You’re sitting in the back on the 5-Fulton from Ocean Beach heading to City Hall, to an errand that will take time and patience, so you let yourself enjoy the warm afternoon’s ride, doing nothing at all. The transoms are open, and the smell of eucalyptus in Golden Gate Park is wonderful.
A woman gets on at 37th Avenue. She gets your attention because that’s the Senior Center and she is only in her thirties, but for another reason, too. She is wearing a lovely red and blue silk scarf around a clearly bald head, a fake-fur lined jacket, and faded jeans tucked into high boots. She takes the side-facing seat right in back of the driver and turns forward, creating a tiny private space. Her cell phone comes out. You want to go back to the eucalyptus smell, but you keep hearing bits of her calls, one after the other. “Please send a copy to Doctor….” “Can you email the MRI’s to… ?” You hear St. Mary’s hospital mentioned, and that’s on the 5 route. The woman never sounds stressed or angry, although it is clear that she is not getting whatever it is she needs. After a large number of calls, she hangs up and begins cursing. She turns and faces sideways. The cursing stops, and she sinks into dazed silence.
The bus climbs the hill to Stanyan, which is the stop you use when you visit St. Mary’s, but she doesn’t get off. Okay, you think, the next stop, Shrader, at the top of the hill, is also good. But she doesn’t get off there either, and the bus heads down the other side of the hill. You see the woman give a quick start – she has realized her error – and pull the “Stop Requested” cord. She is back in professional mode, gathering her belongings and getting off.
You could have shouted something to her, maybe “Good luck.” You didn’t. But that’s okay. Later, she will need support, two arms to hold her and reassure her, but at this moment, she cannot chance letting down her guard. Her armor must be perfect.