Challenge #2: Talk to Strangers - 1
There was so much going on in San Francisco last week—Fleet Week, America’s Cup, the Giants playoffs, a 49ers game, the Castro Street Fair, the “Litquake” literary festival, and the free bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park. It’s like the whole city was buzzing—people were everywhere, all going places and doing things, and yes, they were happy to talk about it with a silly girl trying to join in all the fun.
Saturday: Pickin’ and a Grinnin’
Saturday I headed out to the free bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It was a beautiful day, a huge event, and there couldn’t have been more people to talk to.
On the way there, I found myself crammed into the N train, smashed next to three friends in their early 20s who were happy to chat. One of them told a story about how she hated Pepper Jack cheese but hadn’t wanted to tell the guy who was her boyfriend at the time. She dated him for three years, gagging down the cheese that was his favorite, never telling him she secretly hated it. When she finally decided to end it, they were having some nachos he made with you guessed it—Pepper Jack cheese—and she had finally had too much.
“I hate that cheese and he put it on everything,” she said.
At the show, I bought some ice cream from a guy named Mark who joked about being lactose intolerant. While waiting for The Lumineers to come on stage, I sat next to a man in his mid-40s who had been to Burning Man for the first time this year. He said he was blown away by a large pirate ship one group had built.
“It was like the desert used to be an ocean thousands of years ago and they drained it and found this ship for us to party on,” he said.
At the Les Claypool show I sat next to a group of friends who used to all live in the same apartment complex but were now scattered throughout the city. They were happy to see each other and one of them was excited for an interview he had on Tuesday.
On the way home I found myself crammed into a train again. Everyone was tired and smiling and we all talked about what shows and stages we had been to while comparing our days.
Sunday: The Man Who Didn’t Leave His Heart in San Francisco
While taking the train home an elderly couple got on. The woman was dressed nicely in clean pants, shoes, and a leopard jacket with a purple headscarf, and the man looked rather dapper in a sports coat, red scarf, and flat cap. They had big friendly smiles and were obviously visiting and having a great time. When they got on, the man sitting next to me and I both got up at the same time to give them our seats. The four of us began to talk. While we chatted about what stop they needed to get off on and how their trip was going, the couple held hands the entire time. The older man had lived in San Francisco years ago but now everything looked different and he didn’t remember the train stops. The man standing next to me asked him why he left and if he missed it.
“I left for this one,” the old man said, nodding his head to his wife. “Haven’t regretted it for a second.”
Wednesday: Pole Dancing and Politics
I had to work late on Wednesday so I took a later non-commuter train home. There was a group of women, probably in their early 50s, who were out for a girl’s night and obviously feeling a little buzzed. They were on their way to a second bar. I asked them where they were headed and they told me Beauty Bar in the Mission. I explained it was a bit of a younger scene there.
“Great!” one woman said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Then one of the other women started “practicing her pole dancing” on the train’s poles. They were all dressed like soccer moms. One of them may have even had a fanny pack on.
A few stops later, on that same ride, a guy got on who was carrying what looked like a baton. I asked him what it was and he said it was the rod for a shower curtain. He was moving, and friend had given it to him. We started talking, and he told me he was working on the Obama campaign in Reno. Then some people standing by us started chatting as well and we all wanted to know his reaction to the first Romney-Obama debate. The small district he was working in was mostly independent and a lot of people were now thinking of voting for Romney, he said. Most of us were depressed to hear this. One woman said Obama was just warming up. Then we got to talking about California’s Proposition 32, which would ban union contributions to candidates, and I almost didn’t get off at my stop because the debate was so fun.
Thursday: Moms Love Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez
If you read my entry last week, you know that Thursday night is trivia night for me and my friends. But this week we mixed it up and bit and went to a literary trivia night held by Goodreads for San Francisco’s “Litquake Literary Festival. While there a man named Jeff, who was waiting for a Jazz concert, sat next to us at the bar, and I talked him into joining our team until he had to leave. He worked at the University of California at San Francisco and helped us answer some questions about W.B. Yeats and Margaret Atwood, and he and I ended up talking about folk music. He said he was a huge Joni Mitchell fan because his mom used to always have her playing in the house on Sundays while she was cleaning. I said my mom was the same way but with James Taylor and Joan Baez.
“Oh, my mom loves her, too,” he said. “Moms love Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez.”
Friday: Now You’re Talking Baseball
On Friday, I had to work late again. (I know, who works late on a Friday? I do, because all my deadlines fall on that day). I had to catch what I’m now calling “the buzzed bus” to get home. I ended up sitting in between two guys who mostly talked over me but included me just in their discussion about the San Francisco Giants being in the playoffs. We each told the story of where we were when they beat the Reds on Thursday. We’d all been watching the baseball game while at work. One guy snuck out and watched from a TV in a sandwich shop.
“I didn’t buy anything, but the owners didn’t care,” he said. “They knew I was a fan.”
I don’t know if it was all the events going on this week, or just the fact that I’m engaging so many more strangers in conversation, but it’s weird—suddenly San Francisco is starting to feel like one big club that we’re all members of. It’s like everywhere I go, we’re all on the same team.
And, in a way, we are. Maybe that’s what’s been so great.
Megan is a writer, editor, and public relations professional who has worked in publishing and education for the last seven years. She’s currently working for a higher-education startup in San Francisco and is obsessed with books, fancy cheese, dive bars, making herself tired, and basically anything ridiculous and beautiful.More from this Author