Astute BART riders may have noticed those glossy new ads for Mace that are being displayed in the cars. "Protect your personal space with Mace," they read, showing a picture of a woman in a crowd with a five-foot circle of space around her. This is strange on so many levels. Firstly, Mace is so noxious that it is illegal in many countries -- mostly ones without a pesky Second Amendment. For those who carry it, it is not a way of getting someone to move over a few inches because they are invading your "personal space," like the ad implies. Mace is supposed to thwart dangerous attackers and make them feel like their retinas are melting. (Real Mace is hard to come by; the version advertised on BART is really pepper spray created by a company called Mace Security International.) But can it seriously be taking this approach to promote the product? If I blinded everyone who invaded my comfort zone on a daily basis, half the city would be Ray Charles by nightfall.
All of this reminds me how annoying it is to see how annoyed people get when someone crosses a line and gets too close in public. For example, I was once on Muni at rush hour. It was one of those occasions when it was so packed that everyone was pressed into everyone else, so much so that the doors could barely close. I felt two disproving eyeballs staring up at my face. "Your bag keeps poking me," whined a guy who was wedged underneath my right armpit.
"Are you serious?" I said back. Now this is the sort of person I wouldn't want to take the Mace ad seriously.
The same goes for bars. There are some people who go out, and even though they are in a room full of people, they do not want any interaction with anyone else. They are very particular about their personal space, even in a place that is supposed to foster camaraderie. They are people who don't want to be home alone, but they don't necessarily want to play liar's dice either. They would rather indirectly drink with other people. In my opinion, a good bar caters to the both the introvert and the extrovert. Too much of either is off-balance and bad for the chi.
I am happy to say that all of the chi was in proper alignment at the Residence, the new bar that has replaced Amber (new decor, same ownership) on the outskirts of the Castro. It's the sort of spot you can visit alone or in a group. Gone are all of the thrift-store couches, kitschy lamps, and graffitied restrooms. In their stead is a long room that looks like Jane Eyre's boudoir, with a fireplace facade, dark wood along the walls, more upscale lounge chairs, and a painted portrait of an 18th-century woman over the mantel. The biggest change that most people will notice immediately is the lack of cigarette smoke; Amber was one of the only places in town where you could openly up. As a result, it was a mecca for smokers, which meant, I would guess, that nonsmokers who ventured in rarely returned.
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