San Francisco is a hard city for me. Riding the bus is also a challenge for the same reason. I’m sure some of you know what I’m alluding to. There are a lot of us around. . We’re called ‘freak magnets’ – there is something about us that inevitably draws the weirdoes.
We don’t ask for this – it just happens. We just ARE through no fault of our own.
You’ve probably see it happen – someone, somewhere, innocently just standing there, minding their own business, a bizarre person comes along and all of a sudden WHAMO – a hilarious story is born. One of my freak magnet friends does like to ‘poke the jellyfish’ (yes, Annie – I’m looking at you) – so I guess some of us seek it out more than others.
I do not. I am, however, a people watcher and I like to make eye contact. I think that’s where it inevitably goes wrong. Nothing draws the crazy like a little eye contact. Now that I have a child, I spend more time avoiding some of the venues where freaks are likely to verbally assault me or glom on to me because it’s very scary for a young child to witness these unsettling albeit at times COMICAL events.
It probably hasn’t helped that I’ve held several jobs that encourage the freak encounters. Baker at a hippie restaurant, working in a natural foods co-op (nothing entices the deranged like organic bee pollen), vocational assessment and a university reference librarian for the evening shift.
I want to point out that I am not insensitive to the seriousness of mental illness. I am not making fun of anyone – but I am also not blind to the fact that sometimes things get a little bit funny.
The following vignettes are all true, all happened to me and all memorable in their own special way. I hope you enjoy them.
I’m the Freak in the Store
I guess it’s only fair to start with myself.
I’m a morning person – so what I was doing at a grocery store at 1AM I cannot say. It was a rarity, to be sure. Anyway, I was wearing my typical attire, tee shirt and cotton hippie skirt, held together with safety pins. I was looking at cheese and thinking about how many bizarro people shop at 1AM. Then, without any warning, my skirt falls off. And of course, as I look around at everyone looking at me, I realize I’m the freak in the store.
Punched in the Kidneys and Spat Upon
The summer after graduating high school, I was visiting Uncle and my “poke the jellyfish” friend Annie in California. So one night my Uncle takes us to Hollywood, drops us off and leaves us to it. Annie & I are decked out black boots, long black skirts, black cloaks, big bangs and lots o’make-up. It’s the late 80s.
So we’re walking around Hollywood when all of a sudden it occurs to me that we are the only females walking alone. Well the only ones walking alone without something to sell… Eventually a weirdo zones in on our presence and starts making suggestive comments to us. We just look straight ahead and keep walking (I’m really nervous at this point). The guy doesn’t take our lack of interest in what he’s got to offer well, so he proceeds to spit on us and punch me in the kidneys. That was the first and only time I’d been physically ‘assaulted’ by a stranger.
You NOT Nomal!
I have to admit – this is one of my FAVORITE stories.
I worked for about 3 years as an assistant vocational evaluator. Basically, you get a referral from an agency to provide an intake interview and then a series of vocational tests to help determine someone’s vocational possibilities, including reasonable accommodations. We always started client interviews at 9AM – always. And we would sometimes have a client over two days for testing – they came back around the same time as well.
So one day, I am assessing some guy – we interview him and set him out in the main testing area (I’m a proctor for these tests) and the day progresses as it should. As an aside, I sometimes have to leave the room for a few minutes. Which I did that day.
Anyway, fast forward to the next day, the same guy comes back and is testing away. He’s the only client we have scheduled for that day. Around 10AM I receive a call from the front desk informing me that my ‘client’ has arrived. I am stymied – I don’t have a client scheduled (I also scheduled all the appointments). I walk out front and see a petite woman – I ask about the appointment. In a very thick accent she says she has a 10AM appointment. I ask if she’s sure it’s with us because I don’t schedule clients at 10AM. She starts to get really, really angry –insisting that she called and made an appointment. At this point it’s obvious that she is a few cards short of a full deck – believe me, you can just tell.
At some point during this exchange, unbeknownst to me, the guy I was testing walks out into the main reception area and starts to talk (totally oblivious to the ranting insanity going on around him). As soon as the woman hears this guy’s voice, her head whips around and she starts pointing at him and saying it was his voice that answered the phone and he took the appointment. I was surprised, as you can imagine. By this time, my boss has come out and she calmly asks the guy if he answered my phone and took an appointment. Well, yes, yes he did… (We later find out it’s kind of what this guy does – he likes to pretend)
Then the woman starts pointing and screeching at the top of her thickly accented voice to this guy “YOU NOT NOMAL! YOU NOT NOMAL! YOU NOT NOMAL!” I hope I don’t have to point out the irony of the situation to anyone…
Ya know when you are hit with uncontrollable laughter? The more you try to suppress it – the more intense it becomes? Well, I got hit with it and I had to walk to the other side of the building so that I didn’t come across as either totally insensitive to the situation or someone in need of an assessment.
