Well, are you ready for some San Francisco stories of adventure?
The short version? We had a great trip! Claire has always been a fantastic traveler, and this was no exception.
The longer version? Grab a drink; sit back and get comfy…and fasten your seat belts. I’m afraid this may be a bumpy ride in parts, quite literally…
Speaking of transportation, we bought a “Seven Day Passport” that allowed us to ride the MUNI and public transit all day, every day, regardless of “type” (the cable car, street-car, bus, and train were included…except BART, but that’s okay, because we weren’t headed in BART’s direction anyway) all the days of our stay for a one-time relatively low fee. Claire was free to ride anyway, and after a couple roundtrips on anything, we’d paid for the pass. We HIGHLY recommend this option if you are a car-less tourist in San Fran. Of course, when we got to Daddy’s fancy-schmancy hotel, we were informed that the room CAME WITH A CAR that could be “arranged for free” for our stay.
We opted to stick with our passes and explore on foot, not wanting to tackle the driving and parking challenges of San Francisco.
In other news, I’m completely spoiled and may never stay in a “regular hotel” again. Just kidding.
Our trip wouldn’t have been an adventure without at least a little drama, and we definitely had some drama!
On Tuesday the 31st, we decided to combine our trip to explore the Mission District with our Letterboxing obsession, and we found a couple treasures! Perfect! After dinner, it was time to head back to the hotel, and we got on the bus.
Because we’d already been in San Fran for a few days at that point, we felt like experts. We knew which bus we needed, and we found it with ease. I thought it was a bit odd that the front half of the super-long “double” bus was almost empty, but we were happy to find seats and sat down.
That’s when the screaming started. A woman next to us started screaming obscenities, out loud, to no one in particular and everyone within earshot. I told Claire to just focus on me, and not pay attention to the woman, but it was hard. My husband and I debated getting off the bus and catching the next one, but then the woman got up from her seat and started weaving and stumbling around. Was she just confronting the demons in her head or getting off the bus? Surely if she wasn’t getting off the bus, she’ll be thrown off the bus for acting this way.
The next stop came and went, and she was still there screaming and stumbling, so we got up and went to the back half of the bus, not wanting to get off the bus just yet.
The screaming in the front of the bus continued, and not long after that, one of the people at the back of the bus started yelling at her and the driver.
This woman starts yelling about how the driver should throw “The Freak” off the bus or call the cops or both. She then started saying that if she was late to her half-way house again, she’d be thrown in jail. Again.
Seriously? You just can’t make this stuff up!
Then, The Freak at the front of the bus kicked it up a notch and got out these sticks and started hitting the seats. I am not sure what the sticks were, but they looked like drumsticks. She got dangerously close to another passenger, and when that happened, Half-Way House Lady in the back of the bus started yelling even louder and went up to confront The Freak.
As I’m typing this out, it all seems obvious that we should have gotten off the bus at our first inkling, but everything was happening in this weird slow-motion reality that is so clear when looking back and so confusing when it’s happening.
Now, the two of them are screaming at each other. There is kicking and hitting with sticks, and the bus driver is FINALLY calling the cops. He pulls over and gets out his phone. Right about at this time, Half-Way House Lady pulls a knife.
The INSTANT that knife blade flashed, I grabbed Claire and ran. With my husband close behind me, we bolted for the door. We jumped off the bus and fled on foot. I don’t remember how many blocks we ran before we slowed down. I remember glancing back at the bus and wondering if they were finally being thrown off, and if they were, we didn’t want to be anywhere near it.
It’s been a long time since I was quite so scared, and I’ve never experienced that level of alarm with Claire in tow. Yikes!
We knew we were headed in the direction of our hotel, but we didn’t know exactly how far away it was, so we kept running. I knew it was too far to go the full way on foot, but our choices were severely limited at that point. I wanted as much distance between my daughter and a knife fight as I could possibly get.
We stopped to catch our breath, and Claire started asking all kinds of questions. What’s wrong with that woman? Why was she saying those things? Why was she hitting people, and why doesn’t she have all her teeth?
