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An Invisible Man Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

8 April 2020

Earlier this week we had the sad task of driving Joyce downtown to clear out her office. Considering the pandemic, we stayed in the car while she collected her things and closed the door behind her for the last time.

The Street. A rainy morning on Third Street.

She actually survived four ownership changes as the company, once traded on the stock exchange before falling to a penny a share, moved through bankruptcy to new owners who immediately sold it to a competitor who has been eliminating positions since acquisition. A familiar story.

But it isn't her story we want to tell this morning.

We stayed buckled into the driver's seat of the car as the rain began to fall, gradually obscuring the windshield. Now and then we'd turn the ignition key halfway so the wipers could clear our view.

What we were looking at is what you see above.

What we were looking at is what you see above. Third Street just a block from South Park.

We saw a few joggers, we saw some younger people with grocery bags, a few others (some in pairs) out for a quick walk.

But mostly we saw homeless people wandering down the street. One barefoot woman pushed a shopping cart of her belongings, soaked by the rain. Others walked by wearing blankets over their head.

It's the part of San Francisco the conventioneers complain about. But they don't sit in a car watching what happens next. We did.

We saw a young girl on a bike fresh from the market, pull to a stop in front of that ochre store front in our photo. She reached into the bag sitting in the basket attached to her handlebars and handed three green apples to the man you can't see standing in the entryway. He nodded his appreciation and slipped them into his backpack.

He was smoking a cigarette and drinking from a bag. Self medicating, we call it these days. In a hospital it would be called palliative care. Not a cure but a strategy to minimize pain.

When he was done with his smoke, he reached into his backpack and took out a small black bag. He unzipped it and pulled out a shiny thing bigger than a bar of soap. He took out a smaller piece he inserted into the bottom of the shiny thing.

And then he began shaving, using the dark glass of the window as his mirror.

A rental truck pulled up behind us and a delivery guy futzed around for 10 minutes before he went to the door of the business our invisible man was standing in.

The delivery guy banged on the door with his open palm, scaring our guy away to the building closer to us where he continued shaving, looking into that window. But now he was whooping it up with crazy talk, seemingly protecting himself by scaring people off.

Nobody answered the delivery guy so he went back to his truck and drove off.

The invisible man, who had quieted down as soon as the delivery guy left, took a long time to finish his shave. He kept blowing the whiskers out of the clippers and going over his chin again and again, feeling for the smoothness.

When he was satisfied, he put everything away.

Then he looked down the street behind us and saw the 30 Stockton rabbit ears bus switching its poles to the Third Street wires. We watched in the rear view mirror as he hurried to catch it.

The 30 Stockton goes to the Marina. And later that day we learned the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina had been opened to house the homeless during the coronavirus crisis.

He wouldn't have been invisible there. And we suspect he made a good impression as well.

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