As you know from my last piece, "Chugging the California 'Cool' Aid", I've recently re-located to the Bay Area from Miami. Miami is unique and dripping with character, but dreams of living on the West Coast never subsided, and I chose to give in. San Francisco, a place that breeds liberalism, free thought and creative thinking was more of the place for me. And so far, it is, but I have discovered it also has an incredible amount of order and rigidity.
Last summer, I rented an apartment in Noe Valley with my two boys to test out the waters and decide if San Francisco was the right spot for our family. The day we arrived, we walked down to the local Whole Foods and crossed the streets in all the appropriate places. To a Miami person, it was startling that cars actually stopped when pedestrians were standing at the cross walk. You see in Miami, drivers like to play fun games; such as how many pedestrians can we hit today, without getting caught. I already felt a sense of love for my new community.
We entered Whole Foods and merrily filled our cart with the overpriced fare, while observing the quiet nature of the people. I found myself "shushing" my kids as if we were in a library getting a dirty look from the quintessential librarian with the tight bun and thick glasses dangling at the end of her nose, except here the librarian was cataloging free-trade coffee and used chopsticks from recycled timber to hold together her dread locked bun.
Pushing my cart overflowing with the overpriced food, I pulled up to a line and unloaded the goods onto the conveyor belt. "Shit," I thought, "how am I going to walk home with all of this stuff? I don't have any re-usable bags... "
I already felt like a San Francisco failure. The kindly, young cashier stared at me, looked at my huge pile of groceries and said calmly and slowly as if speaking to a non-English speaking foreigner, "Miss, just so you know in the future this is actually an express line" "What!" I exclaimed overexxagerating my vocal cords and facial expressions. "I am soooooo sorry ("great", I thought "now I really will be shipped back to Miami in a re-usable bag"), I will go back to the regular line", I declared to the cashier.
"No, it's all good, and one more thing", as he pointed to a line resembling a bread line in communist Russia in the 1980s, "there is an actual line."
My eyes widened, I turned uncomfortably waved and smiled to the gaggle of customers waiting to check out. "Why didn't any of them yell at me?" "What's wrong with these people?" And "It's not all good, it's all really, really inconsiderate and you really think I am rude, so say it instead of using your passive aggressive 'it's all good' expression."
As I tried to act humbly when I presented an entitled self to my new city, the cashier picked up my bottle of sulfate-free Pinot Noir, something I needed badly to get me through another lonely night with zero adult interaction. It was getting very Rear Window in my apartment with me staring out the windows at people living their lives, lives that seemed a little more social than my current one.
"Miss, I need to see some identification" Mr. rule-following-cashier stated. Okay, this was getting to be really bad. I didn't have my ID, I hadn't seen it in days.
I begged and pleaded with this young man to please let me have this wine: It was a life or death scenario. My kidding and good-natured jokes didn't work, he told me he could lose his job, that hit me right in my sensitive spot and of course I stopped pushing and gave up on my wine. I left Whole Foods feeling confused and mentally exhausted.
We dropped off the groceries and went for a walk through the Castro. Three men stood doing everyday activities like; reading The Wall Street Journal, drinking coffee, chatting with friends -- only they were doing these things STARK naked. My intuitiveness pointed out that these men were not escaped mental patients. Their bodies were perfect and lacking in one ounce of hair. It was like three Olympic swimmers were hanging out nude after a meet.
I could care less about nudity, it doesn't bother me. But I did have some questions, as to the purpose of this nude activity: Was it a protest? Was it a dare? Were they simply reveling in their perfection? Were they prostitutes?
And if you are allowed to walk around nude in San Francisco, why couldn't I buy a bottle of wine at Whole Foods without an ID?