Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bus Report #295

t's been a good couple days for seeing regulars on MUNI.
Last night I saw the Alien Donut Man at the donut shop. As usual, I tried not to stare but ended up staring anyway.
This morning I had the Handsome South Asian Chef on my 38 Geary.
I was glad to see him, it's been a while. He looks good, happy to report he's still handsome.
On the 22 I sat with Carmen and our usual crowd of bus mates managed to parade onto the bus in their usual order.
The three bad brothers
The kid who always wears bandannas around his neck
The tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed man who gets on at Haight
The man who looks familiar from the back
The woman with the inappropriate frilly dresses
The mom with the first-grader
The sewing ladies

At Carmen's stop I got a new seatmate, a man with several backpacks who talked to himself the three stops we shared a seat.
At Mission, the woman I thought was a toothless man barked at her seatmate to get up. She proceeded to drop her bag (of tent poles? I couldn't tell) out the door, and then scrambled down after them.
On the way home, my 38 was packed.
So packed, I had the opportunity to have one of MUNI's least desirable experiences: the rotating line up of crotches pressing against my shoulder. Joy of joys.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bus Report #294

This morning I got on the 22 and Carmen had saved me a seat, per usual.
Our commute was standard until the bus got to Fillmore and Fell.
All of a sudden, the sort of mean driver got on the crackly PA system and said that there was an accident in front of us and she didn't know how long we'd be waiting there. We could get out and walk or we could wait, it was up to us.
Carmen and I decided to wait a while. It was still early for us, and we didn't mind.
Time passed.
People got off the bus, others got on.
Finally we decided we should walk. I called back to the sort of mean driver, "Good luck!"
It was nice out, bright, crisp, just a little rain spitting down on us.
We followed the route of the bus, funnily enough, even though it might have been more direct for us not to.
At Waller Street we saw a man who takes our bus most days. We warned him he might be waiting a while.
At Duboce, the mom and her now-first grader were waiting. We told them about the delay, too.
We kept going.
12 22 Fillmore buses in the opposite direction went by in the 10 minutes we were walking.
I left Carmen on the corner of her street.
"Let me know tomorrow what happened," she said.
As I passed Katz Bagels and waited on the corner of 16th and Valencia, my bus came. But at that point it was way to crowded for me to even try to ride it.
I kept walking.
I managed to catch a 33 Stanyan at Mission.
I got out at my usual stop and kept walking the rest of the way, stopping only for today's paper and to wave at someone I know who works at UPS.
I still got to work before anyone else.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bus Report #293

It's raining today, in case you hadn't noticed.
Which is why I was waiting inside the bus shelter this morning, trying to stay dry.
A shelter cleaning truck pulled up and a guy got out. He gestured for me to move.
I looked at him and moved a little bit, but stayed in the shelter.
He gestured for me to move out of the shelter all together.
I did, getting rained on in the process, and I watched with confusion as he proceeded to pressure wash the whole bus shelter with water.
Which would make sense if it was dirty, but it wasn't, because IT WAS RAINING.
I looked at a guy standing nearby and he shook his head.
Waste of water if you ask me.

The smiley driver pulled up and I got on.
Another commute filled with wet people, wet umbrellas, open umbrellas, umbrellas with dangerously pointed ends sticking up, you name it.
There was a man wearing a huge plastic garbage bag over his coat, with part of it partially covering his face. This always makes me nervous and a little sick.

At Fillmore I got out and went to wait under the bus shelter's overhang.
It's a huge shelter/stop, plenty of room for everyone, but one of the weird guys who rides the bus most days decided he needed to stand RIGHT NEXT TO ME, do his arm swinging exercises, do his leg stretching exercises and then start smoking right next to me.
I moved away but really HE should have moved away. And have some respect for non-smokers. At least move so your smoke isn't blowing on me.
And while I'm ranting, isn't there a law about smoking in bus shelters? I thought there was one.
If anyone knows, let me know.

