I had run out for an errand that I thought would take me about half an hour. I felt under pressure to do so quickly because I was busy with a project.
On my return trip I sought out the bus stop on the corner of Market Street and Cyril Magnin; and thanks to the new electronic time alerts they have at bus shelters these days, I could see that my wait was going to be about 17 minutes. Unacceptable to me at the time but neither did I want to pay for a taxi.
So I sat down next to an elderly woman who it turned out was not waiting for the bus but for her husband. “He’ll be here in half an hour,” she said in her Tagalog accent.
She looked like a wizened dried mushroom under a floppy black hat.
“You have such beautiful hair,” she crooned through crumbling blackened teeth.
I thanked her and that was all she needed to launch into her curriculum vitae.
She said she was 77 years old and a karate master. “I still teach karate,” the ancient munchkin said. “And I give massages. I massaged my daughter.”
“Would you give me a massage,” I asked?
She nodded and smiled.
“Would you come to my house and give me a massage?”
“Oh no, I live in Daly City,” she indicated that the distance was too great.
But I got her to rub my right shoulder which had been cramping. But only for a few seconds. Darn.
“I teach karate,” she repeated. “Black belt.”
I said I was impressed.
“My husband also teaches karate. He was a boxer.”
“In the Philippines?” I asked.
“Yes and he was champion.”
Somehow her colorful and unstoppable narrative made waiting for the bus more tolerable. I felt I was learning something, absorbing the world or a world by witnessing this strange little lady. Drinking her in. Still I was anxious to get home.
A pedestrian, a tall youngish African-American professional type, loped by and called out, “I love your hair.”
That cheered me up. But then the electronic bus sign showed bus arrival was going to take even longer than the original 17 minutes. (How does that happen? Was the bus running backward?) I started thinking about the project that was waiting for me, moments ticking away.
“My husband is coming in about an hour,” my neighbor said. I did not point out that he was supposed to have come in half an hour when I had first sat down next to her 10 minutes earlier.
“I have three daughters. One daughter she is a nurse.”
“I’m just waiting for my husband to pick me up,” she said again.
Suddenly, this world I had been absorbing next to her seemed to have run its course.
I decided to hail a taxi and I hopped away.