Can't Sleep

In San Francisco, This Is No Big Deal

Weekday mornings I take the 37 Corbett bus to the Castro Muni station, where I transfer to an Embarcadero-bound railcar to get to work downtown. The rush-hour train is packed with commuters all avoiding eye contact by thumbing their smart phones or staring at the floor. The inside of a muni railcar at rush hour is like the inside of a crowded office elevator.

One morning I shuffled into the train as usual, except this time made accidental eye contact with some nattily-dressed gentleman of about my age. We acknowledged the transgression with good-natured, self-conscious smiles, then went about our individual business.

I’m staring at the floor, the train starts out of the station, and we all sway a bit, overcoming inertia. I glance around, see in the periphery that this guy is looking at me with a warm smile on his face. The lights go off momentarily in the car as they sometimes do for some reason I don’t know, and when they come back on he’s got me fixed in a deliberate stare. I furrow my brows. His eyes go to my crotch, and back again to meet mine.

I shake my head with a mixed, awkward expression I hope settles the matter with grace and dignity.

We are slowing on the approach to Church Street station. I look up again to check the signage, to confirm I am where I think I should be, because I have a habit of daydreaming my way past my stops. I notice again that he has me. He is not getting the message. He is forward to the point of being earnest. Unabashed. I make the mistake of looking him over for evidence that he’s crazy; it’s a mistake because my inspection only encourages him. He points straight down to his own crotch, waggles a finger, mouths a message that opens with a tongue flick and finishes with a long oh.

I shake my head with a firm expression of rebuke.

The doors open. He rolls his eyes, and under cover of commuters shuffling into the car, he says,

“Your fly is open.”

I zip, and I thank him.

This is San Francisco: People helping people. If this incident had occurred in some small town, and I wrote a letter to the editor of the local weekly paper, or better yet, posted to the town’s Facebook page (“This man propositioned another man on the Muni – What Happens Next will Blow Your Mind!”), my fellow townsfolk would write or post how it is the incident affirms the superiority of their small-town values over … well over what, I’m not sure. In the town tavern my neighbors would clap me on the back and buy me beer. Candidates for mayor would seek my endorsement after first seeking assurance that I had no intention of running for mayor. Oprah would call. Somebody would mention this at my funeral. Hell, Oprah would attend my funeral.

But this being San Francisco, the incident will go uncelebrated because it’s just who we are and what we do.


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