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Here Are A Few Ways To Avoid Being A Tool in the Bay Area

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A photo of a hammer over the Painted Ladies.

The Bay Area doesn’t need any more tools than it already has. (Malik Sy, Ave Calvar)

It’s never been a better time to stop being a tool while living in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are plenty of reasons to not be a tool. A few of the reasons include the sentiments of treating others how you would want to be treated, releasing the grudges that bind so people can live in spiritual congruence, and paying it forward. Those could be acted out chronologically, like making sure future citizens inherit a better world, or personally, like looking out for oneself by — to some, somewhat counterintuitively — contributing to communal resource stores such as food banks.

But being a tool feels good. Our immediate sense of relief when we post incendiary nonsense on the internet is a terrific feedback loop; honking and flipping people off in traffic swaddles us in a warm blanket of false infallibility, if even for a moment. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, “I remember now I am in this earthly world — where to do harm is often laudable, to do good sometime accounted dangerous folly.” It’s our lowest common denominator: flaming people, trolling, taking the low road. 

So, to try and combat those basest of desires, here are a few helpful regional-specific tips to keep from being a jerk:

  • Be curious rather than a blowhard

People like to look smart and sound cool while they look smart. Yet, most of us — this journalist included — are frankly not well-studied in every subject under the sun. Malcolm Gladwell puts it well when he says “Some of the most effective ways in which you deal with someone’s idea are to treat them completely at face value, and with an enormous amount of respect.” Next time you could talk about something you know nothing about, try asking questions rather than looking down your nose. 

  • Food doesn’t slap 

As KQED put it, if you want to use Bay Area slang, just use it right. Lyrical iconoclast E-40 makes fun of the would-be hip person trying to fit in, and nobody wants to get roasted by locals. Moreover, there’s often history to terms like using Frisco as a nickname for San Francisco.

  • Don’t waste first responders time

There are crimes and emergencies that require San Francisco’s resources. Catalytic converter theft is up 4,000 percent from 2018 to 2021. Small businesses are broken into over and over again, sometimes six times in the same night. If your tool neighbor is being a tool across the street, even if they’re playing music by the band Tool too loud for the millionth time, don’t call the police. 

  • Be cool to people experiencing homelessness

Debates in San Francisco regarding tent-dwellers in the Tenderloin are at a national boiling point. It sucks to live on the sidewalk, even if people disagree on why someone might come upon such a fate. There’s still no good reason to mock, belittle, taunt, assault, or degrade others in the Bay — or in general, for that matter.

  • Show generational Baydestrians the respect they’ve earned

San Francisco has been a boomtown almost as soon as it stopped being called Yerba Buena in the late 1840s. Adventurers, imperialists, entrepreneurs, and migrants have flocked to the Bay for myriad reasons ever since, and still do. It’s good form to take any chance one can to show love to those families, churches, small businesses, and ancestors that have hung on through all the change.

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Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri (he/they) is a writer living on the coast. He's a reporter for Eater SF and the author of three books of fiction and one book of poetry.