Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bus Report #461

Children on Muni edition!

Last night on the 22, a mom and her little girl sat next to me. The little girl was maybe 3 or 4, with big brown eyes and a pink track suit. She had a quarter in her pocket and she kept taking it out to look at it, and then put it away.
"Guardala," her mother cautioned her.
The little girl looked up at a Day of the Dead poster up on the wall near the door.
"Mire, mami, una calavera y una vela," she said, pointing at the skull and candle on the poster. The mom nodded.

This afternoon a mom and her preschool-age son sat in front of me. This kid had gorgeous, thick, curly, honey-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. His mother had the same hair, cascading in curls down her back. She didn't pay much attention to her boy. He sat backwards in the seat and looked at me, while he puffed his cheeks out, exhaled, puffed, exhaled. He played with a gold ID bracelet on his tiny wrist.

When they got out at Mission, another mom and son sat in their seat. The baby was tiny, less than 6 months old for sure. He rested against his mom's shoulder, every now and then raising his wobbly head and looking around at his mom, his aunt, the bus, and the teenage boy sitting next to his mom. He looked so joyful and content, I couldn't help but smile.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bus Report #460

Yesterday I took a 44 O'Shaughnessy to the Sunset to go to the new(ish) farmer's market.
I waited in the bus stop at 6th and Clement, with an old lady, a woman with some sort of developmental disability and a strange young couple.
The boy in the couple (he could have been anywhere from 17-21 years old) sat on one of the bus shelter seats and his girlfriend, a pasty, heavyset girl with a huge purse, stood in the place where the payphone used to be.
The boy played with his phone while the girl tried to get his attention.
She tugged on her stretchy pink T-shirt so that a casual viewer could get an eye full (whether they wanted it or not) of her chest and armpits. She wore shiny black leggings with faux buttons at the ankles. Classy.
"After the movies, if we don't go out to eat, we can afford to come back next week and I'll buy you a fish and cook it up," she said.
He barely acknowledged her.
A car full of teens drove by and yelled something out the window.
"Were they yelling at me?" asked the boy.
"Nah. They were white people. The only people who would do that to you are Latins," she said, as though she was the expert. I thought, but you're a white person, girl, so what are you getting at?
The boy might have been Latino. But he wore a T-shirt with a huge Brazilian flag on it, so I guessed he was Brazilian, Brazilian-American, or something.
The bus arrived and everyone made a beeline for the front. A wheelchair passenger had to get on, so we were all waved to the back. I got on and sat by the door, watched the wheelchair passenger navigate his way to his place by the window. It looked difficult, since no one stood up to get out of his way, instead they said things like, "hope you can get by" and "can you make it?"
Very helpful, hey?
Two middle aged men got on at Geary and started swapping stories of DVDs they were going to buy and video games they liked to play. One man actually used the word 'definitive' when talking about some game.
His friend said, "Did you know the same screenwriter wrote the scripts for The Fugitive and for GI Jane?"
Who knew?
Another wheelchair passenger got on at Anza. Her chair was wider than the first passenger's chair, but still, no one made any move to get out of her way. She was nicer than I would be, in that situation. She carefully made sure not to run over their feet and positioned her chair in her spot with no help from the driver, who was actually pretty helpful to the both of them, making sure he knew their stops and asking them if they needed the seatbelts.
When we got to the park, a herd of tourists actually trying to get out at Lincoln got out at the De Young.
I hopped out of the bus at Irving and went to meet the Teacher's Pet for some farmer's market action.

After buying sacks full of groceries, we went to sit on a nice, shaded bench at the edge of the park across from the Shamrock.
We watched 71 after 71 arrive at the nearby bus stop, buses half empty. We couldn't believe it, having never seen such empty 71 buses, or so many so frequently.
A barefoot couple walked by. Cringe.

My 44 back home was the 'connected bus'. It didn't seem very connected... The screens in the bus that you can 'touch for real time information' didn't seem to be working.
The kids sitting in front of me wanted to get to Sharon Meadows but I think our well meaning driver might have directed them to the Polo Fields instead.

