My fifteen minutes

Posted by jdg | Monday, August 22, 2005 | , ,

Wood's post below about the bus ride and the puking leaves out some crucial details, which is understandable as she was not privy to most of them.

Before we left Tommaso's, I did feel that we were safe from more banana vomit, because moments earlier I had held Juniper's head above the tiny sink in the tiny bathroom while GALLONS of banana vomit gushed out, desperately trying to clean her off as well as wipe off myself before the busboy outside jumping up and down like a two-year old bust down the door to get his pee on. How much more puke could there possibly be?

We left the restaurant a gaggle of Pennsylvanians and puke-covered locals, including a surprisingly pleasant Juniper. When we reached the corner of Kearny and Sacramento, I went against my better judgment and suggested we take the 1 California home. Three buses had come within minutes (you could see the previous two jerking to starts up Sacramento) so I figured the bus wouldn't get very busy and we would have a comfortable ride home on an empty bus.

I underestimated Chinatown. How does Chinatown have an infinite supply of surly octogenarians refilling the bus stops every two and a half minutes? The 1 California is my least favorite bus in the city: the lurching up Nob Hill, the bus's complete failure to even drive down its eponymous street until you get to Presidio. But the worst aspect is the high percentage of difficult riders:

  • The above-described octogenarians, who (god-forbid you choose to sit with a baby rather than give your seat up to them) will bore holes in you with lights streaking from their eyes like characters from that kick-ass Kurt Russell kung-fu trucker movie. Most only ride for a few blocks from Grant to Stockton or Powell, but many of them are riding from Chinatown I to Chinatown II, the inner Richmond.
  • Crazy middle-aged Chinese guys who sit there with like 6 or 7 red plastic bags filled with unidentifiable vegetables, laughing and talking to themselves while popping lychee nuts into their mouth and tossing the shells on the floor.
  • Yuppies who have been working late in the Financial District for whom the 1 California is the fastest way to Pacific Heights. I don't know if it's their use of the iPod or their cell phones or perhaps years of developed indifference, but the Pacific Heights yuppies are completely immune from the dragon-breathed octogenarians who stare at them for sitting while they stand.

Unfortunately, I have not developed such an immunity. For all I know they marched with the Kuomintang halfway across China more than half a century ago. I'm not going to make them stand on a bus teetering up Nob Hill. The bus was almost full of yuppies when we got on, and Wood and the Pennsylvanians went to the very back of the bus to stand or find seats among the yuppies and lychee-spitters. I sat in the first seat with Juniper in the bjorn. A few stops later, I looked outside the bus and saw about seventeen octogenarians crowding around the bus door like it was a Beijing ticket counter. Shit! As they piled on, already tuning their laser-gaze to focus on my youthful, able body, I stood up and walked towards the back of the bus. The yuppies avoided eye contact, I resigned myself to standing. But suddenly this old Italian dude was like, "Kid, you can't stand. Not with a baby! You CANNOT stand!" and he proceeded to yank my coattail and try to offer me his seat. "No, it's okay," I said. "It's really okay." He kept yanking on my coat and I swear I almost smacked his arm to let go.

Sometimes I prefer to stand on the bus with her. It gives Juniper the opportunity to see out the windows, which prevents her from becoming unpleasant. Plus if she starts whining I can bounce up and down. The problem with remaining afoot after such a scene was the staring. I've been to some remote parts of China that don't get to see whiteys too often, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with the Chinese staring thing. But there's something about seeing a whitey male (or maybe any male) with a baby strapped to his chest that causes old Chinese ladies to stare at me in a way that makes me really uncomfortable. When it happens on the street, Wood is always like, "Cool down, dude. They're staring at the baby, it's not about you. It's okay to stare at a baby. Chill." And that always puts me in my place, even if we have walked twenty paces and the old lady is still back there, mouth agape, staring at me. But the other night, Wood was at the back of the bus and not there to remind me of this while dozens of old Chinese ladies sat there and STARED at me. And I have to say it, they don't smile. They look so angry. Why? Is it me or is it the badly painted-on eyebrows? Why don't they smile? Babies are cute, right? If they're staring at the baby, WHY DON'T THEY SMILE? I started making eye contact with each of them, my face and eyes saying "What? What? What?" Alas, I am nowhere near as powerful as them. They have staring down.

As the bus gradually emptied, I found my way to the back where Wood and her family had seats. The bus was about half full, and I was tense as hell. Then Papa Wood got out his camera. Papa Wood is the kind of guy who will spend twenty minutes positioning a camera on a rock or a ledge and hitting the timer-button and rushing up to get in the picture himself, five or six times, over and over and over while his subjects groan. He will do this in touristy places. In restaurants. In living rooms. On the street. On a boat. He started snapping pictures of all of us on the bus, and this gave a reason for all the octogenarians to crane their necks and start staring all over again. Even the lychee-eaters wanted to get in on the staring. Who wouldn't? Who takes flash photographs on MUNI?

Then Juniper started vomiting again, and I reached out to catch it in the palms of my hands, lest it mix in with the lychee shells and wet, wadded up newspapers littering the floor of the bus.

This gave them something to really stare at, and I leaned back and closed my eyes. Even the yuppies woke up from their post-work daze and joined in on the staring. Is this how it feels to be a celebrity? People STARING at you, papparazzi snapping shots of you in inappropriate places, having sordid details about your child vomiting plastered on the internet? Uggh. And people go to Hollywood wanting to be famous?