Apr 11, 2010

Where was I ......?

Oh yeah, homeless guy in San Francisco.  It was on my second trip to SF that I had the scariest street encounter of my life, but it wasn't my first. I was an experienced harrassee.  My previous run in was in Ann Arbor.  I was walking down Liberty St., near State.  I think I was going to the book store or something.  I was carrying Miss Erica, who at the time was about one year old.  1987.

It was a beautiful summer day.  I hear this woman behind me going on and on about "You've got William F. Buckley's granddaughter.  You can't have her.  Give her back to me.  Hey lady, give me that baby."  I turn around to see who she's talking to and lo and behold it's me.  I turned back around and kept walking.  She caught up to me and was yelling in my face about how I had to give her William F. Buckley's granddaughter back.   Miss Erica was crying and I was pretty scared since she wouldn't leave me alone no matter how much I ignored her.

Since there were no police in sight I ducked into a shoe store to ask one of the clerks to call the police.  I was hoping Homeless Hannah wouldn't follow me into the store but she did.  She's yelling by this point as I calmly try to explain to the clerk that this crazy lady won't leave me alone.   He hesitated.  Seriously.  As if he couldn't decide who was telling the truth, me or the crazy lady in rags.  After all, Miss Erica was balling and who was to say whose baby it was..... except of course that Hannah was claiming it was WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY'S GRANDDAUGHTER.  I don't think he knew who WFB was because I thought that was clearly a point in my favor.   Finally he decided to believe me (I think it was because I had more teeth than she did) and called the police.  By the time they came Hannah was long gone.

The homeless guy in San Francisco was a much scarier encounter.  It was my second trip there, probably around '92 or so.  Business during the week and sightseeing on the weekend.  My husband had flown out with me.  We saw all the sights you see when touring SF.  One night we were walking near Fisherman's Wharf but a little off the beaten path.  We like to find little hole in the wall bars or restaurants whenever we visit a new city.    We ended up on a street with not a lot of anything going on.  No bars, restaurants or shops and only a few people here and there. 

Down the street heading right for us is this scary looking homeless guy.  What made him scary were two things.  One, he was looking up and was trying to make eye contact with people.  Most homeless people look down at the ground or stare off into space.  Not this guy.  He seemed to be saying "I dare you to look at me".  The second scary thing about him was the baseball bat he was swinging around.   He clearly was not coming from baseball practice.  That bat was a weapon and he was not afraid to use it.

Jim can handle himself.  At that time he had been studying Soo Bahk Do, a Korean martial art, for a number of years and had a black belt.  Though he learned in his studies that it's best to avoid an encounter if you can.    He calmly advised me that maybe we should cross the street.   I'm not sure if that's what did it or the fact that I kept stealing glances at the guy.  Either way, we were targeted.  He crossed the street and put himself in our path again.   This time we turned around and started walking.  He started yelling at us as he followed us.  I don't remember what he was saying exactly,  mostly incoherent stuff.   As he's gaining on us he is slamming the baseball into every inanimate object he comes across.... signs,  parking meters, mailboxes.  BANG.

I was very scared.  I was pretty sure Jim could protect us but was worried he would get hurt in the process.  In the end Jim decided to make a stand.  He said "Stop walking and get behind me."  As soon as we did that and Jim looked this guy straight in the eye, he sort of mumbled something, hit the nearest street sign with his bat, did an about face and left us alone.

Never had another encounter since then, at least not with a homeless person.  There was the time I used a dryer at the laundromat and was informed by this crazy guy that I had used "his" dryer.  Spittle flying from his mouth, red faced.  I calmly moved my clothes to another dryer and he settled back into his chair and started rocking back and forth again.    You just never know what will set somebody off.  Sad , really, how many of the homeless are obviously suffering from untreated mental illnesses.


  1. We just got back from a weekend in inner city Sydney. I hear you (read you?). My husband can protect us too, but that is AFTER he's revved the loonies up. *sigh*
    It's actually really sad, I always wonder how they got to that point, once they were someone's baby and now.....

  2. Hi there, thanks for signing up at my blog. I clicked your link and I'm glad I did. You had me as soon as I saw the profile pic..then I read your last post. Awesome! good story and well told. so, if you don't mind, I'm gonna tag along.

  3. Wow, that IS a scary story! Very well-told...I felt your fear. And all I saw was a guy sharpening a knife. :) :)

    Also, I do agree with you about the mentally ill. Our government needs to get them the help they need, instead of them being on the street.

  4. Foxy - I think I would be distracted by the awesome Australian accents of the homeless in Sydney.

    Pat - Hi there to you too. Love your blog. Glad you dropped by.

    MHP - Yikes, knives and bats. It can get scary but more often it's just sad.

  5. Scary indeed!..Sounds like somebody went off their meds.

  6. You should write a novel. This was scary reading.

  7. Sling - Sad but probably true. I could tell from the clarity in his stare that he was not doped up.

    Mom - I had to check with my husband to make sure his recollection of the incident was the same. It's been so many years and sometimes I wonder if I have taken creative license with something to make the telling better. He remembers it the same. The one thing I remember very clearly is how frightened I was.

  8. Scary stuff because you never know ...