A young, tattooed man in a Minor Threat T-shirt, with a beat up skateboard next to him, was half asleep in the back of the bus.
Two minutes before we pulled in to the stop by Green Apple, a man sitting across from him said, "Travis, hey man, what's up?"
The tattooed man grinned. "How long you been sitting there, man?"
"Aw, a while, but I didn't want to wake you up," said his friend. "You been shredding today?"
"Yeah, its good weather for it, man," said the tattooed man.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bus Report #459

Tonight after work, I waited at the bus stop for a 19 Polk headed downtown. I passed the time chatting with my mom on the phone, and happened to mention that I needed to swing by the library before meeting S. for drinks in the Castro.
As the bus arrived, a woman I know from around the neighborhood (who was also waiting) said, "I couldn't help but overhear you. I'm going to the library myself, so if you don't have time to go I could take your book for you."
I thanked her for the offer but explained I had an hour and I was confident I would make it on time. Still, very nice of her to offer.
We got on the bus. I had braced myself for a crowded, smelly, loud bus but this one was almost the opposite.
It was not crowded at all and people were, for the most part, lost in their own worlds and quiet.
The man in front of me smelled a little bit like unwashed clothes and that sour body smell, but it wasn't terrible.
We got to the 8th Street stop in less than ten minutes, my fastest commute in that direction ever.
After dropping off my David Rakoff audiobook, I went back out to wait for an F Market.
I was happy to see Ramon also waiting at the F Market stop.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, as we hugged.
"Library," I said. "What about you?"
"I'm on my way home. I would have taken the 6, but now we can talk for a bit."
We caught up with each other, and when our F Market arrived (the creamsicle colored one! from Cleveland!) we got on and shared a seat near the back door.
His plaid shirt almost matched the creamsicle color, but I didn't mention it.
He got out a few stops later. It was great to see him, it's been a while.

Bus Report #458

Yesterday morning, the 22 driver did it again.
My 38L pulled in to the stop and our driver honked his horn a few times to let the 22 driver know that a few of us were coming. The second I stepped out of the 38L, the 22 sailed past us. I could swear that the 22 driver was smiling.
I waited in the stop with one other person. The Cleanscape truck came up and the guys immediately started sweeping the bus stop, which was good, then they started pressure-cleaning it, which I really, really don't like. It just seems like a waste of water to me, plus the mist is everywhere and that can't be too clean, either. I looked at the other person waiting, a man, and shook my head.
"They always need to clean when I'm waiting," he said, grinning a little.
"I know," I said.
A 22 came a few minutes later. We stepped over the hose and got in.
I sat behind the catfish face man and the talking to himself man, by myself at first, until a slightly greasy looking guy got on at Church and Market and sat beside me.
At 16th and Mission I noticed how many people were sleeping in the plaza. There were mounds of blankets and sleeping bags scattered around, more than usual.

Last night I took a crowded 22 home.
A mom with a little boy and a baby got on at Dolores and the mom squeezed into a seat next to an older lady wearing a pretty linen dress and matching hat. The older lady was on her cell phone.
Suddenly, the older lady sort of jumped in her seat. "A baby just kicked me!" she told her friend on the phone. The mom apologized but the lady shook her head. "It's okay," she said.
A few stops later, a young man in a muscle shirt got on and sat near the little boy. The little kid was adorable, with long, wispy hair and a brown corduroy newsboy hat on.
The young man said, "you have a beautiful little girl."
The little boy started laughing. His mom said, "oh, he gets that a lot because of his hair, but he's a boy."
The young man was embarrassed. He said, "I had long hair as a kid, too."

At Oak Street, an elderly woman with a cane stood up and made her way to the back door. She lost her step, and the young man and a teenage girl caught her before she fell. Then the teenage girl gently held her arm and helped her out of the bus. The woman nodded and smiled at the girl and they went their separate ways.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bus Report #457

Is it me?
After a long day at work and errands downtown I caught a 31 Balboa and rode it out to my neighborhood. The 31 is a strange bus. It rolls through some of the dodgiest blocks in town and the passenger demographic changes almost completely from block to block. Sometimes the bus goes by places I'd like to check out: Krim Kram's, Aunt Charlie's, the tea place near the Phoenix hotel. The park between, what? Gough and Laguna? Am I getting it right? Gussie's Chicken and Waffles and, further out on Balboa, places I've been to that I'd like to visit again, like Namu, Lucky Ocean Aquarium and Sushi Bistro.
When I signal for my stop well ahead of the stop, and am standing by the door, and you slow down for my stop but then don't open the door for me, what's that about? I called up to the driver, "Um, I signaled for [my street]. I'd like to get out, please."
He ignored me, sped up to the next stop.
Asshole. I'd understand if the signaler hadn't worked, but it had, the signal sound loud and staticky.
A handful of us tumbled out the back door at the next stop. Thanks, 31 Balboa driver.

