"Ingenuity Conquers All"


I hear so much about how the onslaught on high tech is making it impossible to earn a living without heavy-duty tech training. An incident on the streets of San Francisco that Ball and I witnessed last year tells me it isn’t necessarily so.

Last May, in a rare occurrence, I was able to go out to San Francisco and join up with Linda after she’d already been out there during the first part of the week on business. We procured a room in a truly wonderful hotel (The Monaco, if you have need to visit SF) ahead of time and she shifted over to it after staying in the Hilton during the first part of the week. On Friday night, we dined at Postrio, which is one of Wolfgang Puck’s places in the city and is actually part of the Kimpton Group. After filling our yuppie guts with some of the best food and wine on the face of the planet, we decided to walk back to the hotel and then get changed out of our finery to go somewhere more casual. As we headed down one of those San Francisco streets that seems to be cocked at a 70-degree angle downhill, we were suddenly taken by a strange sight.

About halfway between the corner we had just rounded and the next one, a black couple, both decked with dreads and dressed in bright white outfits, were having what appeared to be a hot argument. The woman was the one doing most of the shouting; the guy was sitting on the steps of the apartment with a bottle in his hands. She was getting pretty wild, shouting out phrases like "It’s no wonder you never make any money—you just sit around and drink. You gotta start thinking white! You thinking black all the time and that’s holding you back." While she was laying all of this on him, the guy was sitting there meekly taking it all in and nodding his head dumbly.

At first, we were taken aback by this sight and apprehensive about walking towards them. Then, in that sudden flash of insight that old married couples have, we realized that this was pure street theater. Sure as heck, as we went past them, the woman detached from the stoop and followed with us, chanting her mantra. Obviously it was a pretty safe bet that we were a pair of successful people who subscribe to a heavy-duty work ethic and we would be very sympathetic to what she was saying. As the three of us walked together down the hill, Ball and I started getting into the groove with her and soon, we were all three shouting the stock phrases. As we reached the corner, we stopped for the light and kept up our "conversation." When the light changed, I reached into my pocket and snagged a $10 bill that I gave to her. We soul slapped, gave high fives, and we went on our merry way. What a con artist!

I'd have to say that entertainment was worth every penny of it. That was a great farce they had put together--and as well staged as the Met. They had that timing down to a T. As soon as they saw us turn the corner at the top of the hill, they had gone into their act. And she knew just when to move along with us and then pause for effect at the stoplight. Hey, for all I know those two had advanced degrees from Stanford. But don't tell me low tech doesn't still work--it's just all in how you use it.