Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bus Report #899

Muni at Christmastime.

With the rainy weather the buses are wet and the floors slick. People flop their soaked umbrellas up onto the seats. The windows are shut (but never tightly enough) and fogged up, making the dark streets all look identical.
People carry bags full of paper-wrapped gifts. I worry the gifts will get waterlogged in transit.

Last night, stepping off the 22 Fillmore, I see two boxes of Streit's brand matzo ball mix sitting on top of a trash can near the Castro.

Later, a chatty, catty couple on the 24 Divisadero argue about one of the men's sister's and her spoiled daughter. I've told you a million times what the problem is, said the other man. Let's not talk about it, said the uncle. Let's never talk about it again.

On the 38, a man sits down beside me and I realize he is sitting on my jacket.
Excuse me, can I just pull my coat back from under you? I ask.
I don't know, he jokes, I think it's mine now.

Across from us his friend, a pretty woman in ox blood red lipstick and a fur hood just smiles. She has a little too much makeup caked on her cheeks but her eyes are bright and intense.

A pair of smelly, fall-down-drunk, grizzled guys have a passionate discussion about economics as one of them struggles to keep upright in his seat and his friend sways with the movement of the bus.
It's not that it's the new gold rush, it's just that it's the same mentality, the standing man says.
They are funny. The woman in the fur hood cuts her eyes in their direction, then looks at me, then smiles a thin-lipped smile.
She's not the only one.
The men standing to her right grin, too, at me, at her, at their own reflections in the window.

Why do we park on a driveway but drive on a parkway? asks the standing man. His friend does not know the answer. Whaddaya mean, drive on a parkway? We don't drive anywhere.
No, no, it's a joke, get it? says his friend.

The woman in the fur hood smiles again, wider this time.
And I catch my reflection in the window and see that I'm smiling, too.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas, all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bus Report #898

This morning on the bus, Axe body spray guy sat right behind me. Oh, the smell. If I was his secret Santa, he would be getting something light and subtle, or something warm and spicy. Something he could douse himself in and it would still smell good.

For the first time in a long time, the giant genie got on at his usual stop. Beard and mustache balm, check. Mustache wax, check. Lotion and dandy comb, check and check.

Trainee drivers this week, which is great, but oh how long the commute took.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bus Report #897

Last night there was something wrong with the 38 Geary. The SFMTA blamed it on ‘congestion in Union Square’ – sure, that sounds about right, but knowing it was the last Saturday before Christmas, why not run a few more buses?

I squished into a seat next to a couple of sporty-looking people loaded down with grocery sacks. The woman, dressed for a ski weekend and not a rainy night in San Francisco, kept offering her friend brochures in Russian with a Christian-centered approach to the twelve steps. “Is very interesting,” she promised her friend. 
Across the aisle a woman with a ponytail and tired eyes creased with wrinkles called back to a man in the last row of seats, who had a fake Christmas tree deconstructed on the seat beside him. “Baby, you got our tree,” she said, delighted.

The Russian woman leaned forward. “Excuse me, are you a friend of Bill W.?”
The tired-looking woman shook her head. “I don’t know anyone by that name,” she said.
“But do you know what it means? Why I am asking?” the Russian girl pushed.
The tired-looking woman just smiled and shook her head, “No.”

I jumped out at Fillmore and waited for the 22, so I could go the Teacher’s Pet’s holiday cheer and beer party.

No bus in sight. I waited with an older woman and a couple, the man at least forty years older than his very young, very clingy not-far-from-being-a-child-bride bride.

A man ambled over from down the block, tall and good looking despite the fact that he was thin and twitchy and slouched in his hooded sweatshirt. He smiled at me and I could see his eyes were bright and glassy and bloodshot. Red. He stared at me for a moment.

“Hello, how you doing, my Hebrew sister?” he asked, smiling again.
I was surprised – usually, in San Francisco, I’m mistaken for Russian or for a Latina of unknown origin.
“Hey, you’re spot on,” I said. “I am Jewish. How’d you guess?”
“I’m from Africa, I’m Falasha, so you know, I can tell just by looking,” he said. “You and I? We’re practically related.”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes. You’re right. We’re all one people. Thanks.”
“Well, not all of us,” he said. “Not, you know, Arabs.”

And that’s when I stopped talking to him.

I moved away from him and stood near the man and his giggly young bride. She clutched the sleeve of his jacket. He barely acknowledged her at all.

The bus arrived and we all climbed on, the Ethiopian-American man included.
He rode as far as Haight, where he waved and thanked the driver, saying, “Arrivederci, my man.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bus Report #896

A week of early morning chill and light rain, and late buses.
I’d round the corner and see the man with the terribly strong Axe body spray, just waiting. Lately he’s been catching the bus that comes before my bus.
I’d ask, “Bus late?”
He’d reply, “Yes, late.”

He would nod. And then I would nod. And then a few minutes later the bus would come and he would climb aboard and I would follow him and his overly-perfumed reek up the steps and into the bus.