Go Beyond

Written by Teran McKinney
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Smiles

Some point after I moved to San Francisco, I started to smile less. I didn't intend to be a grinch, but I think I found that smiling was actually more of a liability than anything else.

The city has a trait where people generally don't look twice at the homeless or the crazies. I pretty much never give to the homeless, but I at least like to consider them human enough to reply politely, or at least tactfully. Replying at all, engages them, which is usually a bad thing.

Maybe not a homeless guy, but I met one fellow who wanted to shank me. I wasn't going to give him the $40 to take the bus to get back home. Apparently, he'd been released from prison the day before. He threatened to shank me and I walked off. He gave me the finger and sscreamed from across the street.

While most anyone would know better as he wore baggy clothes, had tear drop tatoos, tatoos on his knuckles, and just looked sketchy, I still wanted to think he could be human enough that we could talk. And he wasn't, unless threat of violence is considered reasonable communication.

I had another case on the BART where this man sat behind me with this woman. He started talking so briskly and forwardly I thought they knew each other. After some time, it became clear he was hitting on her and she had never met him. I turned around and told him that she clearly wasn't interested. He was actually polite and clearly drunk, but eventually left. But before he did, I sat with the fear that he was going to stab me. I wasn't going to look back endlessly, but I felt confident it could be a reality. My only saving grace might be the lady behind me screaming or doing something if he tried to that. But I sat, nervously, and he just moved away and turned out to be just fine.

I also could not get a date in the city, for the life of me. Yet, there was one woman who seemed to deny her relationship in front of me after I'd already seen her make out with a man, and another who flirted with me, while very drunk, at a board game meetup. In front of her boyfriend.

And to top it off, I had a coworker who tried to go out with myself and my friend pretty much over the same weekend. We figured out she was just using us for advice on how to get ahead at work.

In San Francisco, I consistently felt unsafe. It was in San Francisco the first time that my girlfriend at the time was very rudely commented about. I did not know how to respond as I'd never had that happen before.

So pretty much, I felt unsafe through and through, that I could only get a date with a girl who's already dating, and found that the average person on the street just can't be trusted. But, I think the stress and my own decisions around that have boiled into the rest of my life. And not just San Francisco, but many other things in the past. Many my fault, one way or another.

I've found myself avoiding people in different ways now. I don't smile as much while I walk by people. Partly because I'm a bit less happy, and largely because I don't trust many of them. But even people I work with I don't trust like I should. Two years ago, I didn't know how untrustworthy some people were. That has not been a fun thing to learn, and I don't wish it on anyone to learn. But maybe it was necessary, and better sooner than later.

All of this comes to a point -- a cyclist. I was on my way into work and pulled up to a light. He was trying to tell the car in the other lane to pull up because he wasn't on the grating for detecting the cars. He talked to me shortly, happy that I stopped on the right spot. And just smiled, and seemed happy. It really stuck out to me, because he was a complete stranger. And he said I could feel free to pass him, I guess, as gasoline is more potent than leg muscles. But he was very polite. I'd normally just pass him without comment in a sort of rude way, but he gave me the permission right away.

It was very thoughtful. This guy probably has close calls every so often. I'm convinced cycling on the road is more dangerous than motorcycling. But, he seems he probably does it well and cautiously. And he was friendly.

I've generally been too negative and too closed off. One thing I've found is that while I can relate to pretty much none of the political mentalities in the Bay Area, some of those folks are very nice. At least one at work who probably thinks I'm a nut, but is completely polite and engaging,

What good is my fight for liberty if I can't even talk about it without a smile? Or if they are happier people than I am?

So I'll try to smile and be mildly considerate. This means, also, that if you're someone who smiles in a populace that doesn't, even though you may not get a good reaction, it's there. At least with some. I certainly appreciate any bit of friendliness even if I don't show it at the time.




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