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Fog City Notes

One observant woman takes on the fog city.

Updated: 2018-04-23T02:23:54.163-07:00


Bus Report #998


Happy New Year, one and all.

Here are some bits and pieces from the past few weeks.

Right before the holiday break, I gave my early morning driver on the 33 a coffee card to say thanks, as I do.

"Thank you," he said, lovely, bright smile on his face. He held out his hand. "I'm Andres."
"Great to finally meet you, Andres," I said. "I'm Rachel."

Christmas Eve, heading to the Zam Zam, we had 10 minutes to get to the 33. I was surprised we made it - even if it meant C. running to make sure it didn't take off without us.

Later, we took a circuitous Muni path towards home, and as we waited for the 44 I caught sight of one of my former 22 drivers operating a 6 Parnassus bus. He opened the door and wished me some Christmas greetings. I warmly wished him the same.

Several days later, I waited for the 38 on a cold and overcast afternoon. There were at least 25 other people waiting. It did not look good. I had just come from Trader Joe's and as I shifted my bag to my other shoulder, one of my former 38 Geary morning regulars joined me in the bus stop.
We were glad to see each other and immediately began chatting. We realized that even after so many years 'knowing' each other on the bus, we'd never actually introduced ourselves.

"I'm June," she said. We shook hands.
"Rachel," I replied. "I have a friend named June, but she wasn't born in June."
"Ah, but I was," June replied. We chatted about Christmas, and the bus, and her cats. She got on a very crowded 38R and I waited for the next 38.
"Bye, Rachel!" she called back as she ran to cram into the back door.
"See you around," I said.

Last night, on a crowded 38. I had my headphones on, spacing out the window as we crawled up Geary. At Masonic the bus grew crowded.  A big guy with long salt-and-pepper hair, fading tattooed sleeves and way, way too many shopping bags crowded into the seat beside me. I shifted over as much as I could.

I had my music on but heard him ask me how I was at tying knots. I took off my headphones.
"What's that?" I asked.
He held up his plastic shopping bag from Target. The handles were torn. Ah.
I reached over and tied the handle back together for him. It seemed sturdy but I said, "I can't guarantee that's going to hold."
"Well you have to guarantee it," he joked. "You can sign something to make it all official."
"In that case, I'm Jane Doe and we've never met," I joked back.
The person sitting behind us laughed.

Bus Report #997


Yesterday afternoon I took the 38 Geary downtown, to meet Civic Center Michael and a couple of his friends at the SFMOMA, so we could experience our beloved The Visitors sound installation again before it closes.

The bus was already fairly packed. I sat down in the back and at the next stop, a trio of burnout guys got on and one of them squeezed in beside me. He reeked of beer. It was coming out of his pores and smelled terribly stale. He balanced a beer, a folded piece of newspaper and two self-help books on his lap. He talked, loudly, with his friends.

A mom with two little kids got on and sat in the very back. Her daughter carried a thick book but I couldn't see the title. Her little boy wore a Pokemon hat and sat quietly next to his mom.

At Arguello, three older folks got on. One woman held an envelope with an address scrawled on it.
She asked me if we were on O'Farrell. They were headed to the Curran.
"This is Geary," I said, "But we'll switch over to O'Farrell. And then you'll just walk up one block to get to the theater."
"Thanks," she replied. "You really know your way around Muni!"
I smiled. If only she knew.
We chatted a little. Her friends were from Quebec and she was taking them to see Bright Star. Last night, they'd all gone to see Beach Blanket Babylon.

Divisadero. An older man got on, with his cane and a smart-looking little brown case. He hobbled up the stairs and joined all of us in the back of the bus. By now, my beer-odor seatmate had moved to the back and he helped the older man sit down. He picked up his fallen glove and tossed it up, caught it, tossed it up, caught it again, and then handed it to the man.
"Bless you," said the older man.

When the little boy in the Pokemon hat started to fuss, the beer-odor man said to the mom, "Man, I've got two daughters - 25 and 19 - and a grandkid, and I just love them all to death." I snuck a glance at him. He didn't look any older than 45. I tried imagining him as my grandfather. I couldn't do it.

The mom and kids got out a few stops later. The elderly man said, "You take good care of those kids, you hear?" and the mom nodded, smiling.

The Curran-bound folks smiled and the Quebec wife shook her head. The woman with the envelope directions just said, "That's Muni for you."

And it was.

Once downtown I went to go meet Michael and his crew. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at SFMOMA. Inside The Visitors, people were really into the exhibit. One woman sat cross-legged on the floor, sketching the musicians. Several children danced the music or sat, enthralled, in front of the bathtub screen. As usual, people entered the exhibit talking and playing with their phones, but eventually most of them found a spot to stand in and they stayed rooted in place for quite a while.

A grandma in a beautiful red coat whispered to her little granddaughter, "Look at him, in the tub with his bubbles. We wouldn't want him in our bubble bath!"

I smiled. Said to Michael, I wouldn't mind him in mine.

This morning the bus was almost empty, save for a few regulars.
The mom with the two little boys, the little one still sleepy in his stroller.

Three men got on at Corbett and chatted in sign language. Well, two chatted and one did his best to not participate, looking away almost the entire time.
The little boy with the wire-rimmed glasses was entranced. His mom scolded him not to stare, but I don't think the chatty men really cared.

