It's A Tough Job, But Someone's Gotta Do It

My mother is not going to want to hear this, and would probably appreciate that I just didn't tell her about these sorts of things, but last night I intercepted a cracked-out homeless woman trying to get inside the lobby of my apartment building.

But wait, were you listening? I intercepted her. That's a good thing! She didn't get in! The mayor of San Francisco should give me a medal or something, maybe present me with some keys to the city. I mean, what was that homeless woman going to do in my building, anyway? Sure, maybe she was just going to curl up in the elevator and sputter all over everything, but what if she was actually hatching a deadly attack against the people who leave their laundry in the communal washers in the basement too long, forcing other people to return downstairs repeatedly to see if they're done with the washer yet, and then eventually just move the other person's sopping clothes to atop the dryer because goddammit, Other Person, set your kitchen timer or something. (And yet, have you been that Other Person? Because I've been that Other Person. Oh, come on, we all have, admit it. But just that once, of course, when there was something really good on TV.)

You know, actually, now that I am done joking around about it, it was really kind of scary to intercept a person trying to get inside the lobby of my apartment building. I was walking home from work just after six and it was dark, and as I approached the entrance to my building and felt in my bag for my keys, this woman darted around the corner, then doubled back as soon as she saw me. I figured she'd been about to use our front steps as a place to stop and light her crack pipe rest her weary homeless legs, but then had changed her mind once she saw me.

(If I sound laissez-faire about this, by the way, it's because having homeless people on our front steps is embarrassingly common. I always pray they won't be there the nights I invite people over for dinner parties, and thankfully most of my friends are too polite to say "hey, who was that prostitute on your front steps?" anyway. Maybe this is because they know I'll look them in the eye and say "what, your mom is there again?")

But anyway, I put the key in the lock and stepped inside the lobby. And quick as a flash, this woman was right behind me, slipping through the front door before it closed. Truthfully, I've always been sort of worried about this sort of thing---thanks, Law and Order---and as a result, it must be said, I was actually kind of psyched to get a rape alarm for Christmas. (No, really. We tested it out on Christmas Day after I'd opened it and half my family are now 90% deaf in one ear. But good news, the rape alarm works!)

So I said to this woman, "excuse me, where are you going?" And yes, sure, I understand this is a pretty presumptuous thing to say to a person, but, dude, Internet, SHE WAS BAREFOOT. She had no front teeth. Her eyes were kind of wild and crazy, and let us not forget, she had slipped very niftily in the front door behind me. And so I made an executive decision that she wasn't supposed to be in my apartment building, and if this makes me a bourgeoise---do you know how many times it took me to spell bourgeoise?---pig, then I'm sorry, but one must get SOMETHING from all those Stranger Danger classes and this was my take-home lesson: do not let cracked-out looking people into your home without at least a mild interrogation.

So the woman said "I'm just won't be long" and started trying to maneuver up the stairs, and I said "where? which apartment?" and blocked her way with the enormous bag my sister gave me over Christmas. (Thanks, Susie! It's coming in handy!) "I'm going to my friend's house," she said, and I said "which apartment? what's your friend's name?" And at this point, Internet, I have to admit, I suddenly got totally panicked that oh my god, this woman actually was going to visit her friend, she didn't realize she had to be buzzed up on the intercom, she didn't realize she had to wear shoes in public, and my middle class guilt almost jumped up and patted her on the shoulder and said, "Oh, totally cool, awesome, listen, have a great evening with your friend! Hey, can I call the elevator for you?"

But Crack Lady couldn't---quelle surprise!---provide the apartment number of her "friend" and when I asked her what the friend's name was, the answer was "uh...uh...Deborah." And so we had this awkward sort of moment in the lobby where I was totally all up in Crack Lady's grill, taking a step up the stairs every time she took a step up the stairs, very calmly shadowing her and demanding the apartment number of her friend while she sort of hemmed and hawed and looked around nervously, obviously wondering what the hell my deal was that I cared so much.

(Why did I care so much? What did I think she was going to do? Well, I worried she might just start trying all the front doors on various floors, hoping to find one that was unlocked. I worried she might just walk into someone's apartment and scare the crap out of them, and there are OLD PEOPLE living in my building, Internet! And yes, I know, perhaps this woman was just trying to find a warm place to sleep, but still, that wouldn't have lasted very long, I mean, someone would have found her, and WAIT, am I seriously trying to defend why I didn't let a stranger into my apartment building? Should I have to? I mean, there are shelters, right? She shouldn't have to resort to breaking and entering.)

Anyway, so we were standing there facing each other---me suddenly having transformed into The Great Upholder Of Safety---and I said, "well, you know, I think I'm just going to call the building manager, because you don't seem so sure which apartment DEBORAH lives in. And Crack Lady was all, "I'm not staying, I'm not staying, I'm just visiting." And I was all, "yeah, but that's kind of not the point, you know," and our strange impasse continued for another second or two, and all the time I was really secretly hoping I wouldn't be challenged to actually call the building manager because I knew my phone battery was totally dead. And that would mean I'd have to start making up some fake one-ended conversation, making the building manager about as real as "Deborah." (Also, frankly I just didn't have the energy.)

So this went on for another minute or two, but long story short---because, really, this is getting awfully long---I eventually got this woman to leave, purely by just being a massively irritating pain in the ass. (I mean, I stood with my hands on my hips and everything; it was like I was taking pointers from every teacher who ever raised their eyebrows at me while I tried to fib my way out of something with a litany of excuses.) I watched her pointedly as she opened the front door, stepped out into the street, and shot me one more evil glance before turning and walking away. And then, heart pounding, I raced inside my apartment, locked the door behind me, and shouted "OH MY GOD, SEAN, I JUST SINGLE-HANDEDLY DISBANDED A CRACK WHORE."

