A work day. The work of getting the day to be a day. And considerable work, it has been.
That work ended, and the day’s writing began, with a final phone call. This one to the De Young Museum of San Francisco. Would they please send me another membership card? I had already called the Museum of Modern Art, Contemporary Jewish Museum…and I had run out of restorative options. Nothing more to be done.
After getting robbed in broad daylight of considerable cash (intended for my home helper’s payroll) and the usual array of credit cards…and Safeway card and museum memberships, etc. Well, I had done it all. Nothing else to do but wait for a replacement mobile phone to arrive via FedEx. Except, of course, for those things one can’t quite remember to do. The transit card. I called them, Clipper. No prob. The last thing being the most noisome. Journey directly to the local outpost of the California Department Of Motor Vehicles.
Oh, what is so rare as a San Francisco day in June, fog is swirling, cold mist stinging? I had donned a British wool jacket, certain that would be enough. I had also imagined the urban geography of the DMV office…set against a backdrop of San Francisco public transport. But, honestly, I got it terribly wrong. It was only quick thinking by a bus driver that saved the transit day. Thanks to him, I got off at the right spot. It was, in fact, a bus driver morning.
I had boarded the San Francisco Muni #35 Eureka virtually in front of my home. Not that this is particularly good, a certain uneasiness now pervading all sorts of things that happen right in front of my home. Such as robbery. Never mind. The 35 is very much a neighborhood bus. It careens over the hills merrily, dropping off old guys, moms, domestics. Aboard my bus there was a spot of bother. A black teenager was hurling paranoid insults at the black driver. Leave me alone, being the predominant theme. No worries, said the driver. He would deal with the kid at the end of the line. Where I was also headed. The driver wasn’t worried, and I took a moment to commend him for his general patience and people skills. Thanks, he said. This was part of my day, an important part. Conversational hands across the water to the African American community.
Of course, having fought my way up the wintery hill to the DMV, it was nice to be inside. Although it is difficult to imagine a less prepossessing structure. Cinderblock. Fluorescent lights blazing. Huddled masses inside yearning to be free of expired driver’s permits, vehicle registration fees and so on. Note that I had attempted to get the process going online. The DMV website assured me that I could make an appointment…as early as September. Or, with a quick jaunt over to Oakland, mid-August. Pleasant discovery, however…people in wheelchairs don’t need appointments. Automatically at the head of the queue.
A man sitting behind a very high desk…more or less Dickensian height…heard the first five words of my plea and grabbed a form. Complete it in full, he urged. Don’t write in the margins. For those of us who live in the margins, this was confusing. For those of us who are naturally right-handed and are forced by a neuromuscular necessity to attempt a left-handed scrawl…the form filling part was no small order. But mission completed, he accepted the form and gave me a number. B 112.
So paranoid was about losing this slip of paper, that I didn’t risk pulling out the New York Times. Too many moving parts for a quadriplegic. So I just sat there, one of the few white people in the echoing concrete florescence. A synthesized voice kept intoning the numbers. B 893. H 211. And tomorrow and tomorrow. Hard to understand. Everyone drives a car. Everyone has to deal with registration, licenses and fees. So why are the people at the DMV predominately poor? Do San Francisco’s rich dispatch minions to deal with their driver’s licenses?
That’s one thing about this city–the economic divide is always in your face. And the risible gulf between rich and poor, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t working out too well. So now I look over my shoulder whenever I come home. There is a vulnerable moment when I duck into the entranceway and enter my key code. I don’t have the real key to any of this. Except that I feel very vulnerable. And I am.