Stalking From the Bus
I had one and only incident during my vocational assessment assistant years that reduced me to shaking with anger and having to ask a client to leave. It was a young kid, probably around 17 years old. I don’t remember exactly what he did but it ended with a lot of yelling (on his part) and me trying to hold it together as a professional. My boss was a godsend as she can diffuse almost any situation. She did- she sent him home. I calmed myself down and left a little early that day.
I decided to take a drive to the Food Co-op where I used to work. I was parking my car and getting off the bus right at the same time, is that same kid. I’m a little freaked out because the Co-op is not in the vicinity of where we assessed him (my assessment of him? NUTS). I’m wondering if he was stalking me…until I realize that you can’t really stalk effectively from the bus. And he didn’t even register any recognition when he happened to look my way. So within the space of 30 minutes he’d forgotten who I was – and meanwhile, I’m a paranoid mess.
Even funnier – the next day the same kid comes back to assessment facility and tells everyone in a very angelic voice that he’s going to be delivering the mail to all the offices in the building. He wasn’t – but he came back for about a week to tell us about his mail delivering job.
Milk from my Breasts
There is nothing more exciting than working at a natural foods store – especially a natural food store co-op, where everyone feels justified in letting you know their most intimate medical oddities. I guess they feel if they pay a $50 membership fee, that it entitles them to treat the employees as medical professionals.
I liked working there – but only really in the produce department OR behind the register. Most people hated working the register but I loved it. It was a very fast interaction with people, you had a counter between you and the customer and it was impossible for them to follow you around. Working on the floor however, was another matter entirely. You cannot adequately protect yourself against crazy with a bag of organic popcorn and a nori roll.
The most bizarro encounter there consisted of a huge childlike looking guy – he looked like baby Huey with thick glasses – that persisted in following me around so he could tell me that he had to wear a bra because he leaked a quart of milk every day from his breasts. And did I want to feel them. AAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!
I love San Francisco. I truly do. That is an incredible city. I couldn’t possibly live there. I’d need a cloaking device any time I had to pass Union Square.
I was visiting my friend, Lisa, in SF – she’d lived there about a year (give or take). She never had a problem with anyone. We start walking down the street together (I’d been in SF for about 5 minutes) and this guy starts SCREAMING in my face “IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!”
For anyone that lives there – the Union Square crazy cat lady took a shine to me as well.
Signing Rainbow Suit Man
Sigh – it’s hard being pregnant; especially when your husband insists on taking you to see Alice Cooper when you’re 7 months pregnant. I was so gargantuan that I couldn’t sit in the chairs for a long period of time, so we stood near the back of the main floor.
I didn’t really get to see Alice Cooper perform because for some unfathomable reason a Jerry-Garcia looking guy in a rainbow suit, complete with rainbow cat-in-the-hat top hat insisted on standing right in front of me, facing me, singing all the lyrics to the songs. If it wasn’t for my protruding stomach, as well as his, keeping us apart, he’d have been able to stick his tongue out and lick my nose. I would move to the left, he’d move the right…I’d move to the right, he’d move to the left. Finally, Scott had to insist that the guy remove himself from my personal space.
No Left Turn Angelique
I belly danced for a number of years with a troop. We were for the most part, pretty normal people (all things being relative). Except one – Angelique. She was completely mental.
Of all the weird things about her, the weirdest was that she couldn’t turn left. Not when she danced (poor snake she chose to dance with) not when she drove. My friend drove with her once – just once.
So who has to dance with No-Left-Turn-Angelique? ME, of course. Why? Because the troop leader felt I was one of the easiest going dancers there and Angelique ‘liked’ me. Of course she liked me – she was a nutter. Even better, she chose to dance with lighted candles on her head – we kept a fire extinguisher standing by.
The scariest thing about her was that she was a NURSE at a nursing home. A NURSE! How did she get to be a nurse? She could barely add 2+2.
Watch out for the Weird Guy Outside
I was getting my hair cut once at a trendy salon on a street that attracts a lot of interesting people. As the stylist escorted me to the front to take my money, he leaned over and gallantly gave me a warning to ‘watch out, there’s a weird guy outside that seems to be looking at you’. I turned around to look, turned back to the stylist, nodded comprehension in a subtle manner, walked out of the shop and kissed my boyfriend AKA Weird Guy Outside right smack on the lips. When I turned around to smile at the stylist through the windows, I think he turned about 10 shades of scarlet.
Yikes – this is already over 2000 words long – that’s probably enough crazy for anyone.