Riding home on the N yesterday, with a sore throat and probably a fever, a group of fellow riders conspired to make my evening even more miserable.
First a gentleman got on the train, with an interesting strategy for getting contributions: Repeatedly and loudly saying, “Can anyone give me money for food? Can anyone give me money for a burrito?” over and over.
This sort of thing, you come to expect on the N. Typical, not that bad. Annoying, but harmless.
But when he passed another gentleman on the bus, that gentleman said, “Why don’t you just sit down and shut up!”
Well, fair enough. I looked at that gentleman and saw he was reading Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”. Well groomed, with dockers and white sneakers.
The panhandling gentleman moved to the end of the train and sat down. But continued to loudly and repeatedly ask for money for food.
White sneaker dude also kept his end of the deal up. Glaring at the panhandler and occasionally yelling something at him. When someone accidentally bumped the panhandler he exclaimed, “Don’t touch me, I’ll call the cops!”
To which white sneaker guy countered, “Yeah, pan handling on MUNI, that’s against the law, isn’t it?”
At which point I’m beginning to wonder about the motivations here. Then I notice white sneaker dude has his hand in his pocket and is fingering something. I look a bit closer and see that it is a can of mace or pepper spray.
Looking at him, I see the look in his eye. It’s the hopeful look that a nerd gets when he thinks he’s got an ace up his sleeve that will enable him to finally beat the bully who has been torturing him. He wants the homeless guy to come at him. He’s baiting him so he can pepper spray him and maybe get in a punch or two.
They go at it some more. Yelling back and forth swearing at each other. White sneaker guy, with white knuckles around his pepper spray bottle sez, “Goddamn drug user, why don’t you go do some crack or heroin and kill yourself!” Thankfully, the panhandler seems to have enough sense not to approach the white sneaker guy.
At Duboce and Church, the MUNI train driver finally comes back to our train and asks the panhandler to get off the train.
Relieved that nothing worse would happen than shouting, I start to calm down.
Then someone else sez to white sneaker dude, “Man, the only thing that allows those people to survive in San Francisco is that we’re too afraid to touch them.” To which a middle aged woman in a jeans jacket and carrying a forever21.com bag replies, “Next time we’ll all wear hazmat suits and lay into him.”
White sneaker guy mutters something like, “Goddamn disgusting San Francisco,” and I have to admit I’m thinking the same.