Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bus Report #394

And we're back.

Back to decent MUNI service and low blood pressure.
Yesterday I took the 22 instead of the 10. No problems. Some kids got on and walked to the back, and sat down across from me. One of them had a green backpack. He set it down carefully and it made a 'clunk' sound. He and his friends exchanged worried looks. I got it: the backpack was full of beers. The boys bent over the pack and one of them unzipped the main compartment and peered in. Offered his boys a thumb's up.
At Mission, a couple of girls got on. One was wearing striped suspenders, striped earrings and a matching had with a striped band, and huge sunglasses. Her friend was dressed more subdued, but still looked strange to me. They were going to the Marina, and sat in the front of the bus talking to the driver.
An elderly man got on and gave the girls a hard stare.
"Front is for older people, not young people," he told the girls. "You move."
And they did.

This morning my bus was pretty empty, just me, Whitney, and a few other nondescript regulars.
I got out at my normal stop and went to get coffee.
They had a new girl working there, who greeted everyone with a wide smile and a loud, "are you just having a coffee?"
The guy in front of me replied just as loudly, "I'm having a coffee."
I exchanged a conspiratorial glance with another regular who was adding a bit of sugar to his coffee. He rolled his eyes back at me, then leaned in and said, "Someone should turn down the dimple patrol." Meaning, I assume, that the smiley girl should be quieter or something.
But I didn't mind.

As I crossed Potrero, a 22 came up behind me and slowed down. I looked up. The driver was one of my usual drivers. He looked at me and gestured for me to hop on board. I shook my head, smiled, thanked him and waved him on, since I wanted to walk.

The good feelings continued later, as I found myself at the Potrero Center to meet someone and then walking back to work because I forgot my wallet. I passed by the garage where I always say 'hi' to the guys in the morning. The youngish guy hanging around in one of the bays said hi, then yelled a moment later, "Hey, George wants to talk to you."
I turned around and walked into the garage for the first time. "George, huh?" I said. I didn't know any of their names, just their faces, and couldn't imagine what anyone would want to say to me.
George came out through the back of the garage and said, "Haven't seen you in a few days, how are you?" A ha. George is the nicest of the garage guys, he's the main one I talk to in the mornings. Now I have a name to match his face.
"Great," I said. "You guys been closed?"
"Nah, just playing hooky." He smiled and held something out to me. It was a pint glass with the name of the garage on it, filled with candy and pens and pencils, also bearing the name of the garage.
"Happy holidays," he said.
I thanked the guys and kept walking.
I got my wallet and headed back down the hill. I took the 22 to the 3 Jackson, then walked the rest of the way home.
Have a great New Year, everyone!
Here's to a 2009 with on time arrivals and departures and courteous fellow MUNI riders.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bus Report #393

Worst. Commute. Ever.

Heard that before?
Then this story should remind you of a similar tale of woe I told back in November (at least, I think it was November. Maybe October.)
I got on the 10 Townsend after running down the hill to catch it.
Nodded to a couple of regulars, and then we were off. We made good time to Cal Train, made good time over to 2nd Street, but that is where our luck ran out.
We were stuck in 2nd Street traffic for the next half hour.
Well, I was. The bus was probably stuck there for another hour at least, but I didn't stick around to see.

I got out at 2nd and Bryant, angry, and stomped down 2nd to Market.
I was listening to This American Life on my headphones, which lifted my spirits a little, but just a little. This week's theme? Ruining It For The Rest Of Us. How timely.
Every street I crossed had major traffic back ups, it was so bizarre. I wove my way through the traffic with a handful of other pedestrians (or bus refugees).