This morning made up for yesterday, though. A smooth ride on a 38 followed by an uneventful ride on the 22, with the tall-sitting driver as our chauffeur.
As I got out the bus, I saw the teenage boy I'd seen a few weeks ago at the Blood Center. He smiled at me and said, "hey, how's it going?"
"Great, thanks," I replied.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bus Report #456

For the third day in a row, the 22 driver signaled for us to run ahead to the next stop, instead of waiting for one more minute for the three of us (who had just catapulted out of a 38) to cross the street.
I put my foot down this time. Maybe he thinks it's funny, watching people sprint down Fillmore at 7 AM? Well, I wasn't going to entertain him today.
I waited at the stop with a few people, watching the Clean Team sweep the bus stop. The guy across the street in front of the Boom Boom Room hosed off the sidewalk, like most mornings.
The bus arrived, and it was the very polite, tall-sitting driver. He smiled at me when I said "good morning". I moved towards the back of the bus and saw Carmen, so at least we got to visit and commiserate about missing the earlier buses (the 33 for her, which she missed by seconds when she turned the corner on California St.).

Carmen got out at her stop and was replaced by a man with a very wide ass, so wide that I felt like I was being pushed off the seat, and I was on the inside of the seat! It was gross, and I couldn't stop thinking about it as we rolled down 16th Street. I kept trying to move so he wasn't touching me, but to no avail.
I got out at my stop and walked the rest of the way to work.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bus Report #455

I waited for the 38 at my corner, because Next Bus claimed it would be there in 3 minutes. It wasn't. I checked Next Bus again, and it said 10 minutes.
I trudged up to another stop where the 38 and 38L both stop and a 38L drove up, empty but for a handful of quiet, sleepy people towards the back.
We cruised down Geary through the fog, which made the trees look Tim Burton-esque. Nice.

The bus pulled in to the Fillmore stop and honked at the 22 to wait for me. I flew out of the bus, calling a "thanks!" at my driver.
Did the 22 wait for me?
No. It was the same driver as yesterday. He gestured for me to meet the bus at the next stop, but he drove like a bat out of hell, so I took off running, my lunch and my bag barely hanging on to my body as I hurled myself down the block.
I got to the stop right as the last passengers got on. I flashed my Fast Pass and sat down in the only empty seat, next to the catfish face man.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bus Report #454

This morning on my 38L, an elderly lady got on and slowly put her coins into the fare box. I couldn't hear very well, but she was trying to ask the driver a question about where she should get out, and he couldn't understand her. She sat right in the front and kept showing him a crumpled piece of paper.
Finally, at 6th Ave., the driver turned around and asked everyone on the bus, "does anyone here speak Chinese who can help this lady?"
No one answered. A man got on the bus and the driver asked him the same question. Jackpot. The man leaned down and politely said something to the woman, who answered him back and showed him the paper.
"She wants to go to St. Francis Hospital, I think," the man told the driver, a little uncertain.
A woman sitting near me said, "Oh, well then she'll have to switch buses because it's closer to the 1 California line."
More back and forth translating ensued, and the woman eventually got out at Divisadero, to catch a 24 bus. I hope she got where she was going.

As our bus pulled in to the Geary and Fillmore stop, I saw the 22 pulling into the Fillmore and Geary stop. I ran as fast as I could, followed by the ogler and a woman who works at Safeway, and a man with a beard and a briefcase. We tore across the street and got right up in front of the 22. The driver waved to us as if to say, I have to go but cross the street and I'll pick you up, so we did, and he didn't.
"Damn it," I said, watching the bus drive away. The ogler and the woman who works at Safeway walked to the next stop, and I waited at Fillmore, wishing I'd caught a glimpse of the bus number so I could report it.

Ten minutes later a 22 showed up and I got on.
Carmen was sitting in her usual spot, saving a seat for me. It was great to see her, we caught up with each other and joked around until it was time for her to get out.
"It's nice to see you, even if it's only sometimes," she said. "This way, we don't get sick of each other or fight."
Well, yes... I suppose that's true. Still, funny.

