The Dewey Monument in Union Square, San Francisco on a late summer day.
Monica was in town this weekend and we met up downtown. As is our custom we often go to a touristy spot in order to people watch. We descended on Union Square, took up some real estate at one end of the plaza and commenced watching. For the most part it was typical fare: foreign tourists with shopping bags having their pictures taken with Macy*s, Saks Fifth Avenue or Tiffany's in the back ground. The best picture takers were a group of fifty-something Asian woman. All of them had on far too much make-up. Better yet, they were all wearing really slutty attire. One had on a black lace tank top trying to reveal her non-existent cleavage. Her breasts were so small I think they actually were concave.
"What do you think those pictures are for?" Monica inquired.
"Internet personals. Or maybe even a mail order bride catalog." I postulated. "Since they're old they won't be showing up in the Cherry Blossom catalog. More likely they'll show up in The Cherry Pits catalog." I used my faux-Asian accent, "'I may be bery old but I still wash 'n' cook for yoo!'"
We laughed as our attention turned towards a black man making the rounds. Our most favorite thing is the homeless people who make up stories in order to con money out of tourists. The man was carrying a clipboard with numerous pages sandwiched between sheet protectors. He made a bee-line towards us. It's nice to know we still put out that easy-mark vibe.
He approached and held his outstretched hand. Both of us took turns shaking it as he said, "Welcome to San Francisco. No, I'm not the mayor but I do work for his taskforce on the homeless."
Both Monica and I looked at each other and smiled. The man was wearing a tattered cap. He had on a button down gray-green shirt with a horrible tie in a muted gray-green floral print. Specks of food, and whatever else your mind can imagine, were on the tie. Over the shirt he had on a windbreaker that obviously had seen better days.
"As a representative of the City of San Francisco I want to bring to your attention a troubling matter I'm out here informing people about." He held the clipboard in front of his chest in order to show us his presentation. The page on the front was a very poorly photocopied news article, the kind of photocopy that's basically illegible because it's been copied multiple times.
"Five months ago two homeless children died of exposure while living under the bridge." He flipped the page over the board to show us a second page, a document showing the business license for a San Francisco church. "I'm out here collecting funds in order to put homeless children up in hotel rooms for the night. Let me tell you about homelessness. About ten years ago I was homeless living on the streets. I was at the end of my rope. I had decided I was going to kill myself one evening. But all of a sudden a family intervened. They bought me a meal and talked with me. The next thing I knew they were taking me back to their home in Marin. Do you know Marin?"
"We've heard of it." I said. Monica shook her head to confirm.
"It's the home of the original yuppies. It's very expensive. I was the only black indigent person living in Marin, let me tell you. This family took me into their home. They took money from their children's college educations to put me in nursing school. Now I'm a pediatric nurse and in my free time I'm out here raising funds to put homeless children into hotels for the night. Now let me ask you-- would you take a homeless person into your home? Would you pay $80,000 worth of tuition for a man you didn't know?'
"Probably not" I replied.
Monica added, "I have a hard enough time paying my own student loans. But how great is it that a family in Marin did that for you?"
"Well this really isn't about me" he said. "This is about homeless children under the bridge. Five months ago these two kids died of exposure because they were living under the bridge." He slapped at the clipboard. "I just want to help these other kids out and get them hotel rooms for the night."
"I can understand that," Monica started in with subtle notes of sarcasm punctuating her words. "I work at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. It's great to see you out here trying to help out the homeless children."
He countered with a "that's great you help out domestic violence victims. But I'm here to get money for these dying homeless children that live under the bridge."
"What organization are you with?" Monica asked.
"I'm with the Trinity United Methodist Church." He flipped back to the page with the business license. This time I took a good look. Most of the information had been redacted. "Unlike other organizations like the United Way or even Glide, all the money you give to help the homeless children get shelter goes to the homeless children."
"You're a pediatric nurse?" I asked.
"Yes, I'm a pediatric nurse. But this isn't about me--"
"Tell me then," I said cutting him off, "as a pediatric nurse I've always wondered something. What can be attributed to declining mortality rates during childhood?"
"I don't know" he replied irked. "This isn't about me; it's about the homeless children under the bridge."
"Antibacterial agents and immunizations. That's the answer. Say a child comes in with his mother. The mom says she brought him in because he has diarrhea. Where should that symptom be recorded on the health assessment?"
"Again, this isn't about me-- it's about the homeless child--"
"Under 'chief complaint.' That's the answer." It was apparent this guy didn't even basic nursing knowledge.
Frustrated with me he turned to Monica. "Would you be willing to give a tax deductible donation to helping these children get a hotel room for the night?"
"Where is your church located?" she asked.
"On Noe Street at Market."
"Well maybe I'll stop by there and give them a donation for the kids."
"You don't want to go out of your way to do that."
"Then maybe I'll just give them a call."
"The phone system is automated. You wouldn't be able to talk to a live person."
I jumped in. "Oh, is this the church that burned down in 1981 due to arson? I recognize the address on your sheet there. You know the place, Monica. It's where Delancey Street sells Christmas trees every year."
"Oh sure," Monica said. "Wow, it's great you're out collecting donation for homeless children when you could be collecting donations to rebuild your church."
Exposed but not willing to give up he said "Are you willing to give money today?"
Monica politely said, "Sorry but I don't carry cash."
"Do you have an ATM card?"
"Yes I do."
"Well let's go to the ATM and you can withdraw some money. It's tax deductible."
"I don't think so. I give to charity in my own way."
"By working with women and children who are victims of domestic violence."
"Then why don't you help out these homeless children?"
"Because I'm already helping children and woman who are homeless because of domestic violence."
By this time the man was beginning to get really incensed.
"Fine!" he said firmly.
He turned to me. "Are you going to donate any money to help the homeless children under the bridge?"
"Yes, if you can answer me this question: Why should I donate any money to a pediatric nurse who can't answer basic questions about pediatric care and is trying to solicit funds from people by using the logical fallacy of appealing to a person's emotions, your 'for the children' line, while using outdated materials which are obviously fraudulent and/or doctored?"
"So you're not going to donate any money?"
"Not if you don't answer my question."
"I hope the two of you have a nice day" he said as he walked away.
Monica and I burst out laughing.
"Do you see a cop around here?" I asked Monica. "We really should turn that guy in."
When I was five and my sister was seven our parents took us to the local county fair. While walking around the carnival games my sister Melissa spotted a carny sitting on a folding chair, smoking a cigarette. He had a swatch of fabric covering his nose. Only instead of the fabric taking a nose-like shape it lay perfectly flat.
"He's got no nose!" Melissa squealed grabbing my arm in excitement.
I peered over at him. My sister was good at pulling my leg-- I mean, she did convince me I was an alien from another planet for a couple years growing up. So I was suspicious of her assumption, thinking she was trying to trick me somehow.
We were out of our parents view for just seconds when the guy took notice of our stares. He leaned forward in his chair and said, "Are you looking for my nose?"
I gulped hard. First rule of fair attendance was not to talk with the carnies. These were the same people who my mom often threatened to sell me to if I didn't behave.
"Well are you?" he pressed on.
"Yes," my sister said.
"I'll show you what's under this patch if you got a quarter. A quarter each."
Melissa reached into her pocket ready to part with that silvered George Washington profile. Still believing it was a trick I remained frozen while Melissa approached the guy. He lifted up the patch and my sister's eye grew to the size of ostrich eggs.
She turned to me. "You've got to see this! It's disgusting!"
The carny let out a smoke chocked laugh. I walked over and put my coin in his dirty cracked hand. He lifted up the patch and he indeed had no nose, just a cavity where a nose should have been, shrunken in and as dark as a plum. My little mind just couldn't believe it. How could he not have a nose?
And to make sure we got our monies worth he took in a drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke out his non-nose like a dragon.
"Cool" we said in horrified unison.
He flipped the patch back down and laughed again. By this time my mom had turned around to find us. Seeing us talking to a carny she became flustered. She came over and grabbed us by the shoulders. "It's not nice to bother strangers. And it's not polite to stare!"
Little did she know what we had seen. And we weren't about to tell her.
Two weeks ago my wallet was stolen. The thief made off with a wad of cash, my ATM/Debit card and my driver license. It's a curious feeling knowing someone is spending my money and impersonating me during purchases. My bank has been pretty good about all the fraudulent charges to my card. The real annoyance was having to get replacement cards which meant a trip to the San Francisco branch of the DMV.
The last time I visited a DMV was almost ten years ago when I bought my truck. It was the Ukiah branch where friends of my mom worked. That allowed me to get some special treatment-- like not waiting in line even though I didn't have an appointment.
I was dreading having to go to the DMV. I've put off going for years since I moved to SF. I've been using the same photo on my license for 12 years which was taken when I was 18 years old. To my surprise when I showed up 10 minutes early to my 9:40AM appointment this morning-- I only had to wait less than a minute to get processed. As the line for people without appointments mounted I walked straight up to the counter and got my code for the DMVQ system. Interestingly, even if I had not made an appointment, having already had the paperwork filled out before I went, I could have skipped the line to get an appointment-- because they don't even check names against the actual appointment times.
I sat between a group of little Asian ladies watching the TV screen and waiting for my number, F036, to be called. It felt like I was in a bus terminal waiting for a Greyhound bus. The smell of Tiger Balm was almost overwhelming. The clove oil and menthol was making my eyes water.
My number was called and I walked bleary eyed to station 15. The guy who processed my paperwork was really quite nice. We joked about my old driver license photo (I had my old license that expired in 2004 on me). I fudged my weight on the application form. Does anyone tell the truth when it comes to weight? I also said I was a blond though-- who the hell knows what my hair color really is since I shave it all off. I probably could of gotten away with saying I was a red head because of my beard.
The only snafu I ran into was when I went to get my picture taken. Two little Asian women tried to cut in front of me. I said, "Excuse me-- the end of the line is back there."
"No speak English" one said.
I half heartily raised a clenched fist and muttered "I bet you speak 'a beating'." They fell into the back of the line.
The lady taking the ID pictures didn't even bother to look at any of the people who came to her window. She only viewed us through the camera via her computer screen. I signed my electronic signature-- which looks nothing like my real signature-- and then she wanted to scan my thumb print.
"Is it possible to wipe the scanner off?"
"Does it look dirty?" she queried.
"Well I can see prints on it. I just have issues with other people's germs. I don't want my thumb falling off later today because of some flesh eating bacteria left on that scanner."
I could tell she didn't want to wipe the scanner off but she did. I then stood behind a white line to get my picture taken. I'm pretty sure instead of a regular smile I smirked.
When all was said and done I was out of the DMV in 20 minutes. I drove to work only to find not a single parking space withing several blocks and all the pay lots were full. So I had to park in Potrero Hill and walk 1.02 miles to work. I should have just taken the rest of the day off.