Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bus Report #803

Two mornings in a row waiting in the dark with Mr. Taylor, the world's oldest school crossing guard.
He was prepared for the rain yesterday, clad head to toe in his bright yellow rain gear.

On the bus yesterday everything and everyone was wet. Umbrellas, jackets, seats, backpacks, everything.
The windows were closed tight, and fogged up, and my driver on the 38 had to wipe down all the front windows, which took too long and added another few minutes to the first half of the commute.

At Fillmore everyone crowded under the overhang to wait.

Once on the bus I slid in to a window seat near the back of the bus and held my wet bag on my lap. The water seeped in to my jeans.

A man got on at Church and Market, the spitting image of the late, great, David Rakoff. It made me smile, thinking of Rakoff, and I decided to listen to the This American Life episode aired just after he died. Brilliant if heartbreaking. It made the ride better.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bus Report #802

Big thanks to SFist for the shout out on Friday, and hello to any new readers. I appreciate that you stopped by.

Sunday night, a little after 8:30, I headed out to catch the 38 to meet M. down on Polk. Sunday had been such a clear, bright, warm day but by evening it was cooler and a little windy. Biting. I stood in the bus shelter with my hands shoved in my pockets, and waited for the bus.
There was a man waiting, too, and he shivered and said, pretty cold tonight, huh?
Yeah, I said, and it was so warm just a few hours ago.
We got to talking - his buddy had just moved onto my block a few weeks earlier - and I gave him some suggestions of places they could try in the neighborhood.
The man lived on a hilly crescent over above the new Target on Masonic. He told me he liked the store, liked the Best Buy, but didn't like all the increased traffic.

I looked at my watch. This bus better get here soon, I said. I only have a few hours before I really need to be asleep.
The man nodded. Yeah, he said. I'm up before sunrise most days. He took his phone from his pocket and held it out for me to see a photo on it. This was the sunrise the other day, from my window, pretty nice, right?
It was, and I told him so. He said if he'd known the bus was going to take so long, he'd have stopped for some beer at the corner store.
Our bus came and we both got on. Nice talking to you, I said, and slid into a seat in the back next to a kid in a corduroy jacket, bright blue glass stud earrings.

Nearby, two men spoke a language I have never heard before.

We rattled down Geary. My seatmate got out, smiled at me as he left.

A woman sat down beside me, muttering to herself, a little stinky, blotchy open sores all over her face.
Someone tried to get out through the back door but didn't step down or touch the bar, and they missed their stop.
They never step down, not even if you yell at 'em, the woman said. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I had to agree. Talking to herself or not, she had a point.
You're right, I said. Even if they understand what I'm saying, half the time they don't even try to step down or anything.
She turned to face me, smiling broadly, and I saw that despite her sores and her old-before-her-time haggard look, she was actually kind of pretty.
Yes, yes, she said, and I had the feeling not many people had spoken to her lately.
We chatted a little and then it was my stop.

I'd been clockwatching the whole ride, anxious to get where I needed to be, but once I got out the bus I felt better, calmer.
Van Ness was empty and damp, and I walked quickly, not because I was nervous to be out alone but just because I felt good. 

I got to the bar with a couple minutes to spare.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bus Report #801

Tonight, on the way home from a downtown meeting, on the 38L around 8 pm.

At Union Square a man got on the bus and threw himself down onto the seat beside me, without even looking in my direction. He shrugged off his backpack and the bag slipped from his shoulder practically onto my lap. No acknowledgement.
A moment later he took a book from his bag. The title of the book? Assholes, A Theory.

Later, our bus pulled in beside a 38 regular in the Van Ness stop. I glanced over at the other bus.
Sitting in the seat directly opposite where I was sitting there was a handsome, handsome man.
He turned slightly, caught my eye, and we both smiled.
It was Sameer, the Handsome South Asian Chef. His hair longer, his face paler, a neatly trimmed mustache where he used to be clean shaven.
Hello Sameer, my old friend.
I laughed and waved at him through the window, and his bus took off up the hill.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bus Report #800

Cold-nose morning today, dark and crisp and a little damp. No Muni drama, just smooth rides and easy connections, and I don't know if it was my mood or the music I was listening to (Ana Tijoux's new album, Vengo, ahead of tonight's show at The Independent) but I floated to work this morning. Easy.

As I waited to cross 16th Street, the driver of the 33 Stanyan across the street waved at me. It was my favorite driver, he of the natty cap, the dark glasses, the white-teeth smile. I waved back, and he gestured as if to ask if I wanted to ride a few blocks. I grinned and shook my head, waved again, and he was off.

The sky was layered blue over ocean green over beige sand. From where I stood after getting my coffee, I could see the lights of buildings downtown blinking on for the first time today.
Further down the street, closer to work, I saw two robins plucking crumbs off the sidewalk.

Last night, on the 19 Polk: A man got on the bus with a suitcase and a big, round, striped lollipop, the kind you always want when you're a little kid. He rolled his palms over the face of the lollipop, over and over, and then turned his left arm up exposing a smooth expanse of tanned forearm.
He jabbed the lollipop stick into his arm, turning the candy part as though he was turning a wind-up toy key.

I missed my stop, watching him, got out at Pacific and walked back a couple blocks to meet friends at It's A Grind.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bus Report #799

For the second day in a row I stepped off the 38 to see the 22 speeding past me.
Ah well.
I walked up to the Sutter Street stop. It is usually quieter than the Geary stop, and the trees above it are so beautiful and majestic, and hauntingly grey white in the early morning light. I like standing under them and staring up into their canopy.