The little girl with her doll safely tucked into her sweatshirt sat a few rows ahead of me. She stared at the bigger boy sitting next to her, his sweatshirt a few sizes too big for him and his cornrows starting to unravel. She scooted up in her seat and stared at him some more. He either didn't notice, or he didn't mind.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bus Report #453

This morning it was really foggy as I walked to the bus. I stepped out of my building and actually said, "wow," out loud.
Our ride down to Fillmore and Geary was faster than usual. I walked to the 22 stop, past the Fillmore Auditorium. The front entrance to the Fillmore had notes written in English and an Asian language (couldn't tell which one but I think it was either Japanese, Korean or Chinese) asking people not to use their cell phones at last night's show.
The Fillmore bus stop looked like it had a new coat of light blue paint, and maybe new or newly painted benches. It looked good.
I waited by myself until the sunflower-seed-cracking Russian man showed up. He sat down on one of the benches.
A trio of scruffy looking guys wandered over. One was older, with a baseball cap, one was younger with lots of backpacks and looked like he'd fit in very well in the upper Haight, and one had wild, sticking-up-every-which-way hair and big round eyes. They sort of shuffled around in the stop for a moment, then the younger guy said something to the sunflower-seed-cracker and he stood up and, like last time, came over to stand right beside me.
I looked at all four men. Personally, if I was sitting on a public bench waiting for my bus and someone told me to move, I'd stay put. Whatever.
The younger guy started running his hands along the backs of the benches, looking behind them, kicking food wrappers that were strewn around. Obviously, these guys were looking for something (and by something, I assume their drugs). Had someone left them something before the bus stop was repainted? If they did, it was gone now.
The baseball hat guy stood in the middle of the stop, looking around a little nervously. The wild-haired guy shuffled towards the end of the stop and the young guy asked another man waiting for our bus (who was standing a few feet away) if he'd taken anything from the bus stop or seen anyone around.
"No, man, I just got here," he said.
I cut my eyes at the trio, daring them to ask me, or bother me, or blow their cigarette smoke in my direction.
The three of them gave up and headed towards the Boom Boom Room. As my bus pulled up I saw them asking another man if he'd seen anything at the stop.

My 22 was fairly empty, and I got a window seat. My seat mate got on at Hayes. She was a slight girl, a college student maybe, with a huge backpack and overly styled wavy dark hair.
She took a folder out of her bag and took out two sheets of paper. One said, 'a prayer for when you're feeling anxious' and the other paper looked like it had psalms on it (I really wasn't sure, non-religious Jew that I am). She looked at the anxiety prayer and closed her eyes, sat really still for a few minutes, then shuffled the papers to look at the psalms.
Good for her, I suppose, but I felt a little uncomfortable.
I stared out the window.
At my stop, my seat mate made no effort to move for me, so I climbed over her and got out.
There is a mom and a little girl who ride the bus with me in the mornings. Today I saw them walking down 16th. The little girl had her doll tucked in to her sweatshirt. It was very cute.

I stopped to talk to my friend at the garage. There was loud, skull-shattering construction going on nearby. I gestured to my ears, asked him, "How will you stand this all day?"
He just shook his head. "Well, no choice, is there?" he said.
"You'll be okay," I told him. Then I turned up the volume on my headphones and walked to work.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bus Report #452

Fall is in the air, my friends, and I am ready. The bus was warm tonight, but when I stepped out at Market to catch my 38, I felt it. That cool gust of air, that hint of cold weather to come. I can't wait.

My 10 Townsend bus was right on time, and there were a few more people than usual on it. The woman who looks almost exactly like my (male) friend DM was there. I always think it's DM, to the point that most afternoons I start walking up to her to say hi and hang out while we wait for the bus. But no. It's not DM, just a woman who looks almost exactly like him from the back. She weighs a little more, though.

At CalTrain, a guy asked the driver when the next bus was coming, so he could run to an ATM to get cash. The driver told him 10 minutes and shut the door. The man knocked on the door again and the driver let him get on. It sounded like the man promised to pay when they got downtown, but I couldn't figure out how he planned to do it.

A woman who rides in the afternoons sometimes got on at the next corner. She always sits right in the front of the bus so she can talk to the driver, but she talks so loudly I can hear her over my headphones. Today she wore head to toe red: Red jacket, red slacks, red Mary Jane shoes.

At Market, our 10 was sandwiched between a 38 and a 38L at our stop. I ran for the 38L and made it. Score.
Everyone sitting around me (six or seven people!) was either listening to/playing with an igadget.
People tripped over a huge backpack a man had wedged next to the door.

The bus was over-full by the time we got to Union Square. Most people on the sidewalk waited for the 38 behind us, but two guys crammed on to our bus and wouldn't budge off the stairs, no matter what the rest of us said to them. We sat there a few minutes until they figured out they were the problem.

