Local Color—San Francisco:
Tales From The Sidewalks Of San Francisco


All originally posted on my blog Sloth And Dignity.

An Afternoon At The Races, Unplanned

So, last night I was standing on Mission in South of Market with my phone out, trying to find a nearby hardware store, when off in the distance, maybe a block behind me, I thought I heard a voice yell, “Stop!”

My mind went off into a daydream for a second—what if there’s a thief coming my way, and I get to trip him up? But wait—what if the “thief” is actually a victim in danger, being chased by a criminal, and I’d be helping the criminal by stopping him? What should I do? I didn’t have time to think more than that, though, because from a half a block away, clearly now, I heard a panicked man’s voice: “Stop!”

Now, I had my phone in one hand, which is chained to my belt, and my very heavy briefcase slung over my back, so I wasn’t ready to do any dexterous moves, but I was in perfect position to stand my ground and use my nowadays considerable weight to block the progress of someone coming towards me. So I turn around, and see a shouting man running at me through traffic. Behind him are two other people chasing, and, too late, I notice in the lead, a tiny little terrier in a little doggy coat, moving at top speed, straight towards me through the traffic.

Too confused to know what to do, I stood low to the ground in my best blocking stance, as if I could stand low and wide enough to intercept a four pound dog. It feinted to the left, diverted to the right and ran right past me, up the sidewalk. I valiantly tried to snatch the terrier as it bolted by. That fucker was fast. So I whirled and joined the procession of people running after it. The dog careened past another set of people, who also failed to catch it and joined in the chase, before it tried to get past a knot of kids further up the sidewalk who quickly appraised the situation and managed to corrall it against a wall and scoop it up before it was able shift course again and get around the obstacle.

At this point the lead guy chasing caught up, and promptly tripped over the curb and fell flat on his face on the sidewalk. Obviously caring more about the dog than his own safety, he immediately got up and got a grip on it before it could wriggle away again. “Oh, thank you, thank you,” he said, “It’s not even my dog. I just got him for my girlfriend.” He took the dog under his arm and sauntered off, panting.

The rest of us stood around for a minute catching our breath before going our separate ways without a word.

Met Cute, Sank Same

9 minutes before the post office closes. Totally adorable woman hurries onto the back of the line. I get in line behind her. She asks me what date it is, I tell her, and she does an in-the-air calculation as to when her package should arrive. She’s cute, dressed in a scarf and far too many layers for the penetrating San Francisco late afternoon sun, much more appropriate for the earlier afternoon San Francisco foggy dampness.

We get into a conversation about dates and times and schedules and procrastination. We’re both there to do things far too complicated to get done in the few minutes before close. We talk about always rushing to get things at the last minute. She says there’s a reason she’s on line at 5:30 pm. I say there’s a reason I’m on line behind her. We talk about being self-employed, which we also have in common. At 5:30 on the nose, two clerks open up and call she and I. It takes me a few minutes to get my complicated transaction done. I look over when I’m done, and two windows down, she’s deeply involved in some sort of negotiation with the clerk, and I leave.

I get outside and park myself 10 feet up the sidewalk, three-quarters of a turn away from the foot traffic and fiddle with my phone. I play a quick game of Minesweeper. I look to see if a drug store has opened in the neighborhood in the last 30 minutes. I check the lobby hours for a bank I know is already closed.

Finally, she emerges from the post office, walks up the sidewalk, then stops, barely five feet away from me, facing three-quarters of a turn in the other direction. She stands there, intently digging in her handbag.

I open my map app again and gaze at it, devoid of any idea what to look up. She stands and rummages around her bag some more. So I wait a 10-count, put the phone away, and as soon as I take a step, her hand emerges from her handbag holding sunglasses, which she puts on, and we look at each other. Unsure, I say cheerily, “Hey, you take care, now.” She says, “You, too.” And I saunter off.

Roll credits.