It is a surprising little boat which looks like nothing more than a bug crawling up the backs of the hills with its antenna of khaki-wound legs sticking out fore and aft. Those who have traveled in Ireland tell us that it is much like the jaunting cars, and it is not unlike the Toomerville Trolley.
One night I set out to find the little thing to take me home. I was in a strange part of the city and when my friends told me to get on and get off and get on again I did as I was told. With blind faith I told the conductors to put me off and they did. I continued in this way until long after midnight when I found myself at a lonely corner with no one in sight. I waited and waited and was getting nervous when I spied a blue uniform. I looked sharply to see if he were a motorman, a fireman or an officer from the Presidio. I am careful about these matters since last summer when I was coming North on the President, and asked a naval officer for some ice water. I rushed up to him and told him, which was true, that it was the first time I had ever seen a policeman when I wanted one. This led him into a defense of the San Francisco police, which I told him was quite unnecessary with me for I thought them the finest policemen in the world, probably because they are so Irish.
“Irish,” said he with a twinkle, “I’m not Irish.”
We chatted awhile until the Union street car came along, and then that policeman who said he wasn’t Irish leaned over and whispered confidentially, “If you miss this car, there’ll be another.” I suppose they get lonesome.
You see how I am wandering away from my subject. That is because I followed the Union street car. It switches from subject to subject just like that. It begins with the wonderful retail markets of San Francisco, and then changes abruptly to all sorts of sociological problems, then before we know it gives us a beautiful marine view, and then drops us down where the proletariat lives, then up to the homes of the rich and mighty, and ends in the military.
Everyone should sight-see by the little Union street car.
In that spot where Chinatown merges into the Latin quarter there must be, I think, a Director of Delightful Situations who holds dominion there. For instance, can you imagine anything more subtle than a group of large fat women haranguing, in Italian-American, a poor thin Chinaman over some bargains in vegetables?
In a place which marks the line of cleavage between the two quarters is a picture store containing in its window religious pictures, enlarged family photographs of Filipinos, and, of course, views of the Point Lobos cypress. There is something very appealing about that window. Pictures of Jesus, no matter how lurid they are, never fall short of dignity. And it seems not at all incongruous that He should be there in the midst of all those strange human contacts.