I used this as the perfect teachable moment about the dangers of illicit drugs. Drugs that doctors give you because you’re sick? Those are fine if you use them the way the doctor tells you to. Drugs like what this woman had used? Bad. I swear, this bus-ride was more effective than any made-for-television movie or after-school special.
I also told her that there was nothing to worry about. She was with Momma and Daddy, and we were headed back to the hotel. Those crazy ladies couldn’t hurt us now.
The area where we’d bolted and fled on foot wasn’t the best area, so we kept moving. I have no idea how much time passed, but the bus eventually caught up with us again. Everything looked relatively calm, so we got back on.
After plopping down in the seats, I looked at another passenger and quietly asked, “Are they gone?”
She smiled and said, “Oh my goodness! Only in San Francisco! Yes, they’re gone. I’ve never quite seen it THAT bad.” And then her eyes got really big. “Wait. You guys got off all the way back there!! You guys made incredible distance!”
We laughed about how we hadn’t wanted to be anywhere NEAR that. Yes, I laughed because I didn’t want to cry, and I hoped Claire didn’t notice that I was shaking. It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel and I was alone in the bathroom that I left myself feel that fear.
WE’D FLED A KNIFE FIGHT ON FOOT.
On Wednesday, I was determined to make good memories to cover up the scary ones from the night before, so we rode the cable cars again. We’d had good luck with that on Sunday, and it was something I was comfortable doing by myself with Claire. The wait in line was insanely long, but it was so much fun. In totally related news, I’ve been calling those things trolleys for years. They’re not trolleys. They are cable cars. There IS a difference. Who knew??
Anyway…back to the story. We went to the Wharf (Pier 39) to visit the sea lions, and we even had our portrait drawn on the way back!
Looking back, Wednesday was pretty boring. There were no knife fights, and we didn’t have to flee anywhere on foot. It’s all relative, I suppose.
Then, on Thursday, when Daddy got back to the hotel from his conference (around 3pm or so), our mission was clear:
We went out to the Presidio to find Yoda.
When we were putting together our plan of attack, we both laughed that the only “convenient” way out there was via bus. We’d not had the best luck with the bus at that point, but what else could happen to top a knife fight?
So, we figured out which bus we needed, and we set out. The bus arrived, we crossed our fingers, and away we went! We’re going along, when all of a sudden, there was a terrible screeching noise. That weird slow-motion reality is back, and the bus is jack-knifing in the middle, and people are being thrown forward and to the side. People are swinging from the bars. People are falling. Everything is sliding.
In the blink of an eye, my right arm shoots out, and I try to catch Claire. I try to keep her from slamming into the seat in front of us, but we both hit the metal bar and metal back of the seat in front of us with pretty good force. Daddy was sitting in front of us, and he almost fell out of his seat, but he didn’t have a seat directly in front of him, and he was able to hold on.
Everything that slammed forward, reverses and stops, and we all sit for a moment in disheveled confusion.
Our bus has hit a car.
OUR BUS HAD HIT A CAR.
A car had pulled out in front of us, and the bus driver had slammed on the breaks. He was able to stop quickly enough that the only damage he did to the car was take off the mirror and dented the side. The driver of the car was very apologetic to everyone that got off the bus.
Yes, once again, we’re forced to get off a bus without reaching our final destination and go to the next stop, but this time, we weren’t fleeing for our lives. This time, we were making sure we’re all in one piece. My knee was bruised, and Claire was complaining about her chin, but I didn’t see a mark on her. I’m pretty sure her chin made a bruise on my ARM instead of slamming into the metal seat bar. It all happened so suddenly, and without warning. I can’t believe I was able to catch her just before she REALLY slammed into the seat, which is really hard to do when you’re also flying forward!
So far, the bus isn’t ranked too highly on my list.
Again, for Claire’s sake, we shook off the accident and went on in our adventures. The above tweet was typed with shakey fingers after we were safely on the second bus, as I was pretending to be okay. We were on a mission!
After our photoshoot with Yoda at the Presidio, we headed to the Wharf again. That evening, we rode a street-car back, and there wasn’t a knife fight, and we didn’t hit a car, so it was pretty boring…