One reality of living in San Francisco is that you get to witness every possible form of anti-social behavior that you can imagine; often on a daily basis.
On a late night run to Safeway the other night, I was standing in line at checkout waiting for the clerk when a tall official wearing a grey turtleneck started to address one of the customers in the line parallel to mine. “Young man. Make this easy on yourself.”
The fellow being addressed was a man of about 30 with an unkempt appearance and wearing shorts and a bike messenger’s bag slung over one shoulder. He was standing in line to check out a PBR tall boy, and I recognized him from having passed him in a store aisle a few minutes before.
The official addressed him again, repeating the same line that he’d used just a moment before, and then repeating it again. He spoke only in templates. He would start off with two or three “young mans” before moving onto a “make this easy on yourself” and returning for another round of “young mans”.
I had no idea what this was about until the man reached into his bag and surrendered a package of ham that he’d stowed there before grabbing the PBR and using it as cover at checkout. It was a mystery how the store official had known. Maybe cameras, but in this city it’s more likely that he just knew the guy by sight. Even after the small victory though, the official insisted that the contents of the bag come out. The thief refused, prompting a new round of “young mans.”
Stores don’t seem to invoke the police in these types of situations; instead being content with ejecting the thief with minimal disruption to the other clientele and keeping the store’s inventory mostly intact. I imagine that this is because the failure of the local justice system is assumed, but I’ve never found out for sure.
Living in the city desensitizes you to bad behavior of all kinds. There was a time in my life where witnessing this kind of incident would have made me edgy, but that night I felt very little. Just another San Francisco day.