“How terribly strange to be 70,” sang Simon to Garfunkel or Garfunkel to Simon. It doesn’t matter for the lyrics were so preternaturally middle-of-the-road and and so indefinite in their shelf life, not to mention their meaning, that damn if they didn’t pop into my head just this afternoon. Mind you, the strangest thing about pushing 70 is that it’s a lot like pushing 60, not to mention 30. Objectively, there is a demonstrable diminishment of balance, and there is a slowing of reflexes, coupled with a lack of alertness, vis-à-vis attention.
I really notice what hasn’t changed, principally my anxiety level. That, and a tendency to berate myself for my anxiety level. Having lunch today with a friend in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood, I began by lamenting my own fearfulness around driving. It’s not that getting behind a steering wheel and going there is of much concern. The real worry is what happens when one arrives. There is no parking, I told myself. Then I told myself that “no parking” doesn’t mean that there isn’t any parking at all ever. So if one arrives early, drives around, and eventually a parking space manifests, right?
So while knocking myself for a timorous attitude toward parking, Damned if I didn’t throw caution to the transit winds and hop aboard the #36 Teresita bus. We have at least five bus routes through our neighborhood, and three proudly proclaim their stop at Forest Hill Station. The #36 displays Forest Hill electronically across the front the bus. So…and this is really cool if you’re into transit…all roads lead to Forest Hill. If that’s what you want, you’ve got a 60% chance of getting there, whatever bus you take. And since my iPhone app announced that the #36 was only one minute away, I went flying out the door, so to speak, rolled 30 m up the hill, and waited. Briefly.
Whatever made me think that that #36 was as determined to get to Forest Hill as I was? We rolled out of my neighborhood, and headed toward the adjoining district, a nondescript one, that I really don’t know much about. But there’s no better way to find out, right? On and on, we rolled westward, finally turning right toward Twin Peaks. What ensued is more or less indescribable. If there was ever a neighborhood bus, the #36 is it. We rolled up one sloping neighborhood, turned left and rolled through another. At one point, in it’s left and right turns, the bus seemed to be switchbacking. Hard to say. In one neighborhood, the 36 did reach a sort of apogee, pulling into a buses-only circle and actually reversing 360 °. Yes, we actually retraced our steps for several blocks. Forest Hill? It was beginning to feel like a distant memory, Until we turned on to one major street, then another, then finally stopped in front of the station. More than 30 minutes had transpired. Note that in a pinch, I could probably roll to Forest Hill in less time.
Parking in West Portal? Trust me, there wasn’t any. What there was construction. Arriving, I couldn’t see how to get from the tram station to the restaurant, just across the street. Pressed for time, and running low on ideas, I crossed the street in one direction, turned in another and essentially went around the block. Okay, slow bus or not, there was no parking, after all. Vindicated. But I was in no mood to feel vindicated. Instead, I was in a mood to take the #44 bus back from Forest Hill. It literally flew over Twin Peaks, driven by a Muni kamikaze who braked so hard at a stop that I was almost thrown out of my wheelchair. I rolled off the bus, happy to return to Glen Park, my neighborhood…and feeling certain that there was a lesson in this day but very doubtful that I ever know it.