Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bus Report #865

Last night when I got on the 38L, it was already packed and we weren't even out of downtown.

There was one empty seat but a woman had her duffel bag on it. But I was tired and I wanted that seat.

I asked her, politely, if I could please sit down - expecting her to move her bag and make room.

She looked up at me and said, "No."

I'd had a long day. I asked again, "Can you please move your bag so I can sit down?"

At this point, other people were looking at us both. I had become that person, I guess. The annoying person on the bus who antagonizes the crazies.

This time, the woman went off. "Why you being so pushy? Can't you wait til I get out? What's your fucking problem, you bitch? You want my seat, well too bad." She kept going on and on. I didn't want to give up, but I didn't want to get attacked, either. I sighed, loudly, and moved out of the way to hold on to the pole a few seats back. The woman was still going.

"Where do you work at? What's your job, huh?" she yelled. Insinuating, I suppose, that I was some newbie overly entitled overpaid recent transplant who is used to getting my way. I really wanted to tell her how long I've lived here, and how much I'm not getting paid, but I didn't say a word.

The girl standing beside me whispered, "Ignore her, she's nuts."

The woman stood up and pulled the signaler to get out at the very next stop. Still grumbling as she got out the bus. She shot me a look and I told her to go to hell, and then I went to sit down in her just-vacated seat.

I know, I know, I shouldn't bait the crazies, but really. All she needed to do was say, "Actually I'm about to get out, hold on a sec," and that would have been that.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bus Report #864

Thursday midday, on the way back to work from meeting my cousin D. for lunch in the Mission.
I walked most of the way but cut over at Bryant to see if I could catch a 22 or a 55.

Waiting in the bus stop was a pretty woman with very long, delicate, thin dreadlocks. A Muni driver walked up and set his bag down beside her on the bench.

"Nice locs," he said, putting his bright yellow vest on over his uniform.

The woman smiled and said, "yours look great, too."

The woman stood up and moved outside the stop for a quick cigarette. the driver smiled at me.

"How are you doing?" he asked me.

"Great," I said. "You?"

"Can't complain, can't complain," he said. "I'm a few minutes early for my shift." He paused. "But you know, this route, you get a lot of, let's say, interesting people. I've had to learn to not let myself get distracted."

Just then, the 33 Stanyan pulled up, and who was driving but my favorite driver, with his dark glasses and his cap and his big smile with bright white teeth.

"I have to go say hi to this guy," I told the driver in the yellow vest.

My favorite driver opened the door and waved. "How are you doing darlin?" he asked.
"Glad to see you!" I replied. I asked him how he'd been, what he'd been up to. Just the usual stuff, and he was doing very well, happy to see me and just off his shift.

My favorite driver stood up and scooted to the back of the bus, and the driver in the yellow vest got on to take over the route.

I waved good bye to them both and hopped on the 55 bus that had pulled up right in front.
I was the only passenger so I sat in front near the very chatty driver. She had her hair pulled back with a couple of pretty pink and white lilies tucked into her bun.

I asked her how she liked the new route.

"You know, other drivers say this route is 'sweet'," she said. "But it really isn't. You got people who don't know where they're going, and lots of you know, the homeless, and they didn't do a good job telling people about this route at all."

"Yeah, they didn't do much outreach," I agreed.

"You got that right," she said.

We chatted some more. When she pulled in to my stop we were still talking.

"See you around," I said.

"Oh you too, honey, you have a good day," she said.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bus Report #863

Tonight, I took BART to Oakland to hang out with M.
While waiting for a Richmond-bound BART I saw my friend Ross, so I called out, "hey, Ross!"
He turned around, saw me, said, "Hey, Rachel!"

We hugged in the middle of the platform.

"And those are actually our real names," I said, loudly, to the half-dozen people who were watching us.

I never liked the show Friends, but I know what's what.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bus Report #862

This morning I had two pies to carry in to work, since we were celebrating Pi Day early. I carried one in each hand - one hand held tight to a vintage pie tin inside tote bag, the other to a plastic cake taker I'd gotten at Ross long ago. I know I probably looked ridiculous.

When the bus pulled up to my stop I got on, balancing pie container on top of pie container so I could scan my Clipper card.

"What you got today?" the driver asked.

"Just a couple pies," I said.

"You didn't bring me none, huh?" he asked, joking.

"Aw, sorry, not today!"I told him, sitting down and situating the pies so they wouldn't slide around.

A few stops later, oh look! It's the giant genie - my fourth sighting of him this week.
He daubed some oil onto a small comb and combed it through his beard, then finished off with the beard balm and his dandy comb. What a great ritual. I don't mind watching it - unlike the dreaded nail clipping and the cringe worthy eyelash curling, this never seems disgusting or potentially dangerous.