Bus Report #996


Waiting for the bus last night, former 33 driver Ken drove by in his hot, hot car (I'm not a car person at all, but whatever car this is, whoa, hotttt). It might be a Cadillac but I'm not sure. It is a deep orange-red, and he takes really good care of it.
He leaned out the window yelling, "Hey, Rachel! Rachel!"
I pulled off my headphones and called back, "Hey, what's going on, man? You have a good holiday?"
"Yeah," he called back. "See you later."
They don't come much sweeter, folks.

Lately, in the mornings, there's a mom and her two little boys who get on at the stop just after mine.
Her older son is in elementary school, all uniforms and lanyard ID and wire rimmed glasses. Cute kid. He carries a Transformers backpack and always has a book with him.
The little boy is still young enough for a stroller, a big kid but no older than four.
The mom lifts the stroller onto the bus even though the driver offers to lower the lift for her.
The little guy is beautiful. Big brown eyes, wavy dark hair, a truly gorgeous baby (toddler? kid?). I didn't notice it at first, but I think he may be some kind of developmentally delayed. He doesn't talk and when he looks around, I get the impression he is looking past everyone. Lovely kid, nonetheless, and his mom and brother are just as lovely. They smooth his lap blanket and stroke his chubby little cheeks, and give him his sippy cup when he reaches for it.
It is nice to see their gentle, familial love so early in the morning.

Today, a man walked an Australian Shepherd puppy up Ashbury. My favorite dog breed. I smiled and watched the puppy prance down the street and bite at her leash.

Bus Report #995


Last night, a crowded 19 Polk, headed inbound to my ceramics class at Fort Mason.
Our sweet bus driver smiled and said hello as I got on. Throughout the duration of the commute she called out all the stops and transfer points. Nice of her.

The bus was already full of kids from the school up the street, so I pressed my shoulder and hip up against the Plexiglas near the back door, my bag and legs almost smushed against an older, well dressed man sitting in a single seat.
He looked up and smiled. I tried not to stand too close to him, as Muni etiquette dictates.

As these things go, though, more people got in and soon my bag was pressed into his arm and my torso was almost grazing his shoulder.
All the way down 7th Street I was overly conscious of how close my body was to this stranger, the strap from my bag tugging my already low-cut shirt down even further, and it was an odd feeling.

Usually, I don't care - crowded buses mean everyone crushed up together - but there was something about the way he kept glancing up at me that was unnerving. You can tell when someone is eyeing you up and down. Appraising.
As we approached Mission, someone elbowed me from behind, catching me off guard.
I almost stumbled against the man.
I apologized, saying, "Sorry about that, I'm trying not to fall on you."
He raised his eyebrows, said, "I'm not bothered. I wouldn't mind.  I'm not complaining, about it."
Then he winked.
"Are you complaining about it?" he asked.

And for the millionth time in my life, I couldn't think of a decent answer.
Just stood there, my face hot, knowing I was probably blushing beet red and that even the blindest person on the bus could tell. Blushing more from my inability to say something back to him than from anything he'd said.
Because really, as women know, as everyone else is learning, this stuff happens all the time and it doesn't matter if you're in tight jeans and a revealing shirt or if you're buttoned up to the neck. You can be ten years old, or well in to your eighties. Our bodies and our style choices are, sadly, not ours to a lot of people.

We hit Market Street, and he asked if I was getting out. I said no, but moved so he could stand and get out. He smiled again as he left.
I slid in to his seat and stared out the window for the rest of the ride.

Bus Report #994


Last night I dreamed that a scraggly, wired, long-haired, droopy-mustached, thin-T-shirted man got on the 33 and stood in the front of the bus. After a moment of incoherent mumbling at the driver, he unbuttoned his jeans and proceeded to shoot up right in front of us, into in his thigh.

Friday morning the kind nurse and I were talking as we waited for the bus. She said, "I'm glad your cold and cough are gone, you had that for a while." I was touched. And yes, almost all summer, though I did not say that to her.

That night, on the 10 Townsend, we had just pulled in to 4th and King when a guy got out of his (too big for the city, extra fancy SUV) car and came up to the bus to tell our driver we'd just sideswiped him. Um, no, we did not touch your car, dude. We'd have felt it, something that big and useless.
Plus, there were no scratches on the SUV or on the bus.
The driver had no choice but to go out of service, despite several of us telling him we hadn't touched the car. I was annoyed, channeled it into filling out a witness card for our driver. I walked all the way out to Market Street and did not see any inbound 10 Townsends the rest of the evening.

And yesterday evening, three teens got on the 22 Fillmore by the Castro Safeway. One kid had a juice with an open top and as they got on the bus his bottle tipped and he somehow managed to fling what smelled like guava juice all over the floor and near some seats. An accident, nothing a few napkins or tissues wouldn't have remedied immediately. Of course the kids just laughed and cursed at each other and headed for the back of the bus.
Our driver eyed them, wearily, in the mirror but said nothing.
As the kids continued cursing and shouting, an older woman in the front of the bus called back to them to please stop it, as there were little kids in the front. She looked like a younger version of K's mom, and I was immediately rooting for her.
The teens laughed her off.
An older man tried to say something too, they laughed at him as well.
The driver stood up and came back to look at the juice puddle. "You guys gotta get out," he told them. "You know, everyone here wants to get home just like you do, and I'm not moving until you leave."
Yeah, those kids weren't going anywhere.

