Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bus Report #530

My 38L this morning has new bus smell. It was so clean, with the shiny dark floor that a lot of the new buses have. The only signs that it had probably been in service for a while were the scuffed doors and door handles.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bus Report #529

Maybe I am a horrible person, but when I saw my neighbor Dennis getting on my 22 Fillmore this afternoon, all I wanted was for him to not see me and to sit in the front of the bus instead.
The bus was slightly torturous to begin with. Instead of being an electric bus, this one was diesel, and our driver was not very familiar driving this kind of bus.
At Bryant Street I heard another driver tell him, "Make sure you don't forget there are two levers for the doors. You gotta make sure you close the back door before you start moving."
It was quickly apparent that he was having trouble. The bus lurched to and from each stop. The driver missed every green light, and he couldn't remember the back door was on a separate lever.
We were at Market when Dennis got on. He is an older guy, the kind of slightly shlubby guy you see in the laundromat or the corner store, greet with a nod and go on your way.
Somehow, and this must have been a couple of years ago, we got to talking in the laundromat. I'm not a volunteer-er of information, but somehow Dennis knows my name and which building I live in. He also is under the (mistaken) impression that I am some sort of musician, or publicist, or music writer.
He always greets me with a "how's the rock and roll scene going?" or, "what's new in your rock and roll life?" It's nice, I guess, a little funny, and confusing.
I hadn't seen him for a while and I started to worry, the way I worry about the Alien Donut man when I haven't seen him around.
Turns out Dennis lost his job and had some family troubles, but he got back into town a few months ago and it was back to questions about my supposedly glamorous life fairly quickly.
Fast forward to tonight.
Dennis spotted me sitting in the back of the bus. He waved.
"Hello, neighbor," he said, and slid in to the empty seat next to me.
"Hello," I replied.
He smiled. "Are you coming from visiting some rock and roll icons up in the Haight?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Coming from my glamorous job, actually," I said.
He kept the conversation flowing for the ride, telling me how hard it was looking for work, how he had spent the morning trying to get a new Fast Pass, and where he was headed on his errands.
It was a good way to pass the time, but the closer we got to my stop, the more like a jerk I felt.
Because I had planned to let him get out at my usual stop, and then I would ride to the next stop and catch a different bus. I just didn't want to end up walking up our street together, and have him see exactly which mailbox was mine, which apartment was mine.
I didn't have to worry. He mentioned having an errand to run in the Marina. Excellent.
We said our goodbyes and I got out to wait for the 38.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bus Report #528

This morning I was running a few minutes later than usual, but still managed to get to work early due to a whirlwind of a commute.
The 38 was on time and the driver stopped right in front of me, letting me on before the pushy woman who had been trying to get past me.
We managed to make all the lights all the way down Geary. As the doors opened I saw the 22 pulling in to the Fillmore stop.
I took off running, figuring that if it was the driver that always makes us run up to the next stop I'd just wait for the next bus.
Instead, it was my new morning driver, who is smiley and just the nicest guy. He saw me and a few other regulars and was awesome enough to wait for us.
He opened the door and I got in.
"Good morning," he said, cheerfully.
"Nothing I like better than a nice run before work," I said. "Thanks for waiting."
I walked back to an empty seat, passing the makeup slatherer, the older nurse and her friend, and the big guy. They all smiled at me and said hi.
I sat down.
The rest of the ride was just as smooth. At my stop, a whole pack of us usual suspects made our way to the door. A man standing nearby looked around, trying to get out of our way.
"We've got you surrounded," I told him, and winked.
He laughed and managed to move aside.
Richmond District to Potrero Hill today: Two buses, 35 minutes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bus Report #527

Last night, back of the 2 Clement:
I sat in the back of the 2 Clement, with a handful of other ladies sitting nearby. One of them, a bleach blonde with lots of buttons pinned to her sweatshirt, gestured to the woman sitting across from me. "Excuse me," she said. "But did you drop something?"
She pointed under the woman's seat. The woman, we'll call her red glasses because she had, no surprise, red glasses, peered under the seat and fished out a pair of blue jeans.
"Not mine," she said, and left them on the seat next to her.
I said, "They could be," and all the ladies laughed. Red glasses checked the tag to see what size the jeans were, then abandoned them again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bus Report #526