I (carefully, slowly) got out the bus at my usual stop and said good bye to the driver, and walked the rest of the way to work.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Bus Report #861

This morning the bus was late, and it was dark again (thank you, daylight savings time).
When the bus finally arrived there were more passengers than usual - I bet a couple drivers called out 'sick' today.

I listened to an episode of Lea Thau's great podcast, Strangers, and got a little choked up and teary, but no one noticed.

At his usual stop, the giant genie got on and immediately began his beard care program. Out came the tube of beard moisturizer, spread liberally under his nose and around his mouth, out came the tiny dandy comb that almost looked kid's size in his big hands.

I watched him, mesmerized as always, until we got to my stop and I stepped out of the bus.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Bus Report #860

This afternoon I took the 10 Townsend downtown.

I sat in a side-facing seat, with a perfect view of the couple sitting across from me in a front-facing seat.
They were both sunburned, the man in a dingy shirt, the woman in flip flops and faded jeans. She held her little dog on her lap and stroked its fur. Stroked its fur and picked through it, occasionally stopping to hold a speck of something up to her face. She'd then frown and flick the little something to the floor.

Oh god, I thought, she's checking it for fleas. And worse, she was finding them. And pitching them onto the floor of the bus.

Near my shoe.

The man caught my disgusted glance and he elbowed his girlfriend. He said something to her in a low voice and she looked over at me.

And then she continued grooming the dog.


They got off the bus at my stop. I made sure not to touch anything they touched, and waited until they were well out of the bus before I got out.

Double ugh.

Bus Report #859

My 33 Stanyan driver this morning was all business. My "good morning" didn't crack his unamused expression as it sometimes does.

At Haight and Stanyan he wouldn't let a gutter punk and his dog on the bus - the same kid and dog he kicked off the bus last week for non-payment, off-leashed dog and spilled coffee. He drove right past, waved at the kid as we passed him by.

The kid yelled loudly enough that we could hear him through the closed windows.

In the rear view mirror, I think the driver smiled.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Bus Report #858

Last night I met The Teacher's Pet downtown for a little hanging out and shopping. The 10 Townsend was empty most of the ride, and faster than usual.

Killing time in Alexander Book Company, Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" came on the radio. I love that song, had just been watching the video this weekend, as research for a short story. Fantastic song.
The Professor and I once saw Rose Polenzani do a cover of it back in Cambridge that took our breath away.

I always look at the books in translation at Alexander. They have a great selection. I was happy to see the paperback of Leonardo Padura's The Man Who Loved Dogs, a book I have at home in the very heavy hard cover edition. It takes up a lot of space but is special - since we met Padura on my recent trip to Havana.

Three tourist kids came into the bookstore and began browsing, but they couldn't find what they were looking for. The man behind the counter asked if he could help them.
In a thick accent the boy in the group asked for 50 Shades of Grey. The man behind the counter passed no judgement. He said, "It's up front, with the best sellers."

When I brought my book (an Elena Ferrante novel that S. has been telling me to read for over a year) to the counter the man looked at me and said, "You have a frequent buyer card? Cause you're here all the time, I recognize you. Which says something."

And he signed me up.

Hours later, I was walking to catch a 38 when a 31 Balboa pulled in to the stop across from Yerba Buena Lane. I hopped on and sat in the back.

My seat mate played with his phone, cradling a chicken Cesar salad from the convenience store in his free hand.

We rode down Turk, the sketchiest blocks of the street actually subdued and deserted, odd.

A trio of skater kids got on, tripped over their skateboards, blocked the stairwell.

A couple in matching navy down jackets almost forgot their stop. They looked sleepy, or stoned, or maybe a little drunk. The man held his wife's hand as the got out of the bus.

A girl stood up too suddenly and fell backwards as the bus stopped short. She fell into the lap of one of the skaters (who had taken an empty seat). She apologized and got out. The skater's friend laughed and high-fived his friend.

On Divisadero, a girl with an unintentional mustache got on the bus and sat across from me. Her phone rang and she answered it, told her friend she couldn't talk long, or loudly, because she was on the bus. She went on to talk loudly, and for the rest of the ride, about her boyfriend who works for Google, about her interviews in Mountain View and how hard it is to get there from here.

I wanted to suggest she consider moving closer to the South Bay, but she would probably have strangled me with her ID badge lanyard.

I got out on a dark corner of Balboa, one of the few street lamps on the block only barely emitting a weak light, and I walked down the street toward home.

Bus Report #857

Oh, San Francisco, our beautiful city, our filthy city.

Monday morning stepping off the 33 Stanyan on the corner of 16th and Bryant.
On the sidewalk, an old blue t-shirt smeared with human feces. More of it tracked across the sidewalk to the trash can. I stepped around it and held my breath so I didn't have to smell it.

Further on down 16th, the same flock of mourning doves I see most mornings, eating birdseed someone had set out for them. I slowed my pace and watched the birds for a moment. They cooed and cried and ate and were a beautiful antidote to the blue t-shirt.