Commuting from the East Bay into San Francisco always comes with a bit more excitement than I anticipate. Traveling from one side of the Caldecott Tunnel to the other sees a fairly drastic temperature change, rendering my light sweater useless as a chill blows in over the bay and into Rockridge. Thankfully, I’m used to dressing for contingencies—whenever it’s warm outside, it’s freezing in my office—so I throw on a jean jacket, hoping it’s enough to calm my goosebumps.
As the BART train continues through Oakland, I’m comforted knowing that my cropped pants and denim jacket weren’t a bad choice. But once I get off the train and climb the stairs of Montgomery station, I see it: Karl the Fog. While it should come as no surprise that San Francisco’s famous fog hovers over the bay, casting a gloomy shadow over the city, I can’t help but feel a bit shaken by its frigidity. Wishing I had a fleece sweater or some other gear specially suited for the outdoors, I quickly rush into Mazarine Coffee in an attempt to warm up until the fog (hopefully) burns off. After several years of commuting into the city for school, I shouldn’t be surprised by Karl anymore, yet here I stand, shivering from the unexpected change in temperature.
Annoyed by my own lack of planning—and by this weather’s existence—I whip out my phone to find out exactly why this unfortunate phenomenon is called Karl the Fog anyway. As it turns out, a mysterious Twitter account, @KarltheFog, popped up in August 2010 as a sort of love note to the often-criticized weather condition that plagues San Francisco year-round. Finding inspiration from the 2003 film Big Fish, this unknown author adopted the name Karl from the movie’s giant that scared everyone but was actually a lonely, hungry, and friendly creature—not the human-eating, terrible ogre that people expected he would be.
But for me, coming from the dry desert of Southern California, the S.F. fog was exactly the monster I’d expected. While I can get down with the consistent temperatures of the San Francisco Peninsula—which always seem to hover between 60 and 70, even when it’s burning hot or freezing cold in the East Bay—there is something about the damp fog that just brings me down. Unfortunately, because warm air rises and the city is surrounded by water on three sides, it doesn’t look like Karl is going anywhere anytime soon.
I do suppose there is a sort of beauty in this S.F. fog, especially when the top of the Golden Gate Bridge pops out of it, stretching into the blue skies above. So as I walk to my next destination along the Embarcadero, I try to accept Karl the Fog for what it is—and make a mental note to always bring a thicker jacket to San Francisco. And though Karl and I might never become best friends, at least he will never come as a surprise again.