The level of mishigas rises considerably during that zone called ‘the holidays’ so I must cut myself some slack. But driving has been plaguing me of late. I’m tired of it. Just thought I’d share that, as we say in California. It’s hard to say what the supposedly problem is. Well, no, actually it is easy. What makes it hard is the underlying narrative, to couch things in contemporary psychobabble. I’m not confident about hitting the right pedal at the right time. That is the thing. The other thing is that I drive, whenever I do drive, very slowly. I am the classic old man behind the wheel. And this is really not the best thing to do in the frenzied heart of the city. But there you have it.
While struggling to feel confident again behind the wheel, I may be struggling with larger matters, such as overall anxiety. Doubtless, in fact. Meanwhile, it must be said that I have increasing roots here in San Francisco. At an age when I am no longer in the workplace, vis-à-vis employment, dammed if I haven’t found some interesting volunteer opportunities.
Starting with the homeless shelter, of course. There, things are never dull. And when they are ‘exciting’ the volunteers and staff respond with admirable calm. After all, it is peace that people sleeping rough rarely see. I complain of anxiety, but this is faintly ludicrous when one considers what must be like to crash night after night up some dark San Francisco alley. In fact, that is virtually the sole function of the shelter where I volunteer. People come in for naps. This naptime begins at six in the morning and ends midafternoon. In other words, it is not a residential shelter. But it is a refuge.
To be there is to broaden the definition of refugee. People need refuge from all sorts of things. Such as the impossible cost of living in San Francisco. There are quite a few people there who appear to have normal jobs and lives, but simply can’t afford a roof over their head. I don’t know where they go at night. No one asks. And that is another thing, people at Gubbio Project in San Francisco are left alone. The rules are very simple. Stretch out on a mat on the floor of St. John’s church, don’t make a lot of noise and don’t use drugs in the toilet. That is it in a nutshell.
And my job? Hand out a few modest supplies. Socks, toothbrushes and disposable razors, plus the occasional Tylenol. And keep an eye. People do wander by for an chat. A woman told me this morning that Trump had closed the border yesterday and killed 20,000 people. She wasn’t speaking metaphorically. In fact her stream of consciousness was devoid of subtlety. There was the mass killing of the border. And the fact that her family just doesn’t want her around. She listed each of them. Cousin. Father. Uncle. They claimed she was partying too much. I listened and nodded and was grateful to not be a party to her parties. I gave her some socks.
And I drove home. That was really the big, scary event of the day. The traffic was picking up. But so was my anxiety level. People honked at me frequently. So what? I got home. And as Scarlett O’Hara famously put it, tomorrow is another day.