Monday, July 11, 2005

Yesterday Upon the Stair...

I've found a new place to write: a Starbucks downtown on Market near Van Ness. It's a big place, with a corner filled with arm chairs, and several well-placed electric outlets for those of us who occasionally need more juice. Lots of sunlight, which has been in short supply in SF of late. But Market near Van Ness is also home to a good chunk of San Francisco's homeless population and, like cities everywhere, its own share of the intriguingly crazy.

So I'm sitting there this morning and note a woman come in; she's neatly dressed in navy blue slacks and a short sleeved white cotton shirt (both of them clean). She's wearing a trenchcoat with pastel checkered lining, and a querulous expression as if she just had a fight with someone and didn't get the last word. She ditches two backpacks and goes up to get her coffee. I go back to my writing. Every now and then I look up (partly because there's a homeless guy out in front of the store who clearly knows all the skateboarders in the neighborhood, who drop by, buy him coffee, and gossip, and I like watching him holding court) and note that the neatly dressed woman is having an argument--not just talking to herself, but arguing full out, sotto voce, but with all the body language you get from someone who is confronting another human being. Every now and then I get a snatch of her rant: "But nobody does, nobody does! Do you hear me?" But mostly I was involved in inserting a new character into a previously written scene, so my attention was mostly on that.

Half an hour later she's still arguing and I'm moving on in the chapter. I hear a loud, half-deaf voice from the back of the shop, joking with one of the baristas. From the conversation I gather that the guy is mentally retarded and possibly has some hearing loss as well. However, he's cheerful, seems to interact well, and other than the inappropriate loudness which draws attention to him, he's not causing any trouble. Except for the woman in the blue slacks, who breaks off her argument with the unseen opponent and starts speaking, in increasingly loud tones, to the guy in the back. "Get a job. Stop following me around. Get a job. I'm not paying for you, and neither is Karl Rove." She gets increasingly loud. "Get a job! Just because you're retarded doesn't mean you can drag me down with you. Some of us work for a living. Get some training, find a counselor. Get a job! Get a job! I'm not paying for you. You can stop following me. Follow Karl Rove, follow Cheney. Get a job!"

Finally the loud guy left, and the woman in blue slacks returned to continue her quarrel with the person who wasn't across the table from her. An hour later, she had taken out a dog-earred spiral bound notebook and was writing something, pausing occasionally to glare balefully at the person who wasn't across the table. I had finished my chapter and had to go. I wonder how long she stayed, and if she ever got her point across to her opponent.


Blogger Jonquil said...

Mail to merobins at seems to be bouncing. If that's intentional, pray forgive my intrusion.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Oh, bother. No, my website is hideously out of date. My email address is No intentional bounce-age, I assure.

9:36 PM  
Blogger C. F. Blog said...

I don't know how you do it. No wonder I'm not a writer, I would be too distracted. Instead of working on my chapter I would have been dissecting why the poor lady was of kilter. Wondering if she was born with an imbalanced or if it was circumstances, the Karl Rove thing is interesting.

Glad you have the sun though...I live by the beach so is fog frequent.

7:47 AM  
Blogger C. F. Blog said...

I hate it when I post and I don't check my sentences, I meant the following (dissecting why the poor lady was OFF kilter, and I live by the beach so the fog IS frequent.

Have a good day writing and may no odd characters disrupt you unless they work in the chapters. :)

8:16 AM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

Soon she will be able to shout, "Get a job, Karl Rove!"

10:39 AM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

From your mouth to the ears of God. And maybe a Special Prosecutor.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Sarcasm Girl!!! said...

Somehow I feel a strange attachment to this woman. I really just want to tell that jerk sitting across from her to go away so I can buy her a cup of coffee. And a straightjacket. I think she'd be much more agreeable with said items on hand... and on torso. My little group of people (Shocker! I have a group of people!) at my acting class has also run into a few... people along our occasional trips to the local Ben and Jerry's... and I really shouldn't have told you that. Damn my black heart.

Oh, by the way Mom? Brownie points for use of the word "querulous." *sigh* You just never hear good words like that among the common folk... i.e. people my age. they seem to relate to the word quite well though...

And don't you dare say anything, mother. I am included in that statement as well.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

What a strange and wonderful child you are. What did I do to deserve you?

Are you concerned that I didn't realize you were stepping out to Ben and Jerry's? I assumed it must be something like that...and ice cream by itself is probably better for you than Frappuccinos without end.

I didn't use words like querulous much when I was your age; after the time when I used the word "intercourse" to mean "Dealings or communications between persons or groups," I didn't hear the end of it from my "group of people" (gasp! I too had a group of people) for weeks.

9:23 PM  

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