Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bus Report #707

I've been avoiding listening to the most recent episode of This American Life this week, because it's a tribute to David Rakoff, who died way, way too early on August 9.
But this morning I walked out to the bus stop, everything still damp and foggy and darker than it's been, and I put on my headphones and pressed play.
And while there were a few moments where I came close to crying, I didn't. Because while Rakoff's writing has always made me feel pensive, it is also so funny, and joyous and everything-good-affirming that I found myself grinning instead.

The bus ride was uneventful, even though the kids are back at school and all on the bus again after our collective summer break from each other. They look older, with new clothes and backpacks free of Sharpie'd scrawls.

I got out at my usual stop and got my coffee, 'hi'ed the regulars, and crossed the street by the garage.
A couple wandered down the block, the man a few paces ahead of his girlfriend, who looked as though she'd been crying.
Her face was blotchy and pink, her hair in a messy pony tail, jeans hanging off her ass exposing sheer black tights over white underwear, the tights laddered near the top.
And then, just as I was joined at the curb by a tall man in a baseball cap, the girl began to wail.
If a sound could rip the sky in half, it was this one.
She wailed, a deep, primal, yet also curiously high pitched sound, and she tripped over her shoes trying to keep up with her boyfriend.
The man in the baseball cap and I exchanged looks but didn't say anything.
The girl was further away from us now, but we could still hear her - moaning now, and crying, punctuated with an occasional shriek.
The man in the baseball cap said, "I feel bad for all the abused women."
I nodded. "Yep. I hope her day gets better," I said.
"It won't," he said. "Until she gets rid of her man."

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Bus Report #706

On the 38, headed home.
The woman sitting across from me had huge pink and purple sunglasses, and a pretty blouse with vaguely Asian-inspired dragons on it.
Her purse was a huge, shiny black bag with an enormous black tulle flower covering the whole front side.
Her face seemed almost too big for her body - long, and square, the collar of her shirt accentuating the hard lines of her jaw. 
She fiddled with her phone.
I zoned out, focused instead on the bright yellow sneakers the kid standing in front of me was wearing.
And then, the woman smiled.
And I can't really explain it, but when she smiled she looked so beautiful. It wasn't a big, wide smile, more like a broad smirk. And it softened her face. And I thought, you should smile all the time.

Bus Report #705

Last night I ran for the 38, after a lovely evening catching up with J. over tea at Samovar, Yerba Buena Center.
I caught the bus just as it was about to leave the stop. I was still trying to find my Clipper card as I walked up the stairs, and when I went to tag my card I came face to face with the Alien Donut Man.
He was in a seat by the door, sitting completely straight, upright, his feet in their orthopedic slippers, his parka zipped up to his neck. His white hair glowed under the flourescents.
He saw me and his eyes widened. He nodded his head slowly. Opened his mouth to say something, but no sound came out.
I was flustered - usually we catch sight of each other from a long way a way, with a street or a pane of glass between us.
I nodded at him and waved, mumbled a "Hello, nice to see you," and walked to the back of the bus.
I kept my eye on him, though.
People would get on and walk near him, sit beside him, and I wanted to tell them to be careful, to not touch him, that he was fragile and made from glass. He's not from here, I'd explain. Our gravity, it's too much for his bones, that's why he shuffles. I was ready to leap up, if necessary, and defend the Alien Donut Man if I had to.
I wondered if he was headed for the donut shop, or towards home. I got my answer at Larkin, when he slowly reached back and pulled the signal cord. The bus stopped and he stood up, leaning on his cane. He stepped down from the bus in slow motion, all the while keeping his perfect posture. As the bus pulled away I saw him through the window.
We caught each other's eyes, and smiled.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Bus Report #704

Muni, 0, Rachel, 0

A tale of woe:

