Saturday, June 6, 2009
#1 Day Culture
San Francisco people like “to do things during the day." You'll hear San Franciscans say this all the time, they'll go out of the way to say it, often with slim regard for its conversational relevance. It is the sort of unsolicited, nonsequitor declaration that poses as throw-away small talk but is really a test. It's like announcing to a stranger that you're a cat person, it's less a statement than a question: "What kind of person are you?"
In San Francisco you're either a person who "likes to do things during the day" or a totally different person, the kind who "likes to go out", AKA a nightlife junkie, a person who shotguns beer, yells obscenities at strippers and drunk drives orphans to Cambodian killing fields. You're that guy.
The reality is no one, except hyper kinetic 23 year old girls with fake boobs, likes to go out. You stand in lines, get sweated on, experience the anxiety of being judged, spend $75 on alcohol that retails for $2.29 at a corner store, and alternatively feel harassed or ignored. Emotionally, going out feels the same as a job - it's not very pleasant, you certainly aren't excited for it a half hour before you leave the house, but once you're in the flow it's endurable, even if you’re surrounded by freaks, and most importantly it has to be done in order to lead a halfway normal life.
San Franciscans attitude towards this reality is akin to that of Belarussian Jews towards the Nazis - they are having none of it. They are going hiking Saturday morning on Mount Tam and the departure time is 7:30 AM, right after they get back from a pre-dawn jog.
This perspective is partly just a Ponzi scheme of peer pressure, a socialized pathology like Sex in the City feminism, but only in part. After all, sailing in the Bay is nice, Napa wine-tasting rooms are nice, so is a hike in Yosemite; and the night scene is drab enough by comparison that treating the two as mutually exclusive lifestyles isn't insane. It's a bit like avoiding the shoddy circus by the rail road tracks when there's a world class museum down-town. You could do both, they are not really the same thing, yet both are recreational and one is so obviously superior to the other that you'd really only visit the former when you felt like slumming it, when you were in the mood for genteel irony.
The casualty is that day activities are rarely conducive to large-scale social interaction. You may bump into a stranger or two at the trail head, meet another crew at the boathouse, pass some folks in the bike lane, but the sheer numbers are way, way smaller than those of a night scene. The odds are against you. Moreover, without the lubricating effect of an alcoholic buzz, randoms are less likely to start chatting away. This contributes to the oft commented upon Girl Mirages of San Francisco: veritable squadrons of pretty ladies appear out of the wood work on weekend afternoons - jogging, driving, at the counter of a coffee shop - visible for but a fleeting moment, never actually seen socially, standstill, at a bar, event, a party, or any other place where a guy could actually meet them.
And herein lies the underlying, chagrining hypocrisy of day culture that even its believers can sense. Human nature is such that as much as we like sunshine and fresh air we like other humans a lot more. That's Darwinian theory and the power of sexual selection at work. So when we proclaim, "I like to do things during the day," what we're really saying is, "I'm lonely."
Posted by Samuel Snodgrass at 3:24 PM