Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bus Report #1029

Bus people.

We are legion, we're clustered on every city block, sometimes in a bus shelter, sometimes under an awning while rain drips down and soaks our coats.

We are the four year olds from the daycare on Dolores, colorful rain boots and tiny umbrellas, eating cheesy chips from little packets before dinner.

We are Olga, with our cane and our stylish winter coat, sitting by the pizza place for twenty minutes to wait for a bus to take us one block.

We're the neighbor who always thinks we're being followed home down the block late at night, despite living a few doors apart from each other for years.

We're teenagers, so, so many teenagers. On our way to and from sports practices and games, carrying our school books in enormous backpacks, being loud and yelling across the bus to our friends, but being sweet at the same time; flirting with babies and giving up our seats to old folks. Listening to music on our phones. Hunching over notebooks to finish homework before school.

We're Mauricio. Bright yellow sweatshirt, huge early morning grin, "Good morning, Raquel," chatting about our love of beer and the beach, our wonderful daughters, our clever grandson.

We're the Frenchman, so in awe of the vastness of California, so not in love with our San Francisco weather. "I did not think it would be so cold here, there are palm trees."

We are the adult chaperones from the youth center, trying to corral twenty sixth graders into a crowded 38R bus, holding the doors open while counting the kids who have streamed into every open spot on the bus.

We're the mom with the two sons, running for the 33 in the rain, and then wrestling a stroller through the open door and into the bus while our driver tells us there's no need to run, she'll always wait for us.

We're the man who coaxes a stranger to share his umbrella in last night's rain.
We're the stranger who says thank you and angles our heads and shoulders under that umbrella.

We're the woman reading Michelle Obama's book on the 38 yesterday, the man reading a bio of Elon Musk sitting next to her, the woman reading the fat romance novel across the aisle from them both.

We are your friend who checks three different transit apps while you're getting your Lyft.

We are your friend who can recall all the Muni lines where we've met men we've gone out with, but we can't remember the men's names.

We are a community of riders who worry when regulars disappear and rejoice when they return.

We have our favorite drivers, our favorite buses, our favorite routes, our favorite seats.

We are bus people.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bus Report #1028

Rainy afternoon last week, waiting for the bus. I wanted to take the 10 so I could run some errands downtown before a meeting, but the bus was nowhere in sight yet.
M., a friendly guy with a yappy little show dog, walked down the hill to stand and chat. We work in the same building and he's nice. We like to catch up and commiserate about work whenever we see each other. He zipped his dog into her carrier and we waited, the rain light enough that it didn't necessitate an umbrella but heavy enough that everything was getting wet.
"I'd love to be home already," M. said, "shoes off, with a nice single malt."
I smiled. "That sounds amazing. I might do that when I get home."
We got to talking about our favorite whiskys, and it turns out we're both fans of Islay single malts, though I like mine more peaty than he does. I confess to a moment of giddiness thinking about Islay, and Highland Cows, and sitting in the Lagavulin distillery last spring. I might have done a little happy dance, but I can't remember.
He told me about a new whisky bar downtown and we talked Scotch until the 10 Townsend appeared over the top of the hill.
"I hope yours comes soon, too," I said, heading for the 10.
The 22 was right behind it.
I hope M. got his wish that night.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Bus Report #1027

Walking to the bus after work, I passed by the SFPL book donation center. Sometimes in the afternoons there are quite a few recycled items they can't sell - VHS tapes, scratched CDs, tattered old books and the like. There's a man who often sifts through the dumpster. If it is late enough our bus passes him and he and Kevin wave at each other. Sometimes he gets on the bus with his old suitcase crammed full of goodies.
I've gotten in the habit of asking him about his finds when I see him, and today was no exception.
I took off my headphones and asked, "Anything good today?"
He grinned and said hi, and then said, "Would you believe it, a W. Somerset Maugham first edition, signed! That's like... I mean they only made a few hundred of them and signed, can you believe it?"
I don't know if what he found was authentic or not, but what a great story. "Man, you should play the lottery after that, or I guess that's basically like winning the lottery, huh?"
He smiled a more-toothless-than-usual smile and nodded. "You bet," he said. "Hey you have a good rest of the day, okay?"
"Okay," I said, and went to catch the bus.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Bus Report #1026

For the next couple weeks our stop in the mornings will be in front of one of the neighborhood's best bakeries. It is a complete tease to be standing there waiting while the smell of buttery pastry wafts out the front door.

Yesterday Tasha pulled up even though the bus display said NOT IN SERVICE.
We got on and I told her, and she laughed and apologized and changed the sign.

This morning the rain was coming down in sheets, and not twin bed sheets, California kings.
I huddled under the bakery awning with one of the friendly bakers, a chatty young man named Devin. We talked about the bakery and how early he gets up to get there in time to start baking (3 AM!).
When he finished his cigarette and headed back inside he said, "What's your name again?" and we shook hands and exchanged names. He pointed to their new sign, proclaiming new days and times. I promised to stop in soon to get one of their heavenly croissants.

The man with the mustache arrived and joined me under the awning. We talked for the first time. He's not smarmy or weird, he's just French! He shivered and said he thought California was supposed to be warmer than this.
He arrived in San Francisco in August, the height of fog season. "It was so bad," he said. "So cold."
When Tasha pulled up in the bus the Frenchman, let's call him Paul, held his umbrella over my head as we ran to get on the bus.
Tasha honked and beeped at the drivers who were idled in the stop. "You can't be here," she called out to them. "This is a bus stop, you're being rude."
"They've been sitting there for 10 minutes," I told her before I went to sit down.

Everyone on the bus was dripping water everywhere. The giant genie was covered in a rain poncho that could have been a tent. A couple of homeless guys got on, streaming water from their backpacks, and settled in the back of the bus. They were stinky but better they were able to get warm and dry for a little while.

We flew down to the Mission in record time, stopping to pick up a regular here, a regular there. An informal poll showed we were about 50/50 with our rain gear: half of us in wool coats and scarves and half in ponchos, rain boots and slickers.

I got out at Potrero and hurried down the hill to work.
I waved at the guys at the garage, at the UPS folks, skirted three puddles and accidentally stepped in one puddle. At work, dry and warm for the most part, though the ceiling is leaking in two spots with water coming down the wall and a property manager who seems unbothered.

Stay dry out there today, everyone!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Bus Report #1025

Saturday morning I hopped on the 38, headed down to Civic Center to meet up with Michael and James.
Mr. Polite was waiting for the bus too, and we exchanged greetings before we both got on the bus, Mr. Polite holding the door open for me. We settled in the back of the bus and caught up.
He showed me his new senior Clipper Card.
"I just got this," he said.
"You've got the key to the kingdom," I joked.
We talked about photography, as he is a photographer. He gave me some tips on how to take care of my film camera. He told me where I should go to buy film when I'm ready to take some pictures.
I asked him where he prints his photos. He has a dark room set up in his closet. I thought that was just the coolest.
He spends some time as a gallery monitor and was headed to the gallery just then. He patted all of his pockets, looking for his ear buds. He didn't find them. We agreed they were hopefully, probably at home on the kitchen  counter.
He told me that a lot of the downtown galleries are struggling, moving down to Potrero Hill for better rents. 
We traded favorite photographers. Brassai, Adams, Winograd for him. Nan Goldin, Janet Delaney and Walker Evans for me.
I pulled the signal cord as we approached Gough.
"Great to see you and catch up," I said.
"And you," he replied.
So polite.