Aug 27, 2007


This happened at around 9:15 a.m., outside a Nob Hill grocery store. In one of those little vest pocket malls off Holly Avenue, just a mile or so below Oracle Hq.

This whole area is landfill. The people who come here to shop are mostly older, in their 40s or better. Many are Asian. The women often wear sweatpants. Sometimes a group of mothers with strollers arrive. They're not Asian, they all blonde. You see them trotting up and down the outside stairs to the parking garage or playing tennis.

So I'm in Nob Hill, standing behind a man at the check-out counter. He was an older man, nondescript. He bought a few things, toiletries I think.

The checkout clerk asked him if he was having a good day. The customer shook his head. Not really, he said. He paid in cash and left. As my things were run up, the woman who bags the groceries noticed the man had left his purchases behind. She was a petite Latina, in her 50s. Had a terrific smile, you could see she was a good person right away.

She went off holding a white plastic bag above her head. "Hello" she said, in an ever louder voice.

I paid for my things and walked out the door. I stopped to look at a newspaper in a rack, with the story about the attorney general quitting, and I overheard the Latina and the man. He thanked her for bringing him this things and she was telling him that sometimes she'll be looking for her glasses and her sister will tell her, 'look on your face, Maria'.

The man watched her very intently. You have a nice day, she said and he repeated that to her. But then something must have happened between them because he didn't move and she didn't move.

They're standing on the curb by the entrance to the store. Cars are going by, more people are starting to come into the store and to the Starbuck's next door. Suddenly, the man gets down on his knees and holds up his hands, as though he were at a communion rail. My first thought was he must be nuts. Then I thought, well maybe it's a joke or they know each other and this is some kind of ritual they have.

But they looked so obviously different, he looked like one of these corporate executives, in flannel trousers and an expensive shirt. She looked like a lady who bags things.

He was looking up at her. She seemed very embarrassed but then she looked back at him; he was whispering something. "Please" was all I could hear. He kept repeating that. And then finally she just took his hands and clasped them to her. He lowered his head and they just stayed like for what seemed like several minutes. People stopped to look. A woman in a car honked, because I think the man's legs were in the road. Some girls passed by and giggled.

Then the man got up, brushed off his pants and left. And the Latina returned to the store.

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