" back to him.
He sat towards the back of the bus. He was still talking, to himself this time, when I glanced back. He had managed to shove all his fingers in his mouth at the same time, while continuing to speak in a strange, strangled manner.
The third crazy was this dude from the neighborhood who likes to shoot people looks of death, mumble to himself, and pick threads from his jeans.
I ignored them all.
The Kabuki was still closed when I got down to Fillmore, so I walked over to Nijiya Market to get some movie snacks. I got Choco Baby and Men's Pocky (I know, I'm not a man but I like the pocky anyway!).
Back at the Kabuki I waited in line with about 15 other people.
Inside, we were asked to select our seat from a touch screen. I chose an aisle.
It's really great, this reserved seating thing they're doing there!
No more waiting for your friends with coats thrown over seats. Nope. Now you just buy a block of seats, no problem.
Juno was a cute movie, I recommend it.

This morning, the woman who always flags down the bus wasn't at my stop. The smiley driver grinned at me and said, "She's not here today!"
I smiled back. "Yes," I said. "Not today."

On the 22 Fillmore there were only a few commuters. Among the morning regulars we had the Catfish Face man, the smelly guy, the girl who shouldn't have dyed her hair black and some Roche Bobois guys.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bus Report #280

As seen on the bus yesterday:
Two people wearing real eye patches, one over the left eye who got on at McAllister and one who got on at Guerrero with a patch over the right eye.
A boy reading an electronic book (It had a leather case but it was a tablet style computery thing).
A woman knitting.
A woman with five rolls of holiday wrapping paper in a torn paper shopping bag.
A man reading a small hardcover book called, 'What Do Gay Men Want?'.
The man who looks familiar from the back.

Today while out and about in the neighborhood I saw a couple of kids I know from the 38, and while standing in line in Ross I saw a familiar smiling face about ten people ahead of me.
"Hey, Carmen," I called from the back of the line. She looked up, saw me, and waved.
"Well hello," she said. "I was just wondering how you were."
We couldn't really talk (shout) to each other in the line because the store was too crowded. I shrugged my shoulders and told her, "Well, happy holidays, we'll talk soon on the bus."
She nodded.
A few minutes later, as the line moved, I lost sight of her.
I was staring at a hideous Christmas-themed wicker basket when I felt someone brush against me. I looked over and saw that it was Carmen, arms full of packages.
She gave me a hug and wished me a happy holiday.
I told her I'd see her next week. She left, to go have dinner with her family.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bus Report #279

Last night I took the bus home from the Mission with KT. We had very good bus luck: two minutes at the bus stop, and a 22 Fillmore pulled up. The driver stopped right in front of us. He didn't say anything about the messy ice creams we had with us. We got seats in the back of the bus.
At Geary it was the same thing... The 38 pulled in to the stop within a minute or two of us getting there.
A homeless woman with a cart full of stuff was sitting in the bus shelter. "It raining yet?" she asked me.
"Not yet," I told her.
From start to finish, I was home in 40 minutes.

Today I left work early so I could go home before my office holiday party. I got a good window seat on the 22. I put on my headphones and zoned out.
A woman got on at Potrero and sat next to me. Almost immediately, she started talking to me. At first I just kind of nodded and smiled and tried to ignore her, still listening to NPR. She kept talking. Finally I took off my headphones and we had a short conversation (well, she talked, I listened) that covered a lot of ground.
Her name was Leticia. She had walked from 28th St. to 16th to catch the bus. She was en route to her sister's house, where she would be paid for light housework. She uses salt and baking soda and bleach to get the dishes extra clean. Her cell phone battery was dead. She lived in the half-way house for recovering addicts. Her kids lived with her mother, and they were both very smart. She and her boyfriend had just had a massive fight, about his drinking, and she didn't care, she was just going to go to her sisters, then get the phone fixed, and planned to pay the boyfriend no mind. She was looking for work, and was I hiring? No matter. She had faith in god that he had a plan for her. She would be all right.
Before her stop, she asked me if I could pull the signaler. Of course I could.
"Well, its been nice talking to you miss," she said. She offered me her hand. "My name's Leticia."
I shook her hand. "Rachel," I said.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bus Report #278

Christmas comes to the 38.
I counted several Santa hats yesterday, and people armed with shopping bags from all the Union Square stores.
Conversely, people were still rude and pushy and had no problems knocking me in the head with their purses and backpacks.

