The No.19 bus has always started at the Polk shipyard, leaving local sleepers in their tents. It then speeds along Evans to the junction with 3rd street, the place where we, the 20 year visitors, wait to swipe our cards. At this point the bus is virtually empty. Only a trickle of the local variety are present. Ten minutes later we are full and we have reached the "Projects." The bus was half-full with a variety of age and local beauty.
The "Projects" (low cost local housing) are in a state of shock. No windows, no doors, no nothing. The buildings are empty, lifeless. The City Council had promised to take away the remains and build some new low cost housing. They are currently getting the money together by having a local sales tax of 9%. So every cup of coffee bought at MaCiDees provides another 40 cents to the Council purse.
At the hill top stop the driver decides to leave a prospective smoking customer behind. The smoker drops his fag and runs alongside banging the side of the bus. The driver slows, gives way and opens the front doors. Needless to say "our smoker" blasts the man behind the wheel with a very unsavoury smoke filled mouthful.
This comment was met simply with "No smoking on the bus Sir."
Our cigarette-less passenger mumbled to himself for the next 4 stops bringing those around him into a very colourful local vernacular chat about the quality of drivers these days. Of course this conversation moved to a five way discussion on how to get a "job."
The non-smoker, of course, crossed swords with his new friends who had gotten jobs within 2 weeks. They were very conciliatory, offering addresses, interview techniques, the whole shooting match with the help of their mobiles. The comment that hung with me most was simply. "Looking for work show your card man."
The voice of the bus metre maid regularly filled our transporting space.
"Hold on" and "Please hold on" echo through the bus after every stop. It was good to hear her. Twenty years of service, wow, San Francisco does look after its employees.
We were soon cruising into town along Seventh street to the junction with Mission. At the corner the street sleepers were there in number. The wife and I looked out across the corner at the humanity stretched, seated and stood on the pavement. What a sight. My good lady nudged me and pointed to the couple seated on the pavement beneath her window. One was protecting/shielding the other who was busy holding a cigarette lighter under a crumpled piece of silver paper. Ah! so that's how it is done. Morning "hits" here.
After Mission and crossing Market we were soon onto van Ness were more elderly folk came into play, pushing their carts, moving their mobile homes. Electric wheel chairs were regularly loaded and seats were vacated to provide the necessary space on the bus. During these events many colourful additions caught my attention.
A "Red Bowler and Red Boots" coupled with a black coat, leopard skin blouse and pants came into view. She struggled with a 20 stone midget for the last remaining seat. Luckily 2 stops were only what the "Bowler" required and the heavyweight settled into his victory.
Nearly all passengers passed their trips fingering their phones and ignoring all others until their stops arrived. I suppose deeper conversation may take place in local circles outside buses.
Fifteen minutes later this was confirmed when a couple of similar age asked for directions to the Embarcadero.
"Just follow your noses and keep the water on your left," I replied.
We were soon staring at two swimmers freezing in the Marina. The swimming club offers nothing other than five degree water and goose pimples. But on dry land the over 70's were soon stood in wonderment as the Californian world of electric scooters and bikes weaved around and missed them.
Strolling on past the "Clam Chowder" tables and the Bay Cruisers offering trips around Alcatraz and the Golden Gate we realize that they were not for us today. Done that, been there. Our homage, our target was simply Pier 39 and the most unlikely of conversationalists, the sea lions. Actually this time there was double the number of "squatters" occupying the rafts. The "grunting" was immense. What a racket!!
Leisurely we continued on towards to the town centre. Dodging midday fitness freaks, more cyclists and electric scooters and "Oh yes" a motorized skateboard. The rider had fallen off. I predicted the following headline for the next "Bay Area News"... "Beware ankle attacks - pedestrians swept off their feet by skate boards."
We were gradually approaching the last commercial site on the Embarcadero, namely the Ferry Building. There were many folks just standing around. We crawled on and ultimately got the message that the place had been evacuated due to fire.
We moved slowly through the crowds until we saw the empty lunch tables and the white uniformed cooks and restaurant staff, gathered outside their places of work. There was no smoke but many empty tables on show. We crawled on round the seaward side of the building. There was not a hint of smoke.
So onwards Macduff. "Let's take the "Uni Metro" and get back home." Well believe it or not there had been an electrical failure on the Metro underground so we had to plod on to the new start point back on Third Street.
Ya, San Fran has certainly shown and really employed all its SN character this morning.