Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bus Report #551

This morning it was so wet and foggy out that the bundle of Richmond Review papers in our doorway was already a pulpy mess. My own newspaper was sheathed in a plastic bag. I carried it between two fingers until I got to the bus stop, where I ditched the wet plastic bag and put the paper in my lunch sack.
The 38 was empty when it arrived. I sat a few seats away from a misguided soul with a New York Yankees tote bag.
I waited in the dark down on Fillmore and Geary. The bus came, and after I exchanged greetings with the driver, I headed back to where the coffee cup girl and Carmen were chatting together.
"Good morning, ladies," I said, slipping in to the window seat beside Carmen.
We talked about work, how un-tech savvy we are and about traveling. When we got to their stop I wished them both a lovely day.
At the coffee shop I had to wait for them to brew up some fresh decaf. Not a problem. While I waited I talked with the elderly man I joked around with last week, the sweet man with the slight stutter.
Later, walking the rest of the way to work, I saw my friends at the garage. They were silently drinking their coffee out in the work bay. The younger man was slouched over a table. I guess it was a little early for him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bus Report #550

This afternoon I took a 22 Fillmore bus home.
As the bus pulled up, I saw that the driver was wearing some crazy, Halloween-themed sunglasses: black frames with maybe 3 or 4 inch glittery black bat wings on them.
I got on the bus and said, "Getting into the holiday spirit early, huh?"
She stared at me, blankly, then frowned.
Okay then.
As we made our way down 16th, it became apparent that the driver was in a bad mood.
She yelled at a couple of kids who ran to catch the bus. "Next time I will not wait for you!" she warned them.
There was a vanpool van in the bus stop at Mission and 16th. Our driver blocked the van and yelled at the driver, "Now who do you think you are, blocking a bus stop!" I agreed with her, but still.
We crossed Church and Duboce. A bearded, tattooed man was crossing the street while talking on his phone, but he saw the bus and stopped so we could pass. The driver still needed to yell at him, though. "Watch where you're going!" she hissed.
The man shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bus Report #549

Late night last night, managed to troop out to Market Street from the Ballpark with several hundred other people looking for a way home.
T. and I caught a 38 owl, no small feat. We had to jayrun (is that a word? if not, I just invented it) across the Geary/Kearny intersection to make it. Found a place to stand in the back, where a boy recently released from his restaurant job tried hard to impress the teenage girl he was with. He was wearing a large backpack, and T. got hit in the head a few times when the boy turned to flirt with his friend.
Finally, T. turned to him and asked him, politely, if he would move his bag out of swinging distance, so she wouldn't keep getting hit with it. He ignored her, but immediately started making fun of her to his friend.
Nice kid.
T. got out at Van Ness to catch a 49 to another social engagement. I hope she got there and had a good time.
I slid in to a seat behind a severely dandruffed woman with long, dirty hair and a grungy jacket. I sat as far back in my seat as I could so her hair wouldn't touch my bag or lap. Gross.
She got out at the next stop, and was actually a young teenage boy. I actually said, "Oh, oops," out loud, and a man standing nearby gave me a quizzical look.
A few people from the front of the bus pushed their way back. I wasn't really looking at them or registering anything, mostly I was just hoping I'd be home soon so I could kick off my shoes and relax a little. It had been a long day: new volunteer gig, errands, Opera in the park.

