Walk to a San Francisco FedEx

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World Modeling
Personal Blog

Today I had three work projects so close to done that I might be able to put something up on each, which would usually encourage work enthusiasm. But when I started on the first, I was struck by a strong inclination to stop and do something else. I didn’t immediately, but the inclination remained. And such inclinations make work worse in themselves, because when each new sentence or next motion engenders a little flinch away from it, the whole thing gets so slow and encumbered and hard to concentrate on that it makes sense to be repelled by it. And the thought of moving to the next little bit on the other projects seemed similarly distasteful.

Sitting in my chair was likewise aversive, and I thought perhaps a walk would help. (Often I find similar work compelling, so it seems a shame to wrestle myself into a slow and encumbered version of it at a time when I don’t.) I also had a package to take to FedEx. If I listened to the Alignment Newsletter Podcast while I walked and delivered the package, I might even be being extra productive instead of extra unproductive.

I took my P100 mask and a packet of snickerdoodle flavored peanut butter and some moderately comfy shoes, in case the three and a half blocks to the pharmacy that FedEx was inside turned out to be too much for flip flops, or I decided to wander around more.

I reached the pharmacy and stood in its small outside queue with my package between my legs and put on my P100. A man at the door let me in and pointed me to a longer inside queue. I waited in it and thought about how hard it was to see the total population of the room, and how much time had passed without the queue moving at all, and how much the San Francisco covid cases were spiking, then decided to try for a different FedEx down the road.

I left my P100 on and walked along faceless, listening to the podcast. Which sounded interesting, but I kept getting distracted. The warm bright sun on every surface sent away my vague image of the locked-down city as wan and enfeebled. Though I wondered if was climatically alarming for San Francisco winter to be such a nice summer.

I enjoyed my mask, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Perhaps having one’s face in the public sphere does call for some ongoing attention and composure and care, that I don’t notice until its absence is a relief. Or perhaps it is nice for ones mouth and nose to be seriously removed from the clouds of covid dust, instead of just covered to the point of social acceptability. At any rate, I walked along with my mouth hanging open.

With the talk of alignment a happy background chatter, I got to thinking about how national policy should deal with different people having different impressions about morality. Morality is hard to detect in a publicly agreeable way. Insofar as a nation reacts to morality, the information reaches the nation via individuals making observations about it. But there are lots of individuals with different observations. People’s policy views are often that the government should enforce morality as they see it. Even though the nation includes people with different morality impressions. The policy game is seen as the game of having your morality implemented. But opinion could instead be at the level of what laws or norms a group of people should have when a subset thinks that doing X is immoral, and another subset wants to do it. Then the answers to object level questions, such as, ‘should people be free to have abortions?’ would fall out of these.

The FedEx place was further than I expected, but a man outside just took the package from me. I waited a moment in case there was any problem with it, and looked at my phone, thinking about where to go next. A man on a bike stopped close to me and said something. I felt protected from having to respond much, due to my giant mask. But I think I gestured friendlily, before walking away. I sensed him watching me. Down the road a bit, I glanced back and saw him still there, looking my way. Then he rolled up next to me. “Can I have your number?” I still lacked the usual compulsion to respond to things people say to me, and my instinctive behavior was somehow akin to a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language. I looked at him vaguely and kept walking. He rolled along, and asked me where I was from, and my name, and if I speak Spanish. He introduced himself. He observed that I was scared of him, and told me that I shouldn’t be. He noted that all men would probably like me, I guess as some kind of point about whether I should be scared of him. I said some things, like ‘Australia’ and ‘I don’t want to talk’. Eventually he rode away, but so slowly I didn’t trust that he was really going. I stepped into the entry of a parking garage and discussed the fact that I was just temporarily hiding from that dude on a bike with a security guard there, who suggested that I call the police.

I decided to go a different way home. I made eye contact with another guy in a car, who seemed to lean down to look at me more through the passenger window as I passed. I wondered whether mini skirt and apocalypse mask are actually an alluring combo. I admit that I enjoy something about the style.

The soles of my feet became blistered, and I did the velcro straps up tighter and thought about pain and suffering. I think I could walk on my feet until they were bleeding and raw pretty easily, if I wanted to. They hurt sharply, but it seems more loosely connected to suffering than other pains. I feel like my walking on them shyly is because I’m unsure whether it is ok to damage your feet that much, and that if I decided to do it, I could do it without flinching. (A recollection of teenagerhood supports this: I vaguely recall my shoes being fairly bloody by about the second day of a four day hike, and marching on fairly unperturbed.)

I wonder if a no-speaking P100 dance party in the park might be fun, but I guess it is illegal now.

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