Last night I took a 19 Polk downtown, to meet up with L.
I got on at my usual stop and sat down.
At the next stop, a trio of CCA (California Culinary Academy) students got on, and loudly made their way to the last few seats in the back.
One of them, a heavyset boy with shoulder-length dreads started hitting on another one, a girl with tinny-sounding music blasting from her cell phone.
Their friend, who I can only describe as not being terribly bright (the dread guy said the same thing to him three times and he still didn't understand what his friend was saying! I don't remember the details but it was funny, trust me), kept a running commentary going about everyone and everything on the bus.
The girl mentioned one of their teachers, Chef Brian, and how he was annoying and if she wasn't in his class she'd 'mess him up'. She also told dread guy that she got in a fight with a classmate during class earlier that day. Sounds like a great learning environment to me...
Dread guy told her she shouldn't get in fights in school. "Not in the classroom, not in school," he counseled.
At the next stop, about ten kids from the other CCA (California College of the Arts) got on. They were either new students coming from orientation, or maybe they were summer school students. They all had heavy backpacks and matching white binders.
"Oh hell no," said the girl with the tinny cell phone music. "Where they gonna sit?"
There weren't any seats left, so the new CCA kids pushed their way to the back of the bus and held on tight.
The girl started sucking her teeth. "Man, this guy got his ass in my face, how rude," and she proceeded to tell her friends what she would do to the offender if he didn't move. The offender, one of the CCA art students, didn't seem to be paying much attention. He stared off into space, ignoring the girl.
"He don't speak English, that's the problem," said the dread guy.
"Well, you're nicer than I am," said the stupid guy. "Cause I'd have shoved him or hit him by now."
Meanwhile, the bus had made a few more stops and was totally full, so people were squeezed in like sardines. The new CCA kids did their best to make space for everyone, but there was really no way.
We kept going.
My seatmate was reading a cookbook in Spanish, learning how to prepare las frutas del mar. Some of the recipes looked really good. And I learned a new word! Mejillon! Mussel!
The cell phone girl started talking, loudly, about how she needed to get out at the next stop and if the offending guy didn't move his ass she was going to hurt him.
At this point, the offender got a phone call and answered the call in perfect English, prompting dread guy to say, "Man, he knew English the whole time. He was just ignoring us."
The bus stopped, and the girl and dread guy started pushing their way to the door, cursing and muttering about how everyone better move out of their way or they'd be sorry.
They got out, and that was that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bus Report #525

Last night, after a lovely reunion with the rest of Write Club SF, I waited on Lombard for the 28. I love taking the 28 at night. It's so quiet, and I love looking at the lights in the Presidio and Crissy Field, love smelling the eucalyptus in the park, and love seeing the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog and darkness.
Also waiting in the bus stop were a couple of men in deep conversation (one of them with a didgeridoo (sp?) and the other, a drunk rambling man who kept giving the other guy his myspace address), a quiet man just hanging out in the shadows, and a woman who kept walking by, doubling back, standing next to me then walking by again.
When the bus came, I was surprised that I was the only person getting in.
I took a seat by the back door and cracked open the window.
There was a family sitting in front of me: mom, dad and teenage daughter. Dad had a map and the three of them kept looking at the map, then looking up, shrugging.
They were speaking Spanish and I decided that if they needed help, I was their girl.
We were almost at my stop when the dad caught my eye. He looked like he wanted to say something, so I asked him in Spanish if he needed help.
He did.
They wanted Clement Street. Easy enough. "Just get out at Geary," I told him. "It's one block back, but probably safer to walk down Geary and cut over, instead of walking through Park Presidio."
The family thanked me and we went our separate ways. I hope they got where they were going.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Bus Report #524

More Muni suckage, without many bright spots.

Yesterday morning I got down to Fillmore at my usual time. The rude construction workers were already there, smoking and chatting, loudly. The older nurse was there, reading the paper, and the woman who always needs to stand shoulder to shoulder with me showed up a few minutes later, and while there was still plenty of room for her to stand elsewhere, she planted herself right beside me.
We waited, all of us, and waited, and waited.
The older nurse shook her head. "It's their payday," she said. Meaning the drivers. According to her, they call out sick on payday.
We've had this discussion several times. I nodded. "Yep, I was thinking about that. It's a shame," I said.
A man who had been sitting on one of the benches got up and went out into the street, squatted and squinted over the hill to see if the bus was coming. He stood up and shook his head at the rest of us. He threw up his hands and flicked his wrists back and forth, then sighed loudly and returned to the bench.
Another few minutes passed.
Finally, the bus showed up and we all crowded on, filling the last of the open seats.
The man sitting in front of me smelled like dirty clothes and old beer. I cracked open the window.
He cracked open a bottle of cough syrup and chugged some of it.
The bus filled up as we moved down Fillmore.
At Mission, people could barely get out, as more passengers pushed their way into the bus. A pair of Muni drivers got on through the back door and stationed themselves in the stair well. A man started yelling, "Move back, everyone, move on back. Tell your friends."
But even if they told their friends, there was no where for anyone to go.
I knew I'd be able to get out at my stop, because the big guy who gets out at my stop was sitting two rows ahead of me, as were the makeup slatherer, the older ladies who must work nearby, and the elderly lady with the cane who works out at the gym near the cafe.
At my stop, we all pushed towards the door. Most people made way for us, except the two Muni drivers, who didn't bother to move (I was surprised by this, thought they'd have to, fleetingly thought they must be violating some sort of Muni employee code or something).
Outside, I turned to the big guy and said, "That was something, huh?"
"Oh, yeah," he said, grinning his big grin. "Interesting morning."
"It sure was," I agreed. "You have a good day."