The bus came and it was crowded. I got on and sat next to a guy who was sleeping.
At the next stop, someone tapped me on the shoulder from behind.
It was Carmen, she'd been sitting in the back and I hadn't seen her. We moved to a newly-vacated seat and spent the rest of her commute chatting.

At Church Street, the man who looks familiar from the back got on, as did the woman with the inappropriate frilly dresses and the dark glasses.
At Valencia, the creepy dude with the red beard got on. His beard is lumberjack size now.
Once again, the sort of mean driver let a stark raving crazy person on the bus, who had an extremely dangerous-looking pointy umbrella. This crazy person was really twitchy and I found myself watching the umbrella jerk around and near-miss poking several people.
At Shotwell she pushed her way to the back of the bus. As she waited for the door to open, she declared, "I am glad to finally get off this damn bus."
Honey, we were all glad.

Bus Report #292

Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports that Mayor Newsom is using some MUNI/SFMTA funds to help pay his aides. Excuse me? Mr. Mayor, have you ever taken MUNI? Do you not understand that the money needs, NEEDS to be used to improve the system?
I'm sick of this.
The budget is tight as it is, ask any regular rider of MUNI and they'll tell you: service has been on a decline for years, while the price of a regular transfer has risen dramatically over the past few years. Buses are not on time, people evade paying their fares, and commutes have gotten longer and longer.
The Mayor's office claims the funds are being used to pay salaries of aides who are working on SFMTA-related projects.
I'll believe it when I see it.

Until then, Mr. Mayor, I would like to invite you to spend a day with me on the bus. No cameras, no aides, no media, just you, your transfer, and the rest of us. Wear a fake mustache if you like.
Your itinerary:
Meet at my morning bus stop at 6:35 AM, and take the 38 inbound.
Wait for the 22 Fillmore before the sun comes up, maybe take the opportunity to talk to the homeless man who camps out in the bus stop. Tell the smokers who smoke in the bus shelter to go somewhere else.
Get on the 22 Fillmore. The sort of mean driver won't let you pass with just your smile and your well-sculpted hair. Pay your fare.
We'll sit in the back of the bus so you can mingle with your constituents.
I'll get out at my usual stop, but you'll continue to the end of the line, where you will then transfer to an inbound T-Third.
At 5 PM, you'll meet me at my afternoon stop.
We'll take the 10 Townsend downtown, and then switch to a 38 Regular (because the Limited is too fancy for you, sir) which we will ride through the Tenderloin up to Japantown and out to my neighborhood.
We will get out at my stop.
I will go home.
You will cross the street and wait for the 38 Regular going back downtown.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bus Report #291

Not a lot going on lately in my MUNI world.
Spent the rest of last week busing it with Carmen in the morning.
On my return trips, I managed to spy the Alien Donut Man in the donut shop four nights in a row.
I had company in town on the weekend, including the Professor. On Saturday we took the 33 Stanyan from our neighborhood down to the Mission, and later on that night took a 38 down to Edinburgh Castle.
The next day, we took the 38 to Japantown and later that night took a 22 from the Marina back home.
This morning there weren't many people on the bus, I couldn't figure out why because yesterday was the holiday, not today. I managed to get a window seat and spent much of the commute zoning out.
The bus got extremely crowded at Mission Street but for once everyone moved to the back of the bus so the driver didn't have to yell at anyone. When we got to my stop, my seat mate actually stood up to let me out.
It was quite strange, the sudden politeness that had hit the 22 Fillmore.
I won't complain. I'd rather get politeness on the bus over anything else one could contract (MRSA, anyone?).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bus Report #290

