Living in San Francisco sometimes feels like being a participant in a circus sideshow; but that’s why I like it! Who doesn’t love the circus?
Here are a few things I’ve learned about living in SF:
1. Homeless people. There are a lot of crazy homeless people here…everywhere. They just blend in with everyone else. A little disconcerting. I suppose they are here because the city laws tolerate them, and the temperature never gets extreme here (below freezing or above 80). I try to carry change in my pocket to dole out but there are just too many of them. Some I just have to ignore. On my walk to the bus in the morning I pass two or three sleeping in their little separate campsites. Pathetic little piles of blankets and jackets with a person underneath. WWJD?? Really? Just walk by?
2. Ride the bus. And buy a monthly pass. It is very safe, convenient, and affordable. Driving is just not worth it unless you are going out of the city. I pay $225 a month just to PARK my car at my apartment building and I have to remember to drive somewhere a couple of times a month just to crank it up. The bus system is amazing! NOTE: The crazy homeless people also ride the bus, so never sit in the back of the bus! That’s where all the wild stuff goes on…
3. ALWAYS Swipe your bus pass.
The bus system in the city is so convenient that lots of folks just hop off and on without bothering to pay. It is such a problem that they have a whole contingent of law enforcement to deal with it. Really. They have bus pass police, who will randomly stop the bus and check everyone on board. If you haven’t swiped your pass or got a transfer slip, it’s off the bus and a $75 ticket! I got nailed one time…
Here is how it works: You buy a blue “Clipper Card” for $5 and pay to have it reloaded monthly (at Walgreen’s usually). (It’s $62 a month for “Muni” only. More later.) Then when you get on the bus, there is a little wireless card reader that you stick your card on. If it goes BEEEEEEP, you are good to go. If it goes beep beep beep, you have not swiped properly, or you are out of money on the card. NOTE: OFTEN the card reader is broken or out of service, and you just take your chances and ride the bus anyway.
The bus payment system is really pretty complicated, because the transit system is so vast. There is MUNI (bus only), BART (an underground train that goes outside the city), the Ferry system (boat rides to Sausalito, Alameda, and other places across the bay), and then there is a combination of these. Their web site tries to explain, but it’s still pretty complicated. Basically, you can get anywhere within 40 miles of the city.
4. So much to do; so little time. This city is crammed with things to do and see. Every weekend, there are many many little street fairs and farmer’s markets going on. In my neighborhood, I always just walk out my door and something amazing and fun is happening! I haven’t even begun to explore yet! This city likes to party and play! Free music (world class stuff), museum exhibits (again world class stuff), and then there is just the plain old bay, beach, water, mountains, outdoors (the most beautiful on the west coast). That’s why I moved to SF.
I have not been bored one minute since I moved here. Sad, yes; lonely, definitely; but bored–never. Makes me realize how horribly bored I was in ATL. When I get too sad here, I just walk to the marina and stare at the ocean and the boats.
5. Liberal means lots of rules and laws. I didn’t know this before I moved to SF, since I didn’t live in a liberal state. But for some reason, liberal means that EVERYTHING is regulated by government and heavily enforced. There are laws and forms attached to things as minor as curbing your tires when you park (they take this very seriously). In Georgia, I never got the impression that the government gave a shit about the people, which is why law enforcement was so lax, taxes were so law, and government workers were so lazy (note: I was once a GA state government worker so I speak from experience). Here, the taxes are high, the government is strict, and the laws are abundant.
I will say, it is obvious that those high taxes are used to increase the standard of living for Californians:
- Parks on every corner – mini parks, dog parks, big parks, aquatic parks, athletic parks, historic parks…you can’t walk a city block without finding a nice patch of green.
- Free music and art – every decent sized park is a good venue for a band, and I have heard some of the best music I’ve ever heard at free park concerts – at lunch, jazz festivals, even at the local health fair.
- Transit system – see above. Nuff said.
- Health care – nearly everyone in SF who doesn’t have a job or makes less than 50k a year qualifies for free healthcare. Really.
But all that means lots of extra laws. I see where the phrase “big government” came from. It seems that liberal should mean “no law” or chaos, but apparently that is what “Republican” means. Lessons in public policy are on every street corner; Californians are quick to protest and call for more government intervention when they feel that justice has not been served. Interesting. Native Californians especially suffer from ESE – Enhanced sense of entitlement.