the should-have-been scariest set of people i’ve been around of

after nursing jetlag for a week, I was finally ready to go out and about san francisco (yep, i’m on the other side of the world now and I haven’t done anything on this blog for months). i’m staying in daly city, the next town to san francisco, where all the filipinos, chinese, and latinos live, apparently.

before i left for the US, my mom warned me to be careful around the place i’m staying at because “below is not that safe” (the house is way up a hill). the below happens to be mission street, which to my amazement goes straight to san francisco. i don’t need to walk 2km to the BART! my uncle described the whole stretch as: this area is kinda ok, but as you go further down (SF side), it slowly becomes a war zone.

but i need to take this advice with a grain of salt: said relatives can’t commute, always traveling by car. also, i’ve survived south east asia, and hell, I grew up in manila. i can take this so-called war zone.

so i made my way to the pride parade (maybe my inhibitions was down because all of these love is love is love messages) through mission street by bus 14. i sat at the back. two old-ish black men joined me. after years of getting bombarded that “they are the enemy” (thanks Hollywood and media), i waited for me to get scared…which didn’t happen. then a young black man came in. a latino. then two men, latino and white. they all had tattoos, and again i waited to get scared. maybe I was too distracted by looking outside the bus to care.

1420trolley
btw, 9 years ago it costs US$1 all day. Now it’s US$2.25 for a given time period. photofrom smfta website

then they started talking, and i remember thinking: wow, they know each other. but their talk remained white noise to me. then i picked this one out: i heard that’s a halfway house.

halfway house?

HALFWAY HOUSE???

by this time, i should be scared. instead i found myself…amused. they must have noticed each other through…their tats? it looked normal to me, but what do I know.

they then proceeded to talk about:

  1. where they work (“does it pay well?” “Yeah it does.”)
  2. What they did? (latino #1 said robbery. broke some glass…the rest i didn’t hear)
  3. if they went to court
  4. How long they’ve been out (“8 months, on probation.” “you? 7 months”)
  5. and my absolute favorite: where they came from, and the answer they were expecting was the prison name

they also talked about free activities they can do around the city. this perked my ears up (more than ex-con talk). at this point a black woman has sat with us and joined the conversation. she mentioned that there’s a website that lists all free activities one can do around the bay area. my bank account just became so much happier.

i’ve heard a lot of stories about US prisons, their prisoners and ex-cons. most of it are bad. i particularly don’t like the fact that they can’t vote, effectively making them second-class citizens. and conditions once they are out are the type that will make them want to go back to their old life.

if this is the case, what was the point of prison? ff they are not being rehabilitated, or they are in conditions that set them up to fail once they get out, why let them out? makes better sense to just keep them inside those walls, or put them on death row. because giving people a half-assed second chance just doesn’t make sense to me. and those men in bus 14 seemed like good people. they did not creep me out.

this isn’t to say I shouldn’t be careful when I’m on this street and bus 14. Because that night and the next night after, things got interesting (next post!)

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