First, the boring preamble part:
Friday night, about 10:15 p.m. on Market Street. I had just spent an evening attending the theater and boarded a 6-Parnassus bus along with a large group of people to return home, including a very short man whom I thought was going from passenger to passenger asking for spare change. I took a seat, but he didn’t, and I noticed that he spoke only to women. Finally, one of these woman, about 60, stood up, confronted him, and shook a finger in his face.
“You! Get off this bus! You have been sexually harassing all of the women on this bus, and I want you to leave right now, or else I will have you arrested! Get off the bus, right now!”
I didn’t know he had been harassing the women because he spoke so quietly, but looking closely, this was a homeless man, and he was clearly high on something like meth. I know what percentage of the homeless consist of families; I know what percentage consist of children; however, a small percentage of the homeless are bums, and sometimes bums are bums, and this was one of those bums-are-bums kind of bums, harassing women just like this guy. The older woman continued to stand her ground and shout at him, an impressive display of courage because as short as he was (less than five foot six), she was even shorter. Finally, she shouted to the bus driver, “Security! Security!” The bus driver did nothing–she was way in the back and he might not have heard her. Or he acted like he might not have heard her.
Well as you well know, an evening at the theater will bring out the mucho macho machismo in any manly manful mannish man, so I stood up and said to the men in my immediate vicinity, “Who wants to help?” They looked at me as if I was crazy (how did they know?), so I asked again, “Who wants to help?” All of the men nearby were much younger and stronger than me but they shrank away.
“I am not going to do this by myself. I want at least two men to help me. Three on one, we can persuade him to leave. Who wants to help?”
One gentleman had made threatening gestures at the bum when the guy wasn’t looking at him, so I asked the man, “Would you like to help?” His response consisted of curling into a ball and looking away from me. Meanwhile, the drug addict had moved to the stairs at the back of the bus while berating all of the women on the bus and all of the women in the world in general. This was his way of staging a protest: the back doors open and stay open when a San Francisco electric bus stops and someone stands on the steps. If you don’t get off the steps, the doors don’t close, and the bus cannot move (it’s a safety measure). He had stopped the bus to punish and vent his feelings about all of the women in the world in general.
“Who wants to help?”
“Are you serious? Because I am.”
I hadn’t seen or heard this stranger, whomever he was, approach me. I turned to my right and found myself face to face with Clark Kent.
Yes. That Clark Kent.
No joke. If you have ever wondered how Clark Kent appears in real life, I can tell you. Seriously, he looked almost exactly as he does in the comic books and graphic novels, lacking only the grossly over-inflated chest. He was maybe two inches taller than me, with short curly black hair and nerdy horn-rimmed glasses, plus that intense burning stare, but his lanky graceful movements reminded me of some of the black belts I’ve known. Think of Clark Kent as a capoerista or a Muy Thai or Jiujutsu black belt (how many spelling errors did I just commit?) and you can picture him. Imagine that–not only is Clark Kent as strong as, well, you know, Clark Kent, he knows martial arts, too. I said, “Yes I’m serious, but let me talk to the guy first.”
I had begun to feel sorry for the meth head.
Talking to the guy was a waste of time; after all, he was stoned. He made up his mind that if he was going to get off the bus at all, he would leave via the front door. I picked him up but he got loose and sat down again, but this time he made a big mistake–he sat with his back to my partner. Clark Kent hooked his hands under the meth-head’s shoulders, lifted him clear off the ground, I hooked my hands under his legs, and together we threw the addict ten feet through the air into a metal railing. He hit the railing hard, just as you might expect–after all, Clark Kent had thrown him with a tiny assist from me–as stared at something real hard, his jaw hanging down. The doors shut, the bus moved on, and my partner and I shook hands and received a combined standing/sitting ovation.
But that’s the boring preamble part.
Clark Kent sat down next to his girlfriend, Lois Lane.
Yes. That Lois Lane.
She styled her hair in a dark wavy bob, just like Lois Lane, and boy was she thrilled to have him all to herself. Her eyes glittered, glistened and shone like white diamonds in water in a petri dish lit from underneath. She French kissed Clark with extreme aggression and stroked his thigh very close to you-can-guess-what-she-put-her-hand-very-close-to. Actually, a little closer than very close, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
Funny thing about Clark—the strong man turned flimsier than a strand of overboiled linguini in Lois’ hands as if she wore bracelets made of Kryptonite. The more she stroked him and kissed him, the louder and harder she breathed. It’s a good thing they got off the bus a quarter-mile later because Lois was this close to losing all self-control and doing something that would have gotten herself and Clark Kent in trouble with the law, and wouldn’t that have been ironic? Funny thing–the superhero seemed curiously helpless in her hands.
But that’s still the boring preamble part.
Meanwhile, I sat down next to a woman who turns out to be my epistolary competition. This was a tall young woman with a brown ponytail close to three decades younger than me who was using her iPhone to post what she had just seen to Facebook. Colleen has been living in San Francisco for only two years, and during those two years she has collected stories of her experiences on public transit and sent them to her friends. Unlike me, she can provide extra value to her readers: by a strange coincidence, she is usually on the cell phone with her mother when her events occur, so she can not only tell her friends what she saw, she can tell them what her mother had said about what she had seen.
So we swapped stories. We had enough time to share two apiece, so she told me about a crackhead on one bus who freaked out over nothing and started screaming to the other passengers, “You are all Satan’s Kitties! You are all Satan’s Kitties! You are all Satan’s Kitties!” Fortunately, most of her experiences were benign: her other story told of how she sometimes sees a woman on the bus who will spontaneously start pole dancing (clothes on) while singing cheerful love songs and bringing smiles to everyone’s faces. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what Colleen’s mother had to say about that. Sorry, folks.
Apologizing for Being Only the Second Best Public Transit Story Teller in San Francisco, I Remain,
Vonn Scott Bair