San Francisco is a national leader in the art/science/philosophy/economy of freecycling. Freecycling consists of placing decent-excellent quality goods in a place where they are most likely to be taken by people who need them. That’s how I have acquired two restaurant-quality sauce pans, a 10″ cast iron skillet and a microwave oven. But last Thursday night I saw an example of freecycling where the item was not just to be taken away, but also used in that specific location until taken.
Someone had deposited an overstuffed leather armchair at the Haight & Fillmore bus stop for the outbound 6, 71 and 71 Limited buses (outbound meaning west, away from downtown). The chair was a little worse for wear; the armrests had started to split open and you could see the stuffing. Nonetheless, it was still quite useable, at least as something to sit in whilst awaiting the bus.
So I watched just to see what would happen.
The first occupant was a young African-American male slouched deep into the chair with his right leg over the right arm and his left arm resting on the left, his head tilted back and to his right. He wore “gangsta” type clothes, which indicates nothing in that neighborhood; a lot of civilians dress that way in the same manner as many species of fly have markings imitating wasps or hornets.
After a few minutes, he jumped up–not to catch a bus, but to offer the chair to an elderly Caucasian woman who accepted gratefully, and sat down as she had no doubt been taught in dancing school lo these many decades ago; back straight, hands folded together in lap, knees and ankles touching. A few minutes later, their bus arrived.
I had to catch the next bus, so I strolled over to the stop. The chair had been taken over by a young woman with straight blond hair cut short on the sides, longer on the top, and parted on the side–you know, a man’s style haircut. Sitting on her lap was another young woman with much longer blond hair done in a long bob style recently popularized by Anne Hathaway. They were making plans in their Mittel Europa accents– each was introducing the other to her new boyfriend, and they were deciding how they would test and evaluate their new young men (not quite what you were expecting? Me, neither)
Today, the overstuffed leather armchair with slighly fraying arm rests is gone. I hope whoever has it is now putting it to as good use as the bus riders in the Lower Haight on Thursday night.
Vonn Scott Bair
(Originally emailed to friends on 5 March 2011)