August 2013 — Lesson: Research an area before you just show up.
How: It was day one in Foster City, a delightful taste of middle-high class suburbia, home to major company headquarters like Visa, Intel and of course, Sony. Sony: the reason I was there in the first place. About seven months ago my mother moved on up in the tech-business food chain and scored her dream job. She now works for Sony Playstation, located in Foster City, Calif. I am still studying at the University of Florida, taking on the Florida heat on my own. With my father in Brazil and mother in California, it’s safe to say I have three homes and an awesome amount of frequent-flyer miles.
So, it was day one in Foster City and San Francisco was a mere 20 minutes away. Being the city girl that I am, (Disclaimer: I am a phony. I grew up in Pembroke Pines, Fla., which is the antithesis of urban life. But I feel at home among skyscrapers, so I’m sticking to it.) I made plans to catch up with my good ol’ friend, the Golden Gate.
My boyfriend Derek accompanied me on this trip, so we set out to thecity together. My mother was working, so we had to find another way to get there. I decided we should have a starting point within the city then explore from there. Since we had plans later on in the week to hit the major tourist spots, I used this day to find the store Brandy Melville, a heaven for daisy-print lovers. This would be our starting point.
We took the Bay Area Rapid Transit, BART, into the city from a nearby town, Millbrae. I looked up which stop would be the closest to my beloved store, and Derek and I set off to our destination: the Civic Center. First mistake. One would never think that a place called the “Civic Center” would be in a bad area — right? That’s what we thought, so we didn’t bother to research anything about where the Civic Center actually was. Thirty minutes later, we arrived. Giddy with excitement, I skipped up the stairs that led out of the BART station and stepped into the windy streets of San Francisco. We were greeted by a beautiful European-style building and vendors selling all sorts of handcrafted souvenirs.
I put the store’s address into my phone and started following the directions, which lead us straight through the heart of the Tenderloin district. We soon noticed the strong stench of urine and a couple homeless people laying against the buildings. We appeared to be the only well-dressed people within a three-block radius. Take a left here, go straight here, another left here … The surrounding environment grew steadily less inviting, and we grew steadily more uncomfortable. At one corner, a drug deal was clearly taking place. After the second corner store we passed, where three men were whispering to each other and looking our way, the “Where are we Carla?” and “What area did you bring us to?” questions started. To be honest, I had no idea where we were and my phone’s GPS was more lost than I was.
“Um, Tenderloin?” I said. (We would later find out that this is the worst part of the city, called Tenderloin because the Police officers that patrol the area are given an extra stipend, which they can buy better meat with – “Tenderloin.”)
This was Derek’s first time in San Francisco, and by the looks of it he wasn’t planning on visiting again any time soon. We went into let’s-get-the-heck-out-of-here-without-getting-mugged mode. For a good ten minutes neither of us said a word. We just walked. Fast. At various points we still agree that we were being followed … You just had to be there.
Finally, we turned onto a busy street, and spotted a glimpse of yellow relief — a cab. I stepped onto the street, threw my hand out into the air like a pro and hailed us a cab. Tendollars later, we were safe and sound. Nevertheless, this was a situation that could have easily been avoided if we had done down research beforehand. A brief pause at Brandy Melville and then we stumbled upon the Marina.
Just in time for my coffee date with the Golden Gate.