My Trip to San Francisco, or the Travails of Travel

I’ve just arrived, but it’s been the longest several hours of my life. I’m waiting for my son to call me once he gets out of class, and then go to dinner, because I’m starving!

First of all, after dodging mega-construction projects all over the metro area (when you live in the Tundra, those last few weeks of fall are full of last minute projects before the permafrost sets in), I arrived at the airport with scant minutes to spare. While checking my bag, I was informed that my one piece of luggage would cost an additional $15. Why they couldn’t have mentioned it at the time of reservation, or even yesterday as I checked in online, I don’t know. Luckily, I had the money.

Since I had only seconds to spare, I didn’t get a chance to go to my favorite Japanese restaurant in the airport. This made me quite cranky. I knew that the pickin’s on the plane would be slim and grossly overpriced. I couldn’t see paying $5 for a snack box that I could assemble at home for $1.50. Besides, I wanted sushi, damn it! And miso soup that would warm anyone’s heart. (That’s the other thing – it was cold out today!)

Of course, my seat assignment was the second to last row of a very crowded airplane. I don’t know how anyone gets the first couple of seats next to the door; I never do. I didn’t mind, as I knew where I was going once I got there and didn’t have to make any connections. All went well at first, as I settled in to read Steven King’s “On Writing.” (I had a shamelessly fluffy romance novel should I be quick enough to finish the King book. I was.) I prefer to get a window seat, and like to look at the landscape below me, clouds permitting. I’ve flown back and forth so many times now, I can pick up the major cities and rivers, mountain ranges and high desert. I know when we are over Lake Tahoe, it’s time to pack up my personal belongings and raise my tray table to its full and upright locked position.

Today’s flight was less than blissful. During the flyover of the Rocky Mountains, the turbulence was so strong that I actually held onto the arm rests with both hands and prayed. As it turns out, it was a good thing I didn’t eat, because I have a feeling my lunch would have ended up as chunky finger paint over my seat mates.

During the flight, there was a medical emergency back in my section, the last two rows. The flight attendant went on the intercom asking for any doctors or nurses to turn on their overhead lights. Right away, four different lights went on in our section of the plane. It was comforting to know that if we were going to crash due to turbulence, there were so many doctors in the house.

The plane was just a little late because of the strong headwinds (thus causing the turbulence), and so it took a while to disembark. The flight attendant had taken my bag and put it in a Super Secret Spot since the overhead bins were all full. She had forgotten all about it, until I, as the last person on the plane, asked her for my bag.

On the way to the rental car building, travelers must take the AirTrain. This is quite the handy mode of transportation. However, to take the train, you have to get to the platform, which involves going up two sets of escalators. On my second set of escalator, my suitcase (which was packed full of motherly treats like freshly canned tomatoes and weighed at least as much as a Yugo) got caught in a step. On my other arm was my computer bag, which is also heavy, and my other hand was carrying a bag full of freshly picked super steak tomatoes. (Hey. I might as well have picked them before the real frost.) The combined weight of all these bags in concert with centrifugal force sent me tumbling backward. That’s right, I fell backward on the escalator with my bags dragging me down.

I know some might think this is really embarrassing. (Or funny.) I didn’t care about that; I just didn’t want to die. Lucky for me, I landed on top of a very thin Japanese businessman. However, since I was outweighed by my luggage 2 to 1, I couldn’t right myself and there was nothing I could do but scream. It was fortunate that the Japanese businessman had a friend who was a couple of steps above me. He ran down