other afternoon, on the 31 Balboa.
left work early because my back was killing me, took the 10 downtown and
switched to the 31 because it was the first bus that happened along.
good for the first few blocks – a seat by the window and while it was a full
bus it wasn’t packed. People got out, people got on – mostly elderly folks with
carts full of food bank stuff.
seatmate was a tiny old lady with a big cart. She wore a floppy hat and lots of
daytime drinkers got on through the back door and sat in the last couple rows
of the bus. They carried paper bag-wrapped cans and a couple of them had small
nip-size bottles of vodka and gin that they clutched in an attempt to make them
know how it is on the 31, don’t you? Some of the city’s worst blocks, all sorts
of people, humanity at its worst but you know what, sometimes also at its best.
folks helping the old folks with their carts. A man taking time to hug and say
goodbye to his friend, a woman in a terrible wig who had her arms laden with
bulging shopping bags. Cute little kids on their way home from their first days
of preschool or kindergarten, with new backpacks and sneakers and tightly
girl and her boyfriend and her dog got on – the boyfriend a heavy set, bearded
guy in a Giants hat, the dog some flea-bitten little yippy thing, the girl a
skinny, sickly looking person with squinty eyes, messy hair and a sour look on
did not take long for the girl to get into a fight with the backseat daytime
had just pulled in to a stop on Eddy next to
a sad-looking playground when I heard a commotion in the back of the bus, and
girl was calling someone a bitch, and screaming, and spitting, “Don’t touch my
turned around to see the girl standing up, lunging for the daytime drinkers,
one of whom was trying, barely succeeding, to restrain his friend, a tall, very
angry person of indistinguishable gender but who I am confident would not mind
if I referred to her using a female pronoun.
drunk woman was crying and trying to push past her friend. “I’m gonna mess you
up,” she yelled, “Who are you to call me a bitch, bitch?”
know I wasn’t the only person having these simultaneous thoughts – no way I’m
getting out the bus on this block if the cops come and we have to vacate the
bus, how long are we going to sit here, what the fuck is wrong with these
people and finally, if I have to protect myself from a violent fight, I’ll
protect my elderly neighbor, too.
then, a big guy who’d been sitting in the front of the bus stood up and said to
our driver, “Sister, I’ve got this, let’s keep going cause I know I gotta be
driver stood up and watched to see what was going to happen. We were not going
man made his way to the back of the bus and said, “What’s the problem?”
drunk woman cried, “This bitch is tryin’ to start something with me and I
didn’t even do anything! And it’s my birthday!”
which the girl, sitting back down now, said, “Bitch was gonna step on my dog.”
because they’d both been sitting down and the drunk woman was no where near the
girl and her dog.
took a few minutes for the big guy to defuse the situation, which ended with
the drunk woman and her friend getting out of the bus, all the while the drunk
woman moaning how unfair it was and that it was her birthday.
got out and the driver started rolling up the street. The girl with the dog
wouldn’t shut up, kept going on and on about how she was trying to have a good
day and the drunk woman ruined it, and she seemed about to pick a fight with
the big guy.
boyfriend said, “Today was going just fine until now.”
big guy said, “Listen, just let it go. It’s over. Forget about it.” He waited a
moment and then returned to his seat in the front of the bus.
seatmate turned to me and squeezed my leg. “That man, he is a good man,” she
said. “He did not have to do it, but he did.”
I agreed with her. “He’s a good guy.”
rest of the ride was spent chatting with my seatmate, or more accurately,
bending down to hear her tiny voice and nodding at what she said even if I
wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about. She was very sweet and when it
was time for her to get out of the bus she carried her cart down the stairs,
refusing any help, and she shuffled down Divisadero toward Geary.