Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bus Report #584

Last night, feverish and foggy-brained while volunteering at a show at Bottom of the Hill. I managed to last most of the night but started to really feel sick and out of it before the headliners went on.
My manager and fellow volunteer took pity on me and told me I could go home, so I wandered outside to find my way back to the Richmond.
A cab stood idled in the bus stop, and I felt lucky as I went to get in.
"I'm on my break," the cabbie said, "so I can't take you."
"Fine," I said. I started towards the bus stop in front of the faded old Potrero Hill mural on Connecticut Street.
The image of OJ now completely obliterated, but I remember where it was.
The cabbie waved me back over. "I can take you to Potrero and 16th, you might have better luck over there," he said. "No charge."
I climbed in and rode with him to Potrero and 16th.
The neighborhood was quiet and empty except for a few people getting food at the McDonald's on the corner. I stood in the street and tried to hail another cab. I hailed anything with a light on, but the cabs, pizza delivery guys and regular Joes did not stop.
I was frustrated: sick, tired, cash in hand for a cab and a tip, and no one was stopping.
Fifteen minutes passed with no luck.
I saw a 22 Fillmore approaching, and decided to catch it, even though it meant a longer trip home.
I sat in the back of the bus with a trio of sleepy men.
The ride was fast, at least.
At Geary there were cabs dropping off and picking up people spilling out of the Fillmore.
As I crossed the street, a 38 Geary pulled up.
I didn't think I should argue, so I climbed in.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bus Report #583

This morning it took all my energy to haul my ass out of the house and across the street to the bus stop.
NextBus predicted a 38 Geary bus in 11 minutes or 37 minutes.
I took my chances and walked up to the next stop where I knew I could catch a Limited bus (hopefully) sooner.
When a Limited did show up, it was already crowded. I sat between a tired-looking woman with a messy ponytail and a man with a new yellow and green messenger bag.
We flew down Geary and I got out at Fillmore to catch the 22.
I was the only person waiting in the stop when I got down there.
A few minutes later, a regular I haven't seen in a long time (years, I think!) walked by.
"I thought that was you," he said, smiling. "Been a while."
I nodded, said, "Nice to see you."
He said something else but by then he was already out of earshot and I didn't hear him.
I was listening to music and lost track of time, but soon noticed that it was getting much lighter out and the bus still hadn't arrived. I looked at my watch. The bus I usually caught was late. 20 minutes late.
Several other passengers showed up and we all took turns stepping in to the street to look for the bus. Nothing.
I was annoyed but not much. Because I knew that my favorite 22 driver, who had recently switched to the later route, was bound to be on his way.
Five minutes later the 22 came into view.
I knew it was my favorite driver the minute I saw the bus lurch out of the Sutter Street stop and pull in to traffic.
When he stopped to let us on he stopped right in front of me.
"Morning, darlin'," he said with a smile.
"Morning," I replied.
The bus was full of regulars. Shirley, her friend, the big guy, the Roche Bobois guy, and several middle school kids I hadn't seen in a while (man, those kids grow fast!)
As the bus approached my stop, several people from the back of the bus came forward to wait by the back door. I reached over and pulled the signaler. A man standing above me smiled and said, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," I said.
We got out of the bus and I went for my coffee.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bus Report #582

Crowded 2 Clement bus tonight, and no one seemed inclined to move to the back of the bus.
"Excuse me, excuse me," I said, working my way back to what looked to be a free seat near the back door. No one even tried to move, so what could I do? I pushed. I elbowed. I said to the man sitting in the aisle seat, "mind if I sit?"
He stared at me blankly and moved a quarter of an inch, so that I had to climb over him to get into the seat. He got out at the next stop.
The bus emptied out when we hit Japantown.
Someone in front of me was reading a book I was recently told was horrible.
In the back of the bus, two overly made-up ladies talked about how much fun their shopping trip had been earlier that day. They both wore jeans and sweatshirts but had way too much makeup on - as though they'd gotten makeovers or something. Maybe they had.
My new seatmate pecked away at her phone. She almost missed her stop. The man standing next to her almost hit her in the head with his backpack.
The bank clock on California near Spruce flashed the time, 6:30 PM, and the temperature, 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I wondered if we would really get any snow this weekend. I wouldn't mind.
Clement Street was busy: cars looking for parking, lines out front Burma Star, the smell of fried snacks wafting out of Genki Crepes. I hopped out at Eighth and crossed the street to go to the library.
On my way home I passed the donut shop. The Alien Donut Man sat at his usual spot with his two plain donuts and his cup of coffee. I stole a glance at him, my usual not so subtle goggle-eyed stare.
He saw me and slowly nodded his head, raised his hand in a delicate wave.
I waved back and looked away.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bus Report #581

This morning the traffic reports mentioned a fatal accident at Geary and Arguello, necessitating bus reroutes for the 33 and the 38.
So close to home, I thought, and so sad. Because fatal is fatal no matter what happened.
I walked out to catch the 38 a few minutes early. I wanted to make sure if the reroute was causing delays that it wouldn't be a problem for me.
The bus came on time and we booked it down an eerily silent Geary.
At Third Ave. I could see the flashing lights of police cars up ahead. They had Arguello Our bus took a right on Third, Left on Anza, Right on Stanyan.
Everyone tried to see what was going on, but the street was quiet and empty two blocks from the accident.
We kept going.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bus Report #580

