The son of a friend of mine told her this story, and I have no doubt it is largely true, even though it has been through more than one telling.
The lad had just graduated from Cal Poly with a master’s degree in computer science and was immediately hired by the corporate offices of a prominent high-tech company at a campus job fair.
He would be working at the main office on Howard Street in San Francisco, not far from the Moscone Center, in an area of town where a lot of people visit during conventions. It also is a brief walk from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and very handy to the BART station on Powell Street.
Even though they were starting him out at $85,000 a year, he knew he couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco, so he decided to take up residence in a suburb that was served by BART.
He decided that Pleasanton would be affordable.
The person who interviewed him asked him an odd question: “What shoe size do you wear?”
The lad told him.
“Let us know where you’ll be living as soon as you can,” the guy said.
The day came when he rented his new digs. He dutifully called his new employer and let the man who had interviewed him know what his shoe size was.
A couple of days later, a parcel arrived from corporate headquarters. It contained a pair of low-cut overshoes. A note was in the box. “ALWAYS wear these over your regular shoes to work,” he was told.
When the day came for him to start work, he donned the overshoes over his regular shoes. And off he went.
When he got off the train, and started walking to the building where he would be working, it began to dawn on him why the overshoes had been provided.
In many places, the sidewalks and stairways were covered with human excrement. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing ... and smelling. The place smelled like an outdoor toilet that hadn’t been cleaned for a long time.
When he got to work, an attendant in the lobby told him to leave his overshoes, and they would be cleaned.
“That way, your good shoes don’t get dirty,” he was told.
“The most surprising thing about San Francisco,” he told his mom, “is how filthy it is. The whole town, except for where the nice houses are. The bums believe they have a right to take their dumps on the sidewalks, or in the parks; they do it in stairwells, even on escalators. They even have maps online of the worst places.
Seem the city doesn’t care.