Tuesday, December 02, 2008

the clash of the socioeconomic classes and why it's nice to stay home

Yesterday I went downtown to see my First Ever Shrink. (My marriage counselor referred me to a psychiatrist to treat my chronic insomnia with medication, and I like him. I've seen him twice, and we're trying a course of medication for my sleep problem). I had to pass through a crime scene to get to my appointment. The Medical Examiner's van was out front of the building, which meant there was a corpse inside, and there were four police cars. It turned out that the crime scene was one of the elevators, which had its workings revealed and was surrounded by a swarm of officers, including some interviewing various, shaken-up looking people. The building's extroverted super whisked me into another elevator and up before I could say, "Wait! I want to know what that other elevator did before I commit!"

The other occupant of my elevator was a freaked out hipster with dark, horn-rimmed glasses and trendy hair. He was completely unnerved. I tried to cheer him up. "At least it's not us. We're fine." He was not so sure he -- or I -- was fine. "We're ambulatory, aren't we?" I said.

That made him smile, and he thanked me. By the time I left, the lobby was quieter, with one uniformed officer guarding the crime scene elevator. This morning's paper revealed that a man had indeed died in that elevator's workings in some sort of mysterious way and that he'd been dead for a week before he'd been discovered. I've been working up a bit of an elevator phobia ever since reading in the New Yorker about a man trapped in his office elevator for FORTY-TWO hours in Manhattan, and this didn't help.

In the evening we all went downtown again by subway to a skating party. The parents of one of Iris Uber Alles's classmates had rented out the entire Embarcadero skating rink for a private party, and the girls were beside themselves with excitement. We skated, Iris doggedly working until she could go around the rink without holding the edge. Lola took great pleasure in falling down and started falling down on purpose, giggling and giggling. I took quite a few turns around to loosen up (I used to love to skate as a child in Maine), but it was hard to safely maneuver around all the falling children. After some time, I returned my skates and joined the parents who had chosen to drink in lieu of athletic activity. I chatted with a number of other parents, including a mother I like a lot, who told me that the thing she was most uncomfortable with about our school was the ostentatious display of wealth by some parents (an example she gave was a limo at a child's first grade birthday party). I laughed and told her that she wouldn't have to worry about that from me because I don't have any money. We discussed our unglamorous socioeconomic backgrounds.

Eventually the party drew to a close. Our hospitable host had ordered massive stacks of pizza and encouraged everyone to take some home. I took a cheese pizza, thinking it would be good for the children's school lunches. Then I went back for another, which I thought I could give to a homeless person. The Sober Husband thought that was not such a good idea. "It's hard to give food away." I disagreed, saying that when I worked downtown, homeless people were happy to get leftovers I gave them, and it was a nice, hot, fresh pizza.

We walked towards the subway. The first homeless person the Sober Husband asked about the pizza declined, saying he'd already had a big dinner. He seemed stoned and barely able to understand the concept. The second person we asked accepted the pizza and called over two other street people. As we walked down into the subway, I turned and saw the three of them eating the pizza with abandon. That made us all feel good, and the Sober Husband decided to give away the second pizza as well (although I wanted to keep it). We ran into a different sort of street person at the fare gates, an enterprising one who had been rummaging through the trashcans for November fastpasses. People who bought December ones threw those old ones away, although they were still good for another three days. We accepted all the Fastpasses and thanked him enthusiastically. The Sober Husband offered hm the pizza. The man hesitated and confided that what he really needed was money, perhaps half what we would have paid for taking the subway. I gave him a five dollar bill because he had been helpful and hadn't asked for anything until we brought up the idea of giving something.

On our way down into the bowels of MUNI, the Sober Husband gave another man our pizza.

While we were waiting on the platofrm, our Fastpass friend came up to me, upset. He said that he'd gone over to the man he saw take our pizza and asked him if he could have just one slice of the pizza, telling him he knew us. Instead of sharing the pizza, that man pulled a knife on him. The Fastpass street person came to me and told me what happened, upset. The Sober Husband was off fiddling around with his iPhone, and I asked him to call the police. A MUNI worker nearby refused to get involved. "I didn't see a thing."

While we were on the platform, discussing this, the pizza-having guy came sweeping down, with a knife in one hand and the pizza box in the other. "What you go telling these people for?" he said to the Fastpass man in a hard voice. He chased towards the other street person, who was right by me on the platform. I pulled Iris and Lola in to me, faces to me, so they wouldn't see anything if someone got stabbed. "Stay close to Mommy." The knife-wielder circled us with his knife out in his hand, me holding the children close and the other street person looking very frightened, and then ran up the stairs with the pizza. "You saw that? You saw that?" said the frantic Fastpass street person. "I saw it, I saw it," I said.

After what felt like a long time, a police officer with two MUNI workers arrived on the platform. I told the officer what had happeneed and that I had seen the knife myself. They all took off in pursuit of the man with the pizza and the knife. Our subway arrived. I was reluctant to get on it, thinking that we might need to give a statement, but the Sober Husband insisted. "I guess no one told us we had to wait," I said as I relented.

On the way home, I reflected about the different socioeconomic classes cheek and jowl down at the Embarcadero Center. One minute we'd been skating with hedge fund managers and drinking wine with millionaires; the next minute, we saw a man pull a knife on another over a piece of leftover pizza. I also thought about the crime scene I'd gone through earlier in the day. I leaned over to the Sober Husband. "You know, it's pretty quiet when you stay home with the cats. It's nice there, staying home with the cats."


Missy said...

That must have been so frightening with the knife-wielding man and the girls.

We had a murder in our "quiet" (as stated in the news) neighborhood last week. A man stabbed a woman and dumped her body in the storm drain; a neighbor saw him dragging the body at four-thirty a.m., went to work, came home and looked again (what was that I saw? Was that really a man dragging a body?) and there was a trail of blood from her neighbor's house to the street.

It sounds like a lovely party despite all the "stuff" on the way home. Missy

kaila said...

I haven't been on a subway in a million years. (Subways in Florida would be a submarine) but anyway, they used to scare me 20 years ago, can't imagine now.

Rollerskating parties, however, are totally cool.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing story! I'm glad you're OK. I love your blog, too!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I stumbled across your blog and wanted to say that I enjoy reading it - I always check in from time to time.

Crazy subway story, too. Sheesh.