I waited in the Sutter Street stop and passed the time listening to 99% Invisible while I took in the trees. This morning their branches looked almost sinuous, snake-like, and the leaves sounded dry when the wind rustled through them.

The world's oldest school crossing guard, Mr. Taylor, shuffled down the street from around the corner. He sipped from his travel mug and said in a thin, whispery voice, "Good morning to you, Rachel."
"Good morning Mr. Taylor," I replied. "How are you doing?"
"Oh, you know, can't complain," he said.
He spoke so softly I had to read his face in order to really understand him. I hadn't noticed before but he has deep wrinkles that cut down his cheeks from the corners of his eyes, almost like scars. His skin is taut across his face and cheekbones and other than the eye wrinkles, perfectly smooth. A handsome man. I bet he was really something in his youth.

He shook his head and smiled a little, said, "How about that missing plane?"
We debated conspiracy theories for a moment, and then the bus announced itself with a hydraulic whine and I stepped back so Mr. Taylor could board first.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bus Report #798

I waited in the dark at the 22 Fillmore stop at Geary and Fillmore last week, 6:45 am, in the rain.

Three men inhabited the benches in the stop, their granny carts and shopping carts flush against the etched glass wall.

They smelled ripe, as though they hadn't bathed in a while. I breathed through my mouth and hoped the bus would come soon.

The guys traded cigarettes, and then, after a quick glance at me, the man sitting closest to where I was standing held up a small vial of something and passed it to his friend.

The bus pulled up a moment later and I got on.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bus Report #797

A few weeks ago, 9:30 pm, the corner of Valencia and 18th.
I hurried down Valencia to catch the 33 Stanyan bus, after drinks, dinner and debriefing with The Teacher's Pet.
As I approached the corner I heard live music - and I thought it was an echo from the Elbo Room, the sound bouncing off adjacent buildings and zigzagging through the neighborhood.

But it wasn't.

I stood in the bus stop and watched the show across the intersection, by the empty lot beside Cherin's.
A crowd of maybe 20 people stood on the corner, spilling into the street.

The band was a trio of trombone players, a French horn player, a string instrument of some kind (it was dark and I couldn't see that well) and a couple other people. The band was led by an energetic guy with a marching band drum strapped to his chest. He drummed and danced down the sidewalk, conducting his group.
It sounded like a mix of marching band music, Klezmer and old-timey jazz. It was great.
I know I was swaying to the music a bit, and the grey, grizzled older man sharing the bus shelter with me danced too, glancing at me every now and again to grin and tilt his chin in the direction of the band.

"Nice way to wait for the bus," I said, and the man nodded and smiled.

The 33 arrived and we got on, and the music faded as we rolled up 18th Street.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bus Report #796

This morning, Mister Fantastic.
Looking fantastic, of course.
Cracked leather (or ostrich leather patterned?) hoodie, leopard print shirt, fresh new haircut, Clark Kents, Keds, Union Jack-printed socks, dark grey jeans, old-fashioned matte black lunchbox and his neon yellow wristlet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bus Report #795

This morning the 38 pulled in to my stop while the elderly schoolteacher was still a half block away.
I got on the bus slowly, gestured to the driver to wait for her, and he did.

A few stops later, a scarecrow of a man hailed the bus.

He wore an orange dish washing glove on his hand, the fingertips torn off. It was only halfway on his hand, as though it was too small for him, and it looked like a scary hand puppet.
He held his pants on with his other hand and lurched up onto the bus, one bare foot and one semi-sneakered one sliding across the floor.
He didn't speak to anyone, just pinballed down the aisle while people shrank away from him, until he got to the back of the bus.
Right before I got out at Fillmore he ping-ponged back to the front of the bus, sitting in one seat, and then another, dropping the glove on the floor and then scrabbling for it under the seats.
The elderly schoolteacher and I exchanged glances.
I got out and ran for the 22, which had just arrived at the stop across the street.

Caught the bus and sat down beside a girl eating a fully loaded bagel with the works - lox, cream cheese, onion. But I'm a Jewish girl from Boston so it didn't faze me a bit. Reminded me of lazy Sunday mornings with the Boston Globe and a full pot of coffee.

The smiley teen saw me and waved, then went back to texting.

The bus was fast this morning and when I got to Potrero Hill it was still fairly dark. The sky was striped blue and grey and green and there were four helicopters hovering overhead, news helicopters covering the massive Mission Bay fire from last night. The wind this morning was intense. Trash and upturned garbage cans were strewn all up and down the street and the smell of smoke still lingered in the air. I coughed my way down 16th Street and brushed grit from my face, blinked dirt from my eyes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Bus Report #794

The other day, on the 22.
The mom with the wiggly worm baby got on the bus, and the driver called out cheerfully, "Happy Birthday, little guy!"
The baby turned a year old, apparently, and the mom thanked the driver and sat down.
Immediately a couple of the older ladies on the bus started flirting with the baby, who blinked and smiled and shot his hands out of his snowsuit to wave at them.

Mister Fantastic got on at his usual stop, his outfit a subdued but chic palette of dark greys - grey slacks, charcoal sweater, lighter grey shirt under the sweater, and sneakers with gold accent. Headphones on. Neon yellow wristlet clutched in his big hands.

The ancient Jehovah's woman tried getting people to take her pamphlets, but no one did.