Friday, January 21, 2011

Bus Report #575

This morning was my 22 Fillmore driver's last morning on our route.
I got in the bus and smiled at him and said, "It's your last day, isn't it? It's been fun, we'll miss you."
He extended his hand and we shook, and I wished him good luck and went to sit down.
The rest of the ride he held court, telling the regulars it was his last day, shaking hands, even getting some hugs from the older ladies.
This is the kind of Muni I want every day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bus Report #574

I had a meeting downtown tonight, so I got on the 10 Townsend and sat by the back door.
In the front of the bus there was a young girl, I'm guessing mid-teens, trying to wrangle a sweet little baby who was climbing around on the seats.
The girl had her stroller parked next to her, but the movement of the bus made it shift and tilt and almost fall.
The girl tried to grab her wiggly daughter and the stroller rolled away from her.
I got up and quickly went to sit across from her, grabbing the stroller and steadying it so it wouldn't zoom away.
The girl, who was now on the phone trying to find someone to pick her up at BART in the east bay, mouthed a 'thank you' to me and I nodded.
She eventually got the brakes down. She flashed me a thumbs' up and I went back to my original seat.

Later, after the meeting, I got on the 38 Geary downtown. The bus wasn't very crowded, but it was slow because we were right behind a couple of electric buses for a few blocks.
In Union Square a pair of twitchy, trash bag and duffel bag carrying guys got on the bus. One of them pushed his way to an empty seat in the back of the bus. He called out to his friend to "Stay up there."
His friend, perhaps his brother (they were both tall and skinny, with greasy, stringy blond hair), was in bad shape. He didn't seem to have any teeth, he might have been mute (he didn't make a sound at all, instead he waved and mouthed things to the other guy), and he couldn't sit still. He flapped his hands and picked at the scabs on his face.
It was very sad. I wondered if he was autistic or delayed in some way, on top of what must have been a long, hard relationship with hard drugs and tough living.
From the back of the bus, the man's friend occasionally yelled up to him to stay seated. The man would look up and try to see his friend through the crowd, then he would wave and flap and pick and retreat back in to his own world.
They got out at Third Ave. and camped out in the bus shelter. Last I saw them, they were lighting cigarettes and sitting on the uncomfortable bus shelter bench.

Bus Report #573

I got on the 22 this morning and the driver, my favorite 22 Fillmore driver, touched my arm and started to say something. I took off my headphones.
"Sweetheart, this is my last week on this route," he said. "I'll be driving the bus after this one."
"Oh no!" I said. I squeezed his shoulder. "We'll miss you. You've been great."
"Thank you, thanks," he said.
The end of an era, but hopefully our new driver will be just as friendly and thoughtful.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bus Report #572

Back home after a week away and everything feels the same.
I sleepwalked through my commute yesterday morning. My jacket and boots were unnecessary, it was too warm for them, but I wore them anyway. The boots, used to ice and snow, felt wrong against the dry concrete sidewalk.
The man sitting across from me on the 38 grinned at everyone who got on. He held a brown slice of apple in his left hand and occasionally took bites of it. His other hand controlled a metallic purple igadget.
At Fillmore I waited in my usual spot, alone. Everyone else had the day off, I supposed. Fillmore was silent and dark and the fog made everything look soft and out of focus. Dreamlike.
Then the bus arrived, the driver (my favorite 22 driver) pulled up right in front of me and threw the door open.
"Well hello there," he said, smiling his big smile.
"Nice to see you sir," I said.
And we're back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bus Report #571 - Boston Edition

