Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bus Report #423

For the past two mornings I have felt a bit like I am back in time. It's been a long time, maybe a year since I last saw the dreadlocked dental technician, but I have seen him two mornings in a row. We greeted each other warmly and I told him I was glad to see him. I was worried about him, because he had a heart attack a while back.

Also, the man who used to camp out in the bus stop is back. Today he had pulled his two shopping carts so that they created a nook for him between the carts and the trash can. He was crouched in his nook trying to stay warm, or hidden, but probably both.

The Sunset Scavenger truck came by and the driver waved at me, as usual. When he went to empty the trash he looked at the man and said, "Morning, sir, how are you doing today?" which I thought was very nice of him to do. He's a good man, that Sunset Scavenger driver.

On the bus I sat next to the catfish face man, who wouldn't move over and give me more space.

The creepy guy who harasses only the African and African-American ladies switched seats a few times depending on who was getting on the bus. Shudder.

Naked mannequins at Out of the Closet made me feel chilly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Riders with Drinks

Have you ever read your favorite public transit blogs and thought, 'Wow, those people are amazingly fantastic and I NEED to meet them and hear their stories in a bar setting with lots of mixed drinks' or 'I think I need to be drunk to meet Rachel'?

If so, the Muni Diaries Riders with Drinks event is for you.

Our friends at Muni Diaries are hosting a meet and greet and storytelling type of event on Friday, June 12.
Be there or be square.
Check it out here.

Here is the full post, for your viewing pleasure:

Did you know Muni Diaries is best enjoyed with a live audience, accompanied by a beer or cocktail? Come join us for Muni Diaries’ first ever Riders With Drinks event at the Make-Out Room on Friday, June 12.

In the fine tradition of spoken word, your fellow Muni riders will read their stories, recite Muni-related haikus, re-enact some funny Muni scenes (finger puppets, anyone?), and everything in between. The idea is to tell Muni stories in whatever form that inspires you, so if you’ve got a Muni tale to share, or music, art, photography, or video inspired by Muni and would like to join the lineup, email us asap!

By the way, we are one of the main events at the Make-Out Room that night, which means our name will be on the big sign outside! Can you tell we’re really excited?

Muni Diaries Riders with Drinks
Friday, June 12, 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (no cover. We’ll have a donation box and give any proceeds to a charity we’ll be choosing soon)
Make-Out Room — 3225 22nd Street
Routes serving the area: BART 24th St. Station, 12, 14, 22, 26, 33, 48, 49, 67
Email us to join the lineup: muni.diaries.sf@gmail.com

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Help a fellow San Franciscan help a fellow San Franciscan

Julie (aka Tangobaby) has a heartbreaking and wonderful story to share.
While downtown last week she met a homeless woman and her three very young kids, and the woman's story touched Julie's heart. She shared it with the world on her excellent blog, and there have been several new developments that, if they don't bring tears to your eyes and make you proud to be a San Franciscan, well, then I don't know what's wrong with you.
She is taking donations and all kinds of assistance and support for this brave, strong young woman and her family.
Run, don't walk to her blog to check out the story!
I find it incredibly heartening that in these times of hardship and worry about our own situations we can still all come together and help someone improve their life/situation in such an immediate and tangible way.
Thanks, Julie!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bus Report #422

I keep forgetting to write about a beautiful experience on the 2 Clement I had a couple weeks ago.

There is a neighborhood character I see around all the time, an older man who lives and dresses as a woman, unfortunately not too convincingly but I am pretty sure everyone refers to her as 'she', so that's what we will do, too. Let's call her Loretta, because she looks like a Loretta.

I was on a crowded 2 Clement, sitting in the seats that line the back of the bus that face another set of seats (an older MUNI coach, I think). Loretta sat down across from me. She was wearing a linen suit, a light green scarf and hoop earrings. She crossed her legs and started rummaging through her plastic bag for something. She drew out a scrap of paper and started to obsessively fold it, turn it over, unfold it and then fold it again. I didn't really pay attention until I saw the final product, a simple yet lovely paper crane.
She put it back in the bag and took out another piece of paper.