One man started in on the kids but they just kept laughing and cursing, made some obnoxious comments about him.
The driver got out and grabbed some old newspaper from the nearby trash can. The kids howled and made fun of him for it.
He waved over a supervisor who had been across the street talking to some N Judah operators.
The supervisor was bigger, taller than our driver and as the driver wiped up the juice with the newspaper (and a few napkins provided by the older woman) the supe coaxed the kids off the bus. "Come on, guys, you can take the next one. Let's go."
They eventually acceded, but not before getting in a few more verbal swipes at the man who had been trying to reason with them.
He didn't seem to care, but talked back to them anyway.
As the supervisor ushered the kids away, they pounded on the window next to where the man sat. He just shrugged and fiddled with his phone and we drove off.

This morning, smoky air again. Coughed my way to the bus stop, coughed my way down Arguello to Fulton, and most of the rest of the way.
The giant genie got on. Dandy comb, lotion, beard wax, the whole routine. Then he lotioned his legs and his knees, as he was wearing shorts today.

Walking the rest of the way to work I passed a handful of new tents right across from Safeway and UPS. Another dozen or so needles (of different sizes today, what a treat!) to report to 311.

Near the park, my favorite orange flowers and their vines have taken up most of the fence. So beautiful. Almost enough to wash away the grime this morning.

Bus Report #993


This morning, walking to catch the 33.
The sky was a smoky matte black - actually black - and I coughed the whole way down Clement.
The fires up north are bad, bad. Hearing the stories of the loss and devastation is almost too much.
When the bus arrived, the nurse, a twitchy dude, and I got on.
All the seats had a thin film of ash on them which must have blown in through the open windows.
I hoped Potrero would be clearer but it wasn't by much, at least not at 7:30 this morning. It looks better now.
My throat and eyes are still irritated from the smoke.
But I shouldn't complain.

Bus Report #992


Muni Heritage Weekend was a couple weekends ago, and C. and I went to check it out.
We took a 1 California down to Embarcadero, sat in the back.
We'd been sitting apart from each other, talking over our seatmates, until a nice man switched seats with me so we could sit and chat together.

For a few blocks, we had an absolutely adorable little blond kiddo as a fellow passenger.
He couldn't have been much older than three or four, blond bowl haircut, little blue t-shirt, cute.
Riding the bus was too much for this little guy - his excitement was uncontainable.
He wriggled in his seat, and smiled, and hopped up and down, and couldn't stop giggling and pointing at everything in the bus. His joy was infectious and those of us in the back of the bus could not help smiling and laughing at his pure, pure excitement.

The Railway Museum was mobbed with Muni workers and fans, and there were several vintage Muni buses and streetcars on display.

I thought I was a Muni fan, but I was nothing compared to some of the people there! We spoke with a man who had traveled from Pennsylvania to attend, and to some other transit buffs from around the Bay Area. These folks were laden with cameras and they knew the specs of each bus and streetcar there.
C. called them "foamers" - because they supposedly foam at the mouth when they see the objects of their devotion; the buses, the streetcars.

We rode a vintage bus - and I can't tell you much about it except that it was cool, and maybe from the 70s (?). The driver wore a jaunty cap. I told him I liked the Red Sox enamel badge pinned to it.

We tried, twice, to flag down my favorite streetcar, the boat car! But both times it was already full to capacity.

Instead, we rode Car No. 1, a streetcar dating back to 1912. How fun! I loved the woven straw seats and the friendly conductors. The car didn't even have a fare box, so the tourists trying to pay for their rides were out of luck in that sense, but perfectly lucky to get a ride on such a beautiful streetcar.

All in all, a fun adventure. I recommend everyone go next year!

Bus Report #991


Sunday afternoon on the holiday weekend, on my way to join the Teacher's Pet at Zine Fest.
I walked down to California and 8th to wait for the 44 O'Shaughnessy. Normally I would have walked but the heat. Oh, the heat.

The bus was running late. The only other people waiting for the bus were a big-for-her-age but very young teenage girl and a sunburned, tattooed man with two tattered backpacks.

The girl leaned out of the bus shelter and saw me, and immediately began talking. I couldn't figure out if she was just chatty, or if there was something slightly off with her - but she was sweet. She couldn't believe how late the bus was, shaking her head and giggling. She had a pretty smile that stretched the length of her round moon face.
"He's late and he was supposed to be here ten minutes ago and how can they do this when it's so damn hot out?" she said. She rambled on about the heat. Cursed a lot. Still, I looked at her and thought, sweet girl.

The man nodded. "Yeah, it's hot, but it isn't Belize in the rainy season hot."

I've been to Central America during the rainy season, though not to Belize, but I agreed with him.
He told the girl about the rain and the steam and humidity, about how wet everything got. How wet it stayed.

"We learned to basically take a cold shower in our clothes and then lie down in bed, and just sort of hope we'd fall asleep before they dried out."