How often do you see people fighting up against the outside of a bus that had been in motion a minute before?
Until this morning, my answer was never.
After a relaxed, ordinary bus ride with Carmen and the other regulars (QSAM, the woman with the inappropriate frilly dresses, the creepy dude with the red beard, the man who looks familiar from the back, etc.) I got out of the 22 Fillmore at Bryant and 16th Street.
I was barely off the bus when I noticed that two guys were fighting each other, one of them having shoved the other one up against the side of the bus. He was trying to strangle him.
I stood there for a moment, with the man who looks familiar from the back and the woman with the dark sunglasses, watching and wondering what we should do.
The bus knew what to do and took off.
The two men lurched, still locked together, towards the trash can. The more aggressive of the two punched the other guy in the face. They kept struggling.
I thought someone should maybe call the police but the man who looks familiar from the back and the woman with the dark glasses were already drifting away.
I called 911.
"Hey," I said, when an operator answered. "I'm at 16th and Bryant and there are two guys fighting, and one of them is kind of half-dressed at this point."
The guys were still fighting so I crossed the street, keeping them in my sights while I talked to the operator.
"Any weapons?" she asked me.
"Not that I can see," I said.
As I neared the Potrero Center, the guys stopped fighting. The one who had lost his shirt put it back on, and they walked in opposite directions.
"On second thought, don't send anyone," I told the operator.
She told me to call back if I needed anything further.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bus Report #289

It was wonderfully foggy this morning when I went out to catch the bus. I love the soft light and the way everything looks dreamy and temporary.
The smiley driver picked me up at my stop and our bus sped through the blurry lights, picking up a few passengers at each stop until we got to Fillmore.
Not much going on down on Fillmore this morning. The homeless man who camps out in my bus stop was there, completely shrouded in a gold colored quilt covered in red roses.

The 22 rolled up right on time. It's nice having Carmen back as a regular on this route, because she always saves me a seat.
We chatted and joked around. I pointed out the new (and exciting!) Golden Natural Foods, a few doors down from the excellent Golden Produce.
A while later, after she had gotten out and I got a new seatmate (a boyish woman reading 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat', a great book), we stopped at Mission where the sort of mean driver wouldn't allow anyone to exit through the back door yet she would let three extremely creepy, non-paying people get on (Which I'm sorry, is just weird. She usually makes everyone pay. Maybe she has a soft spot for the hard-up.)
Exhibit A: Our friend in the 'bah humbug' chenille hat, her plastic bag stuffed outfit accessorized by a pile of greying white T-Shirts she wore looped onto her arm. Talking to herself and whipping the shirts around.
Exhibit B: Her companion, a smiling, bearded blond guy with no sense of urgency in boarding the bus, who just sat next to her, silent and smiling.
Exhibit C: And last but not least, a tall man in a trench coat, chartreuse sweatshirt with the hood up, and a girl's Easter bonnet on top of the hood. He seemed creepiest of all, with the way he smiled with his mouth open, the slow, deliberate way he went to an empty seat, and the bonnet... which looked completely out of place on the bus in the winter, and which was too small for his head.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bus Report #288

Another day, another bus ride.
It's been a good week for commuting, despite the rain.
I've seen Carmen every day, Nikolas once, a mom and two daughters who I know from around the neighborhood, the man who looks familiar from the back and other regulars.

The sort of mean driver continues to be sort of mean... It's more like she's just not friendly. Most drivers, if you see them every day, at least acknowledge that they've seen you before. Not her.
She won't let people board through the back door, which is good, but she will let stark raving mad people on the bus, the more trash bags they have with them the better. She's an enigma, the sort of mean driver.

Monday on my way in to work, as I was about to walk under the overpass, I noticed a large amount of downed tree branches blocking the sidewalk, the bus stop and almost half the road. I gingerly stepped around it.
The same scenario was repeated Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday morning I'd had enough. I called 311, thinking I might be able to report the tree branches. I spoke to a man who took down all my information, but I'll admit I didn't have high hopes.
Fast forward to Thursday night, when I missed the bus and decided I might as well walk to the Mission, where I was meeting The Teacher's Pet and her man. I rounded the corner and there it was....
A branch-free stretch of sidewalk and street.
I was glad.
This morning the bus was late and crowded.
I sat next to a series of headphone wearing people, who had their music on loud enough that my own headphones didn't drown them out.
One of the teenagers munched on a box of Cheez-Its. at 7 AM. Gross.
The bus broke down at 16th and Church.
I sighed, apparently loud enough for my seat mate to give me a concerned look.
When I finally got to my stop, it was my light to cross the street but the sort of mean driver ran it anyway.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bus Report #287

