Grampa Bill Index

Travel in the USA Index

First Days in SF

Street People

Going to Colorado

At My Sister's House

Going to Chicago/Michigan

East Lansing - 1

East Lansing - 2

Goodbye Michigan -
Hello Chicago & KC

January 26, 2012

Dear Students,

In yesterday's email I mentioned that I had several unpleasant encounters with "street people" during the day. The great majority of the people that I have met on this trip so far have been tourist from all over the world that are in San Francisco for their first and perhaps only time AND "service people" selling goods and services (hotel rooms, taxi rides, souvenirs, and activities). All of these people are chatty, friendly people that want you to have a good time on your visit.

"Street people"fall into several categories – mentally ill that need help but are not getting it, unemployed/homeless people that trying to get money for food or shelter, criminals, and ordinary people that may be having a "bad hair day".. On Thursday, I met two representatives of these two of these groups.

That morning I went to a US Postal Station located in the basement of the Macy Department Store but it wasn't to open until 10:00 am. I decided to wait in Union Square. After a while I heard a woman screaming: "you are a rapist" get off of me!” There was nobody near her. She walked 15 or 20 feet and then yelled and screamed something similar: "stop raping me" get off of me! You're a rapist" stop, STOP! She continued across the park and up the street screaming out her pain and grief to no one in particular. People just looked, nothing to say, nothing to do – it was frightening but people recognized that she was haunted by terrible memories and needed help but little could be done.

The second encounter was much more troubling. Several of us tourist approached a bus stop in a very nice neighborhood of North Point. The bus was sitting with the door closed and the driver sitting inside. The other tourist from England politely knocked on the door to find out if this was the bus we wanted to take back to downtown. A very large, strong looking black man said: "three minutes, you gots to wait three more minutes" I was joking and asked: "Are you the time keeper for the bus company?’ He immediately became quite angry and starting cursing, jumped up and started pacing around, mutter and cursing and drinking from a bottle he was carrying. I apologize and said I was just joking but he kept up his string of profanity. The driver let the half dozen riders on and just as he was about to leave the black man got on – told the driver he wasn't going to pay and came down the mostly empty bus and set near the rest of us.

He continued his verbal abuse of the couple from England. There was a single Spanish woman on the other side of the bus and he made all kinds of obscene jesters toward her and kept up his string or racial slurs.

It was hard to tell if the driver had called the police but I think not. I got the feeling that the man had rode this route before and after a few stops he got off still cursing and making racial comments to no one in particular. It was hard to tell exactly what was the cause of his actions – it could have been alcohol, drugs, previous racial injustice, or other reasons but certainly some mental issues. It was deeply troubling to me. I was ashamed at the show he put on for the tourist. I realize that it was not directed at me but everyone. It was a disappointing end to my long and very satisfying walk along the North shore of San Francisco Bay. I did not take pictures of these two people.

Another group that I did take pictures was people willing to "give" something in return for money. These were musicians, magicians, street vendors and artist. Yesterday I sent pictures of a guitar player, artist, and accordion player. I asked permission to take their picture which they readily agreed and I usually gave some change or a dollar after explaining I was taking the pictures for my Chinese students. Today there is a person selling cheese, another dog walker, a magician, and the station master of Amtrak.


1 Selling Cheese

2 A Magician

3 Yachts

4 Walking the dogs