The girl was hooked. "For real?" she said. "That's crazy."

He went on. He'd moved his whole family down there for two years; wife, three kids. It sounded idyllic at first. Big house on an even bigger plot of land. Farm animals corralled near the house. Wild animals out in the forest. Coconuts in the trees, and his little son would shimmy up the tree to get coconuts for his mother. No electronic gadgets for the kids, so that they grew to love and respect their Belizean friends and let go of some of the trappings of modern-day life in the States.
But then he said something that made me think we weren't getting the full story. "My youngest," he said, "She'd be about oh, ten or eleven now."

He went on, describing how he and his buddies had dealt with poachers on their land, about the kids learning Spanish.

"Those were the best two years of my life," he told us. "It was sort of... It was like the end of our life as a family, but it was also the best time for all of us."

The girl grew quiet. Sipped water from her water bottle.

"We split up," he said. "My wife and I... We still love each other, you know? But it was like mixing fire and gasoline. A real beautiful explosion, but, an explosion nonetheless. And with my addiction..."
Here he trailed off for a moment.
I felt for him. Felt for his wife, his kids. For their perfect two years in Belize.

"Anyway, we came back and I haven't seen them in oh, three years? But, you know, the love is still there."

I nodded. Right then, the 44 pulled up and a moment later we got on the bus, followed by a tourist family, cameras swinging from their necks.

The man got out at 6th and Clement. Strange.

The girl stayed on, chatting loudly on her phone for the duration of my ride.

The next morning, on the way downtown, the 2 Clement was empty for the first 20 minutes of my ride. Unusual. The driver and I kept catching each other's eyes in the mirror.

Off of Polk Street, a cheery sight - silky pink curtains with a matching pink rug hanging out of the window of the Merit Hotel.

Bus Report #990


We're getting dangerously close to my 1,000 bus report, friends. Keep checking back in for info on a celebration I am planning, to which you will all be invited.

Meanwhile, back on the bus after a short vacation...

Last night, everyone (well, not everyone, but several people) on the 38R were either nodding out standing up, or sitting down. It was incredibly odd considering it was normal commute time. I stood out of the way and watched as a couple almost fell down several times. The woman sitting in front of me kept a loose hold on her unlit cigarette as she bobbed forward, lurched back, bobbed forward again.

The bus was packed the entire commute. Other than the folks nodding off, there were students in their new back to school clothes, tourists, out-of-towners. The strap of my bag pulled at my coat and sweater, exposing my star of David and my hamsa necklace. The people standing around me were probably just zoning out into space like I was, but for the first time in a long while, I felt a little uneasy. I can honestly say that before the most recent inauguration, I've never felt like a real target in my own country before. But I do now. After a few minutes, I pulled the neck of my sweater up. 

Several hours later, on another 38, an adorably sleepy, chubby baby flopped on his mama's lap, blinking at me in the harsh Muni light. Too cute.

This morning on the 33, the giant genie reappeared after his summer off. A little tanner, a little leaner. But he's still got his routine. Lotion, beard and mustache wax, dandy comb. A routine I can get behind.

At Mission and 16th, our driver honked at the woman who sells tamales on the corner and held up her fingers, two tamales, please. The woman stepped up on the bus and swapped a paper bag of food for a few dollars.

Around the corner Mauricio waited for the 55. He caught my eye through the window, grinned, and waved. I waved back.

Bus Report #989


This morning, quiet on the 33.
When we got to Castro and 18th, I could see flashing lights up ahead. More than one set. Uh oh.
We drove slowly down the street. At Church and 18th, the corner closest to Dolores Park was taped off with yellow CAUTION tape, and there were several emergency vehicles and first responders clustered around someone who was flat on their back on the sidewalk.
The paramedics were doing chest compressions on the person, cops milling around, rubberneckers standing right up against the tape.
I hoped the person would be okay. It was scary to watch.

In the front of our bus, most people were face down in their phones, oblivious.

Bus Report #988


The bus was late or early today, depending on which bus you were waiting for. I was waiting for my usual, which was on time, but a handful of other semi-regulars had been waiting for the earlier bus, which was a no show.
I smiled, nodded at the nurse and at the axe body spray guy.
We got on and our bus sailed off down Arguello.

Haight Street was emptier than I've ever seen it, except for a flock of birds eating a huge mound of compost near Whole Foods. Not a person in sight.

Later, somewhere between 16th and Mission and my stop, a homeless man in the front of the bus carefully put on a wool cap, and then a turquoise baseball hat over it, and then a beige baseball hat over that.

Bus Report #987


Odds and ends.

Last night, on the 10 Townsend:

A woman reading The Marriage Plot - I wanted to intervention her right then and there, but she only had a few pages left, so I didn't. I wanted to implore her to read anything else - especially anything else by Eugenides. Despite my deep dislike of the book, I still wanted to dissect the story and characters with her. She got out by Caltrain. An older woman carrying a beautiful bouquet of orange flowers took her seat.

We passed a cafe on 2nd Street that I thought offered enigmatic coffee, but it turned out I'd just read the sign wrong. It served organic coffee.

This morning a creepy guy got on my 33 at Castro. He stood in the doorway and stared at the driver, then shrugged his shoulders as if to say, I am riding this bus, even though I don't have bus fare. The driver let him on.

