Photo of Columbus Ave in San Francisco showing Transamerica Pyramid and City Lights Bookstore

8.  Bus-Ted

By Andrew Nash

Episode 1: Vienna Woods    … Episode 2: Bunker Business   … Episode 3: Red Herring Keller   … Episode 4: The Physical Network   … Episode 5: Time and City Spaces … Episode 6: Platz Presse … Episode 7: Coffee in bed

There was a double seat free on the right side, perfect for watching people on the sidewalks as the bus made its way down Columbus and also being on the shady side once they were on the freeway. Passing City Lights his phone dinged. Damn, he thought he was muted – bus protocol was everyone muted – otherwise it’d be like an Arnold Schoenberg concert.

It was a Signal message from Andrea. He should have expected it, but their second to last conversation hadn’t been warm and fuzzy. And after sleeping on it he wasn’t sure about last night’s either. Of course, he’d been surprised it was her answering the hotline, but more to the point he wondered whether his message wasn’t a bit over dramatic. Sure, it was weird people at work were asking about his “Vienna pals,” but did that merit a breathless warning without a friendly word to his Ex? And, of course, even with the voice mod she recognized him.

Photo of neon sign at Cafe Vesuvio San FranciscoThanks for the heads-up. Some weird stuff went down but we’re OK. Talk soon.

Talk soon? That was about the last thing he expected to hear from Andrea.

“Hey, can I sit with you?” Franz’s head jerked up to see Ted, the guy who’d been asking questions standing in the aisle looking at him as the bus pulled out and headed over the Caltrain tracks for I-280.

“Of course,” Franz replied moving his backpack and brushing away focaccia crumbs, “Please.” Bus etiquette was that you never said “no” when asked if the empty seat next to you was free, but pretty much nobody liked giving up the space.

“Thanks! I usually don’t take this bus, but I was staying with my boyfriend last night and thought I’d check it out,” explained Ted before Franz had a chance to wonder.

“Nice meeting you the other day.” Ted continued, as though his visit had been purely social, “And hey, my friend and I were talking last night about visiting Prague and Budapest next summer with a break in Vienna on the way, so it’s great seeing you now – do you have time to give me some tips?”

It bothered Franz that Vienna was always the place his Bay Area friends passed through on their way someplace cool like Berlin, Prague, or Budapest. On the other hand, they had a point, Vienna was a wonderful city, but it was far behind cities like Copenhagen in cycling or Paris in creating 15-minute neighborhoods – in short, building a city attractive to the young people who’ll be pivotal in the future economy.

Photo of Mozart orchestra concert in Goldenen Saal Vienna Musikverein“Sure, no problem!” Franz replied, happy Ted wouldn’t continue his earlier line of questioning. “Vienna’s great and you’ll have a fantastic time. It’s only four hours from Prague and three from Budapest – with excellent train service so it’s a perfect stopover.”

“Nice. Do you have any secret tips? Maybe cool places where tech folks hang-out?”

That sounded odd. Most tech folks tried to get as far away from work when they vacationed, or at least that’s what they said. What was Ted up to? But Franz had no problem filling the 45-minute drive down the peninsula with tourist recommendations and trendy places to eat and drink, after all, how many summers had he spent dressed as Mozart selling concert tickets on Stephansplatz?

As they were getting off the bus Ted asked, “Thanks man, wanna get a coffee? I’ll buy.” It was funny, the company did charge for coffee, but it was so cheap it was essentially free. They did it as a way of encouraging their employees to build relationships by buying each other coffees. Brave new world.

“Sorry, can’t. I’ve got an appointment I should have kept 10-minutes ago.”

Episode 9 … The Austrian connection


Andy Nash

December 17, 2021


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