Not Pretty Days

I do acknowledge that it was one of those days, or certainly one of those times, when I had reached my wit’s end. The occasion was heightened by Bella, our aging and arthritic boxer (mix) who decided to burst into urinary full flood right on our hardwood floors…for reasons that will forever remain a canine mystery. Naturally, whether propelled by Sod’s law or Murphy’s law (precisely the same cosmic legislation), I was attempting to rush out the door to my weekly adult education class.

And let me point out that Old Guys Going Back To School has proven to be a joyous endeavor. I make every effort to be on time. And the last-minute toweling of the oak boards wasn’t going to stop me. But Bella, the dog, was. She wandered outside to sun herself in the dim rays of December. I begged, then insisted, next ordered…her inside. She eyed me blankly. I attempted to herd her with my wheelchair. She all but laughed. After one wheelchair feint she retreated to her doggy bed on our terrace. Noting that one of my tires had rolled on to her mattress, Bella finally ceded ground and trotted indoors. I rushed down our hill to the local subway station.

Until I came to a complete and total stop just outside Canyon Market, the final 300 m stretch to the station, where a man stood berating the Wells Fargo cash machine. Interestingly, the machine replied. He seemed to be interrogating the unseen technician servicing, and doubtless replenishing, the device. Which, needless to say, was at least briefly out of action. And these days briefly is too long.

I don’t like to admit the general post-election atmosphere in this country. But nerves are frayed. People are afraid. It is everywhere, including here by the Wells Fargo ATM. With the actual machine extended to the street during its repairs and this large man yelling…there was no room for a wheelchair. All manner of “excuse mes” had no effect. A passerby finally tapped the man on the shoulder. I squeezed by. He was still yelling, words to the effect of how the technician was a lazy bastard. Way to go, guy. Let’s yell at a low-level Wells Fargo worker instead of one of its tainted bosses…who played an infamous role in the 2008 crash. It wasn’t pretty. But then much isn’t these days.

I always pause outside the station agent’s glass box to read the news-style digital crawl proclaiming the day’s nonfunctioning elevators. Oddly, on a human level it’s all about customer service. An agent invariably sees me staring and emerges to ask what’s up. I mean, it’s all personal and solicitous…and I feel downright churlish for getting annoyed at the utter uselessness of this attention. Because, thing is, on this particular day Embarcadero Station has no operating lift…rendering the most office-intensive and employment-intensive center of San Francisco…all high-rises and financial giants in their tower blocks…well, totally inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair. Whatever. Powell Station is okay. I go down and board the first train.

It’s a short train, only four carriages. And since it’s only two in the afternoon, travel should be light. But, no, the thing is packed. After all, in this gig economy, people work all hours…as long as the total number of hours don’t oblige employers to provide medical care. Not that this is currently my concern. In fact the ride is uneventful until near the end. Someone is screaming and yelling. I can tell that someone is black by the accent. And why there should be a black accent in this country is a damn good question. But keep people penned in and they pick up in each other’s speech. Especially when there’s not much to pick up at school. Thus, much of America 2016.

“You don’t even know me,” the woman keeps yelling. Actually, yelling and crying. Clearly there’s a fight underway. From my wheelchair I can’t see her or the other combatant. But at the Powell Street I do yell through the driver’s window that combat is underway. Another passenger reports the same thing. The source and nature of the altercation remain unclear as I roll for the elevator. But the impact remains. I am shaken and heartsick. The current political climate is bringing out the worst in many people. Perhaps the best will come.

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