In the cafe, the makeup slatherer smiled at me and said, "girlfriend, that was quite a bus ride, wasn't it?"
I laughed.

And then later, on my way home: I caught a 38 Geary from the Kearny and Geary stop. The bus was mostly empty. I moved to the back of the bus and sat down near the back door. The bus stank of cigarettes, and I couldn't figure it out.
Until I looked back and saw a boy sitting in the last row of the bus, puffing away on a cigarette. The smoke actually billowed, I swear. Ugh.
I opened a few windows and sat back down. The kid eventually finished, and then he fell asleep. I hoped he missed his stop, ended up down at the beach.
We slowly made our way up Geary. Tourists climbed on at Union Square, dressed unseasonably for our weather in shorts and T-shirts. A few old ladies got on with pink plastic shopping bags. They took up several of the seats in the front of the bus, and spent the rest of the ride yelling to each other over the rest of the passengers.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bus Report #523

Muni continues to welcome me back the only way it knows how... By making my life suck.

Well, that's an overstatement, but let's say Muni makes my life not as awesome as it could be.

Yesterday afternoon, 19 Polk headed to Polk Street, fifteen minutes later than Next Bus predicted:

Man sitting in front of me clipping his nails.
Woman sitting next to me with her arm around the back of my seat, a little too close for comfort.
People fighting over seats in the front.
People refusing to move further back.
People cursing the driver.
Woman standing in front of me with her backpack on my feet and her ass in my face.
The usual crazy contingent, muttering, blocking the stair well.
Loud talking people on cell phones, sitting next to each other calling different people, constantly raising their voices over each other.
Unidentifiable greasy things on the seat backs - one woman got a nice handful.

And then, the few bright spots:

Teenager giving up his seat to a woman carrying a fluffy dog.
Irish family with three boys, friendly and polite and chatty with their seatmates.
Wicked cast members signing autographs outside the stage door at the Orpheum.
Civic Center farmer's market open for business, making me hungry.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bus Report #522

While I was away, J. sent me this image from her commute. I've seen this kid before, he's pretty crazy to attempt the 38 bus during rush hour!
Hopefully, the photo will appear somewhere in this post... Thanks for snapping it, J!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bus Report #521 - Dispatches from Boston

I am back home after a successful week at my MFA residency in Boston.
My first day in town I loaded up my Charlie Card, ready for a week's worth of bus rides on the number 66 bus, one of the MBTA's finest (not really. The 66 is a lot like the 22, only smaller).
My first day of class, I tried out the MBTA's trip planner. It's a little like, but with way less scope. The bus was supposed to come at noon, but it was five minutes late.
I got on and slid into the first of many seats shared with someone wearing a Red Sox T-shirt. The air conditioning was on full-blast and it felt great.
The trip planner told me I'd have to switch buses in Harvard Square, but when we arrived I realized that while I could stand around for fifteen minutes waiting for the bus, I could just as easily walk the rest of the way and be there in less than ten minutes, tops.
So that is exactly what I did.

That first night, I still hadn't grabbed a bus schedule, so I languished in the heat and humidity for twenty minutes, waiting for the bus to arrive. Got back to the homestead eventually, after pushing my way through the very crowded bus to the door.

I got better at taking the 66 as the week went by. I played the schedule fast and loose, showing up a mere minute before the bus lumbered in to view. Leaving school with exactly ten minutes before the bus left the Square, and making it with a few minutes to wait patiently for the driver to pull up and let us on.

And I had regulars, too! The man who got on at the Hess station, once with his baby, twice without. The well-dressed woman reading Proust, almost every morning. Two of my classmates, sleepy in the morning, chatty in the evening.

A great week.
Glad to be home, though.