The man sat a few seats away from me. It was an early morning 38 Geary, still a little dark out, no more than a handful of us on the bus.
He had a lion's mane of yellow hair, a mustache and a beard stained a darker yellow. He wore a pea green fleece from the Monterey Aquarium and jeans so dirty they weren't blue anymore. His brown work boots were caked with mud. The soles were worn almost all the way down.
He clutched a Styrofoam cup of coffee in his shaking hands. I watched him lift the cup to his mouth to sip. I think I was holding my breath, hoping he didn't spill it. Steam emanated from the cup and the coffee looked hot enough to warrant the warnings printed on the lids.
The man had vein-blue tattoos that covered his exposed arms and hands. He had two gold rings on his right hand. They might have been class rings or something similar.
They seemed too gaudy for who he was now, though at some point they might not have been.
He had the puffy red face of a longtime alcoholic. Squinty eyes that seemed to stare at nothing.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bus Report #579

Harmony reigned on the 22 and 38 tonight.

A bottle blonde, tattoo-sleeved mom and her beautiful smiling baby got on at Mission and sat next to an elderly gentleman. Two minutes later the old man was cooing and making kissy faces at the baby, who squealed with delight. The mom and the old man talked about parenting, and everyone around them seemed to have a smile on their face.

An art student with a large easel shared a seat with a revolving cast of teenagers. The kids all stole looks at the sketches clipped to the easel.

I got on a crowded 38 at the Geary and Fillmore stop. In front of me a tourist stared at his map, finally asking for help from the headphones-wearing kid next to him. The kid with the headphones took the map and traced our route with his finger. He looked at the tourist and held up three fingers and said, "You want Third Avenue."
We hit Third and the tourist didn't get up. The kid jumped up and yelled up to the driver, "Hold on one more minute man, one more minute," and he gestured for the tourist to get out because this was his stop.
Outside, the tourist waved to the kid and the kid waved back.

The woman sitting across from me was reading a familiar, beloved book: Fae Myenne Ng's book, Bone. Bone is a beautiful book and is a must read for anyone who likes reading about our city. Put it on the list.

I got out a few blocks later, saw my tax man dressed as Uncle Sam, shilling for business.
"Looking good," I said.
"Well, I've gotten a lot of offers for the suit but that's about it so far," he said.
I laughed and wished him luck, and went home.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bus Report #578

This morning I was running a few minutes late. Blame KQED public radio, or blame my unwashed dishes from last night.
I waited to cross Geary to wait at the bus stop. I could see a 38 at the light a block away. My light changed and I crossed the street. The 38 pulled up a moment later but the driver didn't see me right away and he drove past the stop. I waved to him and he eventually stopped half a block later. I ran to catch up.
"Thanks a lot," I said, flashing my fast pass at him.
We sped down Geary and got to Fillmore in less than ten minutes. I waited in the dark for the 22. No one was out and there were very few cars. Strange.
The bus arrived a few minutes later, driven by a new, humorless man who has yet to win me over.
I sat towards the back of the bus and cracked a window, closed my eyes and listened to music.
As we passed through the Castro/Mission (Misastro? Castrission?)I could smell smoke from this morning's two fires. I hoped everyone was okay and that they could get back into their apartments soon.
16th and Mission was a deserted plaza. The public toilet door was stuck open, but there was no one inside.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Bus Report #577

On a crowded 22 Fillmore tonight, listening to music and zoning out. The bus stopped at Church and Market and several new passengers pushed towards the back of the bus. One of those passengers was Carmen, who I haven't seen since before Christmas.
"Here's your seat," I said, getting up for her.
"No, no, you sit, I'm not old," she said.
"I know you're not old, but I've been sitting all day," I told her. "Please."
She sat down and we talked, catching up on everything we've missed the past couple of months.
It was fun to see her. We talked about the friendly 22 driver who recently switched shifts, and tried to remember the name of another driver, a woman who always has her hair done and always looks so put together.
We kept the conversation going when we got out the bus and switched to a 2 Clement. There was an empty seat and I insisted she take it.
I said goodbye at my stop and got out, headed for home.
My neighbor Dennis was going to the corner store and he stopped to talk.
"I couldn't help but notice you in C's office last night, do you know him?" he asked.
"Well, we're neighbors," I said. Dennis is harmless but not someone who needs to know all my business.
Dennis told me he sometimes stops in to talk politics with C. We agreed that C. was a nice guy and a good addition to the neighborhood. I finally said, "I don't want to keep you," and bid him a good night before going home.

Bus Report #576

The other day I had just settled in to my seat on the 38 when a woman got on and tried to slip into the seat across from me.
She had a few bags with her from various neighborhood stores. She started to sit, the bus pulled out of the stop and into traffic, and the woman started to fall towards the floor, her bags flying in the air and her arms still loaded down by the bag's weight.
It was a curious thing, because I swear it felt like it was a slow-motion, five-minute kind of fall. I leaned forward and caught her left elbow, and helped her regain her balance.
She smiled and said thanks.