Archives for posts with tag: tourism

The weekends I love living in SF the most are the laziest ones. Other busy weekends, when you can’t find a parking spot / wait 45 minutes for a donut / get ignored by a salesperson / attempt to look hip at a party you’re way to old at (heard it from a friend) / navigate the treachery that is the maze into Oakland, the “charms” of San Francisco are lost on me. One look at my monthly rent, and I wonder why I haven’t split for the ‘burbs or East Bay yet.

This weekend was without agenda, and as a result showcased everything wonderful about living in this city, including a concert, a culinary adventure, and a lazy sunday with a climb. Also was tranquil, and calm, and lovely. Until I got stuck behind a Segway Tour.

Fun fact: every time I see a Segway Tour here in SF, I nearly scream at them. Perched on their awkward chariots, the grampa-helmet-wearing participant peer down on us makeup-free masses with amusement. Avec bright neon reflective vests and steely visages, these groups invade the various side streets with cocky swagger cum sheer boredom. They point, as if we could not possibly see them pointing, as they are on segways. Look, Mom, a hipster who probably had one too many cocktails at Romolo last night, as this gaggle of not-so-street-legal motorized contraptions block an entire lane of traffic on Stockton with, hemled by tourists without their sea legs stretching to take a picture of Coit Tower with iPads.

Now before you scream at me for being a tourist snob, I’m going to metaphorically stop you right there. Let me get this straight: I love tourists, of all shapes and sizes, and I hate the tourist vs. traveler debate. One of my favorite parts of living in North Beach is being approached by anyone who needs a tip, or directions. I proudly point them on their way, suggest a good watering hole and provide a smiling face. I know that that interaction could make their day, or at least make them feel slightly more comfortable in a strange place. I take hosting VERY seriously, as a Calgarian who firmly believes in the white hat, and it is an absolute pleasure to help a stranger get to know the city that I love.

The damn Segways, on the other hand, completely remove said traveler from their surroundings. Ta-nehisi Coates posits an “asshole rule” in the Atlantic: a person who demands that all social interaction happen on their terms. Since a segway is not a car, nor a bicycle, nor a form of walking, a group of them occupies a vehicular role and takes up an entire lane, while each individual rider demands the freedom and slow speed of walking. As a result, these groups are not walking tours, nor bus tours (both forms of tourism I am perfectly OK with) and instead slowly creep around North Beach, causing congestion and general grumpiness in me (and remember, it’s all about me).

If only that group could disembark, partake in one of San Francisco’s excellent City Guides walking tours with the hills beneath their feet (feel the burn!). Heck, I would even be, for some ungodly reason, more OK with Riding the Ducks, a semiaquatic, hopped-up bus tour that  heeds both nautical and vehicular parameters (also, have you SEEN them jammin’ on that tour? I’m this close to taking it myself fo funzies. Also, kazoos.)

I don’t like to judge other folks’ travel preferences, really I don’t. But when I get stuck behind one of these tours, or get cut off by them when I’m in a cross walk near Washington Square Park, it takes every ounce of my being to not scream “DID YOU KNOW THAT SAN FRANCISCO IS THE MOST WALKABLE CITY IN THE WORLD?”. I want to shake them, make them look around, take them for a beer and show them the best places to explore.

But then I snap out of it, and continue on my Saturday.

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Rabbit? Where?

I’m dead serious – I actually physically dodged tourists today on my run. Not just avoided one gently, or did my best to surf the wave of maps, I actually had to hurtle out of the way of a tourist. I’m not wading into the traveler versus tourist debate, I’m merely pointing out the fact that I was nearly clotheslined by a fanny-packed visitor while running on the embarcadero this afternoon.

Normally, I do my training runs during ‘local’ time, that is, on my way into work, or on my way home. During these dawn/dusk times, the majority of people I encounter are either runners or commuters, heads held high while striding forward confidently, or heads to the ground, mobile to the ear, bustling towards the towering concrete in front of them, or back towards the boats that ferry them back to their homes. These are my compatriots, my comrades; places to go, and not enough time to do it in (which is why I normally try and combine my running with my commute – efficiencies!). We understand each other: a fellow runner will nod my way (or not) and stay clear of my path, and a commuter will understand that I will run around them, and not the other way around. This delicate dance repeats every morning or night, and we get it.

Today (President’s Day), I did my short run at about 1 PM. I laced up, headed towards North Point, and made my way towards the Embarcadero. My pace was pretty fast, and I was determined to make this a short but sweet jaunt, the opportunity to run off a bit of antsyness I had coming out of the weekend. Around Alcatraz landing, the foot traffic congestion got bad – individuals wandering aimlessly, groups of four or five taking up the entire walkway, as entire gaggle of folks waiting for their tour bus. Nothing gets me more excited about where I live than overhearing someone exclaim “this is the coolest place on earth!”, but there’s just one habit of theirs that I can’t stand: erratic walking.

I developed my irrational hatred of erratic walking while living in New York, while I was struggling to do my very best to not be too wowed by the ultra-awesome city I was in.These habits are endemic: the shuffle, the absent minded gaze, the meandering across the invisible lanes that all good and decent people naturally aspire to operate within. When I first started traveling on my own, I learned pretty quickly that the first thing a “cool” traveler does before you get to a new place is to study up on your maps before getting of the plane/train/what have you, and then keep your eyes at eye level, ignoring the unfamiliar and potentially life-changing views. Who cares if you’ve never seen the sites before – no one wants you to think you’re a tourist or anything.

So back to today – I’m running on the Embarcadero at a nine mile a minute nine minute a mile (lol) clip, doing my best to gauge the migratory patterns of the clusters around me. I made a choice, and ventured towards the buildings, going slightly upstream into what I thought was a perfectly placed void. At that moment, a wide-eyed traveler who’d crossed 20 feet in front of me saw something super cool on the bay, something truly awesome, and turned around to reach out to her mother. Utilizing my best catlike reflexes, I dodged away from a potential flooring, and nearly tripped over my own feet.

I heard a giggle and an apology behind me,  and I smiled. There’s so much to see in San Francisco, and I’m glad that person took the time to turn back and share it.

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