Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not What I Expected

Yesterday I went to learn about Buddhism. There was a free class at the library at 5:30 and I had nowhere to be until about 6:45. I figured the class couldn't last more than an hour, right?


6:30 came and went and I was still sitting there and, honestly, not really learning anything about Buddhism. I'm not good at leaving early in situations such as this, and so there I sat. Finally, at about 7:05 the guy in charge of the "class" had enough technical difficulties with his computer and recorder (he doing an audio recording of everything he was saying) that I had a chance to say that I really needed to go.

And so I left late and, therefore, arrived late at the shelter I've been staying at. When I got there they were full. They told me to go and get some food and they'd make arrangements somewhere else for me. By the time I got there they were about out of food. They gave me what they could. It wasn't much, but at least it was something.

I stay in a winter shelter. It's a program called the "San Francisco Interfaith Winter Shelter" It lasts from November until February and it's designed to make sure that more people are off the streets in the dead of winter. So it's not a regular shelter that's open year round and has it's own building. Let me tell you something about the regular San Francisco shelters. They all use the same computer systems. The first time you stay at one, you have to give them your information so they know who's there. Once you've done that, you are in everybody's system and checking into a shelter is really easy. I haven't stayed in a regular shelter here. Therefore, I'm "off the grid". This made things difficult last night.

These people are awesome, by the way.
When they called in to make reservations at other shelters for us, it became very apparent that they had no idea who I was. So, I was sent to a shelter a couple miles away where I could get on the "grid".

When I got there, there was a cart fashioned from two bicycles on the side of the street. It was two bikes about two feet apart with a whole frame welded around it. It was fitted with a big propane tank and two burners; one in front and one in back. They were serving spaghetti, garlic bread, corn and baked beans to anyone who was hungry, and I was still hungry. Jackpot!

I ate, it was awesome, and then I looked at the line into the shelter, it was long. I'm from Minnesota, I can handle 40 degrees, and so I walked into the dark of the city and towards my car, which is ridiculously close to where I usually sleep.

On the way there, I knew I was planning on not sleeping in a shelter, but I wasn't sure if I'd end up in my car for the night of under the stars. The idea of being curled up in a car wasn't sitting well with me, so when I got to it I decided to get a couple blankets and find a place to lay down for the night.

I remembered that on my second day in San Francisco a homeless man told me that the police patrol parks and if they find you sleeping there, you might get arrested. I don't want to get arrested. He said that if you want to sleep uninterrupted, church property is where it's at. So, again, off into the dark of the city I went, this time, searching for a church.

Long story short, I found a place under some palm trees to sleep, and woke up promptly at 5:30AM, which is exactly when the shelters wake up us bums. I've become far too used to waking up that early.

To answer your question before you ask it. Yes, I stayed warm, I already said, "I'm from Minnesota, I can handle 40 degrees". I never noticed the temperature all night. I'm tough.

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