He planted himself in the aisle, hovering above my seat and the seat behind me. It was unnerving. He chewed ice cubes from a plastic cup, and stared at me and the people behind me.

I tightened my grip on my bag. I did that thing you do (because public transit riders do this, don't we?) where you put on your ugliest, most disinterested face. I squished against the window and tried to make myself disappear.

Of course, he decided to sit next to me, still shaking ice cubes into his mouth, and hunching forward, and occasionally shooting a glance over at me. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. If he tried anything - made a grab for my bag, or touched me - I was ready to give him hell.

He lurched forward, sideways. He ate more ice cubes. At Mission Street he thrust his hand out, his fingers grazing my arm, and then he hopped off the bus. Ugh.

When I got off the bus and crossed the street, I ran in to Frank from the garage. We chatted for a minute, the usual pleasantries, and how's your summer going, and the conversation fixed me right up. Creepy creeper on the bus, completely sloughed off.

A few blocks later, a 22 Fillmore sailed past me as I walked to work. The Roche Bobois guy sat in a window seat, and we waved at each other.

Bus Report #986


Clement Street has gone to the birds, again.

The neighborhood crows shriek like insane babies. They strut down the street, or chase the seagulls, or they stare at me from their perches atop recycle bins and storefront awnings.

The seagulls shout back. They're out of their element away from the water, but food is food and they fight the crows, the pigeons, the little black birds for the compost and trash strewn around the street.

There are young pigeons, too. Newly hatched with perfectly intact, bright red feet. fluffy feathers on their heads where you can still sometimes see a pinfeather or two. They are unafraid of me as I walk to the bus stop. They haven't learned to fear people yet.

Near the bus stop someone has put out a bag of old clothes. For Goodwill? For recycling or trash? Because it's all trash now. A man empties the bag onto the sidewalk and begins sorting through it. I don't think any of the old cardigans and thigh-high boots will fit him. None of my business, though.

The bus arrives on time, our humorless new driver almost - ALMOST! cracking a smile.

Bus Report #985


This morning as we began to make the hair-pin turn onto Market Street, the sun was a white-gold spot popping through thick bands of grey fog.

Summer time and my commutes have been... uneventful.

They've been busy, and crowded, annoying at times, but for the most part, a snooze-fest.

Last night on the 38R, I sat facing a cute blonde couple. They chatted and laughed for the duration of the ride, eyes only for each other.

I had a series of quiet, stoic seatmates - young women in college sweatshirts, all of them sitting statue-still. No fumbling with phones. No nothing.

Two different, heavily bearded men with bright red eyes. One of them had a CITY YEAR patch on his backpack. I thought of my sister back when she did CITY YEAR. Just out of high school with no idea what she was doing with her life. Oversized jacket, khakis, heavy work boots. She loved it all. And now? She's the best of us.

Van Ness and Geary. Raucous shouting and laughing outside. I was not the only passenger looking around to see what was happening. Two women in stretched-out off-the-shoulder shirts and busted-up heels grabbed at each other's arms and laughed, both smiling as they stumbled down the block.

At Fillmore our bus emptied out. Someone jammed the back door - the driver had to get out of the bus and walk back to fix it.

Bus Report #984


Summer time, which means so many of the Muni regulars are on vacation.
The rest of us greet each other sleepily in the mornings, and, I suppose, sleepily in the evenings.
The dad with the extra adorable toddler.
The pretty older woman with the dark sunglasses.
Mauricio, who always saves me a seat, or waves to me if my bus passes him at 16th and Mission.
The woman who is always running to catch her 38R. Yesterday morning, she told me, as she ran past, that she hasn't missed her bus in weeks.
The big guy who sits sprawled out in an aisle seat on the 22 in the afternoons, who won't look me in the face but who always makes room for me to take the window seat.
The nurse who works at St. Mary's, who is only on my 33 when she's running late.

Bus Report #983


Yesterday morning a man got on our 33, swinging three backpacks and juggling several cans of soup in his arms. He sat down in the front of the bus and rolled the soups between his hands, mumbling all the while,  for the duration of his ride.

He stumbled from the bus in the Upper Haight, and in doing so dropped one of his backpacks on the bus. He started walking away, and the driver shut the door, so I said, "excuse me, driver, his backpack's still here."
She opened the door and I called over to him. "Sir, your backpack, do you want me to throw it over to you?"
He looked confused, smiled and then shrugged. "No."
"You don't want your backpack? Are you sure?"
"No, no." And he walked away.

In the mirror, the driver and I exchanged glances, both of us confused and wary at the same time.
"Do you want me to throw it off the bus or something?" I asked her.
She shook her head. "Leave it. Someone else will do something with it along the route."
Well, okay.

For the rest of the ride, people stepped around the backpack, or stared at it, or tried to locate its owner sitting elsewhere on the bus. It was old and raggedy, obviously a second or third hand backpack. But it had belonged to the man just a few minutes earlier.

When it was my turn to get out, the bag was still there.

Bus Report #982


The bus has been mostly uneventful lately. Quiet, disengaged drivers, silent passengers, nothing out of the ordinary.

Except last night.

