The streets of San Francisco are filled with homeless people. Today, the first time in all my day trips to the city, I see a cluster of uniformed police officers roaming around Market Street and stopping wherever a homeless person is leaning against a building to tell them to move along. Force them to move along. Where? Where are they supposed to go?
I’m sitting in the window of a diner, staring out, killing time. The cluster of cops I passed a few blocks back make their way to the diner. All I can see is a set of feet sticking out from the side of the building on to the sidewalk. The four of them put on black and blue latex gloves in case the have to touch the man passed out against the diner.
They tell him to get up. They pull at him, a group effort to get him to wobble to his feet. They tell him that he’s soaked, in case he didn’t already know. One officer laughs openly at the man and whatever his slurred response was. The officer throws his head back with laughter and claps.
The officers just stare at him and tell him again that he has to go. The man stumbles a few paces and stops directly in front of the window I’m facing out. He lurches, hunched over, pants around his knees and a blanket draped around his shoulders. An officer looks in at me as I take a sip of coffee. He gestures inside and I can see his mouth telling the man that I’m trying to eat and he has to get away from the window. The officer smiles at me and I stare back and shake my head, hoping he can read my expression: “Don’t bring me into this.”
The man is dropping things and picking them up again. Mouth open, oblivious, he wanders down the street away from the diner. The same officer who laughed throws his hands up in the air and hobbles around the sidewalk, mimicking the homeless man and laughing joyously, all teeth, I glare out the window until they move along.