And Sean looked up and said "Typical day at the office then?"

(No, he didn't, but he should have. Note to Sean: you should have said that.)

And I guess that was the story of how I bravely and courageously kept my apartment building safe from homeless interlopers with no shoes and few teeth, and it's too bad the other tenants will never know about it. But that's the thing about single-handedly disbanding crack whores, man: it's like being a pilot or a nuclear power plant operator. When you're doing a good job, nobody notices.

Jan 18, 2008

Good job, Burns! Plus, you'll have another whole blog post when she turns up dead from exposure! Okay, not very likely in San Francisco, I realize. I'm just projecting, because right now it’s 38 degrees in my kitchen. Those are *Fahrenheit* degrees, by the way. Do you know what happens to olive oil when it freezes? I do. I’m reminded of it every morning. At night, I put things in the fridge to keep them warm. So a little part of me empathizes with the homeless crack whore, that's all. I'm just saying.

Jan 18, 2008

I am totally going to hire you to hang out on my street, as recently our sleepy little neighborhood has had a rash of thefts. You could singlehandedly disband the hillbillies who are going into people's garages and stealing their air compressors! (Okay, I guess it sounds a little more glamorous to deal with crack whores in SF, but still....)

Jan 18, 2008

You are a superhero! Sean totally should have said that, and to make up for not saying it, he needs to buy you a crack whore fighting cape. That would be so cool. Though I don't know what your superhero name could be that wouldn't be mildly offensive.

Jan 18, 2008

My favorite part is where you start unconsciously defending your right to NOT HAVE HOMELESS CRACK-ADDICTS in your apartment.

That is so something I would do. In fact, I would probably spend an annoying amount of time wondering if I had "made her sad". The crack-addict who was BREAKING INTO MY HOME.

Jan 18, 2008

Are you worried that she will look for you outside the apartment and attack/rob you?

Love your blog...!

Camels & Chocolate
Jan 18, 2008

I do have something to look forward to in moving to SF next month after all! Thanks, Holly!

Jan 18, 2008

Ah, yes, the middle-class guilt. I was walking down King Street last night after putting my drunk coworker in a cab, when Earl the Homeless Guy engaged me in conversation and after about 5 minutes I felt compelled to give him all the cash I had on me. It was only about $4 or 5, but still..why??

Miriam D
Jan 18, 2008

I do not think that is bourgie (I'm too lazy to even copy and past it, ha!) of you. Homeless people in the lobby of my building make it smell like feces. They tend to sleep between the main door to the building and the one that you go through when you get buzzed in. My boyfriend manages a building and he once found a homeless guy WITH A NEEDLE IN HIS ARM in the lobby. Not cool.

Jan 18, 2008

Captain Solution and Apartment Defender: the perfect superhero couple.

Jan 18, 2008

Great story, but I was hoping you pulled out the rape alarm! Oh, why didn't you pull out the rape alarm? Then everyone would know that you were apprehending, or at least dissuading, wayward crack whores.

FunnyGal KAT
Jan 18, 2008

That's a great story... and good for you! There's something about me that attracts all the crazy people (hopefully, it's not a "like attracts like" thing) and it happened again just yesterday.

I was at the police department yesterday (for my job, not for personal reasons) and some kid waiting for a psych intake interview starting talking to me about how well he knows the cops, how he's such a good citizen and how messed up "the system" is. I kept working on my laptop and didn't respond because I didn't want to encourage him. Then I started to feel bad, but I lectured myself in my head not to encourage the crazy people.

Jan 18, 2008

Good Job!! So Brave!! I can only dream of being that brave. I was actually hoping you would employ the rape alarm as well. It's funny how all the diff. neighborhoods have their unique 'issues' - my neighborhood allows me to be bougie about the gangbangers that sell drugs on the steps down the street from us, oh - and the drive by shootings and point blank murders. Yeah, that's one tough job I'm not having anything to do with.

Jan 18, 2008

I do love to make a good Executive Decision. Wonderful intercepting and up-in-grill-getting!

Jan 18, 2008

If you had one hand on your hip and you were wagging you finger in her face with the other then you would be the ultimate school marm! Nice work!

Jan 18, 2008

'I’ll look them in the eye and say “what, your mom is there again?”'

Wow, I think this is the most un-Hollylike thing you've ever written on this blog! (I'm trying to hear it with a British accent in my head). I love it! :)

Jan 18, 2008

Two things, Holly (Ha, I just typed "Hooly." Do you ever do this? Because it's kind of funny.):

1. Atop! You used the word atop! Well played.

2. It's so difficult for me to imagine this entire scenario, despite your excellent storytelling. Your sweet British accent; your tiny, petite frame. I actually was kind of afraid for you, because I was certain that when you lifted your bag to block the crack whore's way, that maybe she'd STAB you in the side. Maybe it's a good thing you're only watching Law & Order, and not also CSI: Las Vegas.

Jan 18, 2008

Good Lord, girl, these crack whore/homeless people stories of yours freak me out SO BADLY, although Ben, who attended Berkeley, assures me that's the human condition in urban sections of the Bay Area (and probably in L.A. County too, but what would I know? I've been sheltered in coastal Orange County for 23 years). Although I did one face down a pair of drunken would-be rapists on a Wilmington, Delaware public bus in 1983 -- but that was a long time ago.

Anyway, good for you. If you're going to live in a scary neighborhood, at least you've got the balls for it. And go buy some pepper spray, will you?

