In these Troubled San Francisco Times, there is a lot of talk about who was here when, and what that does (or doesn't) mean. In an effort to both assist newcomers and take long-time residents down memory lane, we present to you Ask a San Francisco Native, a column penned by SF native and longtime SFist contributor Rain Jokinen, which is inspired by a similar one on our sister site Gothamist, and is intended to put to rest all those questions only a native of this city can answer. Send yours here!
I know that tourism makes San Francisco a lot of money, right? But every time one of those people almost runs me over in a Go Car or just stops in the middle of a sidewalk to look at a (paper! Like a caveman!) map while people are trying to walk by, I want to yell "THIS IS A CITY WHERE PEOPLE LIVE NOT A THEME PARK."
Is this an example where a recent transplant (guilty!) is overreacting, along the lines of the Frisco hate you wrote about earlier? Or is this a universal disgust, shared by old and new San Franciscans alike?
This Force Is Not My Dream, It Is My Nightmare
Last month, I went to Hawaii for the first time in my life. I was there a week, and it didn't take me long to fall into tourist mode, not giving a fuck about wearing flip-flops, a bathing suit, and a caftan to the local grocery store. I looked ridiculous, and clearly not like a local, but I really didn't care. It was hot out, I was on vacation, and I needed to get some snacks before hitting the beach, dammit!
But I'd like to think aside from looking ridiculous, I did my best to avoid being an annoying tourist, while also recognizing how easy it is to fall into that mode. Being on vacation made me realize, when you're surrounded by something new and beautiful, it's hard not to completely forget the world around you, because you're too busy trying to take it all in while you can. (Usually with a camera phone while blocking foot and/or vehicular traffic.)
I think living in San Francisco can easily make us immune to its beauty. We see our stunning vistas, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay, the Victorians — all of it, every day — and most of the time, we just take it for granted. But those tourists are seeing it all for the first time. And it can be pretty overwhelming!
So, I do my best to tolerate the needs of the visitors, while also admitting that they can be annoying as hell. Why do they stand in the middle of the sidewalk to check their maps? Why do they ignore streetlights, and just walk out in front of traffic? (I see this ALL. THE. TIME. Especially near Powell Street.) And do they think the cars that are driving down Lombard Street are holograms that will drive right through them as they stand at the bottom of the hill, taking pictures?
I get it. You're here for a short time, and you need to capture as much of it as you can in that brief window. But please, PLEASE, use some common sense! Cars work the same way in San Francisco as they do where you're from: They're heavy, and they can kill you, so best not to get in their way. (Trust me, that shot of Lombard will look just fine if taken from the sidewalk.)
That said, I tend to be a little more tolerant of the tourists than I am the massive convention hordes that descend upon Moscone Center. Granted, some of the annoyance is not so much with them as it is with the city's seeming inability to plan for these invasions, and direct traffic and public transportation accordingly. (I once waited 35 minutes for a bus to move a single block during Dreamforce. Why wasn't the bus route moved, you ask? I DON'T KNOW!)
And this week is no better. Having to get anywhere near the Metreon during this week is a complete nightmare; it's just a sea of people wearing lanyards, walking in packs, while staring at their phones. I've been tempted to whip out some windmill arms to just get through the block between Market and Mission.
The thing is, at least tourists choose to come to our fair city! They aren't just here for the swag, open bar parties, U2, and whatever the hell a "Salesforce for Marketing Keynote: The Smartest CRM for 1-to-1 Customer Journeys" is. I'm sure having a convention in San Francisco is a draw, but it's not the main draw, and most of those conventioneers aren't going to see more than a ten-block radius of the city.
I was also reminded today that there's an indignity even greater than trying to get past a group of fanny pack-wearing tourists reading a map on the sidewalk. It's being mistaken for one! I don't know why the guy handing out brochures for a bus tour outside Union Square thought I was a tourist, insisting I take one, but I was too busy being completely incensed to ask him. The horror. THE HORROR!
Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.