Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bus Report #730

I had a blast from the past the other day, in the grocery store of all places.
I chose a short line, just one person ahead of me. I wasn't really paying attention but there was something familiar about him.
He was dressed nicely, his hair gelled into place. When he turned in my direction and set his tote bag on the conveyor belt, I knew immediately who it was.
"Hey," I said, pinching his elbow. It was Ramon, my old friend from the 22, one of the first regulars I can remember writing about.
Ramon smiled. "Oh my god, Rachel! Hello! How ARE you?"
He handed the cashier some money and we hugged.
"I'm good," I said, "How have you been? It's been forever."
"Work is crazy," he said. I unloaded my basket onto the belt.
"But you're still here, so that's good," I said. I nodded at his oversize tote, with the name of his company emblazoned on it. I have the same bag, a gift from a long-ago Winter Market party at Ramon's showroom. "Same job?"
"Same job," he confirmed. "You?"
I nodded. "Same same," I said.
After finishing our shopping we stood out front the store for a few minutes, catching up some more, trying to figure out how long we've known each other.
I had to get back to work.
"See you soon, come by the showroom," Ramon said.
"Definitely," I said.
We hugged again and I trudged up the hill. I'd been wondering what Ramon was up to lately. It was nice to know he was still around.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bus Report #729

And the Lacey show continues...
She greets me with a now-customary, "Good morning, Ray-Chal!" and I wish her a good morning, too, and ask how her mini-vacation went.
"Good, good," she says, smiling and nodding her head.
The world's oldest school crossing guard sits in his usual seat across from Lacey, in his day-glo yellow jacket with the words CROSSING GUARD in big black letters on the back of it. He has to be in his 90s, but he looks older. He is quiet but always says good morning, too. He switches his STOP sign to his other hand and reaches down to the floor to make sure his grocery sack (with his lunch?) is still there.
I find my seat and watch the two construction workers get on and say "Morning," to Lacey. They slip into the seats behind me.
Next up, a security guard with a long scar down the side of his face gets on. He carries a steaming coffee for himself and a second coffee for Lacey. He settles into the seat next to the crossing guard.
The bus is about to leave the stop when another familiar passenger jogs up - the 80's lady.
Today she's wearing a turquoise and silver parka and black Reeboks with her acid washed, high-waisted jeans. Two slashes of blush on her cheeks. She waves to Lacey, to the crossing guard and the security guard.
I've got my headphones on but I can hear them all chatting, and Lacey laughing, and it is a nice way to start the morning.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bus Report #728

After work the Teacher's Pet and I met up for drinks and dinner. Good beer (happy hour!), spicy dinner (Gajalee!) and then it was off on our respective buses. Her 22 Fillmore arrived at the stop just as we did, and she was on her way. I had a feeling I was going to miss the 33 and have to kill time for another 25 minutes, so I walked slowly down to 18th.
Just as I passed Luna Park I saw the 33 idling at the light. I dashed to the bus stop and climbed on, right behind a shaggy-haired, thick-glasses-wearing, kind of shlubby guy.
He went to sit in the front, while I sat few rows back against the window.
We had barely pulled away from the stop when the man sitting across from shaggy-hair stood up and said to shaggy-hair, "Hey, it's great to see you." The two of them shook hands, but shaggy-hair couldn't place the other man.
"We met at the _____ conference a couple years ago," the other man explained. "And I was actually thinking of getting in touch with you for the festival coming up."
"Of course," said shaggy-hair, grinning. He pumped the other man's hand again. "You're... Dan, right?"
"That's right," said the other man. "How funny, John, to run in to you."
They started chatting about Dan's upcoming festival (film? Music? I couldn't tell) and John's new projects, and then they exchanged business cards.
In the Castro three friends got on the bus and sat down near Dan. One of the three friends, a young woman, caught John's eye.
"You're John _______, right?" she said, smiling.
"I am," John said. "How do we know each other?"
It turned out the young woman had been at another conference with John a few years back, and they had even worked on the same team together. He still couldn't remember her name so they exchanged business cards too, and then John said, loudly, "OH! Of course, NOW I remember you," and then they chatted some more.
The young woman told John she and her friends had started a new company selling high-end condiments. John was enthusiastic, asking where they sold their products and how he could get some of their stuff. He looked around the bus and said in a raised voice, "You heard that, everyone? Rainbow Grocery has their Ketchup, you should pick some up."
Several of us laughed.
The three friends got out at Haight and I wondered if anyone else was going to get on and do some networking.
No such luck. John and I got out at Arguello and stood shivering in the bus shelter until the 38L arrived to take us both home. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bus Report #727

