Scenes from San Francisco

Starbucks at 3rd and Market – I’m walking by on my way to the W and glance in. Inside, in one of the over stuffed chairs, I see a heavy set Asian woman with blonde hair, pulled up to spiked pig tails, in full geisha make-up and kimono. She sits with her legs splayed out looking bewildered. I get about a half a block away before it occurs to me that it may not have been a woman.

Whole Foods at Franklin and California – A man who easily reaches 6’4” walks through the crowded aisles with a small child literally draped over one shoulder. I get my lunch and on my way to pay for it, I see them again. This time he’s whispering something in the child’s ear and child is laughing and shrieking in glee. They’re oblivious to teeming crowd around them that is getting a unified chuckle out of the scene.

Van Ness and McAllister – I’m walking on my way to the Muni and I see a woman sitting on the curb ahead of me. She’s got her hippie skirt hiked up above her knees and clutches her head in her hands. As I get closer, it’s hard not to notice that’s she’s not wearing underwear. The East Coaster in me kicks in and I instinctively look away. As I walk past she shrieks at me “What, you’re too good to look at my cooter like everyone else?”

Duboce Park at Noe – I get off the muni and see a woman walking her dog. The dog’s steps are tentative and slow and tell me that it’s an old dog. The dog stops as if it’s going to go to the bathroom when suddenly it’s hind legs collapse and it falls over, first onto its butt and then completely over on to its side. My pace quickens a second as I rush to help, but the woman lets out an audible sigh that melts into an “aaahhhhhhooooooooohno.” She swoops down and wraps her arms around the dog and picks it up, despite the fact that it’s a large husky. Quickly, she turns and carefully walks away carrying the dog. I think to myself that it’s obvious that she has given that dog a good life. I finish my walk home feeling grateful for mine.

Laundromat Diaries

Mid-week laundry.

It had to be done. Really. I had just worn my last pair of non-gym acceptable underwear. You know that pair. The pair you only put on when you know for 100% certain that no one will see you in them. Or at least that pair that you wouldn’t mind being seen in a sex club wearing. That pair you would never wear to the gym lest some one see you in a pair of yellowed and stretched out and holey underwear that you only really wear when you’ve been too lazy to get up off the couch and wash the rest.

In all honesty, it’s a nice night to be out. Summer is here in San Francisco and it’s almost balmy. As I sit here, I realize that perhaps mid-week is a good time to do laundry. It’s just two women and me. One is outside smoking (jealous) and reading some book. The other one ran in and shoved her stuff in a washer and closed them up and then ran out… without putting any money in. Minutes later a screech of brakes and she sprints back in and inserts the money. Car horns blare outside and she runs out again once the transaction is complete.

I’ve gotten very systematic about my laundry. I procrastinate about doing it to the point that if I don’t plan it carefully, I’ll be here for hours. So I multitask and bring my laptop. This place doesn’t have a wireless signal I can piggyback off of so I actually en up getting work done.

Outside a little boy and his mother walk by. The boy’s shoes have squeaky sound making things in them and he’s gleefully stomping down the street as fast as he can. The smoking reader and I exchange a glance of amusement before she comes inside and pulls her clothes form the washer and puts them in the dryer. I notice she picks her nose while she does it.

In the middle of this a really handsome younger man comes in. He’s wearing Members Only style jacket and when he bends over to put his clothes in the machine, I can see a tattoo exposed above his jeans. He’s maybe 25 at the most. Completely not my usual type but he has that look that once he hits 30, he’ll fill out and be astonishingly good looking. I hope by that point, his black hair will have grown the bad frosted tips out. He catches me looking at him nervously looks away while grabbing his book and moving to the other end of the room.

The smoking reader has set up on one of the counters with her book. Organic Chemistry. She sighs as she takes notes.

I never took organic chemistry. I took regular chemistry and barely got through it because of the math. I think today with time and patience, I bet I could.

Another younger guy comes in and starts throwing his stuff into a machine. He’s in a turtleneck. I think to myself ”Dude, it’s hot out.” Before I see that he’s wearing shorts that are just this side of hot pants. His thick tightly curled hair sprouts out from under the red baseball cap as he tries to get change out of the nonfunctioning coin changer. I’d offer him some of mine but I used up almost all of mine on the dryer. He looks around sheepishly before heading out the door.

I suppose with all the students in town, this area is prone to attract the young and the studious. I’m kind of amused to watch some of them kids coming in and out as they do their laundry a little hesitantly. Is this the first time for them? Aren’t they used to it by now? I know I was doing my own laundry at 12.

Kids these days.

Mr. HotPatns comes back, with change this time and says a quick hello to Organic chemistry smoker. Classmates?

I’d been thinking a lot lately about where I’ve been since I got out of school myself. My path could have been so much different. It’s not to say that I regret anything, but there’s very little that I do. If anything, I regret not trying harder to create things in my life that made me happy and that I stayed in a city that was sucking the life out of me for so long.
The students I’m watching tonight have a lot ahead of them, and I envy them for it a little. I suppose if my circumstances at the moment were more stable I wouldn’t feel like this.

The Sprinting Chain Woman comes back languidly strolling and carefully sorts her clothes into two dryers. Mr MembersOnly sits cross legged on the counter and plays with his blonde streaks while a new twenty something student type walks in with a paper bag of clothes and looking mildly confused about the whole process.

The sun sets over Haight Street and the night cools as the fluorescent lights from the Laundromat spill out on to the street. I catch a whiff of marijuana and look around for the source but don’t see anything. The light dims enough outside to allow the headlights of passing street cards to make its way inside with a sweeping brightening of the room.

I remember the washing machines when I was in college. You always had to look in them before you sued them because this girl who lived down the hall had a propensity for getting stinking drunk, hiding in the laundry room in her embarrassment and then puking in the machines. It was smart to do your laundry before Saturday night and after Monday afternoon.

Mr MembersOnly jumps off the counter suddenly with his book and walks over and sits down next to me on the bench with an uncomfortable smile. He puts his feet up on the garbage can and I wonder if I’m developing a foot fetish. He’s less than 3 feet away so it’s hard to watch him with out being obvious.

My own feet could use a pedicure. I could use a manicure. I could use a full body massage. I could use a day in bed with a man I love. But since I’m poor and single, none of that’s going to happen, at least not for a while. I’m ok with that as I watch the building across the street take on the orange glow of the setting sun.

Miss OrgincChemistry has a sneezing fit and stepps outside. Seconds later I can smell her cigarette and Mr ConfusedAboutLaundry is now working on filling his 4th machine.

The driers make a slight whistling noise as eight of them tumble and turn. My things can’t have that much longer, can they? It’s as if I’m on top of some mountain in a poor built cabin, or at least Hollywood’s idea of it.

Mr MembersOnly gets up and pulls his clothes out of the washer and in the process catches me looking again. Once he’s got his clothes tumbling around, he leaves….quickly.

For a minute I was Miss Organic Chemistry pull her clothes out of the dryer. I’m impressed at the amount of leopard print she’s in possession of. Mr ConfusedByItAll comes back…with a rolling suitcase to replace his big paper bag.

I think I’ll fold at home instead of here and watch tv and chat online and realize that I at least am not in the middle of papers and studying and running up student loan debt.