“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” -Elie Wiesel
I was coming out of the San Francisco Opera one evening, disappointed by the overblown performance that had no spark or inspiration. Wondering how such a huge expensive undertaking could fall so flat. Don’t get me wrong, I adore opera, and the San Francisco Opera is generally wonderful, but this one missed the mark.
I was in the cattle calls of well-dressed people who were all scurrying to their cars, hoping to get ahead of the rest of the mob. Detained together at a traffic light, a homeless man moved in and started working the crowd. He was an African American man, thin and wiry and seemed a veteran street hustler working us like a circus barker. He was trying to round us all up telling us he would sing for us to earn his money.
The whole situation was so uncomfortable that it caught my attention. This slick street guy enjoying having the brief upper hand of this well heeled crowd that was trapped at the light, everyone awkwardly trying to pretend he was invisible.
Instead of avoiding his gaze, as I was tempted to do, I looked fully at him and said that I would indeed like to hear him sing and put $20 in his hat. The light turned and the nervous crowd skirted away, leaving my date and I alone with him. He seemed caught off guard; fully expecting to hustle us but getting pre-paid instead. This was clearly not something in his usual repertoire.