I have found the street of the bailbondsmen.
The tire blew out around midnight, right at the beginning of I-80, on the elevated section leading to the Bay Bridge. Modern car suspensions muffle tire failures, so it just sounded to me as if I'd gone over a particularly bad pothole.
I pulled off the freeway at 7th. It was pretty clear that something was wrong, with the steering pulling to the left. I found a handicapped space on Bryant in front of Barrish Bail Bond, with a pay phone a few steps away.
I got on the phone, called Enterprise, who patched me through to AAA. As I gave them my location, I noticed a dozen cop cars parked across the street in front of a big, institutional building. AAA assured me they'd be there within sixty minutes.
What was that building, anyway?
I went back to my car, turned on the map light, and started reading the Bay Guardian. After a while, a couple of cops came out of the building with a handcuffed prisoner. I watched as they put him into a police cruiser, then drove him away.
I dug out my San Francisco street map.
I was parked across from the County Jail and Courthouse. Well, that would explain the squad cars. And the fact that nearly all the storefronts across the street were bailbondsmen's offices.
A little while later a lanky man came running out of the jail, arms outstretched and waving. I watched to see if anyone ran after him. He was running my way.
For a moment I wondered if he was escaping, and if he was whether he'd want to take my car, hazard lights conspicuously flashing. "Well, he won't get far with a flat tire," I thought. Then he turned down the street, arms still waving over his head, a piece of paper in his hand. Guess he was happy about being released.
I went back to reading, with the neon sign flashing "Bail Bonds since 1961" helping light the paper.
After an hour or so, I realized that AAA's self-imposed deadline had come and gone, and it was time for me to call them again. I walked back to the phone, called Enterprise again, got profuse apologies, was patched through to AAA again, and got put on hold. As I was leaning against the phone, waiting, a couple of Hispanic-looking women approached me.
"Is that your car?" one of them asked.
"Are you calling triple-A?"
"Could you ask them to help us? She locked her keys in her car," she said, pointing at the other woman.
"I've been waiting here for an hour already. You're welcome to wait and ask them if they ever get here."
"Oh. Maybe we'll ask the cops across the street."
They wandered off. I looked down the street, at the flashing neon, the bail bond offices, the county jail. It was all very film noir. I felt like I should be wearing a fedora and smoking a Lucky.
AAA took me off hold and said they'd arrive in 45 minutes.
I realized I didn't mind. It's San Francisco. It's gritty, it's real. And I realized that if I could feel so fond of the city at 1AM, stranded with a blown tire across the street from the county jail, there probably weren't going to be too many times or places in SF I wouldn't end up liking.