A few weeks ago, a program group and I traveled from Santa Clara to San Francisco for the day. Hundreds of students were split into separate groups, each with an assigned SF activity. As an explorer and city lover, I was less than thrilled with my assigned activity – the Disney Museum. Something about spending a sunny Bay Area day inside with Mickey just didn’t seem right.
A friend and I decided to take off and explore on our own. We headed toward Haight to shop and people watch. After a routine iPhone charging sesh in a coffee shop, I called a cab to take us to our final destination. The operator was rude and impatient, so in an act of peaceful protest, we ditched the cab and hopped on the city bus.
We rode along for a while until the MUNI came to a screeching halt. The driver yelled throughout the bus, “Feet up! Watch your feet!” A sound of rusted machinery accompanied his warning, as a forklift-like mechanism hoisted a wheelchair-bound homeless man up and into the bus.
The man wheeled himself down the bus aisle, and caught my glance, parking himself next to me. I could tell he was staring at me, almost fixated. I looked up to meet his eyes.
“I know you,” the man said, “I’ve seen you around. I know you.”
I smiled and politely tried to ignore him, figuring his comment was tied to a plea for money. He continued, “I see a million people a day, and some people I remember. I recognize your tie on your wrist. I remember your hair. You had it pulled back like that.”
Then, it clicked. I had been in SF a few weeks earlier for Bay to Breakers. My hair had been pulled back, my signature hair tie worn loosely around my wrist. I asked him if this was when he had seen me.
He thought for a moment and then agreed, ticking back and forth in his chair to jog his memory. He told me I had been with a boy, and then went on to perfectly describe my friend. This man did know me.
I was astounded, and flattered. Out of all the people he sees everyday, what made him remember me? I dug through my purse and handed him the only change I had, sixteen cents and a crumpled fortune I had saved that read, “Nothing in life is achieved without passion.” I apologized for the tiny donation, but he smiled and said, “It’s not the money that matters. It’s who it came from.”
The bus came to an abrupt stop. The man tucked the fortune into a ragged red leather wallet. He wheeled off the bus but stopped at the door, looking back at me.
“You know, I think you may have just changed my luck,” he said, as he disappeared into the crowd.