Jan 18, 2008

lemme live over in the tenderloin or the tendernob area. :) I'm familiar w/ that, not the best area in town but a lot more afforable than anything else if you want to be close to downtown. I say good for you to stand up to the crack-head. you really don't know what she was up to and you never ever want to find out. glad you got out of it safely, I shudder thinking of what could've happened. she could've walked in on someone who left their door unlocked or are walking out, and caused some major problems. all I can say is you can never be too safe. kudos to you. thankfully I'm the mellow suburbs of the sunset (but we are starting to have issues w/ the homeless being pushed out of the park as well).

Jan 18, 2008

good on you, holly!

here where i work, they call what that "lady" did piggy-backing. we aren't allowed to let anyone into the building if they don't have a badge. perhaps your building should have the same rule. no key, no entry?

Nothing But Bonfires
Jan 18, 2008

I should just clarify that I don't live in, like, the thick of a PARTICULARLY wretched awful part of town or anything. Homeless people are everywhere in San Francisco; they camp out on the steps of the ritziest heiress' houses in Nob Hill. People in Pacific Heights get their cars broken into. At every party you go to, people from all parts of town are complaining about the crack whores. I mean, it's a city.

I know I joke about it, but I wouldn't want you to think I was living in the equivalent of Compton or something. (Which my mother will be glad to hear.)

Jan 18, 2008

You are about a frajillion times braver than I, Miss Burns. I hope you get a medal.

Jan 18, 2008

Holy shit you're so brave! I am tres impressed.

Jan 18, 2008

I've been lurking for sometime. I went back and read your travel adventures because I love travel adventures. Now, I check-in regularly to see what’s going on.

Anyway, I live in Venice Beach and can completely relate to your story. At least you have a lock on your apartment building. Earlier this week, I found a crack pipe – ON THE STAIRS IN THE BUILDING (but no crack whore - maybe the lock doesn't matter unless you're around to fearlessly keep the building homeless-free). I think I need to look into the rape alarm. In addition, there is a permeating urine smell in the garage because it is constantly full of homeless people seeking shelter. I won’t even get into the homeless party on the boardwalk the other night. Some days, suburban life doesn’t seem so bad.

Jan 18, 2008

You rock... also I love how you refer to us readers as "Internet" it totally cracks me up.

Jan 18, 2008

nope. it's true. that's the price of city living. it's crazy but it does make for some interesting stories here and there.

Jan 18, 2008

Good for you!

Jan 19, 2008

OK, so I am going to be so very unpopular right now. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, HOLLY? This woman could have hurt you. Seriously. While I am glad that you got rid of the woman (yes, good job) you really could have gotten yourself hurt. God, I was scared just reading the after-the-fact post. If I can give you some unsolicited advice (sorry, sorry ... my intentions are good), NEVER be standing at a door or a gate fumbling for your keys. This is dangerous. As someone who has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, not once, but twice, and held at gun point one of those times, please always have your keys in your hand as you are approaching a door (car door gate, home door, etc). You never know who may come up behind you while you are wrestling your keys.

Boy is your mom gonna' be mad at you.

I'm glad you are OK and got to play super-hero-girl! Whew!

She Likes Purple
Jan 19, 2008

I think we all know, as Kat mentioned, what we SHOULD do in a situation like that, but I also know what it's like to be on the end of a really long day with my mind insisting on thinking about the ice cream in my freezer instead of possible crack whore altercations. I think you did what a lot of people couldn't have done. You stayed calm, you kept asking questions and kept her talking. Sometimes scary sitautions come upon us LIKE THAT and all we can hope is that we'll gather our head long enough not to sob uncontrollably (which is usually my response of choice in stressful situations).

All I kept thinking was, "Deborah? The crack whore wants us to believe she hangs out with people named Deborah?"

Glad you and your building are OK.

kat f.
Jan 19, 2008

i almost had to call the police last weekend because two of my neighbours almost came to blows over some noise. your story totally trumps mine, though.

i don't invite my friends over very often.

Jan 19, 2008

Dang, I admire your fortitude!

Jan 19, 2008

Wow! Shock and awe!

Jan 19, 2008

While I totally understand your apprehension and handling of this situation, your comment that there are shelters for homeless people is ignorant. Yes, there are shelters. But no, there are not enough beds for everyone and they are no always safe places. You have the right to want to feel safe and to not have people who don't live in your building and who scare you not in your building, but the shelters thing assauging your guilt?? Ignorant, lip service, lame, offensive.

Saucepan Man
Jan 19, 2008

What complete tosh, Katimakate (and you can't spell.)

Why is there always one person who feels they have to make some spurious claim to the moral high ground on blogs that are well-written and well-attended?

The under-supply of shelters may well be a fact but what does that have to do with Holly's story? Why should she not assume that that is where this person ought to be living (rather than in her lobby?)

If we were talking about 19th century London or the back streets of Manila I might have more sympathy with the rather feeble point you're trying to make.

Carl Weaver
Jan 19, 2008

Holly - Good job defending your place. Having known a number of crack heads over the years, I feel bad for them being in the grips of addiction, but that does not mean they should wander into people's buildings like that.

I guarantee there is nowhere near the amount of beds at homeless shelters that could be filled up in any city, especially SF. The homeless problem there is incredible. Not everyone has a place to crash - that's for darned skippy.

Homelessness is not as far away for most of us as we might think. For some people, it's related to addiction and others it's from getting laid off. There are so many reasons why people become homeless that you can't just bunch them together under one umbrella. All people are God's children and are deserving of our compassion.

That's not to say that you should let them in the building. Goodness knows I have done the same thing many times myself. The fact of addiction is terribly sad but that's not an indication that we have to feed or support it.

