No pertinent experience

Reliably, when I'm talking to almost anyone and the topic of 'downtown' or 'riding the bus' comes up, their reaction is at least mild revulsion, and sometimes not so mild. "The bums are everywhere downtown," they'll say, and, "How can you stand to ride with the kind of people who ride the bus?"

I'm the kind of people who ride the bus, but usually I don't bother with a reply. It's not my responsibility to dispel every stupid myth that stupid people swallow. Hell, that would take 25 hours a day.

You think being within half a block of a homeless person will give you tuberculosis? You think you need to fear for your life riding the #7 bus?

If so, you're the same kind of idiot who worries when black people walk past, and you probably voted for Trump twice, and I want less to do with you than you want to do with the bums.

Except, of course, that the people expressing such fear-laced opinions are usually my mother, my brothers, and my sister.

Millions share their ill-informed opinions, though. I hear it everywhere I overhear conversations, and overhearing conversations is a hobby of mine.

When I'm feeling feisty, I say this: The disdain you feel for the homeless, the helpless, the lost souls, the impoverished, and the generally icky among us is exactly what the wealthy feel when they see you — if they see you at all.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Riding the #132 bus one fine evening, there was a black guy sitting behind the second door, higher than the roof of the bus. He was waving his arms, babbling loudly that, "Gino, you fucked me over," and "Why you done that to me, Gino?" He was, of course, riding the bus without Gino.

That passenger is the stereotype that terrifies people like my mother, my brothers, and my sister. He's why they'd never consider riding the bus.

It might slightly help the public image of public transit if someone like the babbling man was escorted off the bus. Many people would support doing that, but not me — because where would anyone take him? And who would do the taking?

In this cruel society, the only answers are jail and the police, and both those are far more frightening than a black man waving his arms and complaining about Gino.

There's no telling how many lost souls like that guy are out there, riding the buses and wandering the sidewalks and sleeping under bridges and in doorways, and America offers damned near zilch in help.

The government will happily arrest that man and jail him, but it won't help him. That's official policy, or might as well be.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Waiting for the bus one morning, I noticed that someone had left a fanny-pack in the little private park by the bus stop. I only glanced at the fanny-pack from a distance. It wasn't ratty-looking, but hell if I'm gonna walk thirty steps to find out whether anything interesting was inside.

I waited until my bus came, rode to my job, had another shitty day doing meaningless work at the office, and gave the abandoned fanny-pack not another thought.

The next morning, the fanny-pack was still there, at the same spot.

By the third morning it was gone, either reclaimed by its owner, swiped by someone, or carried off by pterodactyls, I dunno.

What I know is, I live inside city limits, but my neighborhood is so very boring and 'suburban' that an abandoned fanny-pack can sit undisturbed for days in a park.

I need to be someplace else — someplace unsafe for abandoned fanny-packs.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Downtown is where reality is, and where I ought to be, not in this very quiet, almost unreal neighborhood. More than a year here, and I've never heard a gunshot, or even an argument. Tires never squeal. The loudest disturbance is the neighbor's lawn mower. The nearest cafe is half a mile away. There's an elementary school down the street.

This part of the city is astoundingly boring. It's Twin Peaks, only without the murder and without any dark undercurrent. I gotta get out of this place, if it's the last thing I ever do.

First or second thing once I'm out of work, I need to start seriously looking for an apartment downtown.

♦ ♦ ♦  

I'm still employed, at least until my boss answers my email, but this afternoon I applied for two jobs I'll never get, at downtown homeless shelters. Probably made a fool of myself in the box where it asks "Why do you want to work here?" 

Because I've lived in this world and seen how it sucks, how it knocks people down, and how little and how rare is any help.

I have lived around the destitute, had long conversations with some of them, and unlike most of America I neither hate nor fear them. I'd like to help.

Yeah, you'll notice that I have no pertinent experience. Almost every job I've ever had has been sitting on my duff in an office, but I'm looking for something I can feel better about, someplace where I can help instead of simply plowing through data entry and prepping reports and calling for repairs when the HVAC makes that weird rattling sound.

I can help, damn it.

Of course, they're not going to hire me. They want someone with at least 18 months experience working with homeless populations, among many other qualifications I don't have.

