I pull into the Balboa Park BART Station in San Francisco. It is worth noting that there is a Balboa Park in San Diego also, though, to be fair, San Diego actually has a park, whereas, upon exiting Balboa Park station, all I am met with is a man who wants a cigarette.
"Sorry man, I don't have any."
"I gotta quarter. You know in these tough times, nobody's givin' anything up for free."
"Yeah, I guess that's right."
I watch him walk over to a girl sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. She tells him she doesn't have any. He starts to walk back over to me. "Times is tough," is all he can say. He is an African-American man, maybe 30 years old. He's a little hefty, but his clothes are fairly nice. He seems like a nice enough guy.
I take this quiet moment to evaluate my surroundings. Based on my research, I know that I'm looking for the 88 bus. I see on the bus stop that one of the buses that stops there is the 88, and I think it would be going in the direction of my hotel.
A bus pulls up. It's the 45, so it's wrong for me, but my cigarette seeking friend has a new group of people to ask. He pounces on this opportunity. "Hey black," he says to an African-American guy, "You got a smoke?"
"Nah man, I don't got any of that crap."
He walks back to me. "Times is tough. It's still a great country though. Except we got this President that looks in the mirror and hates what he see. Dude wishes he was white. Whatever though man. People going to get by. People be tripping, but I don't. Not unless it's about taking care of my family. That's the only thing I trip about."
"That's good man. You got to take care of your family."
"I sure do. See here?" He gestures to a bag with a couple of shoe boxes. I nod. "I been out since early today getting shoes for my daughter, and I just heard back from my baby momma that I got the wrong size. I got a good price on them though. Twenty-five bucks a piece. That's fifty bucks, man. I'm going back to the store to get the right size. I spent fifty bucks, man, they better hook me up, you know?"
"Yeah, makes sense."
Another bus pulls up. It's the 29. Wrong again. This time my companion sees a Mexican guy and says, "Hey homie! You gotta smoke? I give you a quarter for a smoke." The other guys just shakes his head and starts walking down the stairs.
The guy walks back to me, and clicks his quarter against the glass wall of the bus stop. "Times is tough."
Wanting to continue the conversation, I ask, "How old's your daughter?"
"Well, I got four kids. Two are eleven, one is seven, and one's four. That youngest one, she's crazy though. She just hits. It's crazy sometimes. These shoes are for the eleven year olds."
He clicks the quarter against the glass a few more times, and our conversation fizzles out. Finally, he takes off down the block, and I'm left alone. The 9x bus comes. The 45 comes again. Then the 29 comes again.
I see a few more cycles of the same wrong buses, and I decide just to walk it. I've now spent an hour waiting for this bus that apparently isn't coming, and I just want to get to my hotel.
I check my map again, and I take off one way expecting to find a specific cross street. I cross a few streets only to realize that I'm going the wrong way. I sigh at my inability to do basic tasks, and take off the other way, this time, thankfully, down hill. Half way to my hotel, it reverts to going uphill, making my trip effectively up hill both ways. Somebody tell grandpa he was right; it is possible.
A mile and a half later through some of the safest streets of San Francisco (you can tell it's a safe area because the bars across the windows and doors in conjunction with the prevalence of graffiti really scare away all the unsavory characters) I finally make it to my hotel.
Times is tough, all right. But things are looking up.
2 hours ago