Last night, late, in the 2 seconds before the traffic light changed -
I dashed from the 24 Divisadero to the 38 Geary, and in the brief transfer I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was someone I'd gone to high school with, at least I think it was. But I had to catch my bus, and he had to catch his, so who knows.

Edited to update... It wasn't him. But man, it could have been.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Bus Report #726

Yesterday afternoon, an odd synchronicity on the 22.
I was looking out the window, as I often do, and my gaze landed on the trash can on 16th at Guerrero.
There were magazines in the trash and the magazine on the top was an issue of the New Yorker that I recognized without a moment's hesitation - it was the Cuba issue I remember so well - an issue from January 1998.
Isn't it strange what we remember when we least expect it? I saw the flashes of color: yellow, red, camo green and it was instant. Of course. The Cuba issue. I've got that at home.
A moment later, the Marketplace episode I was listening to played a snippet of the song 'Chan Chan' by Buena Vista Social Club, a Cuban band that exploded onto the scene back in 1997.

And suddenly I was miles away from the 22 Fillmore.

Instead, I was sitting in Rao's with books for my Amherst classes with Benitez-Rojo, and Junior Profe, drinking Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Transported back to school, and studying, and hearing Cuban-accented Spanish, and reading Cuban literature and trying to put it all together towards my thesis work.

At home, I dug out the magazine, yellowed and dusty.

And again, this morning, with Cuba still on the brain, NPR tells me that Richard Blanco is the Inaugural Poet. And I remembered reading his poetry all those years ago, in a collection of Cuban-American writers I'd bought at Avenue Victor Hugo in Boston.

I hopped out the bus to get my morning coffee, craving, instead of my usual Thermos fill-up, a cafe con leche with lots of sugar.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Bus Report #725

For the past week, my 22 Fillmore driver has greeted me with a cheery, "Good Morning, Ray-chul!"
It was a little jarring the first time - I'd given a couple of my favorite drivers coffee cards for the holidays and while I'd scribbled a "Thanks, Rachel" on the bottom of each card, I didn't think my signature was actually legible.
But it is nice, and while my early morning cover might be blown if any observant commuters are also Fog City Notes readers, I don't mind.
This morning she said, "By the way, my name's Lacey," and I thought it suited her - it's girly and perky just like she is.
She's been training other drivers recently, so she sits in the seat closest to the door where she can direct the newbies through long light cycles and that wide turn on 16th and Church.
And it's been the Lacey Show ever since. 
Passengers get on the bus and don't say anything to the new driver, and then they see Lacey, and suddenly it's "Good morning," "Nice to see you," "Didn't see you there," "Hey Jane! Hey Rudy! Morning, Octavio!"
And I can't help but think of a television talk show, the host greeting each guest as they walk across the stage.
Today Lacey chatted with some of the teens when they got on the bus, then greeted the day laborers. She ribbed a construction worker who was running late and had only just made the bus. She mopped spilled coffee off of the floor.
At Mission she stood up and walked to the back of the bus, saying: "Hold on one sec, sir, SIR! You wanted Mission, right? Well this is Mission."
The man she was talking to had dozed off. He mumbled something and didn't get up. So Lacey just shook her head and returned to her seat.