Three California moments

The gloves are old and wool, well-worn but not used up. He pulls them on carefully, one finger at a time. It is May in San Francisco, a calm sixty seven. No one else on the street wears gloves, hat, or scarf. T-shirts are out, and people bicycle past with pant legs rolled high. Spring in this western part of the city is far warmer than July. The man himself is unremarkable, white and forty, an unbuttoned dress shirt over a nondescript tee. Gloves finally on he steps forward into the booth, to a device likewise out of place, and picks up the receiver. For a moment he pauses, holding it in his gloved left hand, change at the ready in his right, and eyes the street, left and right.

In his overalls and boots the plumber is a distinct figure. Tool belt mostly empty he stands outside the office building, logo on his chest matching the logo on the van parked at the curb. At seven forty am on a Wednesday the parking lot hidden by the van is slowly filling. The plumber is not old, not yet forty. He is on the phone, one hand holding the cell to his ear. And he is seriously pissed off, the other hand gesturing in line with his speech. Strings of expletives follow each other, giving whomever is on the other end scant space for response. As he curses the plumber paces back and forth in front of the entrance. Lawyers and accountants on their way in, suits neat and coffees in hand, sidestep him with eyes averted, made timid by his rage.

In Starbucks the door swings open repeatedly, new visitors letting the chill wind of an autumn afternoon in. At one of the tables by the door a middle-aged Asian man is folding cardboard. His table is covered with tools for the project, tape, scissors, and the other half of his box. In the middle of the table lies his project, a square black plastic shape bearing its manufacturer’s logo. Toshiba. As he folds the next strip of cardboard over, creating a tight fold around the laptop’s body, the source of his cardboard too becomes evident. Domino’s. For twenty minutes more he fusses with the flaps, taping and refolding, until the laptop is completely encased. Satisfied, he sits back, studying his work. Domino’s on the outside silicon on the inside. The door opens again, gusts fluttering the cardboard scraps that litter his table. He has not removed his coat.