Sometimes I think I am too nice for this town, which is an odd thought, since people are usually calling me a misanthropic, anti-social lout with no social graces. And I tend to agree. I’m surly, utterly lacking in charm, and pathologically impatient. Yet, somehow, I manage to retain more kindness that most of the people I see in the city around me.
I was thinking about this today as I thanked a MUNI driver today (response: “What?! Oh, you’re welcome.) I recently thanked the driver on the 38 Geary, who thought I said something less friendly, and responded in a dangerously low voice with “what did you just say?” “Er…thank you?” “Oh.”
Then I was in the BART station, and a woman dropped her jacket, and I picked it up and tossed it to her, and she looked alarmed, startled, and offended all at once before realizing that I really was just handing her the jacket so that she wouldn’t miss her train.
Walking to the library, I gave directions to confused German tourists, helped a little old lady cross the road, rode a unicorn, and spontaneously burst into song with the homeless people in Civic Center. Just kidding. Well, I did help some German tourists. (Note to self: start carrying a City map to facilitate direction giving. And maybe cue cards.)
I think sometimes that people find City life very freeing because of the sense of anonymity, the ability to move at will through an environment filled with people. At one point, I thought that way too. But I find that I actually miss running into people I know everywhere I go. When I bump into someone at Safeway, they don’t say “oh, how’s your father,” they say “excuse me.” I walk down the street on a day bright and filled with promise, and no one meets me in the eye or asks if I know of any places coming up for rent. I used to hate living in a small town because I felt like everyone knew what I was doing before I was doing it, and now I miss it. How odd. I realize that I don’t know what I’m doing, anymore.
They say that cities have some sort of pulse, a vibrant living thread, but I actually disagree. I think that small towns have a pulse, because they function like an interconnected organism. The citizens are the pulse, blood circulating through all the parts of the organism, recycling and flushing through every inch. In a small town, everything is known, intimately. Cities are like a Man O’ War, the “jellyfish” that is actually a collection of independent polyps. We’re filled with poison to lure in our prey, and we know the organisms that live right next to us, but we have no connection with the rest of the organism.
Sometimes I just want to be a jellyfish with a heart.