House of Jules
Jan 19, 2008

You should print out this post and hang it on every door of every apartment in your building, with "You're welcome!" and your signature at the bottom!
House of Jules

Jan 20, 2008

i found this post to be the quintessence of the driving force of classism and complete privilege that faces our countries, and more importantly our neighborhoods. i have been reading your blog for a couple years now, and was disappointed to read how you characterized someone as being "cracked-out" or a "crack-whore" with complete disregard or understanding of this woman. was it the simple fact that she was homeless that allowed you to so easily character her as a "crack-whore"? why not call her a homeless person, the "crack-whore" was, to put simply, distasteful and ignorant. More importantly, i guess i was taken aback by the folks who lauded your efforts to get this "crack-whore" out of your apartment building.

understanding what drives homelessness in this country, but more importantly, realizing the "us" and "them" mentality that surrounds homeless individuals is crucial to understanding cultural norms and particularly classism and poverty. it is the very view that so quickly labels individuals as "crackwhores" that assumes a superior and pretentious view on who these very people are and the driving forces that allow them to become homeless. god forbid she was visiting her friend, or even trying to find warmth for a few hours, or maybe using your laundry facilities to catch a break where she can. im not saying your post had to have explained these factors, but the complete lack of sensitivity in calling her a "crack-whore" was offensive.

just my $0.02.

Jan 20, 2008

Amen to that last comment. I agree completely and applaud all you had to say. Thanks for standing up for 'the least, the lost and the lonely.' To be honest and frank, I love reading your blog Holly, but I had a little pit in my stomach after reading this post.

Jan 20, 2008

Thank you Jennifer...

Jan 20, 2008

This is why Willie Brown should have never started paying the homeless. Because then there wouldn’t be as many, hopefully, and they wouldn’t have as much money to buy crack with. Crack is Whack.

Jan 20, 2008

I haven't been reading you for ages, only a few months now, but I think it is possible to get a sense of who the person is and this was so unexpected coming from you that I kept re-reading a few sentences bcs, surely not. I too was shocked. My guess would be you did indeed feel guilty, as I would, and the jokes were a way of trying to cope with it. It doesn't do to have homeless in one's building, not at all, and knowing we're sending them back out into God knows what must be an awful feeling. God knows too that I don't possesss a single PC bone and find it the plague of modern times and one that may very well ultimately bring us all down, but this was different. There is no need to further diminish and rob them of their dignity, life has done plenty of that already. I don't mean this as an attack on you at all, Holly. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, you've led me to expect more from you.

Heather B.
Jan 20, 2008

Strangely enough, my roommate stopped a burglar trying to get into our building yesterday morning. Apparently he'd been casing our building and the one across the street for months. She ended up having to call the police and then they - the police - had to track my roommate down while she was getting her hair done because highlights are far more important. Good times.

Where was I? Watching Superbad for the 17th time.

Jan 20, 2008

Do not let anyone make you feel bad or guilty for keeping an intruder out of your building. I have a lot of sympathy for homless people. If I lived in a city I would be doing volunteer work to help the situation. As it is, I teach school in a small town in Texas and spend my time and money buying school supplies and shoes for my students.

You should never let someone in - especailly if you are suspicious of their motives or actions. I am not a judgemental person. (I realize no one has a way of knowing that, but let's go with it.) But if something looks like a skunk, smells like a skunk and acts like a skunk it is better to go on the assumption that is is a skunk rather that a kitten!

I wonder how these commenters who are scolding you would be reacting if you had let her in and she had destroyed property, broken into a home, robbed the next person to walk through the door or even just stolen all their clean clothes from the laundry room?

Perhaps there are ways to help these people, but letting one sneak into your home unchecked "to warm up" or "catch a break" is not it.

Jan 20, 2008

I do not understand how some of you can be so naive. She lives in San Francisco, people! Not in HappyTownWhereHomelessPeopleAreNiceAndNotDangerous. Homeless people are not some cute puppies you take in and give milk to (actually you're not supposed to give milk to puppies, but you know what I mean). Their drug/alcohol/mental stability problems could very easily turn into a potential threat to those around them, and I definitely wouldn't want any in my apartment building. Holly, you honestly did the right thing. Imagine if a child had to deal with her, or if she would've broken into one of the apartments..

Jan 21, 2008

You did the right thing. As someone who lives in an apartment building, I would hope that my neighbors would take action if an obviously homeless stranger were attempting to enter our building! It's the only responsible thing to do. That comment about "using your laundry facilities to catch a break where she can"...Really?? Because last I checked there aren't free washers and dryers in the lobbies of most apartment buildings.

Jan 21, 2008

Just read your posted response above, and felt compelled to say that I _completely_ support your actions. I too live in an apartment building in a somewhat sketchy area--outside Boston--and have encountered similar concerns. Although my building itself is perfectly nice, I did once find a homeless person sleeping in the hallway near my door. Don't know how this person got in, but I suspect he did so by ducking behind a tenant. Now, this person was not threatening me in any way--only sleeping on the floor--but still, I was freaked out by the fact that suddenly the hall of my building felt no different than the street. We make homes for ourselves and should be able to expect them to feel heimlich.

Jan 21, 2008

Sounds to me like you were totally accurate in your description. I live in the middle of D.C. and there are plenty of (seemingly cracked out) homeless people around. I have tons of compassion for them. I also wouldn't let a lot of them come into my house. I mean, please.

I rarely leave comments on blogs, but you should not have to defend yourself! You trusted your instincts and you were right to do it. More power to you.

Jan 21, 2008

I must admit that I, too, was surprised by the tone of this post. While you're certainly within your rights to defend your home and braver than most for doing so, the attitude is really off-putting. That's not to say you're not within your rights to put any damn thing you want on YOUR blog, but I don't see any need for offense when people say they're surprised.

Jan 21, 2008

Well done, Holly. You absolutely did the right thing.

