Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bus Report #771

One morning, a couple weeks ago, the man who always tries to talk to me but who I never understand, sat beside me on the 22 and started asking me questions, or at least, I think he did.
I smiled, shook my head. "I'm sorry," I said. "I don't understand."
He nodded. He sat back and took his phone from his pocket, and started typing away.
I thought he might be doing a translation program, and as he kept typing, I wondered what he was planning to ask me.
A moment later he held up his phone. Instead of a long list of questions, there was just one English word on the screen, and that word was 'arrive'.
"You arrive?" he asked.
"At work?" I asked. "What time do I arrive at work?"
He nodded. I told him I usually get to work a little before eight, so I can have some time for a cup of coffee before everyone else shows up. He nodded again. Bit his lip and looked like he was about to ask me something else.
Finally, he said the longest coherent string of words I've ever heard from him. "In United States, how many people drink coffee instead of tea?"
I didn't know what to say. I shrugged and lifted my thermos and said, "God, I don't know, millions and millions I guess."
He seemed satisfied with this answer, put his headphones on, and zoned out for the rest of the ride.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bus Report #770

Last night's commute was nothing special. Crowded 22 Fillmore bus, then a few minutes' wait for the 5 Fulton, where I explained about transfers to a nice woman from Quebec.
"You have no snow here?" she asked.
"No snow," I replied.

I went to meet my writing group at a cafe I like on Divisadero. Again, nothing special, not for a while.
I was talking to C. before we went to meet the rest of our group, and I caught sight of someone so familiar sitting at the bar in the middle of the cafe.
Who was he? He had long hair and a short beard, tired but bright eyes. He smiled with his friends, pored over the menu. Was he an actor? Someone I'd gone to school with? I couldn't stop looking over at him. I needed to remember how I knew him.

Right before we were set to leave, I remembered - it was the Handsome South Asian Chef, Sameer!
A few years older, in civilian clothes and not kitchen garb. But hey... aren't we all?

I looked at him again and he cocked his head, grinned, and pointed at me.
"Hey," he said from across the bar.
I grinned back. "Been a while," I said. "Nice to see you."
"You, too," he said.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bus Report #769

Monday afternoon, crowded 22 Fillmore.
My seatmate, an older man who I recognized from around my neighborhood, waved at dogs walking by on the sidewalk. I caught him waving at a cute French bulldog and I said, "too cute," and he seemed unhappy to have been caught.

The bus driver was awful - she was trying to get ahead of the bus behind her so she'd speed past a stop here, a stop there, but then linger through 4 light cycles at a few of the stops.
One of them was Bryant, where we sat for over five minutes while she let people get on even when she was about to keep moving. Another was Haight, where she was about to keep going but stopped to let two guys carrying an enormous boxy case get in by the back door.
The bus was crowded at this point, but these guys were undeterred. They pushed onto the bus and wedged their huge case (it looked like a folding table or massage table inside a padded case) between the seat where I was sitting and the back door. Effectively, no one could get to or from the back door unless these guys shifted their case all the way over so that it hovered above my head and pressed into my side. Awesome.
So it went that for the rest of my ride, every time the bus stopped the guys had to move their case, so every time the bus stopped I had to press closer to my seatmate and hope for the best.
Finally, at my stop, I stood up and the guys wrestled the case into the aisle, and I got out of there as fast as I could.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Bus Report #768

This morning, the sun was a neon red maraschino cherry, almost electric, and blinding.
I waited for the 22 with the construction worker who I can never understand. This morning, I think he was asking me for the time, so I gave it to him, and hoped it was what he wanted.
He smiled and pointed down Fillmore and said, "I see bus coming."
It was one of the clearest things I've ever heard him say.

A few stops later, the man who always smells like warm Ethiopian spices got on and sat beside me.
I took a deep breath and inhaled his spicy scent. It was earthy and hot and it settled in the middle of my chest for the duration of the ride. Today he wore a scarf wrapped around his head, something he I've noticed he does on cold days.

At the next stop, Mr. Taylor got out, but not before slowly raising his arm in a wave. A couple of us waved back, and he shuffled to the stairs and out of the bus.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Bus Report #767

This afternoon I caught the 19 Polk after work. The bus was crowded but I found a seat quickly, when two cute little kids and their mom stood up and got out at the next stop.
Four girls from the middle school up the street (Or maybe it’s a high school? They all had sweatshirts that said ‘class of 2017’ on them) sat in the front of the bus cackling at each other, talking about another friend who had a crush on a boy named Chris, while one of the girls swung from the pole and almost knocked in to a couple of people.

The man sitting in front of me wore a ski parka and smelled like old cigarettes.

A couple got on at the roundabout.
“The problem is, the people that sign up for that class just don’t like to read. They aren’t like us,” said the boy.
“They aren’t word people,” the girl in the couple replied. “They don’t love words like we do.”
“No, they don’t,” said her boyfriend.

At Civic Center, two blond girls with matching frame packs, a fanny-pack-wearing tourist couple, a frail man with a walker and a mom in a very ill-fitting spandex outfit with her chatty little son got on, squishing the already packed together passengers even closer.
The driver stood up and tried to Tetris us so that the man with the walker could sit away from the front door.
And for once, people actually listened and did their best, and made room for the man with the walker and the mom with the chatty son. The frame pack girls bookended a couple of bearded men in Giants T-shirts.

Soon the word-loving couple got out. Someone directed the fanny-pack tourists to the Geary bus, and the frame pack girls sat down when the mom and her little son got out at the first Polk Street stop.

On the sidewalk, a family oohed and ahhed over their little kids’ crayon drawings. A woman stood barefoot in the middle of everything, an empty plastic liquor nip bottle hanging out of her mouth. Her face was pinched into what I can only call a toothless, angry squint. She shuffled away and I didn’t see where she went.

A dad with his little baby girl strapped to his chest knocked on the front door of the bus.
The driver didn’t open the door. Instead, she called out, “There’s a bus right behind me.”

I got out at my stop and went into the café. A second 19 Polk bus arrived a moment later.