Cold night but I wasn't bothered. I walked to the Harvard Square bus stop, the only remnant of our pinata party the thick dowel I carried, trying not to hit anyone with it.
The bus idled in the stop with the door open so we could get in and stay warm.
I sat by the back door, balanced the dowel on top of my foot so it wouldn't get sludgy from the snow everyone was tracking in.
"Excuse me," said the girl sitting behind me.
I turned around. "Yes?" I said.
"I was wondering what that dowel is for," she asked.
I smiled. "Actually, we just had a party with a pinata."
"Sounds fun," she said.
"It was," I replied.
The bus took off a few minutes later.
It was an easy, quick ride. We sped through Allston until we got to the corner of Harvard and Brighton Ave. There at the corner there were half a dozen police cars and twice as many cops. Someone stood on the corner with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Kids from the liquor store and the newly reopened Brighton Music Hall stood and watched the action. Most of them held up phones, taking pictures.
I never found out what happened.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bus Report #570 - Boston Edition

Cold night, waiting at the bus stop in Harvard Square with A. after class.
We talk about school and our pieces we've prepared for workshop. The bus is nowhere in sight.
"You girls in a writing group?" asks a man who stands behind us, leaning against the bus shelter.
A. and I exchange glances. "Yep," I tell him.
"It sounds great," he continues. "You know, I'm a writer, too."
A. and I shoot looks at each other again. Of course, I think. Of course this dude with beery breath and a thick Boston accent is a writer. Who isn't?
"Yeah," he says. "I draw the pictures, too, you know, Boston scenes? So people can read my book and know where each part takes place."
I nod. He says, "My book's about this guy... He hates his family and decides to become homeless and like, you know, screw with 'em? So he's homeless, right, then his family's lookin' for him and he's right there the whole time, only they don't recognize him."
"Sounds creepy," I say.
"There's no murder or violence or nothin'," he says. Murdah. "But you know, it's all like..."
"Psychological?" I offer.
"Nah. More like mental," he says.
He sees us grin at each other. He says, "I can tell you girls are like, 'who's this guy?' but I heard you talking about your writing group and I just had to say somethin'. I really hope you girls keep it up, you know? Where's the group anyway?" he asks.
I say, "Porter Square," and this seems to satisfy him.
The bus finally arrives and we get on and sit in the front of the bus.
The driver comes on over the PA system. "I apologize for being late," he says. "There was an accident on the bridge and we had to go all over creation and back to get here, so I apologize."
A driver apologizing? Wow. Later I would find out the accident was a hit and run with a six year old victim, still in the hospital today as far as I know.
We leave the square and zoom through Allston. At the corner by Blanchard's, the bus driver opens the door and spends a few minutes giving someone directions.
A. gets out at her stop and less than 5 minutes later, I get out, too.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bus Report #569 - Boston Edition

Back in Boston for my school residency, a week of taking the 66 bus down to Harvard Square via Allston.
My first day, and the bus was packed so tightly that all I could do was flash my sister's monthly pass at the driver and ask to get in through the back door.
I stood in the steps by the back door until the bus emptied out at Harvard and Commonwealth Ave.
A blonde girl with no jacket slid in to the seat beside me. She looked at me, asked, "are you a knitter?"
This was two days after my knitting conversation on muni, and it felt strange.
"I am," I said.
"Oh, I thought so," she said, gesturing at my scarf. "I am, too. I want a brown scarf, but can't find anything I like... I guess I should just make one."
I nodded. She kept talking, about her family in Modesto, about the cold weather, about where she needed to get out. She pushed the signal tape and got out at Craftsman Street.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Bus Report #568

A crowded 22 Fillmore bus on a cold Tuesday night.
My seatmate in the aisle seat was working on a knitting project: a red sweater in an intricate design.
My stop was coming up so I turned to her and said, "I don't want to interrupt your work but I'm getting out next stop."
She smiled and said thanks. She finished her row and tucked her work back into her bag. She noticed my scarf, a green wool ribbed scarf I'd just finished making the weekend before.
"That's beautiful," she said.
"Oh, thanks," I said. "It's not as fancy as your work, but you know, it's warm."
"Mind if I..?" She reached over and touched the bottom of the scarf. "Oh wow, that's soft."
"I think it's alpaca," I said. "But I don't remember."