Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guam and Vacaville

Lest anyone think I never see anything other than the inside of my own head, which does seem to be most of what I see, I thought I’d start reporting more on sights observed and people encountered, such as, on Market St. this morning, Alexis, who is soon off to Guam for six months with her boyfriend. We have a running joke about how I’m the law-abiding cyclist and she’s not so much that.

I was riding behind a slow-moving yellow truck when she joined me today, and I think she felt obligated to take the lane and not squeeze by in the little crack on either side of the truck. We ended up being stuck behind the truck for a few blocks and if indeed she has the opinion that taking the lane is not the way to go, I was sorry that this experience might have confirmed that.

I ran into Dave S. a few days ago, for the first time in what must be a year. I remarked on not having seen him in ages, and he said he sees me often, because many mornings he sits with some buddies in a café on Market St. watching cyclists go by. Now every time I pass that café, I wonder if Dave is sitting inside it.

At work, I went into the garage and rang my bicycle bell to get the attention of Yonas at the front desk, and we waved to greet each other, as usual—there's a glass wall between the freight area and the lobbyand then I continued into the freight elevator, which already contained a workman; another cyclist followed me in. I said to the workman, “It’s warm today, eh?” and he told me that in his neck of the woods, it was 102 yesterday.

He lives in Vacaville, and he said he drives to San Francisco every day, which takes him 55 minutes, which sounded surprisingly fast to me. I think of Vacaville as being in the middle of nowhere north of Sacramento, but Google has just informed me that it’s just north of highway 80, southwest of Davis, which is in turn southwest of Sacramento, a thing I should know, given regular driving trips to Sacramento (in a City CarShare car!).

We used to take the train to Sacramento as a rule, but lately it has often seemed more convenient to drive a shared car. Then you can go exactly when you want and come home exactly when you want: “We must move the car west.”

Anyway, I guess 55 minutes is quite plausible, then. It further developed that in Vacaville, this man has a swimming pool, which he and his children like to go in, which does sound very nice. He called me “hon.” I don’t mind that. I guess I like it. Really, the only thing I don’t like to be called is “ladies,” as in, “How are you ladies today?"

This morning I heard on the radio about a shooting at the University of Texas at Austin. A student said they were in class and they heard this thing was happening and hastened to Facebook to look at people's updates. I wondered how long it will be before Facebook is part of some institutions' official emergency policies: "In the event of startlingly loud noises, locusts, or 12 thousand eggs accidentally spilled on the freeway, proceed to Facebook immediately. And also cover your head."

Several days ago, I passed a diminutive evidently homeless man near the foot of Powell St. He was asking for money, and I murmured, “I’m sorry; I can’t right now,” which never means I literally can’t afford it. I don't want to ignore someone who has spoken to me, and “I’m sorry; I can’t right now” is shorthand for “I just gave the three people before you money” or even “I don’t feel like stopping right now,” which I consider to be permitted.

Now that I think about it, sometimes I just say "I'm sorry," perhaps on the theory that, like clerks in Walgreens and people in general, homeless people don't have time to stand around all day listening to strangers speak a whole sentence. Or then again, I do know that "I can't right now" is disingenuous to some extent.

Anyway, as I walked away, he said, “Even just a penny?” which kind of broke my heart, so then I stopped and went back, which happens not infrequently. I hasten to say that I fairly often give people money right off the bat, but quite regularly, too, after I hear myself say “I can’t,” a little voice inside me says, “Yes, you can,” and I turn around. So I went back and gave him $20—now and then I like to give an amount I'm pretty sure will delight the recipient, which makes me happy, too—and he beamed at me so sweetly, with such kind and tender eyes, that I felt like standing at the foot of Powell St. all day just looking at him.
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