Jan 21, 2008

Holly, I think - nay, I KNOW - you did the right thing. Sure, I suppose there's a CHANCE that all the woman was perfectly harmless. But what if she wasn't? I wonder if your detractors have given THAT possibility a moment's thought...

A person who thinks that it would be safe, or wise, or REMOTELY OK to let a stranger into a private, residential building is a naive person, indeed.

Guarding one's personal safety has nothing to do with sympathy - or lack thereof - for the plight of the homeless. If one wants to do something about the homeless issues, in ANY city, one should volunteer at/give money to/donate items to one's local homeless shelter or charity.

That's a lot more helpful - and responsible - than putting your safety - and that of others - at possible risk.

For crying out LOUD.

Jan 21, 2008

I just came back from a Sunday night out, the kind you have when tomorrow is a holiday, so I'm a bit buzzed as I type this. That has no relevance to what I'm about to say, other than to augment the fact that I feel the need to comment on this even when drunk.

Holly, please do not feel as if you did anything wrong. First, your protected your home and your building; second, you wrote about it on your blog. Both are completely within your rights. Also, I'm sick of people rolling their eyes at perhaps un-PC things -- just because it doesn't reflect the shiny perfectness of humanity doesn't mean it's not true. Say what you want.

Jan 21, 2008

I'm rather surprised that anyone would scold you over keeping someone who could have been potentially dangerous out of YOUR building. It's absurd.

I definitely feel for you as someone who also lives in a very homeless people concentrated city (NYC). My dad was mugged right outside of our house, so people on the streets are not all happy homeless people just looking for a cookie. Anyway, my point is, you definitely did the right thing.

I think some people need to lighten up a bit and realize that the tone of the post was meant to be humorous.

Jan 21, 2008

shame on you, holly. I always wait until a fellow citizen offers to suck my dick in exchange for some rock before I make any assumptions about their commitment to crack and/or whoring. tsk, tsk. . .

Jan 21, 2008

I read both of your entries, none of the comments (at this point I believe most would make me angry - especially comment 52 made at 11:29 tonight which I accidentally read), and want to say to you "bravo" for both your actions and the eloquent manner in which you defended your actions and the retelling of the events.
I am emboldened by your display of selflessness, hope I would have the nerve to react in the same manner in a similar situation, and feel safer knowing there are regular citizens looking out for the safety and wellfare of their neighbors... I only hope some of them live near me!
Again, bravo!!

Jan 21, 2008

Ha! this has been awesome -
to be smart enough to remember Stranger Danger, and to follow your GUT FEELING, that this woman wasn't meant to be in your HOME. And then - to be fair enough, you bother to ask her what reason she *might just have* to actually be in your building. And then to share your exciting, dangerous, story of being proud that your gut feeling was right, and that you did a good thing by keeping someone who DIDN'T BELONG THERE out of YOUR HOME - only to be attacked by people who actually are ashamed of their advantages over someone of that barefoot woman's ilk.

"Perhaps there are ways to help these people, but letting one sneak into your home unchecked “to warm up” or “catch a break” is not it."

WTF! that person should be so lucky to be challenged by your same situation - would *love* to know if she invites the next crackwhore she meets following her into her building up for Tea. ridiculous.

again - great job Holly.

Also - note how all the 'haters' don't link themselves to anywhere - and

p.s. Willow? Sweet Juniper a.k.a. #52 was JOKING.

Jan 21, 2008

regular reader, rare commenter-

just adding my $.02 of support of you Holly. it's YOUR blog. you wrote about YOUR actions (which were incredibly brave - I am an ex-city girl who has dealt with break-ins, peeping toms and the like and I don't know if I would have ever had your nerve) about something that happened in YOUR home. people need to chill the F out. and then we can all get back to talking about lip gloss and travel and good books and stories about your various haircuts.

I guess this means your extreme popularity is official now? (now that you have blog trolls, that is?)

Jan 21, 2008

Yes, isn't it strange that dissenters don't like to leave a proper signature... I'd venture a guess that some may be the same person.

Having lived in large cities around the world, your story is familiar to me. Showing compassion and regard for personal safety is sometimes mutually exclusive. Facing up to people who appear unstable is a risk that not many would take. I've seen the other side of the outcome coin, and it is not pretty.

Jan 21, 2008

Holly, I've been a lurker for a little while now, but just wanted to comment here. I thought your post was hilarious. And I have all the sympathy and compassion in the world for people who are homeless, but there's no stinkin' way I'd have let that woman into the building. You were nice to even ask her where she was going. She had no key and therefore should not have been in the building. Period. You were brave to have done what you did and you shouldn't feel as if you have to defend or explain yourselves to anyone. If people don't like it, they are free to not read your blog.

Jan 21, 2008

Wow, Holly. I just wanted to put a little support in for you. You did the right thing, and something I probably would have been scared to do, possibly to my own detriment. And having a sense of humor about a situation does not mean you are insensitive to the plight of people in a certain situation. Yes, many of the homeless are unable, or too mentally ill, to attain help. That doesn't mean that you are wrong, or heartlessly bourgeois for characterizing someone as something that, well, they probably are. You didn't go out of your way to taunt a homeless person. She came to you, and you did the right thing.

Bird of Paradise
Jan 21, 2008

Wow, a lot of completely unnecessary unhappiness from some people commenting on this post. Does a lot of it stem from the fact that the homeless person in question was female? Had Holly rejected an older man rather than a woman, would those who disagree with her actions and defend those of the intruder be silenced now? Just thought that changing the circumstances a tiny bit might also change the argument a whole lot.

Sorry to dwell on this (as it is very obvious that the majority of those commenting find no problems with Holly's post), but I would just like to point out that Holly made several apologetic references to the vaguely controversial nature of what occurred and no where can I find any references to an 'offensive attitude'.