Suddenly, standing right in front of me was someone who looked very familiar but at first I couldn't place him.
It took us both a minute to figure out how we knew each other, but then I got it:
Despite the new hairstyle, non-work clothes and time of night, I was staring into the (still) beautiful brown eyes of the handsome South Asian chef, Sameer!
"Hey," I said, smiling up at him. "Been a while."
He grinned back. "Yeah," he said. "How are you?"
"Good," I said. "Last time I saw you, your hair was like ten feet shorter." Now his hair is shoulder length, wavy and very thick. It looks good.
"And yours was much longer," he replied. He was standing next to a tall, handsome man with a shaved head and great-looking tattooed sleeves. His friend? Boyfriend? Either way, the man was good-looking and friendly, so nice job, Sameer. I looked at the friend. "And of course your hair was knee length, wasn't it?" I joked.
"Actually his hair was pretty long before," Sameer said, flashing me that beautiful wry smile I always liked to see in the mornings.
We caught up on several year's worth of each other's lives. He works out of town now, no longer has the option of Muni so he drives to work. "Sorry," he apologized. "You still take the 22 in the morning?"
"Yeah," I said. "You're missing nothing."
"I've still got the same early mornings," he said. "I got to be at work at 6 in the morning tomorrow."
I made a show of looking at my watch. "Bit late for you, then," I teased.
"Well," he said, still smiling. "Folsom Street's this weekend."
"Ah," I replied.
The guys tried to figure out where they could get something to eat when they got home.
"Maybe we can just make something at home," said Sameer's boyfriend.
"Ugh," Sameer said. "That's my work, no thanks."
Sameer leaned over to pull the signaler. "Nice seeing you," he said.
"You too," I said. I looked at the boyfriend. "And you too, of course."
"See you soon, maybe," Sameer said. They got out at his usual stop, and the bus continued on. I was home ten minutes later.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bus Report #548

This afternoon I went to catch the 22 in front of Thee Parkside. There was a pickup truck with a trailer parked in the bus stop, and a few workmen were loading Thee Parkside's photo booth onto the trailer.
I stood by the hood of the truck, and another woman stood by the back of the trailer.
When the bus pulled up, the driver was grinning and eeny-meeny-miney-moing us with his finger. He opened the door and said, "I wasn't sure which of you I'd pick, you both waiting for me!"
I laughed and said, "It doesn't matter to us, we're just glad you stopped."
He called out each stop as we approached, letting us know what connections we could make at each stop, reminding people to hold on tight every time he started and stopped.
I got out at Sutter to catch the 2 Clement. Just as I got to the corner to cross, the bus sped by. Another regular commuter stood next to me. I sighed, said, "Well, that's too bad."
We walked to the bus shelter and both peered up at the NextBus console to discover our fate. 16 minutes and 26 minutes.
"I guess we're waiting," said the other regular, an older, friendly woman who I've talked to in the bus stop before. She works somewhere near where I work, but I haven't figured out where. She has good carriage: even sitting on the uncomfortable metal bench she holds her back straight and her purse in her lap, hands clasped on the top.
We chatted about work, the cake party at her office that afternoon, and how important it is to like what you do.
Eventually our 2 Clement rode up, and we got on.
The driver was another talker: He was young, with a fedora and dark shades, and when I said, "thanks," he nodded and smiled, and said, "You having a good day?"
"I am, thanks," I said. "You?"
"Just fine, just fine," he said.
The bus was crowded, and I didn't want to push past the fragile-looking old man standing in front of me. A man sitting by the back door asked me if I wanted to sit but I shook my head and slid my eyes over to the old man. The man who offered me the seat nodded and asked the old man if he wanted to sit, but the old man just shook his head no.
He got out at the next stop.
The fedora-wearing driver called out all of the stops just as my 22 driver had done. The woman sitting across from me kept grinning and shaking her head. Finally I said, "this guy is great."
She laughed. "Oh, yeah. I had him last night, too. He's funny, calling out all the stops... Lauuuurelll Heights, Jayceecee, Argueyo." Her imitation was spot-on.
When it was time for me to get out, I waved to the driver. "Thanks," I called out. "See you next time."
"Hey, you have a great night," he said.

