“Help pass the time pleasantly,” so does the electric piano coax away our nickels. To those who know music it is a horrible sound, but to the rest of us its tunes are rather gay. On the wall a defunct comedy flashes. Hypnotized, but never amused, we gaze at it as we wait for the great doors to swing back. A woman is thrown from an auto by her husband, and in her fall displays a pair of husky, ruffled underwear. Time was when that would have raised a howl of joy, but no longer. She hardly touches the ground when we find ourselves gazing at an orchard of California figs, zip, the woman picks herself up, gazes comically at the audience for a laugh and receiving none, hops with phenomenal agility up astride of the hood of the auto, piff, a yard of Santa Rosa hens, ping, the husband throws his wife up to the roof of a skyscraper, the commuters gaze solemnly, biff, a scene from Santa Clara, clang, the gates are opened.
On the Sausalito side, a jammed together happy vacation crowd, grotesquely varied and elaborately gotten-up hikers, bags and suitcases to fall all over everywhere, professorish looking men off, “taking a book along,” people laden with all the cheap magazines in the market, smartly dressed people on their way to country homes in Marin and Sonoma, a well modulated, nicely groomed crowd — bing, the doors slide back and everybody rushes off for a holiday.
Commuters and tourists, most of the time I’d rather be a tourist. They are easily distinguished in the crowd, an accent from Louisiana, a woman who has just returned from the Orient, a man with continental manners, they are easily distinguished. and the predatory red-capped porters know them well. We are wistfully sorry to be going only to Oakland, we long to go out on the Main Line, the out-leading, mile-wandering, venturesome Main Line. Reluctantly we turn to where duty and necessity calls us ignominiously to the electric suburban.
The first sight of San Francisco. “Ah, this is San Francisco!” The shrill of newsboys, the bass of older venders, the flash of electric signs. Do you prefer “Camels”, “Chesterfields” or “Fatimas”? the call of taxis, invitations to hotel buses, the wide sweep of traffic on the Embarcadero — “So this is San Francisco.”
It is surprising how many people patronize the shabby little thing. But then it waits right where those who leave the ferry may see it first as though it were the most important car in town, and I have a fancy the big cars humor it a bit and give it first place. Besides, it goes anywhere in the city, Chinatown, the Hall of Justice, the Chamber of Commerce, the Barbary Coast, St. Francis Church — sinners, saints and merchants may travel its way — Portsmouth Square, Telegraph Hill, Little Italy, Russian Hill, Automobile Row, Fillmore street, the Presidio and I expect with a little coaxing it would switch about and run over to the Mission. It has actually been known on stormy nights to take its constituents up the side streets to their very doors.