SOCIALLY ALL THUMBS
I wonder what they do on weekends? Life on the edge cannot be easy when there is no one else around.
During the week I give them a little money and say hi. It's not much, but it is human contact. For a moment there is an acknowledgement that they are individuals. Most pedestrians regard them as hardly more than part of the landscape, and pass by without even looking at them.
The sad-looking black man who sells street sheets.
Elmo, who always tells people that today is his birthday.
A wheelchair gentleman maintaining a chipper sense of humour.
And an elderly Cantonese lady who speaks not a word of English.
If it weren't for their obvious need, you could very well imagine them as friends, Romans, countrymen.
But I fear that many of my fellow citizens would rather not do so.
It might force them to realize that San Francisco is not a kind city at times.
I'm in constant awe of people who manage to treat others gently, no matter how rushed they are and no matter what the situation.
Someone who can just act natural and decent, even when circumstances might prompt irritation or frustration.
In San Francisco, that ability is a bit rare. The average urbanite can be cynical and brittle. As well as self-centered.
It didn't used to be like that, but we are more anonymous than we were years ago.
Text messages and social networking sites have made matters worse while in some ways alleviating the problem. Do you really need to interact with strangers, when your 'friends' are at your fingertips?
Instantaneous access to the same people always.
There is no need for the social graces.
I have never owned a cell-phone.
Consequently I don't text.
Nor do I tweeter.
I'm quite willing to call others on their cell-phone and chat, because I realize that their land-line might be tied up by a teenager using the computer. Or there might be other perfectly rational explanations for why they aren't near the phone jack, such as their goat or their pet rabbits having chewed through all the cords, or inquisitive relatives listening in.
They have good reasons for cellularity.
But by and large, if you need to speak with me, there's my office phone or my home number.
If I'm not near either of those, you'll have to meet me somewhere.
I'll gladly talk with you in person, I would love to hear what you have to say.
As well as see your facial expressions..... the arched eyebrow, the twitch in the corner of your mouth as you keep from giggling, the bemused expression, or the lips parted in surprise or pleasure.....
None of these are part of the text and tweet world.
Coffee, tea, or cocktails and hors d’œuvres.
Snackipoos & pastries, hot noodle soup.
Fresh mussels in tangy saffron broth.
Hungry? How about roast lamb?
Or rice and chopstick food.
I know a few places.
You cannot break bread with your thumbs alone.
More is required.
While some people decry computers and e-mail as spelling the end of literacy in America, and lament that people never write each other anymore, I am not one of those. Several of my closest friends communicate marvelously be e-mail, and anyone who takes the time to compose a coherent paragraph is doing something wonderful. Not only for the intended recipient, also for themselves. Formulating your thoughts, paying attention to meaning and phrasing - what better way to increase your own comprehension?
There are numerous people I have never met but with whom I would dearly love to have coffee.
I know them because of their blogs and their e-mails. They are no longer 'anonymous', they have by exposing me to their eloquence and their insights, in their essays and electronic epistles, become as familiar and beloved as 'real-world' friends.
I doubt that that can ever be achieved by texting and tweeting.
An interesting letter is a gift.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.