A man got on the 10 Townsend by the ballpark. He moved to the back of the bus and started fidgeting with something in his hands. I thought he was rolling a joint, at least that's what it looked like.

He kept glancing back at the woman sitting in the back row, behind him.

Finally she asked if he wanted to sit back there, and he did, so she moved to the front of the bus and he settled back into her seat.

I spaced out, listening to a radio show, and didn't give the man a second thought until we got to Folsom Street. The man was staring straight ahead, his mouth slightly open. His hand was in his pants and there was no way to ignore what he was doing.

Rush hour, 10 Townsend bus, backseat masterbator.


I got out at the next stop. Didn't say anything to our driver, and I'm still wondering if I should have said something.

Bus Report #981


Living in a post-Leon as our morning driver world, sigh.
The new driver is fine - but he is slow as can be, and not very friendly.
We don't all need to be best buddies, but sheesh.

Arsicault Bakery has been teasing me all week with the scent of their delicious buttery croissants wafting from the kitchen out onto the street where I wait for the 33 in the mornings. Heavenly.

The other day there was a woman on the bus with the most magnificent shoes. Oh, how I loved those shoes. I could not stop staring.
They were grey and black, with a small split at the front and a small heel. I can't do them justice, just know they were beautiful.
She wore them with cute socks. Oh, man. Those were some fabulous shoes.

Mauricio was on my bus on Tuesday morning. He even slid over into the window seat for me.
"Raquel, where have you been lately?" he said, and we chatted for a bit in Spanish and English, as we do, until it was time for me to get out at my stop.

Last night Muni out of Potrero Hill was a mess, because of the terrible shooting at UPS (and the earlier street closings and reroutes).
There were a lot of irritated people waiting for buses, and then on the bus, too, when we were finally able to board.
But I wasn't complaining. I was thinking about all the UPS folks, and hoping our guys were all safe (they are, thankfully).
 It was strange to see the building with police officers standing guard. Yellow caution tape trailed along the sidewalk and some of the tent campers had already taken the tape and wrapped it around their tents (as an aside - I can't believe they weren't evacuated/moved away from the scene. I really don't get it).

Our UPS friends and neighbors were back at work this morning - everything seemingly back to normal as I walked to work from the bus stop.

I'm going to shill for myself/for a good cause for a minute - tomorrow night is the 5th Anniversary of the Lit Camp Basement Series reading series at Sports Basement on Bryant (accessible by Muni via the 10, 22, 33, 27, 9, 9L, 12 and probably other lines I'm not remembering).

It is a fundraiser, too, to raise money for Lit Camp scholarships. The theme tomorrow night is Strange Travel Suggestions and I will be one of their readers. You should come, and introduce yourself if you do. It is a great cause and I think we'll have a lot of fun. Information can be found on their Facebook page, here.

Bus Report #980


On the 22 Fillmore this afternoon:
A woman requested the lift for her stroller, something which bothers me when the stroller is a light, foldable umbrella model. It is just so much faster to lift those on board, even if you need to ask for help.
She and her stroller get on the bus and I see that she isn't pushing a baby in it, but a ginger cat.
It is a covered animal stroller.
She maneuvers into a seat near the front, opens the mesh cover on the stroller, and lifts out an (admittedly) very cute ginger cat. But still.

Later, waiting for the 38, a couple is lost, wandering in the Fillmore bus stop, asking everyone for directions. Several people shrug, or point across the street, or just shake their heads.

The couple stares at the map in the bus shelter, tracing the red bus lines up the map towards Marin.

I take off my headphones. "Are you trying to get somewhere?" I ask them.

They turn to me and hold up their phones. The husband says, "The 92, it's supposed to stop here but there's no sign for it."

Hmmm. "Yeah, it does sometimes stop here, hold on, let me check." I pull up Swiftly on my phone. No joy. But I'm sure the bus stops there.

"Are you going to Marin? I know you can catch that bus further up on Geary if not here."

"We're going here," the wife said, pointing at the bridge.

"Just to the bridge? Not to Sausalito or anything?"

Just to the bridge.

"Oh, no problem, then. Take the 38 to Park Presidio, switch to the 28, then you can see the bridge, take some pictures and then head back."

The husband nodded. "Ah. We've taken the 38 downtown but never in this direction. Thanks."

A 38L pulled up, my regular 38 right behind it. "You can take either one." I said.

Bus Report #979


Last night, the 22 smelled like pot, rose water, and Chock Full O' Nuts coffee. The three odors mixed and mingled until they became one very, very strong scent. Even with the windows open, there was no avoiding it.

A man sitting across from me passed his friend an unlit (but very pungent) joint. Then he pulled stacks of (stolen?) Macy's and Starbucks and Red Lobster gift cards from his bag and flipped through them. He had watches, too, several boxes of watches, and tried to sell the cards and the watches to everyone sitting nearby.

I declined to buy any of his merchandise.

On the 38, a woman with bright pink hair held a paper plate heavy with frosted cake. The cake was topped with strawberries, sprinkles, and dozens of Pocky sticks just... bunched up on the top, like fireplace kindling.

