Friday, December 17, 2010

Bus Report #567

Another crowded 22 last night. I sat next to a petite, grinning little man who kept smirking. Not sure what was so amusing, but he was a polite seat mate and no problem.
The bus filled up at Mission Street.
A couple of guys from the halfway house stood in front of me. I tried to decipher the knuckle tattoos on the guy standing closest. He always strikes up little conversations with the people around him and last night was no different. He smiled at me and said, "I like your pin. Is it a family heirloom?"
I shook my head. Felt my face get prickly hot. I was probably blushing. "Nah," I said. "It's from a consignment shop."
"Just some shiny piece, huh?" he said.
"Very shiny," I agreed.
He turned his attention to the grumpy woman who works at Arch. She was playing with her smart phone. He watched her move things around on the screen with her gloved finger.
My seat mate got out at Church and Market and from the back of the bus a tall fellow with thick dark hair in a braid, a bright red tote bag and a camel-colored fuzzy jacket slid in to the seat next to me.
He had pretty brown eyes, his best feature: his face was scarred beyond belief, scarred more than any face I've ever seen before.
We watched a cluster of passengers bang on the rear door until the driver eventually opened it. I shook my head. My seat mate said, "Is it always like this?"
"It's been crazier than usual lately," I said. "I usually catch an earlier bus, I think." I grinned at him. "I'd recommend that, actually. But the people watching's good."
He laughed, told me he was getting used to Muni, that he used to work in Redwood City and took his car or Cal Train to work.
"I can handle Muni if I've got the time," he said. "I gave myself over an hour tonight to get out to La Playa, but now I think I'll be late."
"How are you getting out there?" I asked him.
"Thought I'd take the N," he said.
"Probably your best bet," I told him.
He got out at the next stop.
"Good night," I said. "Hope you get where you're going on time."
"Me, too," he said.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bus Report #566

Last night the 22 was late, but when it came I recognized the driver: in the mornings he is a passenger on my bus down to Potrero Hill.
He stopped the bus in front of me and I got on, eventually sitting beside a girl who had many shopping bags with her.
"Sorry," she said as she made room for me to slide in to the window seat.
"That's okay," I told her. "I'm not getting out for a while so you can put your stuff near my feet if you want."
A row behind us and across the aisle there was a very drunk, very belligerent man who kept mumbling to himself unless someone accidentally brushed against him. When that happened, he was quick to jump up and start threatening them. It didn't matter who it was - he did this to an older woman, several teens, and a couple of young guys. Everyone ignored him, but still.
By the time we got to the San Jose/Vermont stop, the bus was packed. At Potrero, the driver came over the PA system and said he was going to go express to Mission Street and if you wanted any stops in between you should get out.
Only a few people did this. A half-dozen other folks did not and spent the next few minutes frantically tugging the signal cord.
The bus emptied out a bit at Mission.
The drunk managed to scare a few more people. A young girl and her son got out the bus and the girl, who had been telling her son he better not grow up to be like the drunk, started hurling insults at him.
"You're a motherfucker," she yelled, with her kid right there next to her. "You shouldn't be on this bus."
"Aw, shut up bitch," he slurred back.
And so on and so forth, the two of them yelling back and forth as she and her boy made their way to the door. I felt bad for the kid. Nice role model!
At Haight, the bus started to smell horrible, like someone was smoking on the bus.
We coughed, looked around. I opened a window. Then another.
I couldn't locate the smoker, but part of me thought, it's the drunk guy.
A few blocks later and the bus was really stinking.
At Hayes the driver parked the bus. He got out through the front door and climbed in through the back. He looked straight at the drunk and said, "Look, man, I can smell the smoke all the way at the front of the bus. You can't smoke on the bus. If you can't wait til your stop, maybe you should just get out here, you understand?"
The drunk didn't say anything.
"Sir?" said the driver. "You gotta put that thing out."
The drunk opened the window and tossed his cigarette out onto the curb.
"There you go," said the driver.
He went back to the front of the bus and we continued down Fillmore.
The driver passed a few more stops.
We finally made it to Geary and I got out, glad for fresh air. I waved to the driver and said, "thanks," then I crossed the street to catch a 38.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bus Report #565