Bus Report #547

This morning I took an empty 38 Geary down to Fillmore.
Sometimes it's faster in the mornings to catch the 38 than to catch the 38L, and today was one of those days.
We got to Fillmore in less than 10 minutes.
I waited for the 22 with a man who kept darting into the street to see if the bus was coming, and a woman who seemed resigned to wait: she sat on the bench and closed her eyes.
Across the street, in the opposite bus stop, a young man was helping a tiny old woman with a cane figure out when the bus was coming. He showed her where she should stand, and she reached out with her cane to test how close she was to the curb. If she wasn't blind, she was at least very short-sighted.
Our bus came, and the friendly driver stopped the bus right in front of me. I got in and said "Good morning," and he smiled and said, "You too, sweetie."
I walked past the older nurse, the big guy, the coffee cup girl, and the woman who always has her little white dog with her in a mesh duffel bag.
I saw a familiar face a few rows back.
It was Carmen, back at school after her summer break.
She smiled and made room for me to slide in to the window seat, and we chatted the rest of her commute, catching up on things, and laughing and joking.
She got out at her stop and I kept going.
I got out at my usual stop with Shirley and her friend, the big guy, the postal workers who always stand in the step well and a girl I only recognize as a regular because she has an unusual backpack.
In the coffee shop, one of the workers had good news: he has found a new job as an upholsterer, so today was his last day. I wish him a lot of luck in his new profession.
A woman came in and bought a gallon of coffee to go. She was in a hurry, and forgot her keys.
An older man in a baseball cap and denim jacket scooped up the keys and called after her, "Ma'am,ma'am," and she eventually turned around to see what was going on.
"Your keys, ma'am," he said, gently, tossing them underhand for her to catch. She thanked him and went on her way.
"You saved her day," I said, smiling.
"I've been there myself," he said. "Getting locked out is no fun." He was a lovely man, with a warm, open manner and a slight stutter. We talked for a few minutes, then I had to go.
"You take care, now," he said.
"I will, you too, sir," I said. "Don't get locked out!"
He laughed. "Not today," he said.

Bus Report #546

Yesterday evening I met some friends on Divisadero near McAllister. I couldn't remember what the best way was to get there, so I took the 22 from work and figured I'd hop out and catch the 21 or the 5 or something. I could have walked, but I had time to kill and didn't feel like walking. Lazy, but what can I say?
I ended up taking the 21, so I could hang out on Divis a little before going to the restaurant.
I had some coffee at Bean Bag Cafe - friendly staff, eclectic clientele, and the food looked/smelled great.
The woman sitting next to me had ordered the fried tofu. "Feel free to try it," she offered. I thanked her but was saving my appetite for dinner.
I sat back in my chair and drank my coffee, read my Alice Munro book.
When it was time to meet my friends, I walked down Divis, thinking about how much and at the same time how little the neighborhood has changed in the past decade.
We met at Blue Jay Cafe for dinner and spent a couple hours catching up on things. Lovely.
Later, I walked out to Geary with E., where she caught a cab and I caught a 38L.
The bus was surprisingly quiet and not too packed. Everyone looked how I felt: sleepy and content.
I got out at Park Presidio and waited for the light to change.
There was a woman waiting there, too. She kept looking at me, shuffling a little closer, shuffling away. She finally asked if I had pushed the button.
Of course I had. I said, "Yeah."
She nodded.
The light changed and she hurried across the street. I took my time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bus Report #545

This morning I took the 44 O'Shaughnessy out to the Sunset Farmer's Market. Not only was the bus on time, but it was fairly empty. A pleasure to ride, and it's not often I can say that about the 44!
I meet the Teacher's Pet and we hit the farmer's market... Despite the rain there were a lot of people there, and lots of good things to eat.
I got cider from the cider girl (hooray! Fog City Notes loves cider season!) and some amazing corn blueberry muffins from Arizmendi.
We talked to the soap vendors for a bit (their soap is beautiful and smells great), then finished our shopping and I went home.
I should have been studying this afternoon, but rainy days are good for going to the movies, so I went to catch the matinee at the Bridge.
I caught a crowded 38 Geary and walked to the back of the bus. A guy I know from my volunteer gig was sitting nearby so we got to talking, at least until this crazy guy pushed his way back, loudly talking to himself. The crazy guy held on to the poles and pulled his body up like a gymnast, so he could use his legs to violently shove open the escape hatch in the ceiling. Still muttering, he said, loudly, "I'm gonna be counting some money so nobody better talk. You hear? You better shut up."
He was talking to me and my colleague, but too damn bad, it's a public bus, and we're gonna talk. So we did, even though the freak kept muttering that he was going to 'shut us up'.
I jumped out at Spruce, hoped my friend would be okay for the rest of his ride.
A man with sunglasses and a backpack was walking next to me. He shook his head.
"That guy, man," he said.
"I know, I can't believe the driver didn't put him out," I said.
"Well, who knows, I'm just glad we're not on that bus anymore."
We parted ways at the corner.
The Bridge was packed. The film that's showing now is exclusively playing at the Bridge. It is the only theater in the US showing this film, so I bet it will be packed the rest of the run.
If you like foreign films, fisherman, Peru, ghosts, gay-straight love triangles (well, kind of, not really), beautiful coastal scenery and independent movie theaters, then go see Undertow. It was pretty good. And the Spanish was easy to understand, if you're like me and don't always want to read subtitles.
Again, it's exclusively playing at our own Bridge Theater, so don't be afraid, come out to the Richmond to see it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bus Report #544

Slow week on Muni, though my buses have, for the most part, been on time and speedy.