The cake looked, on one hand, absolutely delicious, and on the other hand, completely disgusting. She was on the phone and her voice was so annoying I wanted to grab the phone and toss it out the window. Even with the volume on my music turned all the way up, I could still hear her.
I wasn't alone. One of her seatmates wore big headphones but still held her palms pressed over her ears - to drown out the girl's voice, I assumed.

Thankfully she got out at Presidio.

Quiet reigned on the 38 for the rest of the commute.

Bus Report #978


A normal Friday morning before a long weekend. The bus was empty when Leon pulled up, but soon we took on more passengers, mostly regulars: The man who works for PG&E, the OCD religious mom and her cute daughter, several women who ride down to Valencia and a few solemn construction workers.Just after the turn from Arguello onto Fulton, our bus stopped- just went dead. A hazard of the electric buses. Leon got out to take the poles down for a minute, to try to restart, and then he came back on board and tried to get the bus going again. He tried to restart a handful of times, to no avail."Sorry, folks," he said. "I think we may be out of service but I'm going to try again. worse case, you can sit tight right here and wait for the next coach to arrive, which should be here soon."He tried again. Nada. He called Central, and they 'helpfully' told him to do all the restart things he had already tried. He held the black handset to his ear and repeated that he'd already done that, and then he told them where we were stalled. They didn't seem to understand, so he told them again.He hung up and then walked half way through the bus to talk to all of us."Sorry, everyone, for the inconvenience. Sometimes this kind of thing happens but I know its frustrating, you've all got to get to work, or to school," at this, he looked at the little girl. "And those guys downtown, they're nice people... But some of them, they've never driven a bus in their lives, and they're not from here so they have no idea where we are right now. Asking me to take down my poles... Of course I'm going to try that first!" we all laughed as he shook his head at their inadequate response.Something lovely happened next.The OCD religious mom asked him what his favorite route was. He responded, "the 33, probably, cause it's mellow and pretty and hits so many neighborhoods. For a while I was nervous about it - about that turn onto Market - but now I can just do it so smoothly, I don't mind. Lots of drivers have that same fear, you don't even know. The 22's okay, too - always busy though, no downtime." He leaned up against one of the poles and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I have one regular, a man who's lived here 30 years, and he only just started taking my bus. He said he loved it because of all the views and what not. You know - some of you, like Rachel and like you, young lady," and he pointed at one of the regulars sitting in the front, "You've known me for years on this line. So you know me, I'm easy going unless someone tries to hassle me or my passengers. Cause you know, it's my job to make sure you're all getting around safely."He went on. "You know, all of you, next week's my last week with y'all, I'm switching lines."A collective, "oh no!" passed through everyone on the bus.The little girl asked, "Will we ever see you again?" Poor kid, she sounded so distraught!Leon smiled. "Hopefully, in the fall, when school's back and there are more open runs."He looked past us to see what buses were coming up behind ours, and he jumped to action."Here's your coach, everybody. I'm going to go signal for him to pull right on up. Let's go."Like kids following our pied piper, we got out and waited for Leon to flag the bus down. When it was time for us to get on he told us we didn't need to tag our Clippers again, and that he apologized again and hoped we'd all have a great day.The little girl and her mom told him, "God bless you," and he waved at us as the bus rounded the corner and headed down into the Haight.Have a grand holiday[...]

Bus Report #977


Sunny morning, with sunny people.I waved good morning to the friendly Russian woman, stopped to talk with Joan, who just returned from vacation in Mexico. She urged me to go, said I'd like the dry heat, the food, etc.I told her I was glad she'd had a good trip, and I kept walking.The 33 was empty when I got on. "Good morning, miss Rachel," Leon said, drawing out the word miss so it sounded more like 'miiiiiiiizzzzzz' and I laughed and said good morning back, kidded with him a little.Regular and semi-regular passengers piled on, got out at their usual stops. The obsessively religious woman and her poor little daughter. The mean-face trainee nurse. The tall, stately woman with her wool socks pulled halfway up her calves. The spiky-haired older gentlemen with his stovepipe jeans folded just so above his boots.The Hayes Street ladies ran to catch the bus, but they didn't have to run - Leon always waits for his regulars.In the Haight, we crawled up Ashbury behind a slow bicyclist. Such a slow bicyclist.The giant genie got on at a stop before his usual. He sat down in the front of the bus and began his lotion and beard maintenance routine.In the Castro, a man wearing a thin pair of white sweat pants over his jeans got on, clutching the front of the sweats, which bulged with... I had no idea. He sat down and pulled a pile of leaves and sticks, and crumpled newspaper, and a bottle of something from out the front of the pants. He spent the rest of the ride carefully wrapping the sticks and leaves in the paper, and shoving everything back into his pants. All was well until we got to Mission and 16th.Leon opened the doors and people got out, got on.A tall man in a brimmed hat (what is it called? Like Gilligan wore?) and carrying a dirty blanket, started to get on the bus.Leon stood up and shook his head. "No, you can't come on the bus, especially not with that blanket.""I'll fold it. I gotta get to the hospital," the man whined."I've told you before, you can't get on this bus," Leon said.The man angrily threw the blanket onto the street and got on the bus, sat a couple rows behind me.Leon stood his ground. The man could not ride on the bus, not after a previous altercation.The man continued to whine about getting to the hospital, but soon stopped whining - growing aggressive instead.The sweat pants man looked at him. "I'll get you to the hospital," he muttered. "I'll get you there."After some more back and forth, threats from the angry man, firm statements from Leon, the angry man resorted to the lowest of insults."I'll beat your ass, n____," he said. He stormed to the front of the bus, this tall, angry man towering above Leon, still threatening to hurt him.Leon tried to calm him down. The man kept lunging at him."Everyone get off the bus, for your safety," Leon told us.We started to get out. I got my phone out of my bag and got ready to call 911. Meanwhile, Leon had picked up his phone to call for help, too.We all stood there, frozen, watching. I know some of the others were thinking the same as I was - that Leon might need witnesses if anything happened.After a tense few moments the man got out and wandered down the sidewalk. In the opposite direction a police car was coming by. Leon leaned on the horn and got their attention.He told the cops what was going on and they did a quick U turn, pulled up by the Victoria Theater and got out to talk to the guy. By then, we were all back in our seats.The sweat pants man had gotten out of the bus and was now inspecting the dir[...]

