January 13, 2011

In a station of the metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The woman who drives the route 21 southbound bus that arrives at Railroad and San Ramon Valley Blvd at 7:55, weeknights, has the nicest smile of any bus driver in the Bay Area. She doesn't say anything, but she always smiles. I only ride that route once, maybe twice a week--only when my tutoring sessions at the Library end at 7:40ish--so I have yet to ask her name. But I think we recognize each other now; I always board at the same stop.

My sister has just pronounced riding the bus in Danville, "weird." This from a young woman who rides the bus on a mostly weekly basis in Salem, Oregon, where she is a carless college student with an off-campus internship. And her mindset is common, perhaps endemic in car-dependent places like Danville, where children are raised in the backseat of automobiles. That's what I was used to; I had never set foot in a Danville bus before last August and the thought of waiting at the bus stop, or of actually being a bus rider (who are those people!) gave me the howling fantods. Especially the kids who used to take the bus to school. They were a tainted race. Habits! Habits die-hard.

The 21 driver picking up at BART at 6:00 asks his regulars: "did you leave a phone on the bus last night?" Dissenting answers. The time nears 6:00, one more man boards, and the answer is "yes!" An explosion of good cheer as giver and getter of good deed meet.

According to my dentist, I am truly my "father's son" because we are the only two patients who ever bike to appointments. I feel like a role player in an ensemble cast. "The bike guy." Better: "Biking son of biking dad." My students think of me that way too, as some kind of interesting local flavor: perplexed that I ride the bus, astonished that I bike so far! (3 miles) when it is so cold! (like 40). But then they soften it with, well, it probably saves money on gas. And I add, I like to read and doze on the bus. Hmm, they say. Yeah.

A man sitting behind me on the bus ride home (woman with the smile at the wheel) answered his phone. "Hello. I'm on my way. I'm doing the best I can so don't bitch at me thank you bye bye."

1 comment:

  1. Forgot to attribute: The poem is by Ezra Pound. Modernist classic and a personal fave.

    Painting is "Automat", by Edward Hopper.