Friday, November 15, 2013

Bus Report #778

This morning I waited for the 22 Fillmore in the cold dark, watched a man dash across the street to get some free newspapers so he could cover the bench he wanted to take a nap on.
The bus arrived and it was full of familiar faces. Mr. Taylor and the smiley teenage girl, the mom with the cute little wiggle worm baby, the man who always smells like hot Ethiopian spices, the man who works at Bi-Rite, the two loud construction workers and the woman who always looks worried about something.
At Hayes a couple of guys from the halfway house got on the bus. One of them, in his paint-spattered pants and faded baseball cap, always has a smile and a kind word for the people sitting around him. He grinned and waved at the baby and asked his mom how old he was (7 months this week). 
A moment later I saw a couple of other passengers smiling at him as he handed the baby's mom a folded $20 bill. She thanked him and tucked the money into her purse.

I got off the bus and walked down 16th to work. For once, and probably for the only time, Potrero Hill smelled delicious this morning.
Like schmaltzy chicken soup and warm, sour red cabbage. As I turned the corner to walk up our street, the smell shifted to something else equally as good - Tabatchnick brand split pea soup.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bus Report #777

This morning I spent 20 minutes watching a man on the bus try to make himself look beautiful.

He wore the kind of wide torso-wrapping belt that heavy-lifters wear, layered over a long-sleeve black t-shirt with streaks of white stuff across it, white pants that looked suspiciously like long johns, and two bracelets on his wrist told me he had recently been in the hospital: a white hospital band and a bright yellow one that read: FALL RISK.

He took a purple hand mirror from his backpack, and then wiped his face and head several times with a beige and brown washcloth. His hair was dirty - so greasy it didn't move when he touched it, unless he really tugged it and then it shot out from his head in funny directions and stayed that way.
He took a green mascara wand from his bag and started putting it on. He did his eyes, and then did them again, and then did them a third time. Then he began combing his hair with the mascara wand, so that his bangs grew darker and darker with each swipe.

He pouted into the mirror. His hands were grimy, his nails yellowed and dirty, and his face was sunburned and lined with deep wrinkles but he wasn't far from pretty.

He twirled the wand through the hair at his temples, and it poked out to the side. He did his eyes again.
He exchanged the mascara for a pencil, though whether it was a real pencil or a makeup pencil I couldn't tell.
He used it to do his eyes again.
And then again.
He was still at it when I got off the bus.

Bus Report #776

The morning after the man had a seizure on our bus, I got on the 22 with the same driver.
There were only a few people on the bus, all regulars. Mr. Taylor, a teenager and her mom, and another teen who is always smiling and seems to have a very sunny disposition for someone who heads off to school so early.
"Yesterday was crazy!" said our driver.
I agreed, said, "yeah, really."
The mom and her teenage daughter asked the driver what happened and she told them the story.
The mom looked back at me and said, "that's terrible."
"I know," I said.
"And no one else called 911 so she had to," said the driver.
Now, all eyes were on me. I must have blushed a little. I'm not used to the attention.
"Thank goodness he was able to walk off the bus, though," I said.
"You've got that right," said the driver.

A couple stops later, Mr. Taylor got up and waved goodbye to the smiley teen, who waved back, to the mom and her daughter, who also waved back, and then to me. I smiled and waved and wished him a good day.
We rolled on.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Bus Report #775

This morning's commute was as ordinary as ever, until we got to Oak and Fillmore, and then it was anything but.
Someone in the back of the bus let our a loud roar, a noise that grabbed everyone's attention for a moment.
A second later, the woman sitting behind me said, "Someone's having a seizure."
Another person echoed her, saying, "Driver, this man is having a seizure."
The driver stopped the bus just as another half dozen of us called out to her. I stood up and my seatmate headed to the door, along with most of the people on the bus. The man having the seizure was lying on the floor in the back of the bus. I watched a couple of kids step over him on their way out the door.

