36 Teresita

The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home…which is so far from my new Glen Park home to make one go ever so slightly bonkers. Let us put it this way. The clouds over this Pacific coastal city give one of the most remarkable imitations of rain I have ever seen. Of course, it doesn’t…rain, that is. It dries and dries, and tries and tries. So off one goes, feeling beneath a cloud. No wonder San Francisco is so enthused about coffee. Like Seattle, the skies are ever threatening. But unlike Seattle, they never deliver on that threat. With clouds in decorator tones of gunmetal gray, one also feels inclined to dress in dark winter colors. Might as well be in the UK. Where was I?

Well, my sister Susie and I were setting off for Noe Valley. We share some roots there, my former home and a place she visited often in the era of my first residence…which ended almost 35 years ago. How can such a thing be possible? As my British cousin Caroline keeps reminding, we are practically dead. Which doubtless adds to the eternal sense of vehicular peril that accompanies my days. But, what the hell, when one’s days are numbered at least one can try to keep them in sequence. Which explains this day’s return to the Noe Valley.

First, we have to salute the 36 Teresita bus, one of San Francisco Muni’s least known public transport lines. But now that I am finally armed with the right app, NextBus, there is a higher level of reality connected with transit. The wait goes out of waiting. The app says three minutes, and dammed if the bus isn’t there in approximately that interval. So this is what we’re doing, my sister and I. Oh, I confess to some last-minute doubts. After all, Noe Valley is only 1.5 miles away. Why not drive when the transit ride involves changing from bus to tram midway? Why indeed.

Actually when I’m at the bus stop waiting at least half of the answer becomes apparent. My sister and I are talking to each other. We are having an actual conversation while staring expectantly down the hill. And, yes, here it is, the 36 Teresita, rather a squashed Muni bus. Which is fine. Midday, the line carries few passengers. And it is almost an honor to watch the bus ramp descend just for me. And off we go, careening over the hill and through the turns that comprise many a Muni bus ride. My wheelchair slides several times in the course of our half mile ride. But what’s really interesting is the arrival at 30th Street. The bus ramps are just steep enough to make my wheelchair tilt forward, balancing on its front safety wheels like a ballerina. This happens on the way down to the ground. I ask my sister to grab the wheelchair’s back. And one would think that was that, except that it isn’t. There’s more. The sidewalk wheelchair ramp is unusually steep. I eyeball the thing. I shake my head in disbelief. My sister grabs the wheelchair back as we descend.

And we’re still talking. That’s the pleasant transit thing, I have decided. And within minutes we are plunged into our old stomping ground. Neither of us can quite decide where the old Meat Market Coffee Shop was, but we may have had lunch at the site. That’s how much a neighborhood can change. That’s how much time can transpire in a human life.

As for coffee, well, there is Bernie’s. The place not only has coffee, but an accessible toilet. Well, that might be overstating it. The toilet is much like the wheelchair ramp at 30th Street. It is there. Once I am inside, the triangular space confuses me ever so slightly. I can see how I got in. It’s unclear how I am going to get out. Geometry was never my best subject. And one thing about the wheelchair, the worst things occur in the mysterious netherworld beyond my rear wheels. Something crashes behind me when I am finally aligned to exit. I am certain it is one of those plastic toilet brushes. But once I have a good perspective, it turns out to be a section of the wall. In full disclosure, a wooden cover has come loose, knocked by my wheelchair tires, revealing an open wall and exposed sewer pipe. Whatever. We are out of here. And in between the J Church tram and the 36 Teresita bus, we even have a chance to talk to a couple of guys with a dog. But my app is telling me to hurry. Sure enough, with only a minute to spare, the 36 appears.

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