San Francisco in the golden age of ‘Glassholes’

I was working in San Francisco’s Mission District when I made an effort to befriend the office nerd.

To say that Timothy was socially awkward would be an understatement. Because of the way he craned his neck to peek over his cubicle every five minutes he earned the nickname “Meerkat”, but that was just the beginning. Upon meeting a new client or coworker Timothy would strike up a conversation about what he learned while googling them. And then there were the Facebook issues.

Facebook stalking was Timothy’s primary social outlet, and on Monday mornings he’d lumber around the office with a self-satisfied smile, arms held in a T-Rex fashion with his folded hands resting on his ample belly, interrupting work conversations with something like: “It looked like YOU had a lot of fun on your camping trip! Haha!” Later in the lunchroom, he’d gleefully recap everyone else’s weekend.

Sure it was all information that was freely available online, but aren’t there still issues of boundaries and decorum?

I’ve thought a lot about Timothy lately in the wake of Peeping Tom/Anti-Privacy Advocate Sarah Slocum’s headlines claiming she was the victim of a “hate crime” after angry bar patrons flipped her off, and reportedly took the Google Glass off her face while she was recording them at a Haight bar.

The woman who flipped her off exclaimed “You’re killing our city!”

Those words have resonated with many San Franciscans in the wake of mass evictions, and the pervasive impression of the new tech-worker residents as soulless parasites feeding off the “cool” they’re displacing.

GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann in Google Glasses (source: Luke Russert via Twitter)

GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann sporting her Google Glass (source: Luke Russert via Twitter).

Not only are long term residents being displaced at historic levels, the new residents feverishly work to tame the neighborhoods they’ve consumed – complaining about noise from nightlife, and electing leaders sympathetic to their pro-gentrification agenda, like Supervisor Scott Wiener, who in 2012 stamped out one of the last libertine vestiges of the Summer of Love with his nudity ban.

Although people offended by public nudity had 88,000 municipalities in the US to choose from, and about 39 San Francisco neighborhoods were it wasn’t common, a vocal group moved to the epicenter, Market & Castro, then carried on and caterwauled about being “eye raped,” until the local laws were brought in line with places like Topeka and Peoria.

Now there’s a move by some to rebrand half of the Castro with the less “gay,” more collegiate-sounding name, “The Quad.”

Like Slocum, Timothy felt entitled to feed off the lives of those around him. When I began writing in opposition to the nudity ban, he felt entitled to target my unrelated livelihood – unsuccessfully attempting to use my writings and Facebook posts against me.

Slocum, it turns out, was accused by neighbors of surreptitiously recording them with her smartphone through an open window, according to court documents. They successfully got a restraining order against her.

Glassholes aren’t big on boundaries, and their kind seem to have reached a critical mass in San Francisco. Whatever the future holds for the city, we can be certain it will be recorded.


Chris Andoe is a New York based writer and seasoned activist. After meeting John Aravosis at a Chicago “StopDrLaura.com” protest in 2000, Chris was inspired to organize his own major demonstrations in St. Louis, his adopted hometown, which drew national attention. Since then, his activism has revolved around LGBT, affordable housing, and mass transit issues. While living in San Francisco, Andoe made headlines taking on the amorphous hacker group Anonymous for publishing nude photos of a Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesperson, saying “Puritanical shame-based tactics have no place in the capital of sexual liberation”, and he extensively covered the city’s jarring gentrification, from mass evictions to the nudity ban. Back in St. Louis Andoe’s hosted public events on the subway and elsewhere as “The Emperor” and writes the Tales from the Emperor column for Vital Voice Magazine. Always in the fray, Andoe’s been interviewed by NPR, CBS, and has been quoted from CNN to The St. Louis Post Dispatch. His upcoming book of short stories, Delusions of Grandeur, is expected out early next year.

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  • 2karmanot

    “I remember when the Meat packing District was just scary.” Except for the Mineshaft on acid.

  • 2karmanot

    Brooklyn Heights used to be heaven.

  • 2karmanot

    Exactly

  • 2karmanot

    Paris is a good comparison. Only the rich can live in both cities now. The TEC elites have ruined the city. Artists, poets, the old, the interesting and the city’s wonderful characters have been forced out. SF has become Wonder Bread by the Bay and Mrs. Madrigal is pissed.

  • rabblerouzzer

    Thanks, Rob! I learn something new every day! Thanks for setting me straight (on this issue anyway).

