(Disclosure: This post appears in slightly different form on a private social media page.)
Yesterday I visited a grocery store once and a drugstore three times (the drugstore transactions included bottled water, which was too heavy for one trip).
In every one of those instances, all hell was breaking loose in the store. Disruptive “customers,” most or all of whom were stealing, were running amok.
I know this is more common in San Francisco now. Is it getting worse everywhere?
While walking home from the grocery store which was about a mile from my apartment, I noticed a copy of the San Francisco Examiner that was littered on the sidewalk on Folsom Street. The headline said something about drug-related deaths in the city increasing.
I was carrying two bags of groceries, so I didn’t stop to photograph the paper. I don’t even know if it was a recent issue. However, that headline on a littered newspaper seemed like a substantial thing to record in a photo. The newspaper, like the people who were referred to in the headline, had become a discard that was regarded as a nuisance.
Our society treats its less productive people as trash, and when those people behave as trash it’s interpreted as an assurance that we’re right to treat them that way.
I had a difficult time empathizing with the disruptive people I saw today. At one point, I commented to another bystander that they were “assholes.”
I don’t want to have that attitude because I know it just contributes to the cycle. I’m living right in the middle of it, though. I can’t step outside without witnessing someone else’s personal crisis.
We really don’t know why some people become the human equivalent of bad train wrecks, others mature into highly responsible, efficient types, and the rest of us are somewhere in between those extremes. Individual people can recall positive and negative experiences in their pasts which they believe shaped their personalities. It’s likely they’re at least partly right, but something more subtle — such as genes — may also be involved.
There are programs that can help homeless people with job training, mental healthcare and addiction recovery. Many homeless people are not inclined to ask for help, though, and most outreach efforts can’t be forced on a person.
Maybe all I can do is be grateful for my nice apartment with the double-paned windows, which effectively block out the worst of the horror — and be glad I’m not one of those people who fell completely through the proverbial cracks. Until further notice, no one else seems to have any better ideas.