Love for the Crazies
I was actually planning to write about something else, but after reading the “Random Kiss on the Head” post (http://sf.metblogs.com/archives/2006/09/a_random_kiss_on_the_head.phtml), I was reminded of a number of experiences I’ve had here when a random person on the street intruded in to my daily life in ways both good and bad.
Specifically, I was reminded of a time when I was riding the bus home late at night. There were only two other people on the bus, and when I was about four stops away from home, a third guy got on the bus. He was on his cell phone, so when he said, “Hello Beautiful”, I assumed it was to his phone mate. I looked out the window. He sat down in the seat in front of me, turned to me, hung up his phone and said, “I said HELLO BEAUTIFUL!”
I should interject here that how I handle strangers approaching me depends greatly on my mood. There are times when I’m open to chance conversations and times when I am abruptly rude in avoidance of them. There are times when the person frightens me and I give them the “don’t mess with me look” and times when I am entertained and give them the bemused glance. In this case, I wasn’t frightened, and I was in a good mood, so I glanced back at him to assess the situation.
That was incentive enough for him to start telling me about his weekend. The content of the conversation wasn’t all that interesting. It was babble mostly, and the ride before my stop was short, so it didn’t contain much. When my stop came, I pulled the cord and stood to exit the bus. He stood up, blocking the aisle. It gave me a good look at him – with a straw cowboy hat on his head and snakeskin boots on his feet, this guy could’ve been straight out of Texas. Except that the rest of his attire was straight out of ghetto fabulous magazine. Strands of spit crossed his gums, linking his two front teeth in the gap where a third tooth could have fit.
I moved to go past him and he said, “I just got to give you a hug” and he reached out and put his arms around me. I laughed. He kissed my cheek, and then he stepped aside and I made my way off the bus and went home.
Later, on the telephone with a friend from back home, I mentioned the incident in passing. He panicked on my behalf, “you let a crazy kiss you?!” I explained to him that it was a safe situation, that the guy hadn’t bothered me, that it was just one of those eccentric people in a strange situation in a city which tolerates oddities.
“I know you know how to take care of yourself,” he told me, “but that’s why I like L.A. so much better than San Francisco”.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The crazies are just too close to you guys there. They’re kissing you on the bus, they’re outside your front door.”
“And it’s better to push them off to the fringes of the bad neighborhoods?” I asked.
Ultimately, we agreed to disagree. He wants to live in relative comfort. And me? I trust my own character assessments enough to feel comfortable among the crazies. And though it sometimes annoys me to have intrusion upon my life on a regular basis by people I normally wouldn’t have any reason to talk with, I love the fact that I am constantly exposed to that. In other cities, people get in to the bubbles of their cars and go to their bubbles of offices and move within the bubbles of their set social lives. I would stagnate in a bubble life. Here, in San Francisco, people may constantly burst your bubbles but there’s a whole community there to share your experience.