Good morning counselors and ambassadors. We sincerely hope you all had a careful, glorious weekend. It’s the first week of classes for many of us, and Welcome Week always brings a special kind of hell. Instead of application questions, now everyone wants to drop by to see us and
thank us tell us about how their residence hall room was messy and how mean their advisor is. Great.
But our day can’t get any worse than this counselor’s. Hashtag, truth.
I decided to do interviews in San Francisco this year. I really didn’t know a whole lot about neighborhoods in San Francisco because I’d always met students for interviews in Berkeley, so I turned to Yelp. “Find me a coffee shop!” I said to Yelp. It did! It looked great. It was a hip coffee shop that accepted credit cards, that had kombucha on tap, and that was decorated like a pirate ship. Fantastic! The hipstery prospective students would swoon.
Well, Yelpers let me down. Because none of them happened to mention that this hipster mecca was an attempt at gentrification in the SHITTIEST neighborhood I have EVER been in. We’re talking about flat out uncomfortable to walk in, worried about being mugged, being yelled at constantly about my ass kind of neighborhood. (I later read that a woman had been mugged and beaten in the middle of the day the week before.) Yeah, I had invited a bunch of teenagers into Hell for a college interview.
Yelpers also let me down because this coffee shop was closed. Yup, boarded up. I tried the door and I looked inside at the obviously unused in a while tables and I started to cry. Where was I going to do the three interviews I had scheduled at this location, and how was I going to ward off the guy who was stumbling drunk down the street towards me? I did what any normal person would do. I sprinted down the street towards what looked like a better neighborhood, I called my husband, and via Yelp we problem solved. I found another coffee shop two blocks away (in the financial district - god, neighborhoods change so quickly in SF!) and then I very cautiously stood by the closed hipster haven and waited for my first interview. I watched a lady in a wheelchair down about five nips in ten minutes, I watched a guy across the street convulse on the pavement while someone yelled at him to get up (he did), and I watched four guys across the street stare at me while they dealt crack in broad daylight. I tried very hard to look like I was supposed to be there and I also tried very hard not to cry.
Well, as luck would have it, my first two interviews had gotten a ride together so we walked through the apocalyptic neighborhood to the new coffee shop, had some good interviews, and then I had one of their moms approach me and say “So, you probably didn’t know that neighborhood was going to be so awful, huh? That’s one of the worst in the area.” and nod sympathetically as I said I grew up in VERMONT, for god’s sake, I didn’t know what the hell to do with myself in cities. Then I ran back to the first closed shop to find my third interview, whose cell phone number I didn’t have. He was there with his dad. “Well,” his dad said. “Get in the car quickly. We’re going to drive you to a Peruvian place we love in Mission. You can talk there.” They gave me a very lovely tour of Mission. I ate an empanada, which his dad refused to let me pay for. His dad, very sweet, told me to call if I needed anything while I was in SF, because obviously my choice of original location made me seem like a hick with no city smarts (which is mostly true).
I had three more pretty uneventful interviews in a different location. My last interview brought me flowers from her job at a flower market. I walked down Market to get to my car, now parked safely in a garage in a touristy area rather than a sketchy side alley where the Bukowski-reading parking attendant had charged me ten dollars and looked at me like I was nuts for being there. I had an unfortunate moment when a guy waited until I was right next to him to whip out his junk and pee on a tree. In Union Square I gave a homeless guy five dollars because he told me my smile lit up his day. It was looking up. I was dreaming about the mountains of Thai food I would eat and the hours of Netflix I would watch when I returned to my hotel room.
And then I got into my car, tried to go straight in a right only turning lane that I thought according to the sign was a straight lane, and got side swiped by a Super Shuttle.
Good god. We feel like hysterically cry-laughing out of sheer empathy. Let’s hope none of us hit a day this bad on the road. But honestly, we know we will. Fall 2012 Travel Challenge: Someone top this story. Bring it.