Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Shift #77

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 -- Leavenworth/California to Baker/Geary -- $8.05

to her apartment building just as I’m ringing the buzzer. She has short curly red hair, still glistening from her recent shower. She smiles as we exchange good mornings, and I notice that she has crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes, as do I. (Later, when we get to talking baseball, I will learn that we’re about the same age -- she’s fifty-six, and I turned fifty-nine just last week -- and she’s one of those rare passengers, someone born-and-raised in San Francisco.)

“What a beautiful morning,” she says. “Is it supposed to get hot, do you know?”

Me: “Mid-eighties, I heard.” The nine o’clock sky is an empty blue mirror -- I’ve been driving around since seven with my windows down, sweet air tickling the hair on my left forearm.

She: “It was cold for so long.”

Me: “Are you a baseball fan?”

“Not so much anymore, but I was when I was younger... Back in the days of Willie McCovey and Willie Mays.”

Me: “The Giants have been like this summer's weather -- cold and hot and cold and hot again. For the last couple of weeks they’ve been trading first place with the San Diego Padres. Last night they beat the Cubs thirteen-to-nothing and slipped back into first place by half a game.”

She: “I had no idea -- that’s ex-citing! The season must be just about over?”

Me: “Nine games left -- pennant fever time. The last three games are against San Diego, here, next weekend. I have a 13-year-old daughter, and we’re going to one of those games. Have you been to the new stadium?”

“Yes. What a beautiful place. But I haven’t been there in years. My dad took my older brother to Candlestick a lot, but he hardly ever took me or my sister. I didn’t really start going until I was about twenty.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

She: “Yes -- and then to rub salt, my brother kidnapped the baseball card collection my sister and I kept -- and we had some really good ones!”

Me: “Really! I have two younger brothers, and one of them kidnapped my baseball card collection -- I’m not even sure which one of them has it. Actually, ownership is a little murky -- my brothers collected, too, but I started before they did. Over the years, our mother threw out most of them, but we managed to keep a stack of the best ones. I think we have a Mickey Mantle/Roger Maris card in there. Did your brother have any sort of reasonable claim…?”

She: “No! They’re ours! He’s just throwing his big brother weight around. They’re ours!”

Me: “Aghh! Big brothers... What can you do?”

When we stop on Baker Street, I turn around: “Everyday I give away one free ride. Today, this is my free ride.”

She: “No…”

But I know exactly how to end this conversation: “This is for all those games you didn’t get to go to -- and for the baseball cards.”

She smiles at me so widely that she looks like a little kid -- maybe thirteen years old. “Oh, thank you,” she says. And then she steps out into the shade of a healthy green oak tree on Baker Street, on a bright beautiful day in San Francisco, in the heart and the heat of pennant season.

Go Giants!


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