On any given day in San Francisco: I might be on a Muni bus, elbow to elbow with a little old lady carrying too many grocery bags, right behind a man in a suit checking his iPhone, trying not to bump into the punk rock kids who are late for school. When I get off the bus, I walk past a small alley where a couple of homeless men have set up camp, and I tip toe gingerly past them because it somehow feels like I’m trampling over their living room.
On any given night in San Francisco: I might be at a concert at the Palace of Fine Arts where fifty musicians have put together a hip hop symphonic orchestra. Hip hop kids wearing their hoodies and high top sneakers are throwing their hands up in the front, and an older couple next to me is clapping enthusiastically to the beat. The age range at the concert appears to be from 16 to 65, and that absolutely tickles me.
And this is why I love living in San Francisco. The city is so small and our neighborhoods are packed together so closely that you are constantly face to face with people who are very different from you. And no one blinks an eye at the amazing diversity we see every day.
I find this particularly refreshing because I grew up in Taiwan and moved to the deserts of Arizona when I was a teenager. I remember landing at the airport in Tucson and feeling the eyes of half of the terminal staring at me and my family. Eventually I got used to being the only person in my school who didn’t speak English (yet), the only Asian kid in my class, and just generally sticking out like a sore thumb. A few years later when I arrived in San Francisco to go to college, standing at the luggage terminal, I felt an odd comfort. For the first time in a long time, absolutely nobody was staring at me.
I’ve lived in many different parts of the city, from the foggy Sunset and Richmond to Lower Pac Heights, where church bells accompany my Sunday mornings. In my work as a writer, editor, and blogger, I am still constantly delighted by the interaction between people who could not be more different from one another. I’ve come to know the city as a place where anyone can feel comfortable, and there is no need to “fit in” because being different here is the raison d’etre.
Eugenia is the co-founder of the blog Muni Diaries, a place to share and read rider tales.
You can join fellow bus riders and hear their stories at Muni Diaries’ Riders with Drinks spoken word party at the Make-Out Room on Friday, June 12, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.