Can You Spare Some Time? Not in the Bay Area, You Can't

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If you're always checking the time, rushing to the next function and cutting your conversations short, you're not alone—especially in the Bay Area. (iStock)

I keep thinking about that one time I gave some spare change to the brother at the stop sign under the freeway in West Oakland. He gave me some kind words in exchange, and I thanked him and pulled off.

Later, I parked a few blocks away downtown—but, of course, I didn’t have any change for the meter, and didn't want to use my debit card. I thought it’d be OK; I was only going in for a few minutes. And wouldn’t you know it, when I came outside, I found a shiny white City of Oakland parking ticket mounted on the dusty windshield of my Chevy underbucket. $58.00 for five minutes.

See, the Bay Area costs too much to be nice.

The parking tickets, the rent, the gas money, the groceries! I'm paying college tuition prices for my  babysitter. Hell, don’t get me started on the price of a drink at the bar, where most of cocktails are watered down anyway. $15 for flavored tap water, psshht.


But the real crime is that the cost of living in the Bay Area has made me lightweight impersonal, or in some ways, downright rude.

I ask myself it it’s worth it before returning a text message. I’ve missed a number of birthday parties (happy belated bday, Rae). And really, at this point, I only socialize for work-related reasons—and even if it is pure socializing, work-related things will get mentioned. Because work is actually all I can think about.

And the convos I do have are usually short. Moms taught me the trick to making sure an unwanted dialogue doesn't go a minute too long. “I don’t mean to be short, but I am”—a double-entendre from my 4'11" mother, Dolores. She raised me to have manners, to be kind and to listen to people. (I’d also credit her with passing down that whole “you’re too nice” thing I’ve got going.)

But as of late, I’ve been cutting the charisma back a bit. I just don’t have time for small talk, or to be overly nice. Time is money, and given the cost of living out here, I don’t have a second to waste.

A high school version of Pendarvis Harshaw is applauded by his loving mother after a long-distance run.
A high school version of Pendarvis Harshaw is applauded by his loving mother after a long-distance run. (via Pendarvis Harshaw)

I won’t say I’m on the path to growing old and bitter, although the image of me screaming at kids to get off my lawn does make me smile. I mean, if the image were to be true, it’d mean that I’d own a lawn, and a house—some sort of land.

Given what Alexis Madrigal pointed out earlier this month in his piece for The Atlantic, it’d probably take me until I’m as old as the mothballs under your granny’s bed before I'm able to afford a house in California.

“In Los Angeles, it would take 43 years to save up for a down payment. In San Francisco, 40. In San Jose and San Diego, 31,” writes Madrigal, citing research from the 2019 Affordability Report by Unison.

(For comparison, it’d take 36 years in New York. And only 7 years in Detroit.)

Given the cost of housing, gas, breathing and blinking in the Bay Area, the report is believable. I'd only take issue with the way it groups all people from a certain generation into one category as millennials. That’s how they categorize all of us equally. Ha!

At least Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, columnist for Marketwatch, is writing about how the housing issue hits differently for certain demographics. Da Costa writes, citing a recent report from the Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality, "The Great Recession delivered a far bigger hit to black Americans’ already meager wealth holdings— depressed by slavery, centuries of discrimination, and deliberately discriminatory housing policies— than it did to whites."

Rush hour in San Francisco.
Rush hour in San Francisco. (iStock)

Da Costa also notes that the home ownership disparity between young black and white folks is at an all-time high, which makes sense. Any critical thinker knows that statistic isn’t the same for white men as it is for black men, and it's damn sure not the same as it is for black women.

Have you heard about the gender pay gap? “According to Census data, on average, black women were paid 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2017,” writes Raina Nelson, in a piece published last year by the American Association of University Women. The figures don't get any better in so-called liberal California, where according to Business Insider, Hispanic and black women in Los Angeles overall make 49% and 59%, respectively, of the pay of white men.

So, when we look at the cost of living, keep in mind: we ain’t living the same.

We don’t even have the same amount of time to live. Just look at the disparity in life expectancy rates. According to the Center for Disease Control, “The difference in life expectancy between the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black populations increased by 0.1 year, from 3.6 years in 2015 to 3.7 years in 2016.”

That means white folks are projected to not only make more money, but live longer than black folks.

So, you start to see why both my mother and I can be so short—in more ways than one.

Parking meters in downtown San Francisco employ "dynamic" pricing.
Parking meters in downtown San Francisco employ "dynamic" pricing. (Sarah Hotchkiss)

It's crazy to think that the new luxury is having free time. It’s frustrating knowing there is little, if anything, I can do about it.

I mean, I could go around town barking at folks like a stereotypical Manhattan cab driver, and really, I think we all have the right to do so. I'd even argue that the Bay Area minute is now more valuable than the famous "New York minute."

Need proof? Parking in Manhattan is only $4.50 for the first hour. But in downtown San Francisco, metered parking can run you $7 an hour. And you don’t want to see the "dynamic pricing" for parking during an event, geesh!

Through all of this, I just keep thinking about the man at the stop sign under the freeway in West Oakland.

I swear, when I get rich, the first thing I’m doing is buying some land. And then right after that, I'm pulling up on that guy who I gave a handful of change to—and this go ‘round, I’m giving him some time.