A cablecar Christmas

December 12, 2010

Jingle Bells, Jingle bells,
jingle near and far
Oh what fun it is to ride
in a leaky cable car, oh
Splashing through the rain
in a cable car that leaks
O’er the hills we go
watching windshield wiper streaks….
Trying hard to see
the holiday trees and sights
Oh what fun it is to watch
the babies squirm and scream, ohh…

As long as we were in San Francisco the other night, we thought we’d do something festive and in the holiday spirit.

The Classic Cable Car Company does a Christmas lights tour around the city in an original cable car (circa 1907)that’s been converted to a motor vehicle.

It was a messy night.

We lined up outside Union Square Garage in the pouring rain. A veritable downpour. Our little umbrellas tried valiantly to keep up. By the time the cablecar arrived and we climbed aboard, we were ready for shelter.

Inclement weather meant no-shows, so it was us, an older couple from the Czech Republic {ok, ok, they were probably our age} and a group that looked suspiciously like Chinese polygamists: two women, one man and four children, including two babies. We were all given Santa hats to get ourselves in a festive mood.

We should have known it was a bad sign when our driver moved us three feet over from our original cozy seat, center-bench. “We had a leak, but it’s better now. But just in case…”

As we lurched through the streets of San Francisco in rush hour traffic we got a rain-streaked view of the local holiday lights and decorations. Christmas music played and our guide’s patter about the city and its history was the only thing dry on board.

That bench leak may have improved, but every time we started up from a stoplight, a stream of water gushed in above us from the 100+year-old roof of the cable car. A puddle formed in front of my feet.

Our guide was valiant though, trying to give us pithy anecdotes and point out spectacular Christmas decorations. Huge ornament sculptures. Lights artfully outlining several skyscrapers like a modern sculpture. Huge trees lit up like…a Christmas tree.

Meanwhile, the polygamists held a separate, unrelated conversation, paying no attention to the guide, the lights or the music. Their babies cried to be fed, they talked about friends back in Texas and got louder and louder.

I’m not sure why they paid money to ride around on the pouring rain with little kids in a leaking cable-car-vehicle and have unrelated conversations, but there they were. Hungry babies. Kids kicking the wooden benches. Damp cold.

Polygamy is hard.

The Czech couple sat silently, wearing their Santa hats, looking shell-shocked. It was unclear how much they even understood, but they looked festive. The Chinese polygamists got louder and louder. We couldn’t hear a word the driver was saying or the carols.

“I’d love to hear the music and what the driver’s saying, but you guys are getting kind of loud,” I said to the husband. He apologized, they quieted and for a while we could hear our driver’s droll commentary.

After a little over an hour, we stopped at the Fairmont on Nob Hill. We dismounted our leaky cable car to go into the hotel and view a 22-foot-high gingerbread house.

I ran into the polygamists and their four kids in the ladies’ room, where they spent the entire break.

As we re-boarded the bus, our driver asked how the kids liked the gingerbread house.

“Oh, we never got there,” dad said. “Four kids and two women in a bathroom? No way.” {Like I said, polygamy is hard.}

An hour and twenty minutes later, we were back at Union Square garage.

It was only 7pm so we trudged through the puddles to a cozy diner and had ourselves a little supper, then headed back to our hotel.

We may not have had bells on bobtails, but we were laughing all the way.

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