Living in San Francisco, especially in the downtown area, allows one to observe first hand a range of human expression and behavior that is almost impossible to describe. Yesterday I saw two things I haven't seen before. I'm not quite sure what to make of either of them.
While I was taking a walk at lunch an old, banged-up amputee in a wheelchair barked at me for some spare change. I've long since stopped giving money to anyone in this town because I know you can eat at least twice a day, every day, for free as long as you're willing to stand in a line. Twice a month I see people selling the food they received for free from pantries. Maybe they need the money, maybe it's just another scam in a town that has hundreds of them. I don't know.
Anyway, a station wagon from the SF Fire Dept. pulls up and the bum, whose name happens to be Mark, immediately starts wheeling himself down Mission. Out get two guys who start pleading with him to come back. They want to give him some food. He doesn't want it. He tries to get away but one of the guys, who turns out to be a social worker, blocks the wheelchair.
The conversation then becomes about the quality of the food the SFFD want him to have, which Mark says "sucks."
The Social Worker (SFSW) says, "But yesterday you had the vegetarian meal and you liked that. Today we have chicken and it's the best. You'll really like it. We're heating it up for you now."
Mark says, "Fuck you. I don't want it. Fuck you, lemme go."
SFSW replies, "Come on Mark, I just want you to have some food. If you don't eat this you know you can get a meal at John's Grille (a Union Square restaurant). I talked to them about you."
Says Mark, "I can get a meal there anytime I want. Fuck you. I want some coffee."
SFSW: "You want some coffee? Okay. There's a Peets at the corner. I'll get you some. Cream and sugar? You want to come with me? Come on. I just want you to have something to eat. You know I have a nice room for you with a kitchen where you can make your own food."
Mark: "I'll take the coffee. I don't want no room."
SFSW asks his partner if he wants some coffee too, but the partner declines since he just had a cup and off goes the Social Worker to get Mark some coffee from Peets.
All along, I've just been standing there watching this scene. The partner looks at me and smiles. I ask him what this is all about. It turns out they are an outreach team for the San Francisco Fire Dept., trying to get street people to eat well and into housing. They are the only team, and they are working on a constant population of about three hundred hardcore drunks and addicts who are constantly ending up in ambulances anywhere from two to six times a day. I asked him to repeat that, just to make sure I heard him correctly, which he does, and I did. He tells me most of the SFFD and ambulance activity involves calls about these 300 who are constantly calling ambulances or having people call for them. I can't even begin to wonder what that costs the city- no wonder we're broke.
I have to say these guys had amazing patience and compassion for this work. I had to leave to go get my lunch (which I paid for), so I don't know how the afternoon ended up for Mark, but I saw him today in the same spot. Sometime in the last 24 hours he had acquired a blanket, a pint of vodka and a friend with a pint of vodka. Here is a picture of Mark enjoying the sunshine and his cheap vodka as he waits for his lunch to be delivered.
The other thing I saw for the first time was a tranny peeing in the street. Standing up! At least the bitch could have gone into Divas (http://www.divassf.com/) and used the bathroom. It was only a half block down the street.