Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bus Report #602

Three buses, three stories.

22 Fillmore.
My driver tonight was the same strange, talking-to-himself driver I had on the 33 a few weeks ago. The driver laughed at random intervals. He occasionally talked into the PA system, but none of what he said made any sense.
The bus went from empty to crowded, back to empty, back to crowded several times during our commute. When I got our of the bus at Sutter, it was with relief.

3 Jackson.
The 2 Clement would have been my first choice but it was nowhere in sight. When the 3 Jackson pulled up I waited for an elderly lady to get out through the front door.
She walked slowly, gingerly to the steps. She held the railing with her right hand as she descended the stair case. She saw me and held out her left hand.
I was to take it and help her down the stairs, so I did, smiling at her.
She squeezed my hand and leaned on me as she finished going down the stairs.
She shuffled down the street and I got on the bus and moved to the seats in the back.

2 Clement.
After the 3 Jackson spit us out on Presidio, I started walking up through Laurel Heights. A 2 Clement pulled into the stop as I walked past it, so I got on and sat against the window.
I got out in the middle of Clement and walked to the store, the library, and up past the donut shop.
The shop was empty except for the Alien Donut Man. He sat in the middle of the place, in his usual seat, with his paper bag of donuts and his Styrofoam cup of coffee. As I walked past the window he turned his head slowly and followed me around the corner with his eyes.
He lifted his hand in a small wave. I nodded my head and waved back at him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bus Report #601

This morning I caught my usual 38 Geary, empty except for me, the man who wears two jackets (one puffy jacket under a black windbreaker - every day, despite the weather), and a woman who wears the most awful perfume (I always have to open some windows.)
At Fillmore I waited by myself (waved to the man driving the street sweeper, who always waves to me) for the 22 Fillmore.
It arrived and I got on, sat a row behind the coffee cup girl.
Everything was fine until we got to McAllister, when the poles came down off the wire and the driver couldn't fix them.
After five minutes she got back on the bus and announced, too cheerfully, "This coach is going out of service."
Of course it was, I thought, following the coffee cup girl out the back door.
NextBus said the next 22 would be along in 7 minutes. I decided to start walking instead. It was a nice morning, not too cold, sunny, the kind of morning you don't mind walking to work.
I hiked up the steep hill on Fillmore, turning around every few minutes to see if a bus was coming.
At my old bus stop at Oak and Fillmore I saw the man who always sits next to me on the 22 (he has bad cologne, too, and also necessitates an open window). He saw me walking and said, "No?" as in, no bus?
I shook my head. "It broke down," I said, my hands mimicking the bus poles, one hand falling over the other, then I swept both hands in the air. I hoped he got the picture.
He nodded and made the same motion with his hands. "No," he said.
"Sorry," I said, and I kept walking.
He caught up with me and said something I really could not understand. Either he was speaking to me in Cantonese, or his English was really, really unintelligible.
I just shrugged and pointed at the bus stop at Haight and Fillmore. "Maybe NextBus will say something," I said.
NextBus had nothing to tell us. There were two women waiting at the stop, Laverne's friend and a girl with wild black hair and a bright orange tote bag.
I walked on.
I was about to cross Church and Market when I saw a 22 Fillmore coming around the corner.
While I could have kept walking I decided to take the bus, since it would be faster.
The bus sped towards us and I recognized our driver: It was my favorite 22 Fillmore driver. As usual, despite the fifteen or so folks who had been waiting for him before I got to the stop, he pulled up right in front of me and opened the door.
"Morning dear," He said, grinning his friendly, warm smile.
"Morning, it's great to see you," I said.
I sat by the back door for the rest of the ride.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bus Report #600

