Photo by dannyman
I live in the Excelsior, at the top of the hill near McLaren Park. On days when I commute on BART, I sometimes take the 52 Excelsior for my uphill homeward trip, although the recent service cuts can mean a wait that’s longer than my total walk home.
Monday night, I saw by the Next Muni sign that I would have a very long wait for the bus, so I decided to start walking. I was carrying several heavy bags, my knee hurt, and it was foggy and windy – not a great evening for the 9-block schlep up the steep hill to my house. I was moving slower than usual, so when I got to Silver and Mission, I checked the sign at the bus shelter – 9 minutes for a 52. I decided to sit down and wait for it.
As soon as I did, I realized that I didn’t want to spend the next 9 minutes inhaling second-hand smoke from the kid standing directly upwind – and I didn’t want to move my tired, sore self from the bus shelter seat, either, so I asked him to move downwind. He turned around, and the last thing I was expecting to see was a sunny smile, but that’s what he gave me as he said “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English” (in quite passable English).
I made myself understood, he moved downwind, and I was settling back in to wait when he popped back, saying “excuse me, can you help me?” and brandishing a map. Now, I was not in the best mood, but he seemed very harmless, I had time to kill, and I never mind giving directions. I had a hard time understanding him at first – his accent was odd, though he spoke well – but figured out that he wanted to go to Prague Street. He didn’t know the cross, but Prague is only 5 blocks long, and he said he’d be able to find his way once he got there. As I was wondering why this clearly foreign visitor wanted to go to a random residential block in the Excelsior, he explained that he was an Argentinian on day 1 of a 3-month English language course, and was staying with a family in the neighborhood.
As it happened, the best way for him to get where he was going was the 52, so I told him to get on the bus with me, and showed him the sign that said the next bus was coming in 3 minutes. Read more