We’ve always pretended to be fearless when it comes to exploring cities and the neighborhoods people tell us to steer clear of. We boldly trekked through south Chicago, but not all that often. We took downtown Kansas City by storm one Sunday, but never had much desire to return. And just a few days ago we strolled through San Francisco’s Tenderloin en route to a restaurant.
It was warm outside. The smell of urine was strong. We held our noses while ducking and dodging the mess of people and debris strewn along the sidewalk. We kept to ourselves and tried not to stare. We’re not fancy people, but the fact that we have a place to shower becomes painfully obvious when you’re among those who don’t.
As the funk got thicker, so did the masses of people. At one point we detoured to the sunny side of the street when a shoeless woman in a sport’s bra and sweatpants zeroed in on Cristi. She followed as we walked diagonally across the filthy asphalt.
“Hey…hey…there,” she yelled from the middle of the street, “I like the way you dress. That’s cute! I like your shoes, too.”
One compliment and she returned to the group of people we were trying to avoid. Not sure what to make of the situation, we stayed the course and eventually found our Vietnamese destination.
Looking back on the whole thing, it’s one of the more pleasant encounters we’ve had on the streets of San Francisco. And while we don’t plan to rush back to the Tenderloin, we’ll certainly remember last Sunday’s encounter.