  • Rob

    What are you taking about not very many patterns? There are websites with hundreds of thousands of free open source blueprints available for download. Thingiverse for example… There are several other companies who have similar 3d blueprint repositories

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  • poffman

    it’s happening in Seattle with Amazon … we call them Amholes ;)

  • rabblerouzzer

    Very well said. I admire coders. In fact I need someone right now who can help me build a more than a basic site from a template with an embedded video and pictures (which is about my level of expertise. I know I could learn more, I’m a quick study and no idiot, but there’s never time! I look at source code and within the first several lines my eyes just glaze over. I understand it enough to change a color or a hyperlink or insert paypal code, but damn it’s a chore! So my hat’s off to you, even if that’s not the kind of coding you do. It’s all jibberish to me.

    If you know how to code for 3D objects, the next big technological advance in printing is 3D printing, where you download a template of something you need, send it to the printer and you have your part, or utensil, whatever — they’re exploring how to create human organs for transplant! They’re working on doing it with food, too. They’re not at Captain Picard’s “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” yet, but it’s the most impressive thing I’ve seen in the printing industry in my lifetime, and I’ve been in the game since I edited our high school newspaper. Prices on the printers are coming down considerably, but there isn’t a lot of stuff (patterns) to print. People who can come up with that stand to make a bundle.

    If you start such a company, I want to invest.

    Happy trails,

    Donna Wade

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Truly: The Bay Area has become far, far worse in terms of cost of living than it was in the late 90s. There was the same real estate bubble as the rest of the country, but like cities like LA, NYC, Vegas, and a few others, it was worse in the SF/SJC region.

    I mean, at least in the 90s, there were boom-time incomes to match the boom-time costs. Now? Real estate prices are still over-inflated (although down about 1/3 from the 2007 peak), rental prices have skyrocketed (in part because none but those with big piles of money can afford to buy anymore) — but salaries and hourly rates for anybody below VP levels remain severely depressed.

    I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that the same clients who didn’t blink twice at the hourly rates I asked for in the mid to late 90s now want to pay me — in real, non-inflation adjusted dollars — roughly 30% less. In one case, I had a client balk because I wouldn’t bite at 50% less, which would have actually come close to matching my salaried hourly number for my very first job out of college, in 1985.

    And we’re talking consulting contracts, where I’m supposed to get a premium because (1) I’m very highly skilled and have decades of experience, (2) when the job is done, I go away, and (3) I get no benefits at all, just that rate. Meanwhile, although ACA has made things better, the $150/month decent health insurance I used to be able to buy, long ago, is long gone. Plus as I indicated above, companies that used to be great about paying on-time, without hassles, won’t pay at all until I’ve been on the phone a half dozen times with their Acc’ts Payable departments.

    But yeah… I’ve also met the asshole programmers you mention. They do exist. And what’s even worse is when they vote Republican and are conservative, because most of ‘em have no idea how much things could be better under a progressive/liberal government.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    OK, maybe I deserved some of that. In my defence, let me say that I’ve known a few really off-putting computer programmers. I’ve encountered an unpleasant streak of conservatism among a few of them that’s unduly colored my opinion of the profession as a whole, perhaps.

    Do you have any idea what the cost of living is there?

    I certainly do! There’s a reason I didn’t move there in the late ’90s when searching for a place to move to when leaving San Diego.

    Before you guys go dissing computer coders, just remember how they couldn’t get those jobs without a college degree….

    To be fair, these days it seems you can’t get a job slapping labels on bottles without a college degree.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Not anymore they don’t. Go ahead — look online and you’ll see that $80k is what many of these companies are now offering SENIOR programmers. The day of the $80k intern ended, oh, right around the time Bush the Lesser crashed the economy the first time, in 2003.

    And I say this as someone who worked in the Bay Area from the mid-90s, through the boom years, and into the bust — and in fact, the majority of my contract clients are still from that region.

    Do you have any idea what the cost of living is there? It’s still outrageous — and one of the top reasons why my wife and I, when we moved back to the states in ’09, decided we simply couldn’t afford to return to the SF/San Jose area.

    The only group that has seen their pay go up in the last 10 years or more have been the executives and the lucky entrepreneurs who have their silly barely-marketable ideas bought up for billions. They’re the ones who are helping make even modest housing unaffordable for everybody below them.

    I haven’t been able to negotiate an hourly rate higher than what I was charging in 1997. In fact, companies that used to be generous and pay on time now try to nickel and dime me to death. I’m doing work right now for a major multinational tech company (whose name I cannot reveal under NDA), and rather than the 30-day net that used to be the norm, they now demand 45-days to pay their bills — and I’m lucky if I can get them to pay in 60.