The girl with the same coffee cup as me is back, I guess her school year just started.
Our morning driver greeted me with a "good morning, sweetie," how nice.
As I ran for the bus this afternoon, who did I see at the bus stop but Ramon, who I haven't seen in months! We hugged and got on the 22, then went to sit down in the back.
"I never leave this early," I said.
"Me either!" he said.
It was great to see him and catch up. He is doing well.
I got out at 16th and Church and walked a few blocks to get a haircut. Afterwards, I waited for a 24 Divisadero at Castro and Market. The NextBus wasn't giving a prediction, and there were a few people waiting, staring at the sign. I called and eventually talked to a real person, who told me the bus would be along in a few minutes. I hung up and told the rest of the waiting folks.
Our bus came a few minutes earlier than I had been quoted, but I wasn't going to complain. We got on, and I soon discovered our driver was quite a character.
He was chatty, had a couple conversations going with people in the front of the bus.
At Divisadero and Haight, a man who had been standing in the stepwell stepped down to let people out, then got back on.
"Sir, you need to come up here and pay your fare," said the driver.
"I've been on this bus since Castro," the man shouted.
"All right, sir, all right," said the driver. "You know, you all need to move back and NOT block the doors. That's right, DO NOT block the doors."
No one moved. The driver repeated himself, still nothing.
I got out at Geary. The fog was thick, rolling down Geary in wisps and blankets. A dozen of us waited for whatever bus came first, the 38 or the 38L. NextBus was predicting at least ten minutes for each. Meanwhile, the NextBus console teased us with its reminder that service would increase on September 4.
Personally, I have not noticed any service increases. If anything, service seems slower.
Anyone notice increased service? I ride a lot of lines, at all times of the day, and nada.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bus Report #543

Last night the Central Subway folks invited a few of us down to their office to learn a bit more about the project. Thank you everyone at Central Subway, the meeting was very informative.
I don't know that I can give the best recap of the night, but their website is very informative so I'd like to mention it here and hope people go check it out.
Most important points for Muni riders:
-The funds allocated for the Central Subway project cannot be used for any other projects, so it's Central Subway or nothing.
-Most of the funding comes from the federal government.
-The Central Subway will hopefully help ease traffic congestion on Stockton, where two of the most crowded and dysfunctional Muni lines (the 30 Stockton and the 45 Union) run.
-The project will have a terminal at Union Square that will connect underground to a station on Market Street (don't quote me on this, but it is what I remembered from the meeting), hopefully easing above ground pedestrian traffic. (Plus, in the rain, you could walk underground from Market to Union Square, which might be a good thing!)

After the meeting as I was walking up 4th to catch a bus on Market, I kept looking around, envisioning a downtown with a new subway running beneath it. If the Central Subway works, how much will things change? How much will they stay the same? Considering the project is really a Phase 2 of the project that brought us the T Third, I will wait and see how it goes. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to check out the website I linked above, and here's a link to the Central Subway blog.
Thanks again to everyone at Central Subway for inviting me to the meeting!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bus Report #542

This morning I waited for the 22 with the woman who always has to stand right next to me.
It felt like fall today. The sky was dark, there were leaves on the ground and the air felt deliciously crisp.
There was a man wandering around in the intersection of Fillmore and Geary: he looked like he could be any guy late for work trying to hail a cab.
He caught a yellow cab and I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn't.
He was back a few minutes later, trying to hail cabs, cars, anything with four wheels.
It was so strange. I assume he didn't have any money with him, or any credit cards, so the cabbie had put him out.
He managed to stop a few cars, but no one would give him a ride.
He flagged down a half-dozen more cabs, but after they heard he didn't have money, the cabbies shook their heads and took off.
I looked at the woman who always has to stand right next to me and I rolled my eyes, and she smiled back.
The last cab that turned the man away eventually swung back around and honked a few times to get his attention. The man didn't notice. I said, "Hey," to him, and pointed at the cab. He climbed in the cab and they were on their way.

