Friday, January 31, 2014

Some Like Pigeons

The sun brought out a multitude of people to Golden Gate Park this weekend. Families, runners, dog walkers, lovers, and children filled the meadows, laying out blankets to sit in the sun. On a wooden bench a little off the beaten path in a thicket of trees and bushes, an old woman sat feeding pigeons. She was bundled up from head to toe almost as if she were expecting snow. Her white knit hat had some light beading on it that caught the sun’s light whenever a beam made its way through the overhanging trees. Her handbag was plain and practical but seemed to match her gloves and a scarf. She seemed quiet and peaceful.
The pigeons appeared incredibly grateful for the old woman’s breadcrumbs, pecking and scuttling about wildly at her feet. Their attention seemed welcomed, however. The woman never looked flustered by their advances. She just tossed more crumbs out in front of her. The birds came and went, alighting quickly but always appearing to return with more hungry comrades. At one point there must have been almost 15. The old woman kept to her post.

Still, as with most wonderful things that come to an end, she eventually depleted her rations of breadcrumbs. The pigeons scavenged at her feet for a while longer, ensuring no fallen crumb went uneaten. Then, slowly but surely, they began to fly off, perhaps in search of another generous soul. The woman’s eyes followed each bird as it made its way to somewhere else. When she lost sight of them, her gazed floated back to the remaining companions around her feet, and the process repeated as they too departed. When all the pigeons had gone, she sat for a moment longer before gingerly taking up her bag and proceeding slowly down a side path and out of the park.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lurking in an Elevator

Cowell Hall main elevator, University of San Francisco—11:20am

When you focus all your attention on what everyone around you is doing, it’s easy to notice similarities in people’s behaviors. You notice details that you’ve often found yourself doing. It’s like you’re inside everyone else’s head—you already know why they’re doing what they’re doing because you’ve done it yourself.
People without a phone to look preoccupied with keep their gaze high, looking at the tops of the doors waiting for them to open. That way they can avoid accidental eye contact with anyone else in the elevator, and keeping their gaze high ensures security. The ones who were alone would fiddle with their clothes or look for something obscure in their bag. People who knew one another had casual, surface level conversation. A couple times, the elevator goers gave me sly sideways glances. Maybe they were trying to see if they knew me without blatantly staring. It’s basic elevator etiquette not to stare.  Maybe they were just curious.
If you have your headphones on and make it a point to seem preoccupied, you’ll usually be left alone. I think that’s what most everyone aims for on the elevator, minimal social interaction. That proved true, because only after I took my headphones off did someone feel it was safe to ask me a question about the building. She wanted to know what floor her classroom was on…I told her I wasn’t entirely sure and gave her a rough estimate instead. Hopefully she found her class eventually.

For a span of about 15 minutes, a group of girls were clustered and chatting in the 3rd floor hallway—probably waiting for their class to start. People kept calling the elevator to the 3rd floor, and I’m pretty sure they started to notice me lurking in the elevator. They looked over every time the doors opened as if to chart how many times they’d see me again. I decided then it was time to make my exit.