Later, as the bus emptied a bit, one of the culprits came and stood right in front of me. At first glance, I thought he was about an 8 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being very good looking and 1 being, well, not very good looking.
Then I saw his ring, a thick silver band with a sports apparel logo and name branded on it. Strike one. I took away some points because... well, I don't know, I just thought that was weird. Unless you love the brand so much you want to marry it.
Strike two was the animal paw he had tattooed over his left clavicle. it was too high to be over his heart and too low to be on his shoulder. It was just right for anyone even casually looking at him to notice. Again, nothing against animal paw prints, but the positioning of the tattoo, weird.

Muttering homeless man got on at Fillmore and muttered his way into an empty seat. A teenager got on with a note written in pen on her arm: Get permission slip signed for passport permission. Noted. Not that my remembering it would be at all helpful to her later.

I got out at 6th Ave., and promptly ran in to E., who was on her way to class.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bus Report #451

Last night our 38L was one of four (four!) buses idling at Divisadero. I wasn't alone in wondering what the hell was going on. The older man sitting in front of me tried to look out the windows to see what was holding us up.
Finally, after what felt like forever (but was probably less than five minutes) two of the buses ahead of us took off and we slipped into the stop.
On the sidewalk in front of the ham store stood a knot of people, mostly in their late teens through mid-thirties, with blue-shirted Muni employees peppering the crowd. The Muni employees were writing tickets.
Slowly, my brain processed this information.
We were getting POP'ed*! The doors opened and the Muni inspectors stormed up the stairs.
"Everyone get your fast passes and transfers out!" one woman called out. I took out my fast pass and held it out for inspection. The rest of the riders help up crumpled transfers and passes, and everyone looked at the trio of teens who got on the bus holding their fare evasion tickets.
It didn't seem like anyone on my bus was getting busted, which was odd. Were we really all in the clear?
We were.
The inspectors left and we lurched into traffic.

The fare evader kids were pissed. "Oh, man, my dad will kill me cause like, he'll have to pay my fine," said a boy carrying a keyboard under his arm.
His friend, a hippyish girl with long hair and a flower tattooed on her arm, held up her ticket. "Yeah, I'll need my parents to pay for this, I'm only 17 after all." She sighed and sat down.
Their buddy scuffed his sneakers against the floor. "I can't tell my parents about it," he said.

I thought about the kids and all the other people who had been pulled off their buses at Divisadero. Will they learn their lesson? Is this the first day of the rest of their law-abiding life? Will they see that $55 (soon to be $60) a month is a deal compared to a $75 fine? Who can say. I guess we'll have to see.
It was definitely a departure from the usual routine. Exciting!

*POP'ed - Proof Of Purchase'd... I don't know, it sounded catchier when I made it up...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bus Report #450

This morning's rides were pretty mellow. My 38L arrived but the sign on the front said 'Not In Service'. I asked the driver about it and she just smiled wearily and said it was broken. I bet everyone who got on before me had already asked her.
The driver got up to help a wheelchair passenger, and I noticed she had disturbingly long fingernails. The first word I thought of to describe them? Talons.

At 6th Ave., this very odd woman who has been riding our bus for the past few days got on, dragging a cart behind her. She sat a few seats away from me and rearranged some things in her cart. She noticed the window across from me was closed. There was a man sitting right there but that was no impediment to her: she leaned all the way across his body (he stared at her, shrank away, but didn't say anything) and she opened the window with a crumpled napkin, then sat back down.
I exchanged glances with the man, and with the woman sitting next to me. Strange.
I turned to look at the odd woman. She now had huge sunglasses on and had put the napkin over her mouth and nose like a face mask. It looked very, very creepy.

I waited for the 22 down on Fillmore and Geary. Yet again, even though the bus stop is very big and wide open someone decided they NEEDED to stand about 5 inches away from me. An older Russian man stood practically on top of me, cracking and spitting sunflower seed shells onto the sidewalk. Yum!
I moved away from him, but he didn't really take the hint. Sigh. The bus pulled into the stop and I got on.
The catfish face man was reading a magazine. The woman sitting behind him was reading a book (couldn't see the title) and the girl behind her was reading some stapled together copies. Looked like homework to me.

At 16th Street and Mission I saw a poster that said: BICYCLE THIEF, WE WILL HURT YOU and it had a photo of a bike or a bike rider on it. The posters were spaced out over several blocks of 16th. I hope they find the thief, though I'm not sold on the violence.

Several refrigerator-built teen girls got on the bus. Their short dresses did them no favors.

At my coffee shop it was business as usual. I got my coffee along with some friendly gossip and smiles, and walked the rest of the way to work.