At Market, the buses were stacked up in both directions. I called 311 on my way to the bus stop.
"There are huge crowds at every MUNI stop," I told the woman. "What the hell's going on tonight?"
She put me on hold. I stood in the middle of a crowd of people at the Fremont stop. More people than I have ever seen at that stop.
Finally, she was back. "Well, I'm not showing any delays," she said.
"Well, there are about 20 people here who would disagree," I told her. "Are you sure there's nothing going on?"
"They haven't given us anything," she said. "There should be a 38 there in five minutes."
I hung up. The people standing nearest to me had overheard my conversation. One woman, who was holding her toddler, said, "I've been here forever... and Next Bus keeps saying 2 minutes, then 1 minute, then ten minutes."
She looked exhausted. I felt bad for her.
A 38L showed up and we all crowded on. It was only the bus' second stop, but it was already packed. I sat in the last seat in the last row in the back.
We moved at a snail's pace down Market. At New Montgomery, we stopped, and did not start up again.
People got out, all but five of us.
There was a protest and the protesters were blocking traffic. I was so angry (still am) that I can't even tell you how I felt about the protesters and what should happen to them (actually, I can tell you... Last night I wanted to round them all up and arrest them... see how they like having their evening ruined).
The bus driver told us that the cops would try to move the protesters.
We sat. Everyone sat. Cars in every direction, MUNI buses, Tour buses, everyone. Tourists took photos ("Look, a real San Francisco protest! Let's go to Fisherman's Wharf on the trolley!"), shoppers kept shopping, and people waited at the bus stops for buses that weren't going anywhere.
People with signs marched and yelled and milled around in the street.
Now, I love a good protest. I'm all over a good civil rights protest, it's our right as citizens of this nation, etc.
Don't create havoc for the rest of us. We're not going to embrace your message when we can't get home.
Know what you are protesting for or against. Don't just join in for the hell of it. I looked for Frank Chu, but I didn't see him.
So there we were, sitting in the middle of the protest.
For another 20 minutes.
Finally, someone from MUNI got on the bus and told us to walk up to Powell and Geary where there "might be" a bus for us.
Fuck that.
I asked him if he knew of any problems with the 1 California line.
He said he didn't think it would be affected.
Once again, I stomped my way down the street, walking down a jam-packed Montgomery Street to Sacramento. Cars were lined up bumper to bumper.
There was a 1 California coming towards us, but only going to Presidio.
I waited for the next one, which was going to 33rd Ave.
Got on it, eventually got a seat when we got through the mess of Chinatown.
A very cantankerous elderly man got on at Polk. Every couple of minutes he'd yell out something like, "I'm sick of this, you keep doing this, goddamnit!"
People moved away from him and his vague wrath.

At 4th Ave., the driver told us he was going out of service at 6th Ave.
Everyone got out, except me.
"Last stop," he said.
"You said 6th was your last stop," I called back. Sure, I could have walked those blocks, but I was feeling contrary. I was NOT HAPPY.
I got out at 6th and walked the rest of the way home.
Two hours.
It took two hours to get home last night.
Not cool.

**Edited to add... This was also posted in a shorter form on MUNI Diaries.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bus Report #392

More MUNI Santas:
Two RN Santas, waiting for the bus out front Cal. Pacific Med. Center. The woman had a sequined Santa hat and the guy had a velour one. Neither were particularly jolly, but at least they had the spirit.

This morning MUNI was subdued and mostly empty. Guess most people took today off. I had to run to catch the 22. When I got on, the driver wished me a 'Happy Holidays'.
I thanked him and went to sit down.
The only other regulars were the guy who always wears ear plugs and brushes his hair with what looks like a shower or curry comb, and the woman I usually see waiting at my stop. She had a huge plastic-bagged package with her.
Most of the stops were empty, people smarter than us were sleeping in or watching TV in their pajamas at home.
I got out at my usual stop. The sky was a light blue color. I stared up through the tangle of MUNI wires at the sky and it looked beautiful.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bus Report #391

Three Santas (as seen on MUNI):

Marginally housed, potentially crazy or high on something Santa - Got on my 22 the other day at Fillmore and Turk. Big, floppy Santa hat, dingy jeans and a greasy-looking overcoat. He flopped down in a seat towards the front and spent the rest of his ride (to 16th and Mission) mumbling to himself.

Jolly Santa - A woman got on my 22 this morning at Eddy. She had a fuzzy red Santa hat on. She rides the bus most mornings, a friendly-looking woman who must be in her 50s or 60s. Today, she was smiling and her cheeks looked rosy and a little shiny. She was loaded down with tote bags, and sat down behind me somewhere.

UPS Santa (the best kind?) - As the bus passed the UPS hub, I saw out the window a pair of UPS drivers walking down 16th to get to work. One of them, a tall, skinny guy dressed in UPS brown, had on a Santa hat. He must have stuffed it with something, because it stood straight up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bus Report #390

This morning I ran for the 22 and managed to catch it.