Our bus came and pulled up right in front of me. We have a new driver, new to the route, at least. The driver is someone I know from the 38. He's very friendly and polite, and it is always a pleasure to see him. He always wears dark tinted sunglasses and a smile on his face.
When he picked us up on Tuesday he said, "Hello there! Looks like I got you again!" when he saw me.
"It's great to see you," I told him, and I meant it.

All the regulars were on the bus today. The big guy, Michele, Shirley and her friends, and all the day laborers and construction workers.

At Mission Street, people started climbing in through the back door. Our driver stood up and waved them all back out the door to the front.

I got out at my usual stop with Michele. Today is her last day at her current job, so she won't be on our bus any more. I wished her luck with whatever comes next.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Bus Report #541

I had two goals today, one lofty and perhaps unrealistic, and one that could be easily done in a short amount of time with minimal hassle and decent returns.
Homework for a deadline this week, and a trip to the Sunset for the Farmer's Market and the Zine Fest.
I checked NextBus before I headed out to the bus stop. The 44 O'Shaughnessy was due in ten minutes.
I walked down to the stop.
There were a few people already waiting: a German woman who was studying Hebrew and the Talmud, talking with two other ladies, a chain-smoking woman dressed for work in a restaurant kitchen, and a tall man with a feather in his hat. He was carrying a slim green hardcover book that looked antique and a strip of plywood.
The NextBus console said 8 minutes and 8 minutes. Hmm.
We waited, and waited, and NextBus kicked over to 7 minutes and 10 minutes.
And so it went for another fifteen minutes.
Finally, a 44 bus turned up. The driver parked then turned off the bus. She took her backpack into the tiny bathroom (or impossibly tiny break room, I don't know) nearby.
Another bus pulled up behind hers.
She eventually came back out. She put her things back on the bus then leaned out and gestured for us to get on.
"I'm sorry," she said, cheerfully. "A bus broke down in the park, and that's why we're running a little late. Again, I'm sorry, and we'll be leaving in three minutes."
She had a beautiful smile and twinkling pierces in her eyebrow, nose and lower lip. Her eyes were big and brown. She looked pretty and fresh.
"It's not your fault," I said.
"I know, but you all have been waiting," she replied.
She repeated her apology at each stop we made along the route. It was so thoughtful, and not something I ever expect from the drivers.
At Geary, she held her arm out and made people wait to board while a trio of elderly, fragile ladies climbed down from the bus.
"All right," she said once the ladies were off. "No pushing and shoving."
The rest of the passengers were the usual assortment of park-bound tourists and locals, old ladies loaded down with groceries, and the same two comic-book guys I see every time I take the 44.

We got to the park pretty quickly, but there was a lot of traffic once we got past the De Young. Our bus slowed to a molasses crawl.
Our driver did her best to pass some clueless drivers. I was impressed: she got within inches of signs and cars, but didn't hit anything.

I managed to get to the Farmer's Market with half an hour to shop before they closed. Luckily all my favorite vendors were still there, so I was able to get everything I wanted.
If anyone knows anyone in the Richmond who might want a hive of bees in their yard, let me know and I'll pass it along to the honey guy. He has great local honey from all over the city, but not our fair neighborhood, yet.
I also can't say enough about the Modesto Junior College egg people, the Clash-loving cider girl, the empanada guys, the apple woman. If you haven't been to the Farmer's Market, you've got to go.
I spun through the Zine Fest (if you get a chance to go next year, you should. Lots of good stuff, lots of nice folks). I walked to the bus stop and waited with some kids headed towards Toy Boat.
The traffic in the park was still awful. We could see our bus down the block but traffic was inching slowly slowly, so it took a few minutes for it to get to us.
It arrived, we got on, and I was home half an hour later.
That homework? Still working on it.