If You’re Going To San Francisco (Be Sure To Rent A Bike)

Three young men look over a city skyline

“Oh, not much, got stabbed last night.”

That was the first thing Rico said to me on a Thursday morning, six days after he had started. He was 18, and incredibly short. His hair was long and greasy, and he would always be unsure as to where he was meant to send customers once he had put them on their bikes. His trousers hung low, and his voice was high. On the morning after the stabbing, he arrived at the pier in an oversized t-shirt, hiding any indication that there was a homemade bandage strapped around his stomach keeping his internal organs from slipping through the cracks. He couldn’t go to the hospital, because “those dudes will charge you for everything, man.” So he had to suck it up, show up to work every day, and pray to God he wouldn’t get infections from handling dirty handlebars and breathing toxic San Francisco air.

Rico was probably the lowest ranking criminal that worked with us. Nate was trying to be the top dog around the shop. His arms were covered in symbols and numbers, and he only wore red, even though the company colours were blue. One day, a cop car drove past the shop and Nate calmly turned to one of the girls and said “hold this, I’m on probation”. In her hand was a combat knife, small enough to tuck into a pocket but sharp enough to do some damage.

Vincent was quiet. He would mumble and he would fix bikes by himself in the corner. Vincent did ten years for manslaughter in San Quentin State Prison.

Fernando used to race cars. He would go to parking lots in the Mission District with a few of his friends in the middle of the night. They would take their highly customised sports cars, with black tinted windows and neon undercarriages, and they would race them from one end of the lot to the other. Crowds would gather, and watch as Fernando showed off his new Maserati. He would take an interest in one of the girls, invite her into his car, and drive her to a private spot so that they could have sex. He would then drop her off, head home, and get into bed with his heavily pregnant girlfriend of three years. He would kiss her goodnight, tell her he loved her, and then spend all day with her at work. When she wasn’t at work, he would try and talk one of the Irish girls into having sex with him. He’s been married just over a year now.

We had a designated sex room in the back.

I never got an invite, but I think I would have said no to any offers anyway. I was in a weird place at the time, and the last thing I needed was losing my virginity on the seat of an electric bike with dodgy brakes. Moon and Jada had gone in during work one day, and we got a lot more customers. Maybe sex does sell.

Jada had moved over from Florida to get away from a boyfriend who was dead set on getting her pregnant. She had stayed with him for over a year and in that time, he tried to have sex with her as she slept and secretly remove his condom. When I asked her why she stayed with him for so long, she said “we both liked cars”. Shortly after I left, she moved back to Florida, and is back with her ex.

If you were to cut Moon open, you would find traces of blood in his weed stream. I never saw him without a beanie, and he would always ask if you wanted to go on a smoke break. Nothing made him happier than talking about the women he had slept with. The sides of his mouth would curl up and he’d squeeze his eyes tight laughing at how he had gone home with girls after parties or which nationalities were the best. The last thing he shared on Facebook was the results of a test to see how “fake” he was based on his star sign.

Two men go up wooden stairs in a lush green area in San Francisco.

In the three months I was in San Francisco, I had three bosses.

My first one was Abdul. He left before I actually landed in the country and didn’t tell anyone he had hired, resulting in some students who had paid thousands to be there to be deported due to the rules of the J1 visa.

Then there was Earnest, who didn’t question anything when we marched into the building demanding our jobs. He got fired because he tried to sell drugs to one of the girls, and Fernando found out. A week later, our safe was stolen from the shop. There were no signs of a break in, which meant that the thief knew the codes to get in.

My last boss was Trevor. He was flown in from the head office to save the San Francisco branch, and all he did was buy us donuts. As of writing this, the branch has been permanently closed.

If you ever find yourself in San Francisco, here’s my advice;

The best food is in the Missions, but go during the day.

Ignore the man painting himself in gold in the toilets at Fisherman’s Wharf. He’s there to earn a living, just like you.

Don’t borrow anyone’s vape pen, unless you want to get freaky.

If you’re gonna jump the barrier at the BART, don’t half ass it.

Game Time has 5 dollar tickets for baseball games.

Enjoy it as much as you can, because the city council are stripping the culture away, and God knows how long it will still be a fun place to go.

Rent a bike and head to Sausalito, but be sure to tip your tour guide. They’ve had a long summer.