Had Holly been a uniformed vigilante, forcing the intruder out at gunpoint while singing Fascist military songs and cursing all of the homeless citizens of SF, I think she would have been in the wrong. But it just so happens that she handled the situation eloquently and with minor disruption, and for this I think she deserves to be applauded.

Jan 21, 2008

This comment is actually directed towards your next post. Since comments are disabled for that, I'll post this here.
As someone who tells stories in a similar manner, flippant humor and all, I'd like to thank you for responding to the rude and, frankly, uncalled for comments in a reasonable manner. I'm a long-time reader of this blog and was entertained by your story. I found it hilarious and was not surprised or offended by your language. Nor did I think you were making uninformed assumptions about this women's lifestyle.
I'm an 18-year old college student (and hopeful travel writer!) who is sick of people handling situations they find offensive in such juvenile ways. Example: calling someone "distasteful and ignorant" in a semi-anonymous manner. (No website? Really? Although, I suppose I haven't left one either and maybe they just don't have a blog...) Your response was well-crafted and obviously thought out, without a hint of aggression or unwarranted annoyance. Thank you, Holly, for providing a perfect example of acting your age and dealing with hurtful words in a mature, reasonable way.
I don't know if you've actually read this (insanely long!) comment or not; I just wanted to tell you that many of us readers out there support you and your writing and can't wait for more crazy tales about the crackwhores down the street. Keep up the good work and drop a line if you're ever in Alabama!

Jan 21, 2008

And in any case, who's to know whether this SO CALLED crack-whore infiltrating your building wasn't Osama bin Laden in drag?

Wacky Mommy
Jan 21, 2008

Now, how do you *know* she was a *crack* whore? My guess is she may have been a misunderstood *meth* whore. Meth whores need love, too, Holly Burns. Next time you just give her a hug and offer her a shower and some Cadbury chocolate.

Geez, my knees, I do not have time to read all these comments, but I get the gist of it. I do not like it when someone follows me right up to the door. Personal space and all that. It's always fine to say, "Baby, you cannot do this. You must go now." I learned this trick from a hairdresser I worked with. The homeless guys would want to come into the downtown Portland, Ore. salon where we worked, hang out, chat, help me answer the phone. I understand they were lonely, cold, etc., but I did not feel like hanging with them.

One of the hairdressers brought an ashtray over to one of the guys who was camping out in our reception area, smiled at him with a big, sweet smile and told him, "One more flick and out you go!" That was a good way of handling it, I thought. It's always a little tricky, eh?

Wacky Mommy
Jan 21, 2008

OK, I just read your second post. I get where you\'re coming from, Ms. Holly, do not fear. Now, a funny San Francisco story, from when my ex-boyfriend and I visited one time. Let\'s call my ex \"Susan.\" Susan was really kind of goofy and naive, and *everyone* in the city immediately figured that out. \"Helloooo, sucka!\" We\'re out for burritos, someone is standing in the doorway all crazy-eyed, gesturing to Susan. \"C\'mere, c\'mere!\"

So he gets up and walks over to the door to see what he wants. Great.

\"Did you know that guy? He wanted something!\"

Then another guy on the street flags him down. He has a box. He wants Susan to see what\'s in the box. Susan obliges by peeking in. He\'s shocked, and says, \"Oh! No thanks!!!\" Then tells me, \"It was porn!\"

Me: \"Dear God, no! Really? STOP WALKING OVER TO PEOPLE.\"

It was a kinda... difficult vacation for me, to say the least.

Love you, Holly. Kisses.

Jan 21, 2008

I'm gonna *try* to keep this short since alot of the other comments have covered the basics. You had every right to question a suspicious person who slipped into your building behind you. Most of the people here would've done the same in your situation. I'm all for helping others, but it's a dangerous world that we live in and you can't blindly trust everyone and hope their intentions are good. If the people who are opposed to how you handled the situation lived in your building.. perhaps with children or elderly family members, would they still be saying you should've let her get warm for a few hours? I doubt it. And while I do have sympathy for people struggling with addiction, drugs often make people desperate and willing to do things they normally wouldn't. So, everyone who wasn't there needs to stop trying to tell you what you should or should not have done, as they didn't see the woman and should just trust your judgment. So, there's my 2 cents. Just be careful when defending the building, and insist on a very fashionable superhero cape. :)

Jan 21, 2008

Sooooo, how's about that Fionn Regan? He's adorable, is he not? Also sidebar-related: I occasionally daydream about being married to Douglas Coupland, that crazy genius.

(Oh, the crack-whore thing? (Apparently I can't just studiously avoid the issue, sorry about that.) I've been reading your blog for aaages now and you always choose your words extremely carefully - that's why you're such a good writer. So I trust that in this situation you chose the right words as well. Just keep writing, please.)

Jan 21, 2008

The embarrassing lack of humour of the cowardly commentors deserves a laugh of its own - perhaps that's why Holly bravely left those comments up when she had the option of deleting them! Keep writing, Holly - its not only your posts that are funny!

Jan 21, 2008

What difference does it make what you called her in YOUR blog? You could have called her the Queen of England and that would not change the fact that she was somewhere she did not belong. Kuddos to you for sticking up for yourself (and your neighbors). As for the neysayers, what would they rather you done? Let her stay and do lords knows what? Come on people, get off your high horses.

Jan 21, 2008

I commented on this post above but I wanted to tell you that you crafted such a thoughtful response to some very insensitive commenters. It certainly makes me want to continue reading your blog!

Jan 21, 2008

Thank you Catwalker for pointing out #52 was joking. Sometimes a dry sense of humor (which I have been blessed/cursed with) does not translate in written word, especially when one is not farmiliar with the writing style of the commenter.
I am now reading through some of the comments and am even more appalled than I was when I was only imagining what was being thrown back to Holly.
I still say Bravo!

