Another bus full of tales is the 71. Mapping its course from the Financial District through the Haight then along Golden Gate Park, and off to the Sunset, you’re bound to bump into characters even if you try really hard not too, well at least that has been my experience.
Squeezing my way onto the 71 with my huge art portfolio strapped over my shoulder and draping over the front of my body like a walking billboard, I was ecstatic to see that the second seat behind the bus driver was free. ‘Lucky me!’ I thought, relieved that I wouldn’t have to carry the weight of my pads of paper, pens, and paints hidden in my portfolio. After slipping into the seat and propping my portfolio on my lap, ensuring it was not blocking the isle or invading the space of my neighbors, I soon found out just why exactly that one seat was free amidst the mob on the bus.
About one stop in to my trip the grungy-looking woman next to me started to get a wee bit too close for my liking. With malaise glazed across her face, dirt smudged on her cheeks, forehead, and chin, and hair pulled back into a ratty bun, she began to slowly reach over to me in a way that resembled ET phoning home. Moving ever so slowly, I actually did not notice this initial breach of personal space until her filth-covered hand touched mine. At first I thought I had just accidentally bumped her with my portfolio, so I apologized and moved my portfolio higher up across my lap.
But after the third hand-touching incident I realized it was no mistake and politely asked the woman not to touch me, and then promptly scooted over a bit to my left as to give her more room for her “arm stretching” activities.
Then, with the slowest possible movements you could ever imagine, the woman began to phone home again, reaching slowly toward my direction and then lightly touched my art portfolio. I watched in disbelief and bewilderment. ‘What the hell is going on here,’ was racing through my mind as well as through the minds of everyone else who had been watching the spectacle. I can only imagine they were thinking, ‘Not again!’ as I’m sure the person in that seat before experienced the same up-close-and-personal bus ride.
After the fourth breach of personal space, I scooted to the left even more and tilted my portfolio farther away from the woman. But this only tempted the curiosity of my friendly neighbor even more.
Extending her arm even farther, she touched me and my portfolio again. So once again I scooted myself over to the left. Mind you, there’s only so much wiggle room in a bus seat, even for small people like me. By this point I was perched only on my left butt cheek, performing a balancing act of sorts while I remained upright and ensured that my huge portfolio was somehow still within my defined personal space.
At this point the girl sitting next to me felt my pain and offered to switch seats. Luckily I only had one more stop left and told her it was unnecessary.
Although Muni can be infuriating at times, the only thing that keeps me sane is laughing at its weirdness.
This city makes me smile every day.