Sunday, December 20, 2015
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.”