A few cards short of 52

When I came up from the BART station at 16th @ Mission, soon as I stepped off the escalator (today only, it worked) four men in suits were coming at me, walking side-by-side by-side by-side, leaving no room for anyone else.

I'm disappointed in myself for this, but when I saw them coming, I meekly stepped off the curb into the street to let them pass. Mom taught me good manners, so I'm kind of a pussy sometimes.

It's nuts to be nice to nimrods, though, and four people walking abreast on the sidewalk deserve no courtesy, so I stepped up to the sidewalk again. Walking on the right side as walkers should walk, and braced for impact before slamming into one of the men's shoulder. 

It was a good crunch, too, and his briefcase hit my kneecap, which hurt. His damages were worse, though — he dropped his Starbucks, lost his footing a little, and came close to stumbling.

I continued walking, until I heard him yell at my backside, all righteous indignation, "I beg your pardon!"

Stopping and turning to face my accuser, I said, "You dang well better beg my pardon."

One of his brain-dead banker buddies said, "What an asshole," so I'd call the encounter a success.

This phenomenon happened often, when I lived in a touristy neighborhood in downtown San Francisco. Some people insist on walking side-by-side on crowded sidewalks, which means people going the other way need to turn sideways to squeeze past.

Homey don't play that, not any more. Share the sidewalk and we can co-exist in peace. Don't share the sidewalk and I will walk right into you.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

During my weekly shift at Black Sheets, my boss Bill played a CD of Prince's greatest hits. I've heard of Prince, but I don't like royalty, and hadn't heard much of his music until today. He's pop plus electric, and his old-fashioned romantic ballad, "You Sexy Motherfucker," made me dance a little as I mopped the floor in the basement. They have orgies there, so it needs frequent mopping.

Also did some filing and phone-answering and joking around with Bill and Steve, so I was feeling chipper by the time I left, and half-hoping for another lesson in good manners on my way home. And sure enough…

♦ ♦ ♦  

In a mostly-empty BART car, a young black man got on at West Oakland, and as soon as the train left the station the scent of his cologne choked me like asthma. "Fuck!" I said out loud, and he turned to look at me, so I expounded, "Fuck and double fuck!"

Then came thirty seconds of silence, but I couldn’t stand the stink, and got up to walk to a different train-car. "Do you fuckin' bathe in perfume, and wash your clothes in it?" I asked, as I walked to the door. He never said a word, and then I was in the next car.

For the past few days my fuse has felt like it's pre-lit, and I don't know why. Maybe I'm getting cranky in my middle age, but I don't want to take anybody's crap. It'll probably pass, and I'll go back to being a walking outhouse anyone can poop on.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Took a seat behind a woman whose purple artificial nails were longer than her fingers, and I could not look away. Her nails were like giant cosmetic claws, and I was fascinated with wondering why — why would a person want such garish accessories?

And also how. Perhaps she could pick up a pen by pinching it, but how could she sign her name? How could she press the buttons on a calculator? How could she put a key into a lock? How could she put change into a Coke machine?

She and I got off at the same station, so I slipped behind her in line at the exit gate, to see how or whether she could process her ticket through the machinery.

As I craned my neck to peer over her shoulder, she delicately unsnapped her purse, pinched out her ticket, held it like one of those mechanical claw amusements an at arcade, and with two tries inserted in into the gate. Like a sci-fi creature she took the ticket back with her pincers, put it into her purse, and walked away, probably to meet with others of her alien species.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Coming  up from the BART station near home, I was spare-changed by the usual gauntlet of homeless people, and I would've ignored them or smartassed them, but Danny was one of them. "Here ya go, Danny," I said, handing him 50¢.

He was flustered, and asked "Have we met?"

"We've talked a few times," I said, and we have, but he never remembers me, so I introduced myself again. We talked for ten minutes, about Bosnia, the A's, his Danny dollars, and the high price of marijuana these days. It took another 50¢ to shake him off, but I wasn't pissed about it. He's easier to talk to, makes more sense, and listens better than most people who pass for normal.

"Thanks for treating me like a human," he said as our conversation came to a natural, comfortable end. "Most people act like I'm not playing with a full deck."

Shook Danny's hand and walked the last few blocks homeward, thinking, Hell, who isn't at least a few cards short of 52? I know I am.

From Pathetic Life #18
Monday, Nov. 27, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Re Prince :

    I was never a fan until the mid 2000s. He's a great guitarist, and made some fucking great music. I assume you've seen this, and if not, you should - wait for the Prince guitar solo:


    1. Yeah, I have seen and heard it, but it's worth the rerun.

      How ignorant of music am I? I thought Prince was a singer, didn't even know he played the guitar until this video made the rounds.

      ... Ten damned years ago? How did that happen?


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