But I'm trying. Jeez, I'd love a job that does somebody somewhere some sliver of good, as opposed to another job in another office doing work that helps nobody at all.



  1. I'm not going to pretend that living in rural bumfuck PA is 100% awful. Nature is beautiful. I'm surrounded by trees. The boundary of the landlord's property is a creek. Yesterday alone, I saw some deer, a bald fucking eagle, a ~4 foot black snake, and a family of raccoons, one adult and four babies, just crossing the street leisurely.

    But man, I miss living in the city. Nothing happens here. I have heard FAR FAR more gunshots here than in SF, because of hunters. The 14 acres that contain our rented barn is posted "No Hunting," but there are lots of people who do hunt on their own property. It's deep-red Trump country, I believe my county went 66% for him in 2020, and a similar number for Oz and Mastriano in 2022, for Senate and Governor. "Fuck Biden" flags, all that shit.

    Man, I miss 16th and Valencia, or 18th and Mission.

    1. Also, when I lived at 38th and Irving, in the Sunset, I once went out at like 4 AM to go to work, and saw, like a DOZEN raccoons just chilling across the street, amongst the cars and apartments. This was a block from GG park, where I also saw coyotes and Bison.

    2. Somebody asked me yesterday where's the best neighborhood you've ever lived, and it was SF's Mission, of course. Endless blocks alive 24/7, full of unordinary people and cheap food, drugs, housing, movies, and life. No coyotes that I recall, but I do remember raccoons and sewer rats aplenty.

      That kind of neighborhood doesn't exist in Seattle, only because single-room occupancy was outlawed here fifty years ago, but there are some reasonable approximations, and I sure hope to be living in one of them some time soon.

    3. The richmond was pretty OK, in a different way. I was staying with Shawna's sister on Clement, and Geary was one block away. My favorite Chinese bakery was a couple blocks away (Lung Fung), a fantastic Russian bakery (Moscow & Tbilisi), and all kinds of other stuff. Mission was better, though.

    4. SF has more pretty good neighborhoods than any place else I've lived, for sure. Kansas City had one neighborhood that looked SF-style livable and walkable, but even that one would've been barely so-so in SF.

  2. It's clear that you are a big man. Your sister and your mom and any person smaller in stature would very quickly become easier prey for those looking to hassle others. I don't ride the bus because I am a physically unimposing person and I always get hassled when minding my own business. Just as I watch non-engaging women fend off advances regularly anywhere they go. They can't even walk down a street without someone making a comment. It doesn't get better when some of the people are untreated mental illness victims. They see a woman and they have no boundaries. They walk right up and start talking. That is all.

    1. Captain HampocketsJune 19, 2023 at 3:23 PM

      This is one area in which being fat can sometimes be good. I am just fat. Not really big. But people have occasionally commented that I must be a linebacker or some shit. No, I'm a big wimp. But if my fat stops you from talking to me, OK then.

    2. I've been 6'5" / 210 lbs of unadulterated muscle since my junior year of high school, some 35 years ago. No one ever messes with me. You shouldn't, either.

      My ass cheeks are like two earthen cores of molten iron, hydraulically revolving as I stride from conquest to conquest.

      My arms - an undulating span of some two meters - are twin drawbridges keeping my enemies at bay, while my oak legs and size 16 feet flex and unleash ten hams' worth of punishment on any challenger's groin.

      My junk compares favorably to a blue-ribbon cucumber garnished with a pair of lab-grown mutant kiwi.

      My skull, 32 inches in circumference, houses my throbbing, convoluted id and essence, the decision-making apparatus that grants me power over all others.

    3. Most of the people I've seen getting hassled on transit have been youngish and definitely female. Gotta be a curse. But it's still quite uncommon. I've seen it once since I came back to Seattle, and the driver saw it too, quashed it directly.

      I don't think a pretty woman gets hassled on the bus any more than she gets hassled everywhere.

    4. Like the Captain, I'm a lifelong fatty. I'm accustomed to people *thinking* I'm tough, so I tend to act tougher than I am, which is gonna break my nose one of these days.

      I've never actually met you, Claude, so you had me for a paragraph there. Then I started laughing too loud, and even though I'm done with this job in a week and a half I don't really want to be *obviously* not working at work when I'm not working at at work work. Ha!


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