This morning the woman who always flags down the bus did it again.
The smiley driver caught my eye as she pulled into the stop and rolled her eyes, and laughed, and pointed to the woman.
When I got on the bus the smiley driver was giggling behind her hand. I laughed, too.

At Fillmore I waited with the always under-dressed-for-the-cold teen and a few of the other regulars. Our bus came and as usual with this slightly mean driver, she stopped far away from where we were all standing and didn't say good morning to us or even acknowledge us.

The kid sitting in front of me had a velour Santa hat on. Hard to put in to words but the way he reached up to pull the signaller, the way his little hand closed around the cord, there was something beautiful in that moment.
I got out the bus at my normal stop and got my coffee, the paper, and started to walk.
A 53 Southern Heights (one of my favorite ghost buses) was about to pull out of the stop at Bryant when a man ran up and started banging on the back of the bus to be let on.
The driver took off and left the guy standing there.
It didn't seem to phase him, though. The guy started walking, talking loudly to himself and then punched a newspaper box.
I crossed the street and there was another guy on my side of the street doing the same thing.
Ah, San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bus Report #277

It's been a quiet if occasionally exasperating week so far on the bus.
In no order, here's what's going on:

The woman at my stop in the morning (who constantly feels the need to flag down the smiley bus driver) flagged her down. Again. This has been going on for months.
The smiley bus driver just did what she always does. She smiled at me and raised her eyebrows, then opened the door right in front of me to let me in first.

I saw Nikolas on the bus last night, it was strange to see him during daylight.
I asked him how he was doing.
"Well, I really hurt my back this morning, so not that good," he said.
Poor guy.

The Western Addition Branch Library is reopening soon. The building is very well lit at night so I can see inside when we drive by. There aren't any books yet, just shelves. I can't wait until they bring back the books. It's a great little library.

The Hotel Casa Loma is up for sale again. Guess New College couldn’t keep it. Hope it finds a buyer soon.

The 38 was so crowded last night I had to spend my whole ride with a woman's bare belly inches from my face. She had a belly button piercing. It was a little gross.

On my errands at work today I ran in to Ramon. He crossed the street to come say hi, then promptly tripped at the curb before I could give him a hug. It's been a while. it was nice to see him.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bus Report #276

This afternoon I took the 1 California down to Embarcadero to see Margot At The Wedding.
I really thought it was a great film, go see it and let me know what you think.
On the way home the bus started to get crowded in Chinatown. My neighbor across the stairwell in my apartment building got on the bus, and sat down beside me. The bus got really full after that. People were pushing each other, or else bumping each other with their massive shopping bags. A couple moved up to sit in the seat in front of us.
The younger man in the couple made it to his seat before the bus started again, but the older man in the couple lost his footing and started to fall backwards. Mrs. J. caught him by the arm.
He thanked her. I noticed he had beautiful, glass-blue eyes.
He made it to his seat, crunching his shopping bag between the seat and the wall.
Mrs. J. and I gossiped about the other neighbors and the landlord. It was interesting to get her insight about the other tenants.
She cleared up a couple of questions I had about our old landlord, and I filled her in on the happenings on my side of the stairwell.
She got out of the bus a few stops before I did, because she had to go to the market. I rode the bus right to our street and walked up the hill in the cold.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bus Report #275

Last night on the 38 Geary:

A homeless man got on our bus at Divisadero and Geary. He wedged himself into a seat between a large woman carrying packages and another woman with her arms crossed protectively over her purse.
The man immediately starts asking both women for money. The one with her arms crossed told him she didn't speak English.
The other woman said, "I'm not giving you any money." but then she went on to recommend he check out some shelters or soup kitchens. "Do you ever go to St. Anthony's?" she asked him.
He said he didn't, that he lived in an awesome shed out by the beach.
"Can you buy my coat?" he asked her. "Someone might pay ten dollars for this."
"I already have a coat," she said.
She got out at 6th and Geary. The man immediately turned his attention to a man in a wheelchair, who also had a cane for the blind.
"Excuse me sir, are you legal blind or partially sighted?" asked the homeless man.
The man in the wheelchair said, "I have no money for you, in fact I probably have less money than you do, so don't talk to me."
A few stops later, the man in the wheelchair said, "You know, I work for a living. I work hard. Why aren't you doing that instead of panhandling?"
The homeless man had no good answer, except, "I do what I do to get by."
I mentally awarded the man in the wheelchair 20 points.