    Regular employees used to enjoy bonuses, 401k contributions, generous health and other benefits — and perhaps at a few companies they still do — but that is nothing like the normal anymore.

    Before you guys go dissing computer coders, just remember how they couldn’t get those jobs without a college degree and, nowadays, six figures of student loan debt, just like the others you think are more ‘professional’ than those of us in the tech industry.

    By the way, those ‘pasty Palo Alto’ computer geeks are probably looking at rent prices upwards of $4k/month. Because, as we locals referred to it, ‘Shallow Alto’ became crammed full of the millionaires and billionaires who won’t abide affordable housing anywhere.

    The enemy isn’t the coder sitting in a cramped cubicle, expected to put in 12 and 16 hour days as a regular condition of work. The enemies are the plutocrats. Don’t fall for this all-too-obvious ‘set the schlubs against each other’ strategy. Or as I remarked once to a friend who made similar remarks, “Those dinks on the Google bus aren’t the enemy. It’s their VP bosses who are driving Teslas and Maseratis, bribing these drones with free lunches and bus rides to put in 16 hour days.”

  • cole3244

    when the amount of your income tells some about your character things will continue on a downward spiral.

  • nicho

    Exactly. I remember when Chelsea used to be edgy — IOW dangerous. I remember when Hell’s Kitchen was an accurate description. I remember when the Meat packing District was just scary. (It didn’t stop me, but it was scary.) Now, it’s all just playground for the rich. I remember when people used to be able to afford to live there. I have a friend, a Brooklyn native, whose brother works for the city. his brother told him, “There are no bad areas in Brooklyn any more.”

  • nicho

    Yes, exactly, because after the white flight, the people who came in and took their place were the people who worked hard to bring the area back. They were pioneers — aka the people with all the arrows in their asses. They put up with the mess left behind by the white flighters. The rebuilt the community by hand. And, once they had made it a nice place to live, then all the white flighters decided to come back and price the hard workers out of the equation.

  • nicho

    The interns at some of these companies make $80,000 a year.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    Really this sort of thing isn’t going to stop happening until we can repair the deplorable state of affairs in which such professionals as teachers, firefighters, and airline pilots get paid half as much money for their work as a pasty Palo Alto computer geek who writes ten lines of code a day.

  • Monophylos Fortikos

    It’s always amusing to see a dismal suburban expanse of tract housing or featureless condominiums with a chic-sounding name like “Mountain View” or “Linden Park” or “The Grange”, but it’s faintly obscene to see a developer attempt to do the same to a swath of central San Francisco. What’s next, some American landowner setting up shop in Paris and deciding that the 2nd arrondisement is now to be named “Maple Heights”?

  • 2karmanot

    “The Quad?” Hell be it. The gentrifiers are building their smug tec lives on the deaths of thousands of gays who made it possible for them and their stroller broods to move in.

  • Silver_Witch

    Change is hard…true and sometimes unfair. Great article though…it is like people that move to the “country” and when a raccoon roosts in their attic act as if the world has come to an end. The raccoon was there first. Like the bear cub on your porch…just try to enjoy the place you moved to “in its natural state” – isn’t that why you moved there?

  • perljammer

    Seems these people just can’t win. When they left the city for the suburbs, it was white flight. When the ethnic makeup of the ‘burbs started to shift, they were culturally intolerant diversity deniers. When they move into the city, it’s gentrification and displacement of the established culture.

  • cold340t

    Funny while, while being a victim of armed robbery last year. When the gun toting robbers ran from the store, I got up to see 2 young gentrifier couples watching from across the street. They had been watching the entire robbery, as it happened. Laughing at and openly enjoying their “Urban Experience” at my and the store owners expense. Did they call 911from the safety of across the street? No, they enjoyed the show and when I got up from the floor the laughed some more. I know Oakland has a bad reputation but, damn. To stand and watch two gunmen holding up a store and think it was funny , to expect me to laugh along with them afterwards. Damn, you gentrifiers need to go someplace else. You are not making things better. They enjoy seeing others abused for their own self aggrandizement, all about self. Well, can’t wait till shoe is on other foot. I will enjoy the fear on their faces, as I call 911 for help. Unlike they would do for others, myself included.

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    Same thing is happening in every major city; it’s not limited to SF. NYC, where I live, just caters to the very rich and the very poor. The middle class is getting screwed, and even Brooklyn is too expensive these days.

  • Indigo

    It’s over. Even Anna Madrigal has to redefine, regroup, and then return.

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