Tuesday night and I had to be back in my neighborhood earlier than usual. I’d run some errands for work so I found myself at a 19 Polk stop. No problem, the bus was right around the corner. I even found a seat.
I got out at Sutter and crossed the street to wait for the 2 Clement. There were a few people already waiting. A kid who had been on my 19 walked over and sat down. A woman asked me, “Does this bus cross Fillmore?”
I nodded. “They both do,” I said.
An older man with glasses and a white beard said, “Where are you going on Fillmore?”
“I’ll know it when I see it,” the woman said. “Do you know when the bus is supposed to be here?”
The kid from my bus took his phone out of his pocket and checked the schedule. “Hmm,” he said. “It says 10 minutes for the 3 and 25 minutes for the 2.”
But all hope was not lost, not yet – a 2 Clement came in to view.
It crossed Polk and… kept going. Did not stop for us even though one man waved with both arms.
It was 5:15.
The kid consulted his phone again. “It still says 10 minutes for the 3. And there’s no prediction for the 2.”
We waited.
The man with the beard made a phone call, then took off. “I’ll just walk, I guess,” he said when he left.
The woman who was headed to Fillmore gave up and hailed a cab.
The kid and I stood at the curb and squinted up the hill.
“Maybe there’s some problem downtown?” I guessed. “Cause usually at least the 3 is on time.”
“Yeah, maybe,” said the kid. “But I have to be somewhere soon. And I’m too lazy to walk.”
He was going to Arguello. I told him not to feel bad… it would be an all uphill walk.
We waited.
At 5:45 we decided we’d split a cab if we were still waiting at 6.
He checked his phone again. “Weird,” he said. “There are 3s in 5 minutes, 6 minutes and 7 minutes, and a 2 in 8 minutes.”
By this point, a new batch of folks were waiting in the bus stop. A woman with teased, fried black hair, an older woman in hospital scrubs, and a twitchy little guy who I recognized from around my neighborhood.
The kid and I debated if the buses were really en route.
He decided he’d take the second or third of the 3s. I said I’d hold out for the 2, but take the last 3 if I didn’t see the 2.
The woman in scrubs smiled and nodded. “Sounds like you two have really been thinking about this,” she said.
“Well, we’ve had long enough to plan,” I said. “We’ve been here over half an hour.”
But then, like magic, there were four buses right there, back to back.
We all said our goodbyes and got on our buses.
I got back to my neighborhood with five minutes to spare.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bus Report #703

This morning I waited for the 22 with a couple other regulars.
We caught sight of the bus a few blocks away, but when it rolled up to the stop I saw that it was NOT IN SERVICE. Ah, well.No problem, our bus would be along shortly.
Then I noticed who the driver was - my favorite driver, with his cap and his glasses, his big smile. He flung open the door and beckoned me to come over.
"Hey there, sugar," he said. "Come on, ride with me a few blocks, we haven't talked in a while."
I stepped up onto the bus and, out of habit, swiped my Clipper card. Put my bag down on the seat by the door and stood near the front of the bus so we could talk.
He was covering the shift of someone who hadn't come in this morning, so he was taking the bus back to the yard before setting out again. We caught up on each other's summers - he hadn't been up to much other than watching the Olympics and barbecuing.
He stopped at Turk and picked up one of the young teen girls who often rides the bus in the morning.
"Where you going, honey?" he asked her.
"20th and 3rd," she said.
"Well, you ride along with us for a while, then you can switch later, okay?"
She nodded and climbed on board, sat a few rows back with her headphones on.
My favorite driver told me how tired he was from his accidental Olympics-viewing all-nighter, told me his coffee hadn't kicked in yet. I asked what his favorite Olympic sport was. I asked him how long he's been driving for Muni.
"I just like good athletes, doesn't matter the sport," he said.
As for his Muni career?
"I've been driving almost 30 years," he said. "I've got a little seniority."
He grinned, I grinned. I said, "A LITTLE seniority? Yeah, I bet."
The teenager took off her headphones and walked up to the front of the bus. "Can I get out here?" she asked, as we approached Mission and 16th.
"I'll drop you across the street," the driver said, "So these people don't think I'm picking them up"
After that, it was just me and my favorite driver for the rest of the ride. He was turning at Bryant, which was fine with me - I often get out there and walk, anyway.
"Thanks for the private shuttle," I said, gathering my things.
"See you soon, dear," he said, and shook my hand.