The Occasional Random Niceness of … People

(Reposted, with permission, from Tony Long’s North Beach Examiner)

Legendary Chronicle columnist Herb Caen used to run what he called “Sight ’ems” — interesting little oddities he (or one of his legmen) spotted wandering around the old town. Back in Caen’s day this wouldn’t have rated a mention, it being a more civilized burg, but in 2008 I found the scene jarring:

Three tourists, all women, riding a northbound 9x-Bayshore Express, and clearly lost. They didn’t speak any English (I think that was Portuguese I was hearing, but maybe it was … well, who cares?) and the bus driver spoke nothing but English. As they chattered away at the driver, laughing and waving a map under her nose while she crossed Market and headed up Kearny, I expected to hear some very colorful English indeed.

But no. Patiently, even tenderly, the driver went out of her way to try and help. Fortunately, “hotel” is a word that leaps a lot of language barriers. Through the gesticulating and the laughter and the repeated use of the word, it eventually dawned upon the driver that these women, who happened to be blocking the aisle with several pieces of luggage, were trying to find their hotel.

Somewhere, somehow the name of a hotel was produced, along with a phone number. After swinging the bus onto Columbus Avenue, the driver flipped open her cellphone, called the hotel and found out exactly where on Lombard Street the women wanted to go. (It didn’t involve a transfer, praise the lord.)

It was a nice scene. In a city growing harder and colder each year, these little bits of civility are worth savoring.

The only thing that would have made it nicer is if the driver had pulled over while she was doing all of this.

— Tony

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