In certain parts of San Francisco, a line of bleary-eyed people in tailgating chairs blinking in the morning sunlight is a hallmark of the launch of the latest wildly expensive designer basketball shoe.
The Excelsior isn't one of those places.
And yet, at 9:30 a.m., a line of several dozen men and women snaked down the tail end of College Hill on Mission Street, with the stragglers setting up shop toward the overpass high above Alemany. These folks wanted shoes, too. But it was a matter of affording them, not buying them.
Every year, hundreds if not thousands of hopefuls show up to fill out applications to become an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers apprentice "inside wireman." The long road to a good-paying job with solid benefits starts with a long line. Guillermo Chacon should know: He showed up at 1 a.m. this morning to be the first through the gates when they open at 1 p.m.
And this is not the first time he has done so.
Chacon has arrived in the predawn hours each of the last three years; this stint at the head of the line was not his first. The 39-year-old married father of three has thrice filled out the application and thrice taken the entry exam. Today will be his fourth go-round. "I've been studying hard so I can test high," he says. "I think I've been close. But not close enough."
The Riordan High alum is hoping to downsize from two jobs -- one at Home Depot in Colma and a night shift at the Aquarium of the Bay -- to one. All that's required to fill out an application is proof of two semesters of high school algebra or one semester of it in college, a high school diploma or the equivalent, and a photo ID. Chacon has these things. "I am here looking for a career opportunity," he says with a smile.