My neighborhood in San Francisco leaves something to be desired, for me and for everyone else. However, we should never ignore the fact that some of us live here for reasons which are less compelling than other people’s reasons.
I live in a nice building. We have problems — most of which are related to the neighborhood — but my apartment neighbors and I are grateful we live here.
When I step outside, I often see broken glass and dismantled hypodermic syringes littered on the sidewalk. It’s a problem for me, but it reflects a bigger problem for the people who leave those items — especially the syringes. I wear shoes with thick soles, so for me it’s just a nuisance.
I’m not comfortable laughing at other people’s pain. Most of the time, even dark humor in entertainment makes me wince. Sometimes I’ll laugh, but I’m ashamed enough that I don’t want anyone to catch me laughing.
Yesterday I laughed at the aftermath of something which happened near my building. I waited until way after stepping inside before allowing loud guffaws to burst forth, as if that made me more of a lady. It didn’t.
The first part of this story — the first part I’m privy to, anyway — involved a pile of excrement in the gutter. Okay, maybe this was the result of a dog guardian failing to pick up after Rover, but I sensed the defecating party was human.
The mess was fresh, and was discovered during hours when people can visit public restrooms in the area. I don’t believe for a minute the person who took a dump was completely helpless because there were other options. There was also the remainder of a cigarette placed strategically among the four turds.
I see shit everywhere I go, so it must have been the cigarette butt that got my attention.
I was on my way out for a cheap but nutritious take-out meal, and at the time decided to tune out the cigarette-turd spectacle. I was going to be walking back in the same direction, though, so it couldn’t be ignored forever. Some stories must be heard. Still, my taste standards guaranteed no cell phone photos would be taken.
I wondered if I was making an issue of nothing. Four turds situated so close together suggested they had a proper social environment, and didn’t need my company. I was worried about the cigarette butt, though. Was it lonely? Maybe.
I’ve never smoked. I know nothing about cigarette butts. I don’t know what books they read, or if they enjoy Golden Girls reruns. I probably couldn’t have kept that cigarette butt company if I were the last available companion on earth for the poor creature.
As I was returning with my steamed rice, mixed vegies and dry-fried tofu and green beans, I looked for the cigarette butt, which by that time I was sure was being ostracized and ridiculed by those turds. That’s one of many reasons we often refer to excrement as shit. It wasn’t easy to recall the exact location, but I knew it was an empty parking space.
I looked under every parked car on that section of the block. Then I struck gold.
A U.S.P.S. van was parked in the space in question. The van was clean, and looked good as new. I wasn’t worried about the van, though.
I craned my neck and found my friend. The cigarette butt was still sitting there with the clique that would never welcome it, but the good news was the entire community was still intact. Say what you want about the post office, but the van hadn’t plowed through it.
I waved, straightened my back and returned to my building to eat take-out food. I refuse to give any further thought to the possibility of the van’s tires doing harm as the vehicle was moved later because I have no control over that cigarette butt’s destiny. I could only be comforting for a moment, so that was what I was. We were ships that passed in the night.
After eating, I thought of the incident once more and began giggling. Soon (yes, very soon), the giggling escalated to the guffaws mentioned earlier. In spite of my initial empathetic reaction, it wasn’t lost on me that the humor gods had hit a home run.