Tag Archives: MUNI

Hey You. Yeah, You. I Smell Your Sandwich.

imageSo it looks like we both got on the same MUNI stop – 4th and King, near AT&T Park in San Francisco. I don’t know about you, but I was just leeching off of Panera’s free wi-fi for a couple hours and enjoying the sunlight in SoMa before heading back into the fog that’s now spilling over Twin Peaks like a fleece blanket made of water droplets from hell.

It also appears that you sat directly behind me and that you brought a little snacky-poo. Because here’s what you don’t know: I’m starving right now and as a result, I have olfactory abilities that rival most predatory animals. In this moment, cheetah snouts ain’t got nothing on this nose. I can’t see you but I can smell you. I can smell you and that mesquite turkey sandwich on ciabatta bread and local provolone cheese with house-made chipotle aioli, crunchy romaine lettuce and thinly sliced red onion to boot. No tomatoes.

I can smell it all. I can smell that you’re wearing the hoodie your startup gave you, the human version of cattle branding, and I can smell your straight cut dark jeans, your thick-rimmed glasses and your sneakers – the popular kind. I smell your haircut, your five o’clock shadow, and the guilt you have for not keeping in better touch with your college roommates.

I smell your insecurity, your fear of failure, and your desire to be accepted. I smell the nervousness that you feel when you enter a room full of people who expect something from you and the fact you hit your snooze button twice this morning and that earlier this week, you cracked the screen of your iPhone when you dropped it on the sidewalk in front of Philz coffee.

I smell your doubt and the creeping sensation that you’re somehow missing the point of it all and the embarrassment you felt earlier today when you thought a cute girl was checking you out but it turned out she was just looking to see if the bus was coming. It wasn’t coming, but that didn’t matter because it wasn’t your bus. I know that because I can smell the numbers of the buses you usually ride wafting off your breath as you exhale the sweet scent of fresh bread and chipotle mayo, because that’s all aioli is. It’s mayonnaise.

And I can smell that you know that. You know that aioli is just mayo. You learned about aioli shortly after you moved here from Wisconsin, and shortly after that you learned the two condiments are essentially one in the same but you still say aioli whenever you can because you want to believe that you’re different now, and that despite the fact you might be missing the point of it all and despite the fact that girl didn’t even see you or your fancy haircut, despite all of it you want to believe that you’ve made something more of yourself.

So it’s aioli, not mayo, because this is San Francisco and this is the MUNI and this is your evening meal on your commute home.

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That’s Just Me Staring at Your Ear

Scowl_earI find myself staring at ears a lot nowadays, on the subway or when I’m standing behind people in line at Peet’s. I zone in on the ear, or the back of the neck, or the elbow of the jacket, where it’s pulled tight but I can still see some wrinkles in it from where it’d been crumpled up and left in the passenger’s seat.

I try to memorize every detail possible, or at least take them all in.

The staring started after I got interested in other people and wanted to swim into their lives and know all their stories and secrets. I’m pretty sure that makes me the opposite of a psychopath, so you don’t need to worry about my mental health, mom. Also, I’m taking vitamin B12 which improves mental function and tastes like candy.

The ear is a very personal part of the body. Only best friends and lovers know the ears of others intimately. I myself don’t know my ears very well. If you stared at one long enough, you might get to know it better than I do, and then in that one way, you would know me better than I know myself.

The same applies to certain parts of clothing – the back of a shirt or a coattail. I’m not aware, as I’m going about business as usual, how my clothing sits on me, how the wind is affecting it or what the pattern of raindrops is on my back or umbrella. Only someone else could know those things about me.

In digging into these minute observations, the boring pattern of ear hair, where a certain mole falls on the neck, or the mundane way the fabric appears to be worn at the knees and the jeans are feathering, I feel – and stay with me here – that I’m taking back control of time and adding detail to the blurs that other people can become around me.

earOften, during the past month or so, I’ve wished I could memorize every single face I see, the eyes and the nose and the skin tone and the blemishes, and that I could understand something of the story behind that face, where she had come from and where she was going, what he was thinking about and hoping, and everyone with a different story, all of them distinct but reassuring in their similarities, in the familiar concerns everyone has, the desire for good health and love, the dream of  taking time off to be with family or friends or travel the world, the fears of being alone or not living a life that’s worthwhile.

Jostling, rushing for a seat on the bus, walking past others on the streets – this is the way I have to live in a city. I’ve learned the ways to cope when there are so many people and so many heartbreaks and joys that could burst out and give me some perspective on my life. It’s self-defense, and it’s necessary.

But on the MUNI, when I’m staring at ears and dress pants, it becomes clear that there’s really nothing between me and this other human, that I could reach out and start a conversation with them and they would respond as they would respond. That’s the real fear – that there’s nothing there, no barrier, not a single thing.

We’re all in the same vehicle together with our burdens and curiosities and there’s nothing stopping us from sharing them with one another, except for everything.

And now I’ve overstepped the bounds of this article of talking about my new habit of ear-detail-gathering, and I know longing for intimate conversation on the MUNI is bizarre and would be psychotic except for those B12 vitamins I’m taking, but I guess I just want to remind myself that life is more interesting than the boundaries I create for myself.

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