It’s one of those days when I’m operating under a dark, angry cloud. The latter doubtless of my own making. But the outward expression is varied. Although public transport seems to be an excellent vehicle, no pun intended. It is raining. The saner course might be to drive to my 1 PM massage. But no, I tell myself, why risk driving? After all, it’s raining. To clarify for those of us who live in California, this means that droplets of water are descending from the sky, vis-à-vis gravity. Things get wet as a result. Just to clarify.
Besides, riding San Francisco’s transit system is always an adventure. It’s just that I don’t always need an adventure. I seem to be encountering quite enough misadventure inside my own head. But there you have it. I am waiting at the 36 bus stop for, you guessed it, the bus. While doing so a local constituent stops her car to ask if I am okay. The sarcastic and defiant in me acknowledges this open-ended question as broadly philosophical…feigning ignorance of its context. But I am a neighbor. A San Franciscan. A representative of the ‘the disabled community so the saner portion of my mind prevails. Yes, I tell her, I am fine. She looks unconvinced. Your wheelchair hasn’t broken down, she asks? I assure her that I am waiting for a bus. She isn’t convinced of this either, but she drives off anyway. In the two remaining minutes before the 36 arrives, I ponder at the disconnect. Maybe she doesn’t believe cripples should be in the rain. Maybe she doesn’t believe anyone be in the rain…which would only make her a California native. Maybe she doesn’t know that wheelchairs can board buses. I muse on this only slightly. First thing you know I am bouncing down the hill on the 36, looking at my phone and wondering about my connection.
Yes, it’s a bit of an urban sport. So if I play my transit cards just right, I will leap from the 36 and grab the 12 as it crosses just ahead. Ahead of what, you ask. Well, ask away. I’m not telling. But by now we have emerged from the hills into the flatlands of the Mission District, and the junction of Cesar Chavez and Mission Streets is fast approaching. So the bus stops, I roll out and see in the distance the disappearing 12 bus. Too late, alas, too late.
I don’t know why this bothers me so much. But I’m in a mood to have things bother me. I should have driven my car, I now tell myself. I should not have done this at all, because my wheelchair is shuddering…for what must be mechanical reasons, probably terminal ones at that. Where did I go wrong? Besides birth. Where? Where is the 14 bus stop, I am also asking. Thing about San Francisco, bus stops are subtle. Only a few have metal signs proclaiming their existence. Most consist of nothing more than a bit of red painted on the curb. But two blocks on, one of those curbs presents itself. I am going to be late for my Monday massage.
But even I don’t know how late. Because even though the 14 bus has appeared and even stopped right before me, everything else has stopped too. A woman is trying to pay the bus fare. A splendid effort, one must say. But it requires that she stand right next to the driver, apparently trying to shove money into the fare box, while she also stands on the wheelchair ramp. This takes so long, whatever she’s doing, that I can actually hear passengers inside the bus screaming at her. Finally she moves on, and so do I. But not completely. It’s raining, after all, my wheelchair tires are worn, and I can’t get up the slight ramp into the bus, because I am literally spinning my wheels. I reverse, have another high-speed go at it. And now I am really in the thick of things. Things being thick with wheelchairs. There is one already on board. And with my bald, wet tires I skid into it several times trying to maneuver. Guess who is delaying the bus now. Guess who was very late for his appointment.