I slid in to a seat next to someone I didn't recognize. There were a few regulars on the bus: Whitney, in a beret and sneakers, the intense girl who gets out at Treat, reading a paperback copy of Middlesex, the opera lover who only ever goes two stops and the neck tattoo lady.

A few minutes later, a bunch of high school kids got on. One of them had a pan covered with foil. End of term classroom party, I bet. I remember having those!

A youngish guy got on and flopped into the seat across from me. He was reading Ficciones, by Borges.

At Mission, a woman got on with a cat in a carrier. The cat seemed laid back in the carrier, just watching everyone. When we got to Folsom, the man with the adorable daughter/granddaughter got on. The little girl was walking today, which was cute. She had on a pink coat and pink pants. She always looks like someone takes a lot of effort getting her ready for her day of daycare or preschool, and her dad/grandpa always looks so proud of her, and doting. Her dad/grandpa picked her up and put her in his lap.
The woman with the cat saw the little girl. She smiled and slowly rotated the cat carrier so the girl could see the cat.
Suddenly, everyone in the front of the bus was smiling, watching the girl, the cat, the cat lady.

The Soccer Cafe at Folsom and 16th is now open. It looks nice, so I think you should all stop in. It's right next to the teriyaki and doughnuts place, with a big open front window and tons of seating. Check it out, then let me know how it was.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bus Report #389

Sometimes you don't realise you miss someone until you see them again for the first time in maybe a year.
I was on a crowded 22 Fillmore on Monday evening. The man sitting next to me smelled awful and when he got out at Mission I was relieved. A new person came and sat down beside me, and it took me a minute but I realised I knew him.
He smiled at me, because he recognised me, too. I said hi, he said hi, and the rest of our 22 ride we just smiled at each other.
He used to get on my 22 in the mornings, at Oak Street, and was always dressed for work in construction or something. He was always polite and friendly and was one of those fellow passengers I was always glad to have sitting beside me.
At Geary we ran to catch a 38, but it was sardine-packed.
I shrugged my shoulders and said to him, "No way, I'll wait for the next one."
He nodded. "Yes," he said. "This one is no good."
He said, "It's been a long time I think, since we rode the bus together."
I agreed. "Yeah," I said. "A really long time." I took off my gloves and held out my hand. "I'm Rachel."
He shook my hand. He said his name, which sounded like a cross between a country in Europe and a model of a car. We'll call him Edel.
Edel said he was working all over the city, which is why he hadn't been on the bus in a while.
"Well, its nice to see you after so long," I told him.
We finally squeezed onto a very crowded 38. My bag was hanging in a woman's face so I tried to keep it pulled against me. She just smiled at me and told me it was no problem.
A few blocks later, Edel and I got seats.
"See?" I told him. "This bus is much better."
He agreed. We chatted a little about the bus, about meeting strangers who are friends, about his job and his brother.
I got out at my usual stop.
"Maybe I'll see you again," he said, seriously.
"Probably," I told him. "On the 22. See you later."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bus Report #388

I will never understand why MUNI can't handle rainy days.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It rains every year, like clock work, so what's the problem?
The weather and traffic guy on the radio advised commuters to start out early today, so I did.
They finally put a Next Bus console in my stop. I glanced at it. It said the next buses were in 23 and 43 minutes.
I didn't believe it but walked up to the next regular and Limited stop, just in case. the bus shelter was crowded with people who HAD THEIR UMBRELLAS UP!
Um.... if you have your umbrella up, you should NOT be in the bus shelter. I gave the umbrella woman next to me a look. She caught it and closed her umbrella, so there was enough room for another person to crowd in.
My usual bus came, and I got on.
At Fillmore, there were a lot of people waiting, never a good sign.
Said 'hey' to Rudy, who was fiddling with his igadget.
Ten minutes later, the bus came, with a substitute driver.
Rudy motioned for me to get on first, very gracious of him, but of course the obnoxious and rude construction worker decided he needed to push me and get on first.
I managed to sit next to Whitney, sort of near the front.
Rudy sat a few rows ahead. The woman who always wears sunglasses even when its dark sat behind us.
The bus got more and more crowded as we inched our way down the street.
There was another bus behind us, but it didn't make much difference.
Whitney got out and a man sat next to me. He kept leaning on me, and breathing in my direction, which was too bad because he had awful breath.
A pair of homeless guys got on, wearing trash bags.
At Mission, the bus emptied out and filled up again, and there were still people waiting for the next bus. At my stop, the people by the door were nice enough to actually get out of the way instead of ignoring those of us who needed to get out.
Outside, it wasn't raining anymore, which instantly improved my mood.
I dropped off some mail at the post office (busy at 7:30 AM!) and went to Safeway for some milk. I stopped for coffee after I got the milk and the paper. A twitchy, suspicious-looking couple stood behind me in the line, but right up against me. I made sure they couldn't get a hold of my bag. When I went to the counter, the woman from the sketchy couple came up with me and once again was right up against me. I made sure she didn't see where I had my wallet. I got my coffee and hightailed it out of there.
I am a fast walker and today was no different. I walked past Shoe Pavilion (closed for good, very depressing to see the empty store) and down to 16th. My walk the rest of the way to work was quick and the air was fresh.
But still, none of it made up for such an annoying morning. It should never take me an hour to get to work.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bus Report #387