Bus Report #274

If I were the MUNI Santa here are some of the gifts I would give:

To all commuters who ride MUNI - If you can prove you've been buying monthly passes all year, a free Fast Pass in December.

For the smiley driver - Gift cards. Lots and lots of gift cards to places she likes to shop. Wherever that may be. She is so nice, she should have lots of gifts.

For the slightly mean driver with the bad PA system - A megaphone. And maybe some chocolate to try to make her nicer.

For Carmen - A trip up north to see her grandson.

For the man who looks familiar from the back - A new black jacket, since the one he wears now isn't black anymore. And I'd give him a few days where he can sleep in, since he looks so tired these days.

For the Handsome South Asian Chef - What to get for the chef who probably has everything? My phone number? A bottle of scotch? Both?

For Ramon - Passes to the movies. He's always renting movies but I bet if it was free he'd be happy to go to the Embarcadero Theater or the Clay.

For Ebony - Really comfortable sneakers, new dangly earrings, and a new job closer to where she lives.

For Nikolas - A parking space near his home in a garage, so his car doesn't get broken into again.

For the teen who always manages to sit next to me, even when the bus is empty - a warm, stylish winter coat. A couple of skip-school-without-consequence passes.

For the Alien Donut Man - He gets a new coat, too. A really warm one. And orthopedic shoes. And an opportunity to return to his home planet if that's what he wants.

And what gifts do I want from MUNI Santa? Same thing I always want: buses that run on schedule, passengers who pay their fares and are not anti-social freaks, and for the Cable Cars to be regular MUNI prices again and not $5.00, that's all.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bus Report #273

It's raining today.
I know that MUNI barely functions in the rain so I left my house early, bundled up in a few layers and some plastic rain boots.
I went to my stop and waited with several people who had their umbrellas up, INSIDE the bus shelter. Yeah.
One woman kept trying to flag down the Limited. This is a woman from my block who takes the regular every day with me. She should know by now that the Limited won't stop at our stop.
The Smiley bus driver pulled up and opened the door right in front of me. I got in and got a nice dry seat amid the sea of ones that were wet from coats and umbrellas.
Why, why, why do people put wet umbrellas on the seats? Don't they understand that it makes the seats wet? I know I complain about this every time it rains but it just seems so stupid to me.

At Fillmore we had just missed a bus. I waited in the shelter with the teen, a construction worker, and the sewing lady who gets out near Everett.

When our bus finally came (late), I noticed the destination sign said the last stop would be Kansas and 17th.
Fine with me since I get out a few stops before then.
The ride was smooth through the Mission.
At Harrison and 16th our driver got on her PA system and started saying something about the bus behind her. The PA system was so awful it was almost impossible to hear anything.
I heard a few words, like Third Street, bus behind me, and get off, but since her bus was supposed to be going to Kansas and 17th I didn't get off. Why bother.
Finally she got off her PA and screamed at the few of us who hadn't gotten out yet that we needed to "Get off the bus, now, I won't tell you again."
I got off the bus and headed up the hill. I noticed that she had changed the sign on her bus to say the last stop was Bryant and 17th.
Which begs the question: Why kick everyone out before getting to the last stop?
Not fair, not in the rain.

I walked up the hill and went to the coffee shop.
My favorite guy behind the counter asked me if I had slept well in the rain.
I had.

As I crossed the parking lot in a better mood, now that I had my coffee, I saw two thuggish-looking boys holding hands as they went in to the bank. I don't know why, but it made me smile.

Walking past the UPS headquarters I saw a few drivers I know and we exchanged greetings.
A few more UPS guys were napping in their cars under the over pass.

I rounded the corner and saw a broken down 22 Fillmore. It was the one all my bus mates had transferred to. I felt bad for them. I gave a 'what can you do?' look to one of the guys who had been on my bus. He just shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes.