My new morning routine includes a 20-minute walk through San Francisco to work. I’ve started to recognize a few regulars. For example, as I emerge out of the subway I often see a homeless man who spreads his arms, twists, and pirouettes in place, off in his own little corner. He never asks for money or even mumbles to himself. He seems fixated on filling up a little patch of space with his own twirling self. On Martin Luther King Day, which was a vacation for much of the city (but not for me), he wasn’t there. It’s good that he took the day off to recharge; pirouetting takes a lot out of you.
A girl often thrusts a newspaper at me whenever I climb the stairs out of the subway station. I think she must recognize me, because I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only people who takes the steps two at a time. (Life is too short to take steps one at a time.) I always smile and shake my head at her, and for a while she gave up. But every five days or so she thrusts her newspaper at me obstinately, as though hoping that last night was the night I destroyed all my RSS feeds and swore my undying allegiance to newsprint.
A guy on the corner sells stuff. During last month’s cold snap, he sold gloves. Lately, during the downpour, he’s been selling umbrellas. I want this guy around whenever I’m mugged; he’ll probably be selling tasers. Or when I’m making out with someone; he’ll be selling...well, anyway.
I walk down 2nd street and I am constantly amazed how many places there are to buy coffee. With all the competition, you’d think that they would fall over themselves to please their customers. But I have found myself ignored when I want to order, or glared at impatiently as a woman stands by with a sponge, waiting to wipe the counter when I’m done pouring in cream. I wonder if perhaps the point of selling coffee in the city isn’t profit. Perhaps they are all part of a big Coffee Hive, and it doesn’t matter which of them does the selling. They’re all in it together--a vast network of caffeine vendors--and all they want is to make us speed up, walk faster, last longer, go farther.
The people I really like to see are a rare occurrence, but I keep an eye out for them. They’re the people who come at you from the opposite direction. And they’re smiling and laughing. You have to look to see if they’re actually talking on a bluetooth, or if a little white wire trickling out of their ears indicates they’re listening to a funny podcast. If not, then you’re in the presence of a very rare sighting. You’ve found the people who are remembering something or thinking something so great that they can’t keep it inside of them. It floats up to their face and causes them to grin as they walk, and they carry their amusement with them like a balloon.