Jan 21, 2008

I forgot to mention I too was hoping the rape alarm would be called to duty at some point!
Turns out, "Nerves of Steel" Apartment Defender needed no such thing!

Jan 21, 2008

I find it amazing that someone would find fault with you for protecting yourself & your home. And if the issue was with your tone...? Well, that's just as ridiculous. It's YOUR story on YOUR blog. You shouldn't have to feel badly for adding humor to what I imagine was a rather frightening experience.

You were 100% correct in saying that the internet allows people to say things they wouldn’t dream of saying to your face. Please don’t let this small percentage of nastiness discourage you.

Rather than continuing to reference those unfortunates, I want you to know that I enjoy your blog immensely. You live a life very different from my own & I am horribly nosy – which makes for a fabulous combination. J

Oh! And please be careful out there!!!

Jan 21, 2008

Once, in my old building on the edge of a not-great part of Philadelphia, I came home late at night to find a guy just... standing outside my door. "Hi," I said. "What do you want?" "Oh, I'm looking for my friend," he said. And I said, "No, you're not. Because that's my apartment." And so he squeezed past me in the narrow hallway (with my brain going, "Oh crap he is much bigger than me I am going to die!") and left. But my point is:

Though the *smart* thing to have done probably would have been to get right back on the elevator and get the security guard (who had been... sleeping? at the desk and had let this guy in, and who in earlier times had actually *refused* to deal with security-type situations, because THAT'S NOT HIS JOB OR ANYTHING), or possibly to go back to the lobby and call the cops, the thing that my bleary brain *did* was to confront the man, because I AM TIRED JUST WANNA GO HOME.

What I'm saying is, anyone criticizing your crack-whore-fighting *technique* has forwarded one too many women-safety-issue emails (DON'T GET OUT OF YOUR CAR IN A PARKING LOT TO DETACH THE FLIER FROM YOUR WINDSHIELD BECAUSE THEN A MAN WILL RAPE YOU. DON'T WEAR YOUR HAIR IN A PONYTAIL BECAUSE THEN A MAN WILL RAPE YOU. DON'T SNIFF A STRANGER'S PERFUME BECAUSE THEN A MAN WILL RAPE YOU AND MAYBE STEAL YOUR KIDNEYS.) and has never actually lived in a city. You improvised, you kept your cool, it worked, mad props.

And oh god, people. Shut the hell up about "maybe she's just down on her luck and looking for a break." Maybe she just dresses like that for fun! Maybe she's just a crazy suburban goth kid, and she uses the smell of feces *ironically*! OR MAYBE HOLLY LIVES THERE AND YOU DON'T. JESUS.

Jan 21, 2008

Bravo, Holly, on BOTH posts.
Enough said.

Jan 21, 2008

I've put up with very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations because I didn't have enough confidence to stand up for myself and my right to exist peacefully without being accosted, yelled at, or otherwise harassed by people who were clearly--and sometimes violently--under the influence. You did the right thing!

Jan 21, 2008

Excuse my language, but Fuck yeah Holly! I think you did everything right. And your response was spot on.

Jan 21, 2008

Great response. I'm stunned by the 'hater' comments - clearly they do not live in a city that has major drug and homelessness issues. I'm sure that they wouldn't let every homeless person on the block into their apartment for a warm place to stay while discussing the issues that got them there. From my experience where I live in Vancouver, that has a major homelessness problem as well, I know that they don't want to talk about their issues, they want your money (and think they deserve it) and they don't care about your personal being or belongings (I suppose there are some exceptions but, not many). Way to stand up for yourself.

Jan 21, 2008

Holly, your writing, your wit, and your sense of humor are matchless. Don't let the trolls get you down.

Jan 21, 2008

Once I stupidly gave a man in DC money upon walking out of the metro station after he claimed to be working to collect for the homeless. The moment I stepped away it dawned on me that he was clearly not associated with any charity. It was only $5 or so, but I feel that living in the city should make me immune to that kind of con. I felt like such an idiot for making the donation to this man's crack addiction. I half convinced myself he had a family to feed. I'll definitely avoid such foolishness in the future, even if I am caught off guard and want to believe people are inherently good and honest and worthy.

Jan 21, 2008

Bravo, indeed. Not only did you defend yourself against a dangerous individual trying to break into your home, you defended yourself against the angry barrage of unwarranted comments you received. Most notably, you did both with class. I can't say, that after reading what so many commenters wrote, I would have handled the situation and my response with such grace and validity.

Jan 21, 2008

I lived in Oakland for 9 years and I can spot a crackhead a mile away, and that's is no exaggeration. There is a certain something they carry on their demeanor at all times, whether they are high or not at that particular moment. I too have diffused pesky crackheads from crashing a party, entering my vehicle while sitting at a light because they wanted a ride, AND kicked a toothless crackwhore out of a friends apartment foyer in SF as I was leaving the building (for the record, I knew she was a crackwhore because she was dolled up in a skirt with her pachanga hanging out, a skimpy shirt that said "trick" and she was smoking something acrid out of a glass pipe), oh the memories. Anyway, without even seeing this intruder I can safely and 110% positively say you did indeed make your building safe from a crackwhore. It is not uncommon to find crack addicts in apartment foyers, seriously. Glad you were there to kick her out, you did the right thing and you should totally sport a cape!

Jan 21, 2008

Wow. There was a lot of vitriol up there! We have a huge homeless population down here (warm weather + lots of tourists + tons of non profits and shelters = homeless heaven) too, even though we arent that big of a city. Most of them are fine or harmless, but you know what? If one decided to try and camp out in my yard? I would be be far, far less kind than you were!

