This friend of mine can go to the room telephone and say, so incidentally, “Room service, please,” and order a meal in her room with almost negligence. That, I say, is elegance. Taxis, too, are another test. I never order a taxi without a feeling of sea-sickness. Even when someone else is paying the bill I can’t sit back in comfort. Always they are ticking off the minutes as though they were my last on this earth.
They are simple tests that divide the plebeian from the patrician. Was it Kipling who wrote:
“If you can order breakfast in your room and
not feel reckless,
If you can ride in taxis with aplomb,
If you can read the menu and not the prices,
Then, you’re a qualified patrician, son.”
After my friend had gone I went back to the hotel and someone else was in her room and no one treated me as though I were the Queen of Sheba and I went out into a cold, indifferent world where no one cares when my glass is empty, where no chair is pushed under me at table and where, alas, I must sugar my own tea or go without.
Some Cities roar and others hum, but San Francisco sings. Especially on Saturday at noon and downtown. Saturday noon in San Francisco is like nothing else anywhere but Saturday noon in San Francisco. And Saturday noon is like the noon of no other day but Saturday. On Sunday they’re off. On Saturday noon everybody’s on the street.
There are more flowers on Saturday noon. On the street stands great plumes of gold acacia, riots of daffodils, banks of violets, white, waxy camellias and branches of Japanese peach blossoms. It’s still winter by the calendar but it’s spring in San Francisco. Everywhere you turn a man or boy from the country with baskets of the spring flowers. All you want to carry for two bits and a nice bunch for a dime. Big, fat men and oldish men with young twinkles in their eyes sell them, unromantic, but very nice to deal with.
There are the flowers and there are the women. No women in the country so beautiful. No women in the world wear color as they do. Their colors are never primitive, never gaudy, but gorgeous and vivid and alive, seldom do you see a woman dressed in black, and black hats almost never. Sit in the gallery of any church on Sunday morning when the sun comes pouring in and it is as though you were looking down on flowers.
Never two alike in the Saturday noon crowd and yet the same type. Free women, happy women, regular women. Women who can recall a judge or so and still be graceful and dainty. It is very significant that a San Francisco woman stands at the very pinnacle of the city, graceful and alert on that tall slender column in Union Square.
And the Saturday noon men — men? — men? In describing color what can one say of men? Well, it’s not their fault that they can’t wear pretty clothes. They make a nice grey background for the women and a very desirable audience and that’s the best I can do for them.