Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't miss the fun - Muni Diaries at Elbo Room tonight!

Anyone planning to go? It should be fun. Muni Diaries always throws a good bash.
See you there.
Come find me and say hi - I've got pink/pink plaid sneakers on today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bus Report #643

Late afternoon waiting with Carmen for the 38 Geary.
A very agitated man in shorts and a baseball hat started pacing in the street, oblivious to the oncoming traffic.
"All the crazies are always around here," I said.
Carmen said, "My niece says the only guys who ask for her number are the crazy ones."
We had a good laugh, then got on the 38 and walked to the back of the bus. We sat next to a woman who was on the phone, across from a couple of zoned out High School students and three rows away from one man who stared at us as we walked by.
As usual we talked in Spanglish, more gossip about her recent vacation and her family.
The man who had been staring at us twisted in his seat. He was tall and gangly, with a beige cap and a blue windbreaker. There was something about him that made me feel uncomfortable. The way he was looking at us, maybe? Smiling while his eyes bore into us, two strangers he didn't know, sitting far enough away that he shouldn't have paid us any attention.
"Tu muy bonitas," he said.
We didn't realize he was talking to us until he repeated himself, louder.
We looked over and I think Carmen said thanks.
She turned to me and asked me, "Is he talking to you, or to me?"
"You," I teased her. "Your new crazy boyfriend."
"I think he's talking to you," she replied.
She said, "Let me show you a photo of my niña," and she started scrolling through pictures on her phone, looking for a snap of her daughter.
"Can I see a photo of your niña?" asked the creepy man.
I can't imagine anyone would show him anyone's photo, especially not when he asked that way. It made my skin crawl.
We ignored him, to the best of our ability.
"I know you don't know me," he said, "But I'd really like to see it."
I couldn't help it, I snapped at him. "No, you can't."
For the rest of the ride he watched us.
I almost didn't get out at my stop, worried he'd follow me. Irrational? Probably. But his stare was just so intense, it made me nervous.
I hesitated when the bus got to my stop. "This is you, right?" Carmen said.
"Yeah," I said. I hurried out of the bus with a group of teenagers.
"Que te vayas bien," Carmen called after me.
"Nos vemos," I called back.
I walked down the street, fast, and did not look back.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bus Report #642

The 22 was late again today, but at least the driver was the friendly man with the sweet smile who always stops for regulars and chats up the old ladies. He makes the afternoon commute a little better.
I sat against the window next to a petite woman with a large trash bag full of laundry, or sewing, or something like that. Something soft. The bag pressed against my ankle. I didn't mind.
At Mission, a wheelchair passenger and their friend got on and settled in front of me. They were women, I think, but I never saw or heard enough of them to tell for sure.
The wheelchair passenger was quiet. She sat in her chair and looked out the window. Her friend - girlfriend? Wife? Best friend? made sure the brakes were on and then she perched on the side of the folded-up seat and spoke softly to her friend. Occasionally she adjusted the chair or played with the wheelchair passenger's hair and bandanna.
Carmen got on a few stops later.
"Please, sit," I said, starting to get up.
"No, it's okay," she said. "If you weren't here I'd be standing up anyway. No te preoccupes."
"Are you sure? I could hold your bag or something?" I offered.
She shook her head. "It's okay," she said.
We chatted a little, until the bus grew crowded and the driver came on the PA system and said, "Everybody, if you could just move back a few feet, it would be really helpful. I'd really appreciate it, and we could get on our way here."
People shuffled a little and the driver was finally able to close the front door. "Thank you, folks," he said. Carmen ended up in a seat towards the back of the bus.
My seatmate got out at Church Street. My new seatmate was a bear of a man with a large backpack and a heavy-looking cardboard box. The box sat on the floor at his feet. He drifted off to sleep, snoring loudly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bus Report #641