Five commutes with Carmen, three of which also featured heavy rain. Carmen's umbrella suffered major, irreversible trauma in the wind and had to be thrown out. As for me, a little water in the old, broke down boots but otherwise I weathered the storm (so to speak) better than a lot of people.
Potrero Hill had spotty electricity last Friday, and I spent a lot of time towards the end of the work day checking online to see if I would have commute problems due to the weather. Happily, I can report that all went swimmingly and I didn't get too wet.
Update on the Edinburgh Castle: They are open, all is well, looks like they may have been re-doing their windows. Phew. I am relieved.
Last night's 38 Geary was crowded, and wet, and I ended up with wet umbrellas against my shoulder. Not okay.
The woman sitting next to me was reading a book, using a chopstick as a pointer as she read. It was weird.
When it was time to get out the bus, a knot of kids were standing in the step well and, as always happens, didn't seem at all inclined to move, so those of us who were getting out started to push them. How adult of us.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Bus Report #286

Yesterday morning I went downtown, early, to meet some friends at the SFMOMA. I waited for the 38 at Arguello, and was surprised and a little excited to see that our 38 Geary was actually the double decker bus that's being tested out on a few lines to see how it works for San Francisco's commuters.
I got on and immediately went upstairs. The ceiling on the second level is pretty low, but I'm not tall so I had no problem. I sat down in a nice, clean-looking upholstered seat that featured red, white and blue stars and stripes.
The seats on the double decker bus are smaller than on the other buses, but the nice thing about them is that they are sort of separate seats, so I don't think you'd have the problem of huge people taking up most of your seat like you get on a regular bus.
The bus was much quieter than the regular ones, and not just because people were quiet. The only bus-specific noises I heard were the announcements the driver made at each stop and the MUNI Transit Assistant who sat in front of me asking people if they wanted to take a survey.
It was cool to see the city from up on high... It looked cleaner, calmer, more San Francisco-y than usual.
I got up and went down the stairs a couple of minutes before we pulled in to my stop. There were a couple more MUNI attendants downstairs, manning the collection box for the surveys and making sure the doors opened properly.
So what's the verdict? Well, Fog City Notes enjoyed riding the double decker bus. It wasn't as spacious as the double deckers in the UK are, and the ceiling on the upper deck is definitely too low for anyone over five feet five inches tall.
I wouldn't want to take one during rush hour, though, or late at night. During rush hour I can see people getting stuck on the upper deck if the bus gets crowded, and at night I can imagine people camping out in the back seats, or sleeping, or doing things usually reserved for late night 22 Fillmore buses.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bus Report #285

The bus is back to normal after a couple of weeks of downtime.
I saw a good chunk of the usual folks today:
The teen, the bus flagger, the man who looks familiar from the back, the catfish face man, Carmen (who caught me up on her Christmas and New Years adventures) and the sewing ladies.

The sort of mean driver did something unusual: she let a ranting and raving homeless woman (man? It was hard to tell) on the bus and didn't throw them off even after the ranting and raving got loud and a little scary. The wo/man was wearing layers of plastic sheeting under a filthy bomber jacket and a chenille Santa hat that said 'bah humbug' on it. It was sad. S/he was clutching an empty box from a video game system and wouldn't put it down.

Saw a new F Market train down on Market Street, but I couldn’t read the sign that said where it was from. It looked old.

Last night the 38 was sardine-packed, and I had my music turned up loud so I wouldn't have to deal with anyone.
I had a fright as we passed the Edinburgh Castle: the front windows were dark and looked broken, and the place looked closed.
I was very sad to think the Castle might be closed, because I love that place. I went home and checked their website, and everything looks in order, so hopefully they just need new windows.
If anyone has any more information, please let me know.

I had to push my way out of the bus at my stop. I hate teenagers with huge backpacks who think it's a good idea to stand in the step well.