Coming out of Embarcadero BART station just past 9 a.m. felt a little anticlimatic on The Big Day.
This end of Market Street was quiet but not without people, some masked and some not, passing through. As I approached the 123-year-old Ferry Building, signs of life picked up, with several farmer’s market vendors offering fresh produce.
Regulars at Green Thumb Organics, which was open throughout the pandemic, have recently been joined by more casual visitors and tourists, associate JC Gonzalez told me.
“I think people are more social,” Gonzalez said. The lifted mask mandates, he added, have the potential to “help people to come out and support our business.”
Opening hours hadn’t yet hit many indoor vendors in the building’s eastern span, making it more of a ghost wing when I stopped in. But shops on the other side saw a steady flow of people passing through to order drinks from Red Bay Coffee — one of the few Black-owned coffee roasters — and peruse greeting cards. I joined the coffee drinkers, summoning up the neurons needed to approach strangers once again.
John Lamonte, a city worker who regularly monitors the surrounding facilities, has noticed more people frequent the area, though it’s still not packed like before. He said he’s good with the lifted capacity limits but thinks the end to the mask mandate is a little early, especially considering the flow of tourists steadily increasing.
“People are still cautious, and that’s probably a good thing,” Lamonte said while clutching two bags of Acme Bread Company goods. “I’m still going to wear [a mask] for a little while more. People come from all over and they go places.”
Lamonte also felt that San Francisco’s vigilance and leadership has inspired confidence in people to be out and to welcome visitors. “We’re lucky to be in the best city in the United States,” he said.
Tourists I encountered at the Ferry Building seemed to feel a sense of ease from The City’s approach. Kyle Dodd, a Washington state resident stopping in from a camping trip, felt assured by our high vaccination rates, and remains accustomed to wearing his mask.
“It’s peace of mind,” said Kyle Dodd while waiting for a Blue Bottle Coffee order. “It’s been kind of a way of life.”
Christy Chung, visiting from North Carolina with her parents to visit her brother, agreed. Her family had put off the visit for obvious reasons, but felt comfortable after their vaccinations.
“It’s nice to see people still wearing masks,” Chung said. “It’s more a mental thing than a science thing.”