John on Polk Street

Oh the things you do when you go out to walk your dog….

The happy things you do when you’re out with your dog.

There is an elderly man I met down on Polk Street near Pacific late last month, right before Thanksgiving. I’d spotted him a couple of streets earlier and noticed that his walker’s back soles weren’t outfitted with dem yellow tennis balls, and he was going up a hill-y stretch. I think we were on a break with the rain, which came back to make a statement a few days later. He seemed generally OK, but, by no means robust. He was dressed lightly and he traveled light, too; it was the walker, the jacket he was wearing, and a maroon-ish duffel for him, and that’s it.

So I went looking for tennis balls.

Pro tip: Brownies Hardware FTW. The good clerk there went above and beyond when he cut through the shiny and new tennis-ball fluorescent yellow and into the rubber to prepare them for the walker.

His name is John, and he and I talked for a bit. It’s not the easiest thing to outfit a walker with tennis balls on the street, for a stranger, while making sure you’re safe and that your dog is safe and nearby – that’s right: the dog is here. We’re in front of a cafe, and the people inside can see us, and there are passersby, and this lady next us, the ATM ate her card, and she’s locked herself out of the ATM vestibule, and this is not the easiest thing. Great energy all around (lots of it)…but it got John seen.

John told me he’s been out on our streets not that long. He mentioned he has a daughter in Denver, but that didn’t sound like an option. I told him about a few options closer in and around this city, and he said he hoped he could eventually get there, walker and all. I hope he did.

After we parted, I shared all of this with my contact at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. If you don’t already have one those, get one.

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