The driver was already on the phone to dispatch, but it didn't look like anyone was calling 911.
I dug my phone out of my bag and called out to her, "Should I call 911? Did you do it already?"
She shook her head and said I should call, so I did.
The 911 operator had a calm manner and he asked me questions about the man, his approximate age and if he was breathing. Luckily the man seemed to have stopped seizing and he was lying on the floor slowly raising his arms, and drooling. He was bleeding from his hand and it looked fresh, and he had two beer cans in his pockets. His hands were puffy and grimy. The man who was watching him looked at me and nodded a little when I told the operator the man seemed to be doing better.
By now, everyone had left the bus except me, the man watching the sick man, the sick man, and the driver. The rest of the passengers all stood in the bus stop across the street, waiting.

The driver came back and I told her the operator had dispatched the paramedics. We three, and the sick man, waited to hear the emergency sirens. The operator stayed on the line until I heard, and then saw, the approaching fire truck.
The paramedics arrived and I stepped off the bus so they'd have room to do their thing.
"Thanks," said the driver.
"You're welcome, I mean, of course," I replied. Because, of course, right? I like to think most people would do the same. Even though an entire bus full of people just... Didn't.

A few minutes later the paramedics walked the guy off the bus. He was probably very drunk, too, I thought, and he didn't want them to check him out at all. They stood him in front of my old corner store and he swatted them away. That was the last I saw of them before we all piled back onto the bus and continued our commute.
I watched the other passengers and it might sound weird, but even the most regular of regulars looked different to me now.  I know we all had places to get to this morning, but still.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Bus Report #774

A few weeks ago, I took the 33 down to the Mission for the Litquake Litcrawl. The bus was full of other... What? Litcrawlers? And everyone seemed to be engrossed in the Litquake guide, making their choices for the evening. (And if you've never been, let me recommend it for next year, it is really fun).
The bus stopped at Church and 18th. There was a flurry of early evening activity in and around Dolores Park. It was beautiful, one of those orange sunset nights when I feel a swell of love for our city.
People played tennis and basketball, skaters and bicyclists zoomed by, people got on and off our bus and off the J Church, other folks lay out on blankets in the park and in the middle of it all, a couple of boys stood kissing by the bus stop.
My seatmate nudged me and said, "wow, look at those guys, they should get a room."
I laughed and said, "You know, I think they're doing just fine. They're in their own world."
She laughed, too and nodded. "I just meant, you know, there's so much distraction," she said.
But there wasn't, not for those guys.
They were still at it when our bus pulled away.

Later, hours later, at a crowded venue on 24th Street, I turned to look out the front window of the cafe where our last Litcrawl event was held, and the man who looks familiar from the back was standing outside, smoking. I hadn't seen him in a while and for a moment I thought, that guy looks really familiar, how do I know him? He turned around to talk to a friend, and that's when I realized who he was.
A few minutes later, overcome with the smoke (and not too impressed with the performance we were watching) M. and I left the cafe and walked toward Mission. I couldn't stand the smoke, she said. And I wanted to say something like, no, it's okay, I know that guy.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Bus Report #773

I watched the 22 Fillmore speed by the other morning, so I walked up to the Sutter stop and waited there, in the dark, under the broad leaves of one of the immense trees that line that block.
The world's oldest school security guard, Mr. Taylor, shuffled over and in his whispery voice he said good morning.
I smiled and wished him the same, and then he began talking again. I had to move closer to hear him.
He told me that a couple weeks ago he was getting off the bus and he fell on his face, losing a tooth and getting a hard knock on the head at the same time. I'd been wondering about the tooth ever since I noticed it was missing. When he told me what had happened, I felt a pang of worry. I wanted to wrap him up in bubble wrap.
"It's all right," he said. "I went to get one of those... Whatsits, a head scan? and the doctor told me I was going to be okay." he smiled and then said, "except, of course, for the tooth."
"I'm relieved you're okay," I said. "That's really scary."
"They said especially because at my age, I can't heal as fast as I did when I was younger." He smiled and looked away, up towards Fillmore Street. "Here comes the bus," he said.