Bus Report #976



Last week, Tuesday night, going to the PJ Harvey concert with Nell. We had a couple drinks at the Cinch and decided to take a cable car to the Masonic, because, why not?

We were the only passengers on the cable car and it felt like a private service, at least for a few blocks.

We hopped out by the venue. The gripman called out to us, "You going to a concert? What show?"
We hollered back but by then the cable car was already pulling away from us towards the top of Nob Hill.

Arriving in style. That's just how we roll.

I ran in to Jeannie several days in a row last week. Crowded 38 Geary buses, the two of us holding on for dear life, chatting about her various Muni routes from work, what books we were reading, the merits of new buses versus old buses.

Monday morning, Leon tells me he's transferring to the 45 line at the end of the month. The drivers just had a sign-up and apparently there aren't as many prime shifts on the 33 in the summertime.
"I tried to get an early afternoon, so I still get off at a good time," he said. "But I didn't get what I wanted, so, I'll be saying goodbye to you guys in a couple weeks."
"I'm sure we'll see you around," I said. "We always do."

Bus Report #975


A girl on the 38 last night had a tote bag that read: Books Is Power

I puzzled over that for a while.

Also, when two drunk/fucked up people both get on the 38 at 9:30 at night and sit next to each other, what do you get? You get a bizarre verbal altercation that luckily did not escalate, much.

The woman I'd seen before. She wore dirty bedroom slippers and was twitchy enough to make a couple of the guys in the back of the bus shrink away from her and hold their bags close to their chests. She mumbled and slid around on the back bench, and watched everyone.

The man was a little guy, my height or shorter, with a big backpack. He slouched onto the bus and sat beside the woman, who immediately accused him of trying to touch her.

He mumbled something in Spanish and she said something back, in English, and for a moment I thought they were making some sort of deal.

A moment later, she stood up and sat near me, talking to herself, or to us, about how she was sober and she didn't need the aggravation (of what, I had no idea).

A girl sitting across from me, her school sweatshirt telling me her name was Norin L., looked up and grinned at me. I grinned back.

The woman lurched across the aisle and took an empty seat by the stairs.

The man was talking to himself now, too, in Spanish, bitching her out for an unknown slight.

And then, she turned to him and cursed at him in Spanish, and he jumped up and lunged at her. Shouting all the while, who did she think she was, she was a whore, he was going to kill her, etc.

She stood up and called him some more names. The bus stopped and she got out. He almost followed her but decided against it. Instead, he took her seat and kept talking to himself.

A man across the aisle had been watching the whole thing.
The agitated man called over to him, "You speak Spanish?"

The other man, let's call him the voice of reason, said yes.

"He was totally offending and disrespecting me," said the agitated man. No matter that he had actually been a she.

The other man told him to cut it out, and to calm down. "There was no call for that. You can't do that on the bus."

"He was offending me, he offended me, fuck off," said the agitated man.

The two of them almost came to blows - the voice of reason stood up and came right up to the agitated man, cocked his finger at him like a gun and told him he needed to cut it out or he'd get it.

Then the voice of reason acted reasonably and got out of the bus before anything happened.

The agitated man got out at Webster a few minutes later.

Bus Report #974


Yesterday evening, gorgeous thick fog blanketing everything. I slowly Muni-ed my way home from dinner (Streat Food Park) and drinks.

Was yesterday a luggage buying holiday, or something? I considered buying a new duffel bag yesterday morning. On the way home, two unrelated women on the 47 and on the 38R struggled to maneuver large, newly purchased suitcases from Ross, while a man sitting in front of me spent the whole commute searching for bags on ebags on his phone. He even watched a few videos on how to pack bags to get the most use out of them. I was bored out of my skull watching over his shoulder, so I stopped and stared out the window at the ribbons of fog floating by.

Two men discussed their tattoos - one had just gotten a new tattoo but was already planning his next one. "Just wait until my next tattoo," he teased his friend.
"You're going to get me in trouble," said the friend.

Another man - central casting new San Francisco, with his grey hoodie, his wireless ear buds and his air of entitlement - talked loudly on his phone to his friend. "The way all the California republicans voted today, man, you can bet I'm staying here." He might have meant staying here as a refuge from the rest of the country, but it was hard to tell.