During a recent Friday lunch hour, I had to run a few errands and that including walking through the food trucks and tables that take over San Francisco’s Civic Center every Friday starting at noon. At one point, I found myself halfway between what felt like separate worlds.
Approximately fifteen feet to my left:
Food Trucks and Court at San Francisco Civic Center
Approximately ten feet to my right:
Broke – Hungry Anything Helps!!! God Bless
And when I returned after completing my errands:
I swear it almost looks like worship.
I get why San Francisco has once again become such a fascinating subject for pontificators and opinionators in the pontificating and opinionating industries. No other city combines such a ridiculously high median income ($96,000!) with such visible displays of poverty and hunger. Separate worlds of The Eating and The Hungry, as it were. Also, the disappearing middle class disappears here at a faster rate than most other places in America, as far as I know. I am not a professional journalist, just an amateur observer with a limited perspective, so perhaps other places exist where the contrasts between haves and have-nots is even more spectacular–possibly Wisconsin, for one.
Of course I don’t, can’t, have no right, and absolutely refuse to complain. Although my income is less than two-thirds of San Francisco’s median, I can get by rather well, thank you. I can even retire much earlier than most people, although “retirement” is a misnomer in my case–actors and writers just plain don’t.
But San Francisco’s haves–they have it real good. They can afford Leap, a sort of private public transit system, where for $6 (!), they can ride in a bus where they can spend even more money on Blue Bottle coffee and organic pastries, plus indulge in Leap’s social media component (free cyberstalking with every fare!). Apparently, I am not allowed to ride on Leap. Oh, I can afford the $6; sadly, if the advertising is any indication, Leap is limited to San Franciscans less than 30 years old. Darn it.
On the bright side, if I had a car, I could hire someone to park it.
Oops, wait–looks like I’m too old for this one, too. Darn it.
While I understand the importance of a healthy, stable, preferably even growing middle class, and while I understand the potential economic harm to America resulting from an ever-shrinking middle class, I wonder at all of the attention we middle-class folk have received. Should circumstances ever become economically impossible for me to continue living in San Francisco, I have options–Los Angeles being an obvious choice for someone who already has 15 or so credits in the Internet Movie Database. I have resources.
In the world of The Hungry, people don’t have resources.
San Francisco has seen an explosion in the number of homeless, and I don’t think it can all consist of other states exporting their mentally ill to my city. Again, I’m not a professional journalist, and I don’t have facts, figures and statistics, but a lot of the newly homeless who set up homeless encampments at night in places like the block on Market Street near 2nd Street (in our Financial District) must have recently lost their homes in San Francisco and had no place to go.
The American middle class is in danger of losing their financial well-being. But what of the people who already have?
When does that become an issue?
Vonn Scott Bair