I sat across from her as she folded six cranes in the space of maybe 8 minutes. Each crane was made out of recycled pages from magazines that had all been cut to the same dimensions.

I was mesmerized: I stared as she deftly folded each crane and put them away.
I looked around, no one else seemed to notice what she was doing.

She got out at 6th and Clement, after finishing another five cranes.
I have a new appreciation for Loretta. I never had a problem with her before, but now I feel I know her a little better, whether or not I actually do.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bus Report #421

Hot weather Muni fashion... an oxymoron?
It's been blazing hot (by San Francisco standards) since Sunday. In this kind of weather, San Franciscans have a tendency to take it all off, to wear flip-flops and tube tops and shorts and other clothes that expose our untouched-by-the-sun skin. It's funny, gross and sad all at the same time.

Sunday afternoon the 38 Geary outbound was full of picnickers headed towards Ocean Beach. Inbound, people looked tired and sunburned, and carried the picked-over remains of their picnics in crumpled paper bags.

Yesterday I was still trying to ignore the heat in my jacket-over-T-shirt. My fellow passengers had embraced the hot weather, making for a stinky and tiring bus ride. The 22 was full of kids just off of school: teenagers wearing last year's ill-fitting tank tops and shorts that were too tight. Women in suits exchanged sneakers for open-toed sandals, revealing new pedicures or old, chipped polish.
Several men had their button-down shirts open, or had their shirts off entirely, tied around their waists, or, in one occasion, around their head.
There were people outside all along Fillmore, most of them sitting on front stoops or on the hoods of parked cars. There was a crowd outside the Fillmore Grind, unusual.
I transferred to a 38 and sat in the back. The windows were all open but we were still stewing back there.
A girl dressed all in pastels (down to her sneakers, which were mint green and Pepto Bismol pink) yelled into her cell phone at her friend.
At Divisadero, two Middle School boys got in and stood in the stepwell, blocking everyone's way. For once, the other passengers made the kids move when they had to get out, instead of the usual trying to get around them without saying anything, which drives me crazy.

This morning, I didn't recognize a fellow rider: she usually has several layers on including a puffy jacket with a faux-fur collar, and a plaid hat with buttons on it. Today she was in a tank top and shorts. It was strange.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bus Report #420

Yesterday's commutes were smooth as silk.
In the afternoon I had to get from work to Fort Mason. 511.org kept telling me to take the 22 to the 9 to the 30 or something crazy like that. The other options involved taking the 22 to the 49 or the 47, taking the 22 to Lombard and switching to the 28. They just seemed... Too complicated.

I knew I had three options that were not crazy:

Take the 19 Polk to the end of the line and walk
Take the 22 Fillmore to the end of the line and walk
Take the 10 Townsend to the end of the line and walk

I decided to take the first one that came, and I ended up on the 10.
I took it to the last stop (total time in transit: 45 minutes) and then walked from Van Ness. It was easy, it was beautiful (though cold, so, so cold) and I had plenty of time to eat my dinner before class.
After class, I waited for the 28 with a bunch of out-of-towners who had just eaten at Greens. They read their copy of the menu out loud to pass the time. They were in a good mood despite the cold and the late hour. They had also been to see Wicked yesterday. I was happy they were enjoying their stay.
An elderly man came and sat down in the stop. I think he was coming from a class, too. He was friendly and we chatted a little bit, until our bus arrived, right on schedule.
"After you, sir," I said.
"Thank you," he said.
As usual with the 28 at night, we sped down Lombard and the freeway, practically flying into the Golden Gate Bridge bus stop. There was no one there. I can't think of a creepier place to wait for a bus at night. I am glad I never have to do it!
A truck was idling in the bus stop so our driver laid on the horn. The truck didn't move. He honked again. Grudgingly, the truck reversed into the darkness and we sped past it.
I got out at Geary.
Right on the corner, a man was peeing towards the park, but still completely in public view.
I had to laugh.
"I guess this is how it's going to be," I thought, and quickly hustled down the street towards home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bus Report #419

Muni, down and dirty.
Something's in the air, and it isn't love. It's craziness.

