Pleasant surprises

Rider Alert
Photo by Telstar Logistics

It’s hard out there for an urban lady. You get cat-calls on your way to work, then you get yelled at all the way down the block for ignoring them. You turn around and look at everyone walking behind you, conveying to even the innocents that you could identify them in a lineup if you had to. It’s a part of a semi-automatic routine adopted for our various journeys throughout town. So pardon us if we’re a little suspicious of any and all people, particularly males, if we’re waiting for the bus.

So there’s this tall, larger, older-to-middle-age guy standing at the 14-Mission/49-Van Ness/former 26-Valencia stop on Otis Street. He’s got a little bag of presents in a tote bag, a receptacle that, for some reason, was not capable of holding the many items he had dangling around his neck. FastPass. Keys. Other card-type things. He’d probably have a troll on there if he could. His jeans are hiked up beyond his gut, resting comfortably around his chest. His vibe was a little off, right from the get-go. But a lot of people in SF are a little off; the question, as always, remains as to whether he was silly-off or dangerous-off.

He turns and asks me and Jeff, Mr. Muni Diaries, about the 26, after realizing on his own that it wasn’t in service anymore. His conversational rhythm came with lengthy, continued stares once you’ve answered his questions. He didn’t turn and look away at anything while he was talking. He didn’t turn around and see if the bus was down the street. While he stared our faces raw, he explained how he had many VHS tapes he was attempting to convert; had a little machine and everything. We basically ran into Milton from Office Space.

Less than a minute into this conversation, I did what any urban lady (or gentleman) does: suspiciously attempt to figure out whether this stranger is dangerous or just weird. The resulting train of thought, for those of us who weren’t Green Berets, is actually an amazing one, I must say. It can prompt everything from laughter, to embarrassment, to relief, to further suspicion, in the span of a minute, unlike any other learned or innate behavior.

“…what’s he staring at?” > “Hmm, could he be sizing me up for his freezer at home?” > “Does he have anything sharp?” > “What’s his expression like…you can always tell these psycho killers from their eyes, right?” > “Ah. Harmless.” It was a pleasant surprise, one that did make me feel a little silly (Who’s afraid of Milton? Turns out I am.)

But I really wouldn’t have it any other way if I’m going to keep (and I will) calling this wacky place home. Thanks, evolution.

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