Sunday, March 28, 2021

Bus Report #1067

 More like an on foot report, but still.

I went out today to run errands and get a haircut. Afterwards I walked over to visit E., and swap some marmalade for her excellent homemade cookies.

As I walked up to her building I saw Olga, dear sweet Olga, sitting out on her balcony, adjacent to E's apartment.

I smiled beneath my mask and waved up to them both.

After a visit with E. I called up to Olga, in my terrible Russian, and waved some more. She grinned and waved back. It was all I needed, really. Just knowing that she was okay was enough for me.

I turned to leave. A man with shoulder-length hair and blue track outfit stood a few feet away. He waved at me and said, "Hello!"

I smiled back, waved back. I knew him - but I couldn't place him.

He laughed, his eyes crinkling a little. "You don't know me?" I'd know that accent anywhere.  It was Alain, the Frenchman! 

I chuckled as he took his mask off for a moment to show me his wide grin. 

"Of course I know you!" I laughed. "How are you?"

"Ah, I do not take the 33 anymore," he said, shrugging. 

"I haven't either," I said. "Come with me," I gestured for him to follow me. I took him back to E. and Olga's building, the two of them were still chatting across balconies.

"It's our friend, our Russian friend," I said, and he and I both waved up to Olga. 

She waved back, and then Alain and I said goodbye and parted ways.

It was wonderful to see the both of them, two of my 33 bus crew. 

I walked home, an extra spring in my step.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Bus Report #1066

 After work I stopped at the grocery store with a plan to walk the rest of the way home.

Best intentions and all that - I made it most of the way back before the wind and my heavy bags got the best of me. 

I caught the 38 on a quiet corner of Geary, sat a respectful distance from an older woman watching videos on her phone, a student in a colorful mask, and a man who looked as though he'd been nodding off for a while. 

He was slumped in his seat, two backpacks at his feet, a thick, dog-eared, mass-market paperback entitled Law and Order half falling from his swollen hands. Skin sunburned red. Faded tattoos on both arms down to his knuckles.

The bus stopped short at the next light, startling the man awake, sort of. His movements were slow - as though he was underwater. He held the book in one hand and started patting his pockets with the other. 

Two syringes rolled onto the floor. He picked them back up and pocketed them again. 

As we pulled in to the 6th Avenue stop the man lurched to his feet, spilling the contents of his pockets onto the floor again. He scooped everything up - syringes, coins, small pillbox, orange needle cap - and then grabbed his bags and got out the bus. On the sidewalk he knelt and took everything out of his pockets again. 

A few minutes later, I got out at my stop and walked the rest of the way home.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Bus Report #1065

372 days since my last bus ride, I got on the 38 Geary outbound towards the V.A. Hospital today.

It is an understatement to say it has been a long year. A very, very long year. 

I've been on foot, mostly, or in cars - getting motion sick every time. I never get motion sick on Muni. 

I've spent a lot of time this year slowly sipping Cokes, trying to regain my equilibrium after a car ride. At the office, at home.

I had to go to the library and since my local branch three blocks away is still closed, the nearest one is 25 blocks away, uphill. And I don't always want to walk, to be honest. There are some desolate blocks of Geary between my apartment and the library, and they've only grown more windswept, empty, and quiet during the pandemic.

I unzipped the side pocket on my bag, where I keep my Clipper card, reaching in for the card so I could check the cash balance - I haven't opened that pocket or bought a monthly pass since March 2020. The receipt, kept as proof, was still tucked behind the card in my card holder. 

I called Clipper and was happy to hear I still had $14 on the card. Leftover from my last BART ride to Oakland.

Checked Next Bus, two buses en route in the next fifteen minutes. Jacket on. Books tucked into totebag. Triple-layer face mask on. Walked out to the bus stop as though I did it every day. As though it was still normal.

The bus arrived and I got on, chose an empty seat near the back. 

Friends, can I tell you how happy I was to be on the bus? How I looked around at the handful of other passengers, all of us masked and silent, and I almost cried? 

My city, our city, looks better from the height of the bus than it does on foot. I've walked that 25 blocks a dozen times since that library branch reopened but seeing it from the bus, it just... filled me with joy. Truly.

The woman sitting in the rightmost seat in the back got out by the burger place. The man who had been in the leftmost seat wore a camo-patterned mask while he studied a sheaf of papers he took from a manila envelope. He got out by the discount grocery store. 

I've been trying to avoid making eye contact with people lately, but I caught his eyes just before he hopped out. Dark brown under bushy eyebrows.

I'm rusty, could not remember how many stops until my own. Pulled the signal cord just in time, and got out onto a sun-drenched block of Geary. 

I could've danced to the library - it felt so good to be taking Muni again. 

On my way back from the library a few minutes later, I took the bus for a few blocks just to be on it, sat in the back, enjoying the quiet and the familiarity, the wheeze of the hydraulics, reading the signage about mask requirements and how to properly sit distanced from each other on the bus.

I got out at 28th, calling a loud 'thank you' to my driver.

I walked the rest of the way home, plotting my next rides, feeling the 'Miss Rachel's Neighborhood' vibe coming back.

It's not all blue skies yet, but they're coming back, friends. 

And I am looking forward to bringing you along with me.

(extra thanks for the encouragement to get back on the bus from Michael and C.)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

What is a bus rider without a bus to ride?

Hello and I hope everyone is doing well.

I haven't had anything to report since I haven't been on a bus since before the shelter in place order.
I haven't left my neighborhood since then either. I circle Mountain Lake, I wander down to Arguello or up to 14th Ave., but that's about it. I love to walk but I miss my commute. The early morning quiet, and the fog, watching the markets in the Mission open up, the proprietors stacking all sorts of fresh produce in neat pyramids on their display tables.