As seen on Muni this week so far:

Monday: White trash couple in the back of the bus, fighting over where to go. Our 22 was headed to the Marina, which is where the man wanted to go. They talked about banks it would be easy to stick up, people they knew who had robbed banks in the Mission, and the woman cooed over the man's new cologne, which she claimed smelled "just like that Gio by Armani stuff."
At Church Street, the woman mentioned she wanted to get a bite to eat, and her boyfriend got pissed off.
"You always want to eat," he complained. "No. We're going to the Marina, we're going to P-Town."
P-Town? There's only one P-Town I know of and it's Provincetown, MA. And you can't get there on the bus. Did he mean Pacific Heights?
The woman decided she'd rather go out to the zoo.
"No way," said the man. "It's too cold over there and too overcast. Forget it. If you want to get food, fine, you can get out of this bus right now."
She was hurt. They sat in silence for a few blocks. Then the man took out his new cologne and sprayed himself liberally. It stank, I coughed, hoping he would take the hint.
The woman opened their Spiderman backpack and took some things out of it. The man tipped a prescription bottle full of pot onto a piece of notebook paper and started to roll it up. Notebook paper? Really?
A man got on at Hayes and sat down right in front of them. He finished his phone call and put his phone away. He sniffed. "Man, that smells good. Can you spare any?"
The trashy couple declined.
He asked again. "Not even a quarter?"
Not even a quarter.
I got out the bus at Geary. The air on the corner of Geary and Fillmore had never smelled as good as it did then.

Yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon I waited at the Fremont and Market Street stop for a 38. Across the street from our bus stop was a trash can, and standing next to the trash can talking to himself was a guy who seemed nuts but not dangerous. No one really paid any attention to him.
Suddenly, I noticed he was spraying the sidewalk with water. No, wait, that's not water... The guy was fully exposed and hosing down Market Street with an impressive amount of urine.
Nasty. I did not need to see that.
A few of us groaned and looked away. One woman turned all the way around so she was facing the opposite direction. The man standing next to me looked completely disgusted.
The crazy guy finished and walked away. The woman was still facing the bus shelter, her eyes closed.
"He's done," I said.

We got on the 38. The bus got packed before we'd even gone two blocks, and I managed to tune out most of the ride, listening to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast (an excellent story, by Isaac Bashevis Singer.)
I gradually became aware of people yelling behind me, so I turned around and tried to figure out what was going on.
A big, bullish, shaved head guy with recent cuts on his face was squaring off (sort of, since the bus was so crowded and everyone was so squished) with a short, wiry man in a baseball cap and glasses and his girlfriend, a woman with fried-looking hair and acid washed jeans. I think the big guy was angry because the couple had brushed up against him or something. Whatever the problem was, it was something stupid and it had gotten to the point where everyone in the back of the bus was urging the three of them to get the hell out of the bus.
The driver, of course, did nothing, though I am sure he could see them in the back door mirror.
Finally someone convinced the couple to get out at Leavenworth and the big guy continued to threaten them through the open door. The wiry guy asked the big guy if he wanted to "get into it," taking off his jacket and handing it to his shrieking harpy of a girlfriend.
"Shut the fucking door!" the other riders were yelling to some kids who were standing in the stepwell.
We finally got moving, thankfully. My seatmate said something to me but I didn't hear her.

I don't even want to think of what could possibly happen next, but I guess we'll see when 5 PM rolls around!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bus Report #418

In which I prove yet again that teenagers don't scare me.

