Quick bit of trivia: Chicago is named the “Windy City” not because it is forever gusting, but because their politicians were full of hot air. However, San Francisco has the privilege of regularly being one of the windiest places in the “summer”:
San Francisco is well known for the fog, but one of the lesser known side effects–unless you commute by bike–is wind. Which makes sense if your thinking about it…. San Francisco has the same conditions for why people assume Chicago is named the Windy City, (downtown, tall buildings, next to giant body of water, breeze blows off water and tall buildings create wind tunnels, etc etc.), except Chicago has water on only one side of the city, whilst SF is surrounded on three sides. Not to mention that one of those sides is the Pacific Ocean, whose favorite pastime is creating fog. Fog is basically a cloud on the ground, and what else do clouds do all day other than get blown around the sky?
For the most part, the wind is blowing the fog over the city. It starts picking up, conveniently enough, around the start of the evening commute. However, sometimes the wind works in our favor and blows fog off the city, transforming it into the Californian paradise you see in all the postcards.
90% of the time, this is just a cruel joke the weather plays on us lowly citizens. Our pasty bodies are drawn to the light and heat in hopes of making up for lost potential creation of Vitamin D. Leaders emerge, lunch committees are formed, all gathering around the rally cry of “It’s a beautiful day!”, “We should eat lunch outside!” And before you know it, you’re waiting in line for an hour at one of three outdoor restaurants downtown, praying that you’ll get your food and/or a spot to sit in the sun before the shadow of the building across the street ruins whatever chance you had at a 20 minute tan. The smart ones will get their food to go and bring it to the nearest park for an ad hoc picnic. This will save you time, but neither option will save you from the wind.
At first, you’re napkin will blow away, and someone will proclaim that it is windy. This is probably the same person who reminds you that it is either cold or foggy, day after day, after day. (My only explanation for these people is that their short term memory banks are wiped every time they go to sleep and wake up exclaiming “I live in San Francisco! This is fantastic!”, completely forgetting the previous day’s experience.)
Next, a paper plate might try to blow away, which is saved at the last minute by someone slamming their fist into your sandwich. Or someone’s skirt blows up and someone makes a cheeky comment (GET IT?!?). Before you know it, you’re woefully watching your salad blow away leaf by leaf, despite your best efforts to fork as much as you can fit in your mouth as quickly as you can chew.
Why?! All I wanted to do was be outside! Why tempt me with weather that seems so beautiful from my office window? And more importantly, why haven’t restaurant owners taken note of regular weather patterns and planned accordingly? The easiest route is have all seating be inside, which is by and far the most popular solution. Yet, the weather is not so terrible to have us cowering in doors all the time, it’s just not amazingly perfect.
In the case of a windy day, we just need to make sure everything is pinned down. They already make metal tables, why hasn’t anyone created magnetic plates? Or in the case that only paper plates are used, a clip similar to the one on a pen that grasps your shirt pocket. Except it would probably look more like a giant bobby pin: pinning the table and the plate together. Worst case scenario, we all have to bring our own giant binder clips to lunch.
The finishing touch would be to make sure that all dividers enclosing eating areas are at least head high when sitting down. That way they can help to defuse the wind. It will also have the added benefit of privacy, which touches on another subject around which there could be much improvement. But that’s a whole other series of blog posts to themselves.