Tuesday, April 14, 2009
It was one of the rare nights that I decided not to stop for a post-work drink at the Irish Bank off of Bush Street or The Expansion on Market and Church. As I pedaled down Drumm Street, running a few red lights before making a right onto the foot of Market Street, I heard the electric snap and fizz of a MUNI bus approaching and looked back to see the 21 Hayes bus pulling up to its stop at the corner. For a moment, I entertained the idea of throwing my bike onto the rack that MUNI had recently installed on its fleet and getting dropped off a block from my apartment. But I then remembered the ten different types of cheese, the crab cakes, the jerk chicken and everything else that I had grazed on over the course of my shift.
I could use the ride, I was sure of that. A few hills, a brisk pace, a slight sweat and I would be home in twenty minutes.
About an hour earlier, from the 17th floor of the Hyatt Regency, where I was tending bar at The Equinox -“San Francisco’s only rotating rooftop restaurant”- I could see the black water of the San Francisco Bay churning and the pavement of Herb Caen Way slick with a late spring rain. I went back into the kitchen, where they hid the service bar, and remembered that the next day was Easter Sunday. The radio, tuned to KFOG, croaked out an old Elvis Costello tune and in-between making drinks I flipped through the Bay Guardian seeing if there were any worthwhile shows in the coming week. There weren't.
The mélange of servers—mostly Chinese but with an HIV positive gay man and a few Latinos sprinkled in—came by sporadically to pick up their orders, all with a complaint of some sorts to deliver to me.
“Not enough rum in the Cuba Libre at 34! Why so weak, huh? No good for tip.”
“Table 12 wanted a Grey Goose martini. He says this isn’t Grey Goose. I need Grey Goose or he’s not gonna tip. And make sure you give him three olives.”
“Can you pour me a little Don Julio on the side? I just cannot deal tonight . . .”
I silently complied to their various requests and thought about my plans for the next day: sleeping until about 10, a pot of tea, the Sunday Chronicle (which I would bitch about being a terrible paper) and maybe even shoot a little hoop in the Mission before coming back to work for the 3:30pm shift at the main bar in the Atrium.
By 11:30, the rain had given way to a phantasmagoric mist.
I went down on Market just past Third Street. The doorman at the Four Seasons ran over to see if I was alright and, being as that I really didn’t know what happened, I assumed that I was and went to pick my bike up. A few homeless guys hooted and laughed at me from the other side of the street.
The doorman, a black guy in his early thirties with a cherubic face who smelled like sweet menthol cigarettes, tried to dissuade me from moving. He grabbed me gently and said, “No man, no. Don’t. C’mon over here lets call you an ambulance.” Seeing my bike lying in the middle of a deserted Market Street with its handlebars twisted sideways, I slowly began to regain the last five minutes.
I was in a rush to get through the stretch of Market that at the midnight hour was populated by the detritus of San Francisco’s liberal politics. Passive drunk bums. Passed out derelicts. Menacing drug dealers in front of bottom of the barrel strip joints. The truly insane, Emperor Norton like characters. For about three blocks I had tried to pass the accordion-like 38 Geary (or it could’ve been the 31 Balboa) but each time I had started to creep up on the outside, the back end of the bus would jerk in my direction. Finally, wanting to just get past the damn thing, I decided to push past with several furious pedal strokes. Once I reached just about the middle of the bus, I took my eye off of the road in front of me and tried to make eye contact with the driver in his side mirror, to make sure that he knew where I was and didn’t decide to switch into the middle lane. The lane reserved for the F Market trolley car. The one that I was in. The one with slick metal tracks that are the scourge of every SF cyclist.
As the doorman helped me pull my bike out of the street, a police cruiser pulled up and flashed its lights. Two officers emerged- a short, fat lesbian cop with salt and pepper hair and a tall thin Asian cop. The doorman, resplendent in his uniform, ran over to give them the lowdown on what had just happened—a conversation that I wished I would have been privy to as the minute or so between trying to make eye contact with the bus driver and then coming to on the side of the street remains locked up somewhere deep in my subconscious.
Once again, I assured the officers that I would be fine to ride home if I could just get a hand in realigning my handlebars. One of the officers, the stern looking Asian cop, just held his gaze on my right arm and shook his head.
“We’ll give you a ride home. Where do you live?”
“No, I’m cool, officer. Can you just give me a hand with my bike?”
The cop helped me, throwing my bike into the back of the cruiser and then opening the back door and motioning for me to get in. Once I was in, the lesbian cop asked me if I had a light on my bike. I said no. They asked me again where I lived and I told them. By the time we got to Steiner and Fell my right wrist was swollen to the size of a Yule log but curiously without even a tinge of pain.
Coldly, but courteously, the Asian cop looked back at me and said, “I have to tell you, sir, you will not be able to bring any action against MUNI due to the fact that you did not have a light on your bike.”
My girlfriend and I spent a few hours in the Emergency Room at the Kaiser Hospital on Geary and Divisadero where we found out that in fact both my wrists were broken.
Needless to say, I was not shooting any hoops the next day.