Tuesday, December 12, 2006

White Trash

The pair of us landed in San Francisco and had four hours to spend before connecting to our flight across the Pacific and home. We had been on the road for a couple of weeks and were in no mood to hear from a clerk that, having checked in, we were not to leave the airport. After solemnly promising to stay on the premises James and I fled out the front door, jumped a cab and headed downtown to the wharf district - a popular but garish haunt.

In fact to be fair to San Francisco it is hardly representative of the city. There are parts of that wharf area that are uniquely American and distinctly San Francisco. My first trip there is especially memorable – eating seafood at Fishermans Wharf while ensconced in bibs, with the otherwise straight and proper colonel I was working for at the time, getting very tactile with his food. Something of a revelation to me – hard to look at him the same way when you have seen him with sauce running down his chin. But there are parts of that tourist area that are no different to any other cheap tourist trap which hustle imported t-shirts, cheap prints, bizarre postcards and strange wood and glass artifacts.

We were idling through the crowd, avoiding the hustlers and steering away from the buskers and beggars, with one eye on the watch and one hand on the hip pocket. At one point, to avoid some brightly lit, cheaply priced shops we moved towards the kerb though were kept from the road by a wrought iron fence. We shuffled along trying to outflank the cheap pits and while we did so were completely startled when a loud voice bellowed from beside us “Nickel for some white trash?!”

For a moment we had no idea where the voice, increasingly strident, was coming from until we looked into the bin at the side of the road and saw a pair of eyes peering out at us from inside a trash can - built in the style of those found at MacDonalds or other fast food places. Somehow he had gotten in there and had hung a little tile out the front simply titled “white trash”. If a passer-by missed the sign he yelled out instead – lifting the flap to get their attention. I don’t recall if he got a nickel from us but he sure made us laugh.

I hope he made a lot of money. A very self deprecating approach to begging, nicely claiming a pun as a way of life, employing some self mockery at the same time – and touching a raw nerve in US culture that is not always seen in such a humorous light. In southern states reference to white trash can often have a pretty raw edge to it.

We made the flight with time to spare, no one at the airport missed us. And "white trash" still makes me laugh when I think about him. I hope he is OK.


marymaddux6272 said...

Hopefully, your white trash friend has found his way out of the trash bin and into a better situation since your visit.

Glad you busted out of the airport and enjoyed some seafood on the wharf. Carpe Diem.

Ruthie Black naked said...

Eel sweetie,

he can't make himself trash. Somebody else, like the PTA, your in-laws, or the church makes you trash. That's what they did to me. http://ruthieblacknude.blogspot.com
Gen-xers and yuppies are calling themselves "trash" these days, but it ain't funny to me.

sincerely, Ruthie Black