|Photo by author.|
For the past 15 months I’ve been taking a commuter bus from Berkeley into San Francisco. I walk the four minutes from my house and invariably see a sullen young African American woman with a coffee in her hand. I’ve discerned from overheard conversations that she is a teacher. One day last year an older white woman stopped and talked to her. It was evident that the two hadn’t seen one another in awhile and they had some sort of past relationship, perhaps as co-workers. Initially the younger woman seemed pleased to chat with this woman. But as she stopped there everyday on her way to where she caught a ride share van, it became increasingly obvious that the young woman had less and less to say and their “conversations” were becoming increasingly awkward. They’d often stand in silence. I got the impression that the older woman was lonely, lives alone and is a bit of an eccentric.
Sometimes there’s another young woman waiting for the bus. She’s short and blonde and looks like she could be Paul Dano’s sister. Usually a young lean man emerges from a nearby apartment just before the bus pulls up. Every now and again someone else gets on with us.
Almost without exception I pass the unabomber as I board the bus. There’s the gent in maybe his forties who, until recently, had a beard and who always has the hood of his sweatshirt pulled down. He’s hunched in his seat. Until shaving he looked like a mad genius who had sabotage on his mind. The beardless face, however, makes him look fairly tame.
The commuter bus has two rows of two seats stretching to the back where there are about seven seats. My stop is the second one so I always get a window seat. This is a mixed blessing. The question is always going to be who will sit next to me. Getting on a few stops later would allow one to shop around a bit. Of course if you get on later your choices are limited and you may even have to stand. By the rules of bus riding you don't sit next to a stranger if there's a window seat open.
Sometimes no one sits next to me, which is of course just dandy. I’ve noted before on this blog that men sit down differently than women. Most women veritably glide into the seat, cozying in as soft as you please. Men drop themselves as if from a great height and more than once I’ve been startled by the aftershocks of a man flying into the seat, often grazing me in the process. Most say excuse me or sorry. Needless to say I prefer a woman sitting next to me. If she is young and pretty, all the better. It’s not that I look at her, other than when she sits and when we leave, but the notion that an attractive female is sitting next to me is nice. I’ve had one young Asian-American woman sit next to me a few times and she always smiles and says good morning as she sits down. No one else ever does that. She’s always welcome. There’s one very large woman who gets on the bus and she always has a large purse and a couple of bags. I always feel claustrophobic when her or any other rotund commuter sits next to me.
I have an arch enemy who’s often on the bus although I’ve been spared his presence this past week. He’s a large effeminate man who is always the first to board at his stop. He invariably has a New York Times in one hand and a large plastic Starbucks cup in the other. He’s only a danger if a certain short squat woman of his acquaintance sits next to him. Because if she does he talks, and talks and then talks some more. Fair enough there’s no rule about keeping mum on the bus, others chat too Indeed this fellow has a rather pleasant voice, rich and sonorous. The irritation stems from his speaking so loudly and so incessantly. I recall once when he and his listening board sat directly behind me. He asked the woman about her recent trip. She muttered for a few seconds and that was the last of it from her. He quickly cut her off and didn’t stop talking until we arrived at the bus terminal. I almost never need to plug in the ear phones on the morning bus, unless the mouth that roars is in my vicinity, in which I get the iPod out immediately.
Of course the second I take my sit I reach into my backpack and pull out a book and commence reading. I don’t stop until the bus arrives at the station. I do however pause at times because in going over the Bay Bridge one is afforded a number of striking views. Just the bay itself can be mesmerizing, but as one gets to the SF side of the bridge there is the skyline of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and sometimes several boats or even a ship to gaze upon.
There are at least a dozen people who I recognize as regulars on the bus ride. Most are about as nondescript to me as I must be to the them. The ones I notice I tend to do so either because they regularly sit near me, are attractive, or board when I do. There’s a young gay man who has sat next to me several times. He’s small so I never mind his presence. After getting off the bus we walk in the same direction and he usually is in front of me which is odd because I am a notoriously fast walker, this guy has a motor in his engine. And it shows. I have never seen a man’s ass sway back and forth like his does (not that I do a lot of looking). It is a fact of nature that many a woman has a rear end that bounces as they walk. Men tend to like this. I’ve speculated that it is a natural occurrence in nature which is meant to attract men to women. Anyway this chap’s rear end swaying is far more pronounced than any I’ve seen in a female. Ever. It’s damned unnatural is what. I would imagine that other gay men might find it attractive. Then again they might also find it a little too much.
There’s a young African American man who rides the bus who also walks a short way in my direction. He’s a handsome man, always wearing a nice suit. Except. The pant legs are far too long. Indeed the pants are too big. They don’t fit snugly. Worse, the cuffs of his pants are frayed surely from constant contact with the heels of his shoes. He must be single because a significant other would have pointed out the problem by now. You’d think someone at work would have a word with him.
From my bus ride in I used to walk to Market street and catch the F trolley. I finally figured out a better bet was a nine minute walk to catch the 30 at Howard a few blocks below Market. Unlike the F with the 30 you never risk an unreasonable wait and where I board there’s always a seat. Plus it drops me a half block from work. Of course nothing is perfect. The 30 can be damned crowded usually with a combination of elderly Chinese people (we pass through Chinatown) and high school students going to Galileo High, most of them are of Chinese extraction to. Even when you’ve got a seat a crowded bus is a bit uncomfortable and sometimes getting off the bus can only be accomplished with a machete.
I love my work. The people I teach and the people I work with are a delight. The commute though, that can be a trip (pun fully intended).