Late last week I met up with The Teacher's Pet in North Beach.
My original plan was to take the 10 Townsend to Sacramento Street and walk from there, but it was Giants opening day and the schedule for the 10 was completely messed up.
NextBus predicted 15 minutes and 45 minutes right before I put on my coat, and then as I was about to leave work it changed to 35 minutes and 78 minutes. Nice.
I tried the 19 Polk, thinking I would just take anything headed down Market and then walk. Another no go. it was running every 20 minutes, except for the next couple buses, 1 minute and 39 minutes.
So I got on the 22 and rode out to Market Street, where I planned to switch to the F Market.
As luck would have it, a bright orange F Market streetcar rattled into the stop and I got on. Everyone was crowded in the front, as often happens with a bus full of tourists, so I patiently made my way through the crush to the back of the train.
Where a very smelly, very twitchy guy was pacing, mumbling, opening and closing windows, and throwing trash out of the windows.
I sat as far away from him as I could, near an open window.
The F slowly headed towards downtown. The crazy guy got out at Van Ness.
A very old man in a suit and tie got on at the next stop and sat beside me.
I started worrying about the time; we were supposed to meet at six and it was already quarter to. The F stopped at Third and Market and got out, and booked it down a crowded Kearny Street.
There are so many reasons to love San Francisco, and one of them, to me, is walking down Kearny, going from the financial district to the edge of Chinatown, to North Beach. People in suits and dressy shoes going one way, tourists and shoppers headed in the opposite direction. Jack Kerouac Alley connecting Grant Street in Chinatown to Columbus Ave. in North Beach.
The girl playing accordion outside City Lights Books.
Me, inside the bookstore, smiling at the spine of a familiar book, an old friend I haven't thought of in a while.
The Teacher's Pet found me in the back room at City Lights. We were both right on time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bus Report #599

The 22 was crowded when I got on at my usual stop. There was an open seat all the way in the back against the window. No one else seemed to want it, so I worked my way back and smiled at the woman sitting in the middle of the back row.
"Can I slide in?" I asked.
She looked at me, then looked at the seat. She plucked an empty soda bottle off the seat and put it on the floor. Then she smiled and scooted a little bit to the right so I could get in to the seat.
"Thanks," I said, before she put her headphones back on.

At Mission the bus emptied out enough that I could move up a row, to the seats that face each other.
The bus was soon crowded again, but no one seemed to mind. Mostly, we were all watching a couple and their very new baby.
The mom had several plastic bags stuffed with baby clothes. She shoved the bags under the seat. The dad (well, he might have been her father, her stepfather, her uncle, or the dad, couldn't tell) held the baby girl in his arms. She was wrapped in three fleecy blankets in different shades of pink. Every couple of minutes he would unwrap the top blanket to check on her. She was so tiny and so quiet.
They were taking her to the doctor, up in Laurel Heights, and the mom thought they could take the 1 California (yep, that would work). Dad thought they should transfer to the 33 Stanyan (yep, that would also work).
I got out at Geary and waited for the 38. It arrived a few minutes later.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Bus Report #598

I survived my first week using Clipper, no problems, no double beeps for me.
Now that I use Clipper I pay more attention to people who seem unable to properly tag their cards. It annoys me more than it used to, that insistent double beep of failure.

Twice this week my 38 Geary had out of order Clipper card readers. Not a big deal for those of us with monthly passes, but man, Muni must hemorrhage money by not fixing those things. They must not be hurting too badly financially if they let these things go, right? (Kidding!)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Bus Report #597

This morning I said goodbye to the paper Fast Pass and joined the ranks of the Clipper carrying public. Luckily, I've got my Muni Diaries Fast Pass holder so I can fondly remember the good old days.
The 38 Geary pulled up to my stop and I got on. I had to remember not to just flip my card at the driver, but to tag it to the Clipper reader. Success! A single beep for me on my first try! I waved good morning to a couple of regulars and moved to the back of the bus to sit down.

Down on Fillmore I waited for the 22 with a tiny woman who wore an ineffectual slightly dirty mask covering her mouth and nose. I tried to stay away from her, but she decided she needed to stand right next to me.
When the bus arrived, we both got on. Another successful Clipper experience for me.
I sat behind the coffee cup girl and across from the woman who always used to stand right next to me at the bus stop.
At Mission Street the bus filled up, as it often does. There were a handful of people milling around in the plaza. A man in a wheelchair peered in through the busted open door of the public toilet, but he didn't go in.
I got out at my usual spot and went to get coffee. The sunrise was a wispy neon orange with stripes of grey blue. Walking to work I good morninged the guys at the garage, several UPS drivers and the big rig drivers parked by the brewery.