I miss everyone - Jeannine, Alain, Olga, all our wonderful drivers, and my fellow commuters. 

I miss the folks along the "Miss Rachel's Neighborhood" route. And you know I worry. How are the guys from the garage? The folks at Safeway and Noah's? Are any of the drivers sick? What will it be like when we can go back to work?

But there have been sunny spots in all of this.

The third week of shelter in place I ran in to the Frenchman and his daughter over near our bus stop. It's a funny thing, seeing someone in a different context, in the middle of the day, and while you're wearing masks. We laughed and said hello, and it was so good to see him.

Another day, I visited E., standing out front her building and calling up to her window. I'd forgotten that she is neighbors with Olga. Olga sat outside on her little balcony, and E. leaned out her window, and I waved and called up to them both. Olga laughed when I tugged down my mask for a moment to show her who I was. In a jumble of English and French E. explained to Olga that we are friends. It was afternoon but I good morninged Olga in Russian, making her laugh again.

Walking home from the grocery store last night I saw another familiar pair - the obsessively religious mom and her daughter. They looked good, the mom less checked out than usual, the daughter taller than before, tanned, rolling down the street in a pair of roller blades. I smiled at the mom but she didn't notice. I was just glad they were okay.

I've crossed paths with the friendly woman from Schubert's a half dozen times. The bakery is open again and seem to be doing a good, brisk business.

At the bank the other day, the security guard held the door open for me. "You take care of yourself, young lady," he said.
I grinned and said, "I will if you will."
He chuckled and replied, "I'll do my best."

And I hope you all do, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Stay safe out there, friends, commuters, and strangers

I've been home for a week now, like many of you but not all of you.

Thinking today of Jeannine, working at the hospital, and of our wonderful drivers: Leon, Keith, Stephan and all the rest. The essential personnel we automatically think of and those we do not.

If you can stay home, STAY HOME.

If you have any masks, hand sanitizer or other items that our local medical professionals and other front line workers could use, please donate them to your nearest hospital or fire department.

Order online from your favorite bookstores, get gift certs from your favorite restaurants, and above all remember that this is the time to be selfless, not selfish.

Remember, so many of our friends and neighbors are at risk so only go out when necessary and do your best to maintain a good 6 feet of distance from each other.

Even when we aren't together in body, we're together in spirit.

I miss you all and hope we can be together again soon.

On a more personal note - readers in Boston or Salt Lake City or Tucson - I have people that need supplies for hospital and social service organizations and can get you in touch with them if you have anything you can drop off.
realitycoursepress (at) gmail.



Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Bus Report #1064

Coronavirus edition.

The Teacher's Pet asked me yesterday how commuting is going what with this virus scare.

Well, a lot of us still need to get to work, and we need to use transit. There's no getting around it - unless I want to walk for an hour and a half, up and down hills, in the early morning dark. I've done it before, but I have no desire to arrive at work already tired, and sweaty, and done.

The buses have been quieter and, when on time, less crowded. The evening commute on the 22 Fillmore has had a holiday vibe to it. Just us workers who can't telecommute. People picking up kids from school or activities. Homeless and marginally housed folks. Your friends and neighbors.

Mornings, everyone is sleepy but watchful. Any cough, sniffle or sneeze and everyone turns, looks, evaluates. But it has been okay so far. Quieter, less anxiety-inducing than I'd expected.

You wash your hands at home before you leave, but what do you touch on the 33? The handles and the bars, to keep your balance or swing yourself into a seat. Your bus pass, pressed to the card reader. The signal buttons, the signal wire, the windows to pry them open for some air.

Your seatmate, their leg pressed against yours. Their elbow nestled against your side.

Are the buses cleaner? Supposedly everything is being wiped down, but it doesn't look like it.

Some drivers wear masks, others don't.

Everyone is just that much more wary.

The smell of hand sanitizer wafts through the bus. Fresh and lemony at best, overly fruity or floral at worst.

And while we're talking, friends - as long as you can, please go to your favorite stores, your neighborhood cafes and produce markets, your bagel place, the bookstore. The care and keeping of small businesses is often tenuous, and it certainly is now.

Bring your shut-in friends a banquet's worth of Chinese food from that awesome place down the block. Drown your sorrows in a huge bowl of steaming Pho from your regular Vietnamese joint. As they say, chicken soup is good for the soul.

Local businesses are struggling, let's all do our best to support them.

Some of our indie bookstores are offering free shipping at the moment, why not take advantage? So far, I know of Green Apple Books and Books Inc. offering to ship books to you at home. Read to yourself, read to your loved ones.

Take care out there, Fog City Noters.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Bus Report #1063

Three days of the 33 being off schedule. Me and the skater kid waiting, getting annoyed.

Jeannine joined us. I hadn't seen her in a while and unfortunately it was because she'd been out of town at a funeral.

"I'm so sorry," I said.

She thanked me. Sighed. "Guess we're going to be late today?"
With no buses in sight, I had to agree. "I think you're right."

Alain wandered over. "Ah, good morning," he said to us both. "The bus will be here in six minutes."
He gestured to his phone, to whatever app he uses for the schedule.

"Mine says five minutes," Jeannine replied, grinning.

"Mine said five minutes ago," I added.

Another five minutes before the bus arrived, so Jeannine and Alain were both right, I supposed.

On the bus, the mom with the two sons was trying to calm the little boy (who was whining and flopping around on the seat) while she took a phone call. She mouthed a "good morning" to me as I went to sit down.