For the most part of my life, my Valentine’s Day has been pretty much the same. I give candy, chocolate and smooches (mostly to my mother) and I receive candy, chocolate and smooches (mostly from my mother). Very routine. For the past two years however, I find myself starting a new Valentine’s tradition: spending the night picking feathers out of my hair.
Yesterday marked the return of The Great San Francisco Valentine’s Day Pillow Fight, in which an obscene amount of people meet at Justin Herman Plaza at Embarcadero and Market Street and once the Ferry Building’s clock strikes 6pm, everyone beats the pulp out of each other with pillows.
After walking four blocks with a sidewalk full of pillow-carriers, I arrived at the plaza around 5:50pm. The sight was astounding. Thousands of people, most with pillows but many without, standing around waiting for action. With every passing moment, there were new cries of excitement with people holding their pillows in the air for everyone to see.
Once the clock struck 6pm, pillows stuck faces and feathers started flying. Walking around the plaza, I was exposed to an array of different fights. Toddlers playing with the fallen feathers with their parents close by. Couples spending time together by beating each other. Boys clearly releasing their frustrations of being single on everyone else and girls probably doing the same. For the most part, it was just plain, harmless fun. The only startling element of the night was the constant explosions of firecrackers reminding everyone of Chinese New Year.
For some people, that plain, harmless fun lasted about fifteen minutes. Around 6:15, I observed a noticeable group of exhausted people heading back to the BART leaving with feathers stuck in their hair and clothes. After an hour, the amount of people was obviously diminishing.
“It kind of makes sense,” my photographer, Brian said. “How long are you supposed to go on? With a pillow fight, you never really know who wins.”
On the walk back, Market Street seemed like a war zone. A very gentle, playful war zone. Kids beating each other with pillows on the sidewalk. A group of people pillow-pounding a car. Cliques attacking other cliques out of the blue. I would have been very alarmed if I wasn’t in San Francisco where at the end of the day, these things just aren’t that weird.
Overall, the flash mob was an overwhelming success and hopefully next year, my mother will get the hint and just buy me a pillow instead of those chocolates.
Photos: Brian Omlor