I'm in love with San Francisco again today.
My long week is almost over and on my way in to volunteer at the museum I'm going to stop and pick up a coffee card for my favorite 22 Fillmore driver.
The 38 is comfortably empty and I get a window seat by the back door.
We cruise down Geary, skipping stops where no one is waiting.
The bus stops for a long time on Van Ness but I don't notice why.
I am struck by the thought that O'Farrell Street has never looked so beautiful.
New movie posters near the AMC Van Ness promise a varied winter and spring schedule.
The Cristobal Apartments on O'Farrell near Larkin, with it's gorgeous facade - why have I never noticed this building before? - give me a lump in my throat. I want to come back and photograph the whole thing.
Bring a toy to the New Century Theater and you'll get a discount. Nice.
People wait in a long, snaking line for free food at the senior center a few blocks down. A food bank truck is parked at the curb, and people unload bags and bags of groceries.
In the windows at Macy's there are adorable kittens actually frolicking, begging to be adopted. People pause as they hurry by to look at them.
And later, walking down Market Street. The sidewalk is slick with this morning's rain. My broken old sneakers have no traction but I let them slide me past the chain stores and closet-size cafes.
The angel statue in front of 720 Market is still there, no surprise since I always double-check it hasn't taken flight. It is one of my favorite pieces of art in the city, and I think most people probably don't even notice it's there.
The F Market rattles by. This time of year the cars are festooned with pine garlands and red ribbons for Christmas. Just beautiful and I imagine they looked the same way decades earlier, in other cities and countries far from here.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Bus Report #564

Monday morning, 22 Fillmore bus stop, 6:40 AM.
The Fillmore is dead silent, no people, no cars, no buses, just me and the woman who always stands right next to me. And Santa.

Not the real Santa, but a skinny, crazy, fucked up Santa, in a droopy hat, yelling and ranting to no one. He is beardless, jacketless, his shirt hangs off his bony shoulders and his hands can't stay still.
He stands in the middle of Fillmore Street, oblivious to the few cabs and cars that come by. They slow for him, wary, unsure of what he will do.
Does he want to die this morning? I ask myself. He screams his way towards Post Street, still zig-zagging his way down Fillmore.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bus Report #563

Rainy early evening commute down to Rickshaw Stop.
The woman sitting across from me on the 38 wore two plastic bags on her head. It looked stupid and made me feel very, very uneasy - knowing someone who suffocated themselves this way. I kept shooting her disgusted looks, but she didn't notice.

Next to me, a man was reading last week's Economist magazine. After a while his seat mate said, "I've got a whole bunch of those I've been meaning to read."
The man reading the magazine said, "Yeah, me, too. This is last week's."
I threw my hat into the ring, too. "I've got four issues on my coffee table, too." I said.

I switched to the 22 at Fillmore. It was much more crowded than it usually is at 6:30 AM.
The couple sitting in front of me was a bit odd. The man was dressed in average, non-descript clothes and he had a new buzz cut. But he couldn't hide his face tattoo, that covered most of his left cheek. Some sort of veiny blue design. His girlfriend sat in the window seat reading a thick paperback copy of The Hobbit.
At one point she gave him ten dollars and wanted him to give her two dollars back. He took his wallet out of his bag and began shuffling through it for money, but the wallet was full of scraps of paper, none of them legal tender. He gave up.

I don't know if it was the weather or a broken bottle somewhere on board but everyone on the bus smelled like vodka.

I stood up to get out at Hayes. A woman sitting by the door looked so familiar but I couldn't place her and she looked right through me.

In the front of the bus, a man wore a T-shirt that said: With a shirt like this, who needs pants?'

Bus Report #562

How to make friends on the 38 Geary - Bring a pine wreath on board, balance it on your lap as the bus lurches away from the Masonic stop.
"We can smell your wreath from over here," calls a woman sitting at the front of the bus.
"Why don't you leave it with us when you get out?" suggests her friend.
"Let's just get some of those pine tree air fresheners for the driver," I call back.

Relying on the kindness of strangers - Standing in the bus stop waiting for the 38, and I get an uncontrollable coughing fit. A woman stands a few feet away, smoking, but as I continue to cough up a lung or two, she comes over and hands me a throat lozenge.
"Take this," she says. "Don't want you to feel embarrassed on the bus if you keep coughing, don't want people to think you have TB and avoid you, or something." She smiles.
I smile, still coughing, and gratefully accept the small candy. I unwrap it and put it in my mouth. Instant relief. "Thanks," I say.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bus Report #561

As seen on the 38 last night:

a hot pink post-it note stuck on the seat beside me, with 'Your Ugly' scrawled on it.