How can things feel out of control in such a general, pervasive sense? And are they?
I can only point to recent experience and anecdotal evidence. First, there is the driving thing. It comes and goes, the motorist mojo. So whenever I hit the road…the road tends to hit back. A case in point, yesterday’s trip to Diamond Heights. Yes, this San Francisco neighborhood has a bombastic ring. Jubilee Summit or Sapphire Peak would have sounded more modest. But, and I can vouch for this, Diamond Heights is hardly overstated in the height department. It must be among the highest districts in the city, clinging to one of the steepest escarpments of Twin Peaks. And what happens there? What makes one set out for Diamond Heights? Hair. It needs to be cut. And the Diamond Heights Shopping Center is home to one of those swift barber outlets. Great Cuts, it is called. I do not particularly like getting my hair cut, by the way. Swift is good.
The problem is the actual drive. The fastest way up the hill to this particular haircut still seems dauntingly steep. I’m not quite sure what I imagine will happen. Something like getting stuck behind a car, having to put on the brakes on the steepest incline…and then setting out again, maneuvering from accelerator to brake pedal. And not maneuvering well, course. Meanwhile, slipping…that gut wrenching sense of being drawn downhill while attempting to advance in the opposite direction. This is very much in my mind, on my mind and driving (no pun intended) me out of my mind.
Which explains why I took the long way there. Clipper Street has some merciless stretches itself. But I navigated those by getting my front tires on the level part of successive junctions, and just carrying on. Not in any great state of calm and repose. No, this was a white knuckle experience. But at least I was there soon enough. I parked my car hard by the Diamond Heights Safeway. And things being what they are, went in search of a Chinese lunch.
In San Francisco one doesn’t have to search far. The Chinese restaurant was given over utterly and completely to dim sum. Rattled by the drive, though, I had some difficulty shifting mental gears. With dim sum, of course, one does not order a plate of, say, lunch. Instead, several plates arrive, each with a prescribed dosage of dumplings, noodles, and so on. As I say, I was nervous. Somehow, I ordered enough steamed doughy lunch bits for three or four people. I was into my first plate of dumplings, when the truth became clear. There followed a desperate attempt to communicate with the waiter. Not that the earlier attempt had been very easy. This place was seriously Chinese. The house specialty, prominently pictured on the menu, was chicken’s feet. Which I am sure is splendid, in a rather cartilaginous sort of way. Not to worry. After some gesturing and face making, I nixed it with the fried noodles. Too late to stop the car load of broccoli. I headed out to get my haircut.
I had to wait. Great Cuts was in no great hurry. Finally, I rolled into position. A bit on top, I said, more in the back. The woman told me I would look good with the number two. I sat there puzzling over this, deciding I was too old to get my haircut without current lingo at my fingertips. Meanwhile the young woman had pulled out a sort of handheld lawnmower. Zip. Zip. Suddenly I had a crew cut. Or what used to be called a crew cut. Short, very short, would suffice. More hair would also have sufficed. But there you are. And here we are.
Driving home, I hit the steepest patch of Elk Street and reduced my speed to about 15 mph. An old man, inching his way downhill. That is my life at times.