Yesterday I caught a 22 Fillmore from the 16th and Harrison Street stop. It was crowded but eventually I got my own forward-facing seat, so I was happy.
A burly kid in a T-shirt and a new baseball cap sat next to me. He gave me a nod of acknowledgement and settled in for the rest of the ride. He took up most of our seat and I wasn't too happy about that.
At McAllister he saw a friend out the window and nodded to him, and held up his hand in a sideways 'peace' gesture. Or whatever it meant.
At the stop near Yoshi's he leaned over me and pulled the signaler, then said something to me that I couldn't understand, then he left. Nice kid, polite, but I still have no idea what he said to me.
I ran to catch the Geary bus and ended up sitting near the front.
The woman across from me kept giving me weird looks, so I gave them back to her.
Next to me, three women in a row were playing with their ipods/iphones/blackberries. It was weird.
A mom and her little girl got on at Arguello. The little girl was teeny and had a huge violin case on her back. I thought she might tip over. She didn't.

This morning I waited for the 22 Fillmore with Rudy and with a guy who looks like the Walrus from Alice In Wonderland. It was dark but there were white Christmas lights strung up in the trees and in the bus shelter. It was pretty. The lights continued down Fillmore.
I noticed a hand painted 'Seasons Greetings' sign on a store near Turk. I liked it's simplicity and old-fashioned look.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bus Report #386

A cold morning on MUNI.
I was all bundled up, and noticed that most of the regulars were, too.
Whitney had a trench coat, scarf and jaunty-looking beret.
Rudy had a jacket over his scrubs, a hat, a scarf, and gloves.
One of the Cor-O-Van guys had two sweaters on, and Thinsulate gloves.
The intense girl who always gets out at Treat had a black scarf to match her usual uniform of black dress, black shoes and black jacket.
I noticed that Katz Bagels on 16th is now Pizza 16. That's too bad.

Had dinner with H. last night. He had never seen an electric bus before. There was a 1 California stopped at 6th and California, something obviously wrong with it. Another bus came up, fast, behind it. It braked, hard. We watched. I explained how the electric buses worked, and H. got to see first hand how they pull down the poles to let the other bus pass the broken one.
He was impressed.
I was just cold.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bus Report #385

MUNI is trying to break my heart.
This weekend I had late buses, slow buses, buses that almost hit cars and other buses. I had loud talkers, people coughing up lungs, people smoking nasty (nastier than usual) cigarettes in the bus shelters, crazy people, pushy people and Christmas carolers.

And that's only on 7 separate trips, mind you.

The smokers and the coughers were mostly in the bus shelters, but I had a couple of awful coughers on my 22 last Thursday afternoon and my 38 yesterday night. Really bad, wet, full body coughers. Yuck.
The carolers were on a 38 outbound last night from downtown.
I'm not usually a scrooge (hell, I don't have to do anything for Christmas except take a day off, so I usually love it) but I can't stand when people start singing on the bus without asking permission. I wouldn't do it, and they shouldn't do it, Santa hats or no Santa hats.

I took the 3 Jackson home from the Kabuki on Friday. I went to see Milk, and it was great, I highly recommend it to everyone. You'll cry, but you'd be unfeeling if you didn't.
I've never taken the 3 before, but I liked it. It passes a big park, some very fancy houses and a school I'd never seen before. I walked home from Laurel Heights.