I don't know who is responsible for this one, perhaps it’s just another one of those many hippie, everybody's equal, San Francisco things.
Anyway I was enjoying my evening at a pub in the Haight District of San Francisco (Mad Dog in the fog), when I was interrupted by a stale smell. I turned my head and came nose to face with a vagrant in rags, complete with fingerless woollen gloves and straw for hair. Said vagrant pushed a cart carrying a tattered, duct taped cooler box. All in all it was an ugly and putrid image.
I glanced around expecting to see other customers recoil in disgust, followed by the management descending upon her to ask/ force her to leave before she spread leprosy around the entire venue. But nothing happened, no one seemed to see (or smell) her.
Then, when I thought things could not get more incomprehensibly vile, the table next to me summoned the vagrant over with a wave of dollar bills. In exchange for the money, she opened the cooler box, releasing a cloud of stale steam and whipped out two tamales which the customers hungrily consumed.
The management had to bear down on her now, for selling 'food' in their establishment, where they themselves already sold pretty decent food. Where I come from, it is normally frowned upon to set up shop in an establishment that is already paying the rent for the same service.
Imagine my surprise when still no one batted an eyelid.
“There's a health and safety situation,” I said to my friend, who was a local of the neighborhood. “Why isn't anyone stopping her?”
"Its the tamale lady," my friend smiled, as if that was all the clarification that was needed.
“Bully for her,” I said. “She stinks, why is she allowed to sell food in here?”
“She's an institution,” my friend replied.
And she wasn’t wrong, the Tamale Lady even has her own page on Yelp http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-tamale-lady-san-francisco, thick with rave reviews. I was completely flummoxed, especially as I had always understood health and safety to be a serious matter here in the USA. Clearly this does not apply to San Francisco.
As I glanced around at the customers guzzling questionable tamales, wondering whether I should nip to CVS and purchase a round of antibiotics for the entire pub, it occurred to me that if people were stupid enough to consume merchandise that wasn’t even pretending to be sanitary, then, in all their festering stinkiness, the vagrants were smart for milking their opportunities. It explains why bums in general are so drawn to San Francisco, because if the liberal, tree-shagging hippies that keep San Francisco smelly are willing to ingest faeces just to prove whatever point it is that liberal hippie types constantly need to prove to themselves, then of course San Francisco is a haven for society’s parasites.
As I reached for my trusty bottle of hand sanitizer, I resigned myself to the craziness, happy in the knowledge that in less than three weeks I would be cashing in my one way ticket east to civilization. Until then, I can only hope that CVS sells organic, locally grown, sustainable, recyclable, compostable Imodium, or these morons will all be dead by morning.
San Francisco or a third world slum?