Another day with bad afternoon 22 service.
Fifteen minutes waiting in the sun by Thee Parkside for a diesel bus.
I sat in the back, squished between a woman who was asleep and a man with an overstuffed backpack on his lap, his legs spread wide. He did not give up any leg room, no matter how much I wiggled in the seat.
The bus started and stopped, jerked back and forth. Was the driver unused to driving the diesel coaches?
At Mission one of the Ethiopian ladies who is often on my bus in the morning got on and stood in front of me. Her friend got on. He had four heavy bags of groceries and they kept sliding across the floor. The bus was too crowded for anyone to move, or I would have offered him my seat.
At Herman Street my sleeping seatmate woke up and dashed off the bus. Had she missed her stop, I wondered? How far back?
The man with the groceries gestured for another regular rider to sit down. She told him he could sit, but he shook his head and gestured again for her to take it.
"We can hold your bags," I offered him. My new seatmate nodded.
"Yes," she said, "It's no problem."
He looked to the Ethiopian woman for a translation. She gave it, and he smiled at us but shook his head all the same.
My new seatmate looked over at me and said, "What's up with this driver? This is awful."
"I know. I think some drivers are out today or something. This is really weird."
When we reached Geary I got out and ran across the street to catch the 38.
Several regulars were there, too: the woman who always gets on at 16th and Church, some of the older gentlemen who usually get out at Masonic, and, for the second time in as many weeks, Carmen.
We sat in the back of the bus and she said, "I have my photos from my trip, want to see them?"
We paged through her photo album as the bus rattled up the hill. They were great photos, so colorful and beautiful.
We flipped the last page just as the bus neared my stop.
"Thanks for sharing," I said. "Nos vemos muy pronto."
I waved at her and stepped down onto a chilly Geary corner, and headed home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bus Report #640

Friday afternoon I got to the bus stop and saw that there were at least a dozen people there already. This did not bode well and while Next Bus had said there would be a bus in five minutes, it took another twenty minutes for the 22 to show up. It was, of course, already completely packed. I stood in the back holding on to the back of a seat. I am just not tall enough to reach the hanging straps or the bar that runs just below the ceiling.
The bus emptied a little at Mission Street and I slid in to one of the rear-facing seats. The seat was damp with sweat from the man who had just vacated it. I pretended not to notice.
I had my headphones on and was listening to a repeat episode of Radio Lab when I saw Carmen sitting down in the seat across from me.
"Carmencita," I said, taking off the headphones, the sunglasses.
She slapped my knee and said, "Hello! It has been forever!"
We caught up on our summers: my trip East to school, her trip to South America with her family.
At Church Street a teenage boy slumped into the seat next to me. Typical baggy clothes, sideways cap, gigantic high top sneakers with florescent laces.
Something happened while Carmen and I talked and laughed, and gently nudged each other with our feet. The teenager sitting next to me started talking to us, and he turned out to be a really sweet, nice kid.
"My Grandma up in Sacramento cleans houses and is saving for me to go to college," he told us, after Carmen mentioned a continuing ed. class she had taken at City.
"Wow," I said. "That's great."
"She is so nice," Carmen said.
The boy nodded at Carmen. "You kinda remind me of her, except you're younger," he told her. "Cause she's from El Salvador and she's always trying to get me to talk to her in Spanish but I really can't speak it." He shook his head. "I can say, like, Abuela and stuff, but that's it."
Somehow Carmen and the kid got to talking about when he was little and his Grandma would chase him and his brothers around the house when they were bad, and hit them with her belt. Carmen nodded and said, "It's because she's very traditional."
The boy laughed. "Yeah, we used to put pillows in our pants so when she hit us we didn't feel it."
"We used to do that, too," Carmen said.
As the bus neared Geary I asked her where she was getting out. "Jackson," she said.
"I'll ride with you," I said. Even though it was several blocks out of my way. I didn't mind, it had been so long since we last saw each other, and we still had a lot to talk about.
The kid was getting out there, too.
"On your way home, or to work?" Carmen asked him.
"Nah," he said, waiting for us on the sidewalk. "Going to see my Grandma."

Friday, September 02, 2011

Bus Report #639

On the 38 yesterday, headed downtown to the Museum of Craft and Folk Art.
The bus was packed with kids and I vowed not to ride Muni right after school gets out ever again, unless I absolutely have to.

A woman stood in front of me wearing an I [Heart] SF T-shirt. She also had an I [Heart] Las Vegas purse. I wondered if she loved SF and Vegas equally, or if one won over the other.

Our bus got mired in terrible traffic between Powell and Stockton - construction crews moving heavy equipment as slowly as was possible. Our driver was nice enough to let everyone out who wanted out... Otherwise I think I would have sat there another fifteen minutes.

Later, on the way home, I sat between two girls with terrible breath. I closed my eyes and tilted my head up towards the window and hoped for the best.

And lastly, my new least favorite bus stop has got to be the 38 Outbound stop on Geary between Polk and Van Ness.
Now that half that block is shut down and boarded up (and slated to be torn down to build a new CPMC, I think, right?) It is dark and vacant and I keep thinking I see people moving in the abandoned apartments upstairs.