Thursday afternoon I left work a few minutes early and headed down the hill to catch the bus. A 22 pulled up and I got on, working my way through the crowd to the back. It was strange... People were standing but there were a couple empty seats in the back row. Suckers, I thought.
There was a guy sitting against the left side window, a large teenage girl with a crocheted blanket, huge purse and a tiny kitten in the middle seat and another teenage girl in the right side window.
There was more space between the two girls than between the large girl and the guy, so I smiled at the large girl and said, "Would you mind moving your stuff so I can get in the seat without hitting you with my bag, please?" Not a terribly difficult request, I thought.
Both girls looked at me. The large one tried to stare me down. The other girl sucked her teeth at me.
I asked again if the large girl would move, but she wouldn't budge, so I sighed and squeezed past her to sit down. She immediately started sighing and sucking her teeth, muttering about how rude I was to try to sit down when plenty of people were standing. She yanked her purse and blanket away from me, as I had asked her to do before I sat down.
"Why she got to sit down?" the large girl asked the other girl. "I mean shit, there's plenty of room to stand."
The other girl said, "She rude."
I said, "I don't see what the problem is. I'm not gonna stand if there's a place to sit." I did not add what I thought, which was, I am not afraid of 15 year old girls.
The girl in the window had plenty of space: she was perched on the edge of her seat, with plenty of space for her stuff. I was not in her way at all. She looked at the other girl and said, "Dominique, can you move so she can move the fuck over and give me some space?"
The large girl moved over an inch or so, grudgingly. "Now you slide over so my sister has some space," she commanded.
"Don't worry about her sister, she's got plenty of space," I said.
"Don't you be telling me about my sister," she said. For fucking crying out loud, I thought. I felt like saying something like, I'm probably the same age as your mama, or older, you talk to her like that? But the reality was, they probably did.
They kept talking about me as we slowly crawled down 16th Street. Four blocks later we were at Potrero. The guy sitting right in front of me got up and moved. I decided to take his seat: Didn't want to deal with the kids anymore. I was tired and had been working all day. I just wanted to zone out a little and relax. I settled in my new seat.
"Well shit, it's about time," said the large girl. I didn't bother mentioning to her that we'd only gone about four stops.
"Seriously, who she think she is?" said her sister.
She thinks she's an adult who works all day and likes to sit on the bus on her way home, a bus she actually paid for with her fast pass, I thought.
The girls got out at the next stop, cackling at me, at the other passengers as they went.
The youth of today, folks!

The bus filled up more and more as we kept going. At Mission, the bus filled to capacity. And then a wheelchair got on. The driver didn't want to interact with us at all, I guess, because he kept playing the recorded messages to 'move to the rear of the bus' and reminding us that 'the front seats are reserved for the elderly'.
I caught a glimpse of SK in the front of the bus. We waved to each other. I motioned for him to move back, but there was no way.
I burst out of the bus at Geary and walked to the library. After I got my books I walked back out to the bus stop. Three adorable preschoolers and their parents waited in the stop. They put me in a much better mood. When the bus came, I waited until all the kids and the dads were on and then I got in and walked to the back.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bus Report #417

So a guy got run over and dragged by a Muni bus the other day. He's okay, injured, but okay. And obviously no one should end up under a bus. But, isn't it, in some weird/bad/karmic way, kind of funny, since the reason he ended up under the bus was because he couldn't find his transfer and the driver told him to get out of the bus? I don't know. I think it's a little funny, but then again, I am kind of a crank sometimes.

I was on a 22 Fillmore headed home last night. The bus was on time, not too crowded, until we got to Mission. There was a huge school group waiting in the bus stop, about thirty kids and chaperones. The kids, mostly high school age, all had American flag bandannas tied to their backpacks or around their necks, their heads. My first guess was midwestern High School Spring Break trip. One of their chaperones talked into a cell phone, then motioned for the whole group to get on the bus. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a collective sigh from about half of the people on the bus, myself included. So the kids packed in, yelling to each other across the bus. They were French, not midwestern at all.
The rest of the ride was a lesson in patience. The kids yelled, people tried to get on and off the bus, most of the regular commuters looked tired and annoyed.
At Hayes a whole bunch of people got out and the students filled the empty seats, making the bus a bit easier to maneuver. I got a couple of the French girls sitting next to me (one on the other's lap.) A middle-aged man got up and moved to the door to get out at McAllister.
"You from France?" He asked the girls sitting next to me.
They nodded.
"You enjoying yourself so far?" he asked them, smiling.
They nodded again.
It was a nice moment.

Tonight I rode home sitting next to the older gentleman with the briefcase. I like it when he opens the briefcase and I get to see inside. Along with all his papers, he also had a thermos and two books to read, his keys and wallet and a small notebook.

Three college students gossiped to each other in Thai. It sounded really beautiful.

