Wednesday, July 7, 2010

People are People through Other People

Unless, of course, the people you're being peopled through aren't actually people.

As the season of not-quite-summer tourism keeps kicking here in The BA, I've been getting exposed to a far more... diverse slice of humanity than even the sheer randomness of SF on a regular day can offer. On the job, I've seen transvestites speaking French wearing GAP and tugging along their kids by leashes. I've watched Anaheim trailer-trash buying Sons of Anarchy sweaters and drinking Sailor Jerry's with a 2-liter of Coke as a chaser. I've seen old ladies doing Yoga contortions on the sidewalk as fifteen year-old's make ironic catcalls and then fall over disgusted when they catch a sight of her wrinkled vagina.

But I've seen a whole lot more than that.

I've seen Indian men bargain me for a dollar and change off the sales tax, because, "c'mon man, you can do this" and then complain that the sweatpants don't have pockets. I've seen yuppies walk-off upset because the Elmo sweater they want for their twice-divorced ex-ex-wife's adopted children from Laos who just love Sesame Street is $24.99 and not $20 exactly.

I've seen Britons spend hours shopping for jewelry just to get that sweet 4-for-20 deal, only to realize they don't like anything they bought and can they please exchange it? Then my manager hangs his head and I have to grab a bunch of bags.

I've seen suburban Dad's in their pastel-colored polo shirts glad-hand me like I'm slumming for the summer before going on to a prestigious career in Law, which reminds them of their own "college days" at Blueblood whereverthefuck it is they grew up at with the silver-spoon stuck up their ass.

I've seen moms with more kids than a clown-car has clowns, and enough shirtless men to start my own gay dance-club in the Castro.

However, all of these people I've seen... They don't seem real to me. No matter how intricately or creatively I describe them, no matter how well I capture the essence of their personalities, they won't -- they don't seem like people.

It made me think: do tourists count as human-beings?

The exploitation of my city for the pleasure and entertainment of these shmucks seems somehow disgusting when thought too hard about. Sure, I need their money, and meanwhile they could always go to LA or the beaches in Orange County, but does that mean I have to like them? Does it mean I have to thank them?

Obviously not. But somehow I feel a bit more bothered than that. I feel like these tourists act as if they own the city, when they don't even live here. Whereas I am ignored, even though I not only live here, but work here too. This space is my space. They just occupy it at a price. And yet, they forget that. They forget that when I'm driving my car back from work at two miles per hour and they walk across the street straight at me -- no crosswalk, no lights even, just their own self absorbed in not paying attention -- I'm not trying to run them over. I'm just trying to go home.

Then comes the yelling, and the waving, and all I can do is frustrate their efforts to even communicate by purposefully pretending they're being a nice person instead of an asshole.

It's times like that that make me question the authenticity of a tourist's humanity.

Or when the homeless men from other cities comes here with their shopping-carts full of stolen goods and setup outside my store, waiting for us to not notice them grabbing fat stacks of sweaters and T-shirts. I have to grab the steel pole used for getting clothes off high shelves and stand awkwardly ominous so they'll try somewhere else to pillage. And at the end of the night my coworkers and I see them push along to the knock-off shop down the block to sell whatever it is they managed to get away with, then take the money and buy straight liquor. They sit down next to the trash-cans across the street and get so drunk they forget they're even homeless.

It makes me question the humanity of humanity in general.

But so it goes. So it always goes. So it has, and will be.

Each day I see the dirty ocean and have to remember that because a part is [blank] does not mean the whole is [blank]. Each day I witness the muck in people and remember not to confuse a piece for all. A part for a whole.

But each day is also another reminder of the muck itself, and confusion comes so easily when you're surrounded by stench and filth.

I guess I'll just have to feel my way through the bullshit, and find that one perfect sight to get my bearings back again.


2 footnotes:

Jasper said...

Along with the muck too, am I.

Zek J Evets said...

not the muck, sir. you are beneath the muck -- deep along the bottom where the primeval water is still pure.