Jan 21, 2008

Yesterday I saw this guy in my basement garage. I didn't see him go to a car, he came down the elevator then waited for me to got back up. CREEPY! So I waited for the next one. Then I saw him on the stairs when I got down off the elevator. Then I went upstairs to do my laundry and saw him at the end of the hallway. 3 times, 3 different floors. I went straight to the end of the hallway, and knocked on my landlord's door.

Turns out that this creepy man, whom I saw on three different floors and hadn't ever seen before, was my landlords son-in-law. Yup- I called her son-in-law a creepy man.

I do not regret telling my landlord. He looked to be a creepy man. I do not want ANY type of creepy man in my apartment building.

So=GOOD FOR YOU HOLLY! And, furthermore, this is YOUR website. Post whatever you gosh darn well want to. More power to you!

Jan 21, 2008

Anyone who sneaks in behind you that way, under the influence or not, deserves to be questioned. If that's how you're getting in, you clearly don't belong there. Trespassing is trespassing. And, yes, a person whose addiction is leading them by the nose is probably a more dangerous trespasser, because whether or not they are a good person at heart, they are not thinking straight and are unpredictable while in that condition. Your logic seems pretty sound: If people are breaking into cars on your street on a regular basis, chances are good that those same people will try to take it to the next level and break into homes if given the opportunity. She's lucky you didn't call the police. And, yes, I'm very glad you got out of that situation without getting hurt.

Jan 21, 2008

i live in san francisco and i experienced something similar to this (and i blogged about it, too).

you of course have a right to be protective of your building. of course. of course. particularly a legal right.

i'm not the most politically correct person on the planet, by any means, but i think the use of terms such as 'crackwhore' are potentially offensive for a few reasons:

1. the tone of the term betrays the sadness, seriousness, and desperation of drug addiction. these people are suffering immensely and most likely will not be able to successfully fight their addiction/disease. it's terrifying and notoriously depressing to think about.

NOTE: i am not implying that you were morally required to invite the person in for a shower, a meal, a bed and so on. i am just trying to understand why certain terms rub certain people the wrong way.

2. there is something else. i am also guilty of it. some of us (again, including myself), who live in underprivileged areas or in areas where the economically underprivileged and perhaps petty-theft criminally inclined inhabit sometimes feel like we should be congratulated for living there, get props for it, get a "oh my gosh, i can't believe you live there!" gushing from our friends who live in safer areas. we don't consciously or intentionally or rationally seek this, but nevertheless, we seek it with our dramatic and/or comical stories of what life is like in "our hood." this attitude, particularly when matched with SF's problems/issues with gentrification, becomes repulsive or distasteful. in the past, i have been guilty of contributing to this distastefulness. i am not necessarily claiming that Holly is doing the same exact thing.
It's important, however, to think about what is subconsciously guiding us--as bloggers, commenters, thinkers, readers, etc.

For example, the people who enthusiastically rush to defend the blogger, even on this blog, for instance, have an extreme need to be liked by the blogger. (and i realize that this comment is somewhat tangential).

that need to be liked is all find and good, but it's also so high school-esque, so lame.
if someone says "i'm a long-time reader, i love your blog, but i was suprised to read this post.." then they are being sincere. they are probably not trying to be an asshole. Hollyites, if you will, needn't rush to criticize that person.

This always happens with popular blogs. there is a strange fetishization of the blogger--a peculiar, "Yes-men" attitude wherein loyal readers can't tolerate dissension, even relatively polite, sincere dissension.

The Over-Thinker
Jan 21, 2008

Well-done, Holly. And Sweet Juniper--thanks for nearly making me wet myself while reading your comment.

Jan 22, 2008

Good for you, Holly.
I was mugged on my city street and was so scared my voice was paralyzed. I know for a fact these two men were needing money, maybe like the woman in your situation was, and there's no way in the WORLD I could have summoned enough calm or clear thinking to ask them about their personal life stories to justify gracefully handing over my wallet to them. All I could do was scream for my life because I had no idea what was happening. I'm impressed with your ability to actually talk to her.

And seriously, the people who were negative at all probably have no idea what it's like to be in a scary situation like this, which is why it's so easy for them to criticize. Forget them. It's your blog, your experiences, and you have every right to put it down in the words you choose.

Jan 22, 2008

Hey, the other one is locked of comments (for good reason judging this one) but I wanted to say I think it's admirable to protect your home in whatever way you deem necessary.

I'm still here and still reading :)

Nothing But Bonfires
Jan 22, 2008

Leyla, I'd like to think people are defending me because they see my point, not because they have a "need to be liked."

Jan 22, 2008

o Holly, you know you did the right thing, you know you were being sensible and fairly brave. I'm mainly meaning brave from the standing-up (british?) point, rather than the physical. And also, perhaps, a little bit sensitive - it was only 6 out of 88 commenters, unless you're hiding some rudeness from us.

Incidentally, I reckon you can tell the difference between crack whores, other whores and otherwise homeless people. I'm going to smugly fall back on my years experience as an ED doctor (cue however many soup kitchen stories...). And, controversial as this may be, perhaps people aren't only seeking shelter and food. Maybe - no - stealing, for example! And while we're on the subject, if someone's after help, they generally don't find it in a residential block.

But on the subject of social inequality I'm sure many of your more disapproving commenters might vent their spleen more productively by donating their computers to a shelter or somesuch noble cause. In fact, maybe they've done it already... Hello?...

Jan 22, 2008

Your last post was beautifully done. Again, you kept your calm in a difficult situation. Beautiful writing. I enjoy your blog. Whether I agree with anyone's opinion or not, it is good to hear that opinion. Food for thought I say. Keep writing. I so enjoy reading what you have to say.