I transferred to the 3 Jackson, a perfect bus to ride on such a gorgeous afternoon. The light outside the window was clear clear and beautiful.
There was something in the windowsill. I leaned forward to see what it was. It was a dried out chicken bone. I wondered why someone would suck dry a chicken bone and then leave it on a windowsill.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Bus Report #416

I was walking down Post from the library, turning onto Fillmore, when I heard someone calling, "Rachel! Rachel!"
I turned around and saw Ebony rushing out of the burger place on the corner, her arms out, smiling.
"Ebony! Oh my god!" I said, and met her in the middle of the sidewalk. We hugged. I hadn't seen her in months, since she retired from her job in my neighborhood.
We stood there, both talking fast to catch up on the past few months. She's doing great, looks amazing as always. "I'm turning 70," she told me.
I gaped. "I think you're lying," I said.
She threw her head back and laughed. "Your eyes always bug out of your head when I tell you how old I am," she said.
I couldn't disagree. We hugged again and she went back inside the burger place. I continued down the block, smiling as I went.
It's nice to know that some connections you make can last beyond a forty-minute 22 Fillmore commute.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bus Report #415

Well, no one entered the contest except Dr. Horrible, and her story involves me, so I guess we have no real winner (but I will buy you a beer next time we get together, Doc!).
Anyway, here's my favorite bus moment from last week for you.

Thursday night, 38 Geary, home from volunteer gig downtown.
I sat in the back of the bus, in the only unoccupied and untagged seat. Most of the other seats had been tagged with purple paint. The man across from me opened a copy of the Examiner and spread it out on the seats so people could sit down.
I noticed, surprised, that I was on the same bus I had been on the afternoon before. Underneath the seat across from me was a melted Popsicle with the stick still in it, and a piece of wadded up tissue next to it. It had been there the day before, too.
People got on and all dealt with the graffiti in their own way. Some touched the paint and found it wet, and got mad. Some sat on the newspaper, others pushed the newspaper away and sat down, hoping for the best.
A large man in ill-fitting clothes got on and sat nearby. He had a large cardboard cup from a fast food restaurant, and kept fiddling with the ice with his straw.

It soon became apparent that he was mute, and maybe a little developmentally delayed. He would wave to people getting on the bus, and nod his head as if to acknowledge them.
A college-age girl and her boyfriend got on and stood near the tagged seats. A super skinny boy in even skinnier jeans got on and sat down on a newspapered seat. He rode a couple stops and then shot to his feet, patting all his pockets looking for something that was not there. He bolted out the door at the next stop, and I hoped he would find what he was looking for.

The mute man with the fast food beverage cup moved to a different seat.
The bus was full now, and a pair of young men got on, pushing their way to the back, saying, "move out of my way, out of my way, man," to everyone in their path. They sat next to the fast food beverage guy and next to me. The mute man waved to the man next to him, a man in his early 20s, baseball cap askew, hair covering his eyes. Then he reached over and lightly tapped the leg of the man sitting next to me, who was a big guy with long dreadlocks, who reminded me of a lion. The lion cut his eyes at the mute man and said, "Why are you touching me? Do I know you?"
The mute man just stared at him, finally deciding to smile and shrug, and wave. The lion went on, "Some people are just rude, you know what I'm saying. Man," and he shook his head like it was the worst thing that ever happened. "I mean, you know, I'm studying to be a social worker, so looks can be deceiving," and when he said this, he looked at the college-age couple, the mute man, and his buddy. I smiled. He looked at me, then back at the mute man. "It's all good, you know?"
The mute man smiled and nodded his head. He held his cup up for a second, perhaps as a toast.
The college-age girl looked at the button on my lapel and asked me if it was Andy Warhol.
"It's Joe Strummer, from The Clash," I said.
She nodded, and then asked me if I had been to the Warhol exhibit at the CJM or the De Young.
"CJM," I said. "I volunteer there, sometimes."
The lion gestured at the purple tags. 'That fresh?" he asked no one in particular.
"Yeah," I said. "People have been touching it and sitting in it since I got on."
"Man," he said. He looked around, at the college-age couple, me, his friend, the mute man and the people sitting near us and said, "It's nice when everyone talks to each other, friendly-like, you know?"
We knew.