Across the street from Forest Hill Station, there is a damp, cave-like bus shelter with a stone bench inside. One afternoon a few weeks ago I was waiting inside that shelter for my bus, the 36, and not too far away was another regular of the line, an older Chinese man with a casually dapper style. He’s pretty recognizable, as his outfit is consistent from day to day: in his slightly worn suit, his durable leather vest zipped up under the coat, that awesome beret pushed back from his forehead, and the large bifocals that cover half his face, he gives you the impression that he takes care to look good, but not to excess. He’s really got more important things on his mind.
For instance, the likelihood (or not) of the 36 ever arriving on time.
You see, the 36-Teresita is one of those lines designated by Muni as “community service,” which in polite English means “unpredictable.” Unfortunately, it’s the line I live on, so I spend a lot of time waiting on that stone bench inside that shelter, repeatedly prodding my BlackBerry for the next arrival time. Nextbus.com sometimes predicts that I have twenty minutes to wait, but then the next time I look, it predicts forty minutes — meaning a run has been dropped in the meantime.
I poked the BlackBerry: this time it predicted ten minutes to go.
Soon I noticed our man in the beret was talking to a beautiful dark-haired woman. She was slightly distracted by her children: with one hand she was preventing her restless older daughter from wandering into the path of the oncoming buses, and with the other she was giving additional support to the sleepy infant strapped to her chest. I recognized her: as it happened, I’d seen her at Tower Market several months earlier, when she was pregnant with that very child. It was definitely her: she had an unforgettable face.
I checked my BlackBerry again: eighteen minutes to go. So I started eavesdropping on their conversation.