I'm sitting in a Haight Street coffee shop with burgundy walls and tastefully inked employees. A long-forgotten cup of tea steeps dutifully next to me and I hope the barista doesn't think it's mine. I'd never abandon my caffeine.
Working from home is a fine adventure in solitude. My neighborhood has served me well as a playground for lunchtime excursions and afternoon Pinots. ("Is it too early for this?" I asked the manager, who recognizes me as the girl who once panic-ordered an iced café au lait. "No," he lied. "I've already served two people today.")
Beyond the occasional midday decadence, these remote months have unveiled a curious side of the San Francisco workforce. The freelance gatherings. The tireless part-timers. The novelists whose eyes speak the volumes they've never written as they put price tags to passing minutes and nod for a refill.
These are the romanticized characters I found myself craving when I left my office job and set up shop in my cramped bedroom, void of natural light and verging on a donation heap. I rearranged a jigsaw of unmatched furniture, squeezing a desk against the wall by the door and throwing a standing lamp in the corner for flair.
After two days of sleeping past my alarm, I made a plan. I'll jog in the Panhandle every morning. I'll be a serious runner. I'll buy reflective headbands and do Nike Running challenges. I'll know what time the sun is rising tomorrow.
Immediate self-hatred quickly trampled my spandex-clad dreams. I took to late bedtimes and evening yoga instead, and set my eyes on the next big thing: solo adventures galore. I'd uncover hidden gems, experience chance encounters at every turn. Who will I meet today? (Answer: no one.) Who will I run into? (Still no one.) It was all so thrilling.
NoPa is a fantastic neighborhood, especially if you're thirsting for the new and overpriced. I imagined baristas and bartenders scrambling to make my signature order as I arrived. I'd become a charming alcoholic, a local personality in no time.
In reality, I had a total of three midday drinks in as many months, and the barista baffled by my illogical coffee order only threw me the occasional nod. Despite my immense failure, I still managed to enjoy myself. Newly able to witness the neighborhood's AM isms, my fondness for the city was renewed.
San Francisco is a glorious place for loners, wanderers, party-of-oners. It's an island of self-consumption. Notoriously unique, relentlessly itself, the city is as much a loner as its distracted inhabitants. Its foggiest corners croon for evening walks in search of Karl's end. Its hills quiet gasping conversation.
I've lived in the same building for 3 years and I know one neighbor's name. Two, if you count the guy whose mail I always get by accident. Strangely, this doesn't depress me. It's the same story for everyone I know. Busy cities are packed to the brim and that can elicit a mild reclusiveness in even the most social. We may spend an hour crossing the city to meet a friend, but we'll still avert our eyes in the hallway.
San Francisco, you're a lovely loner. No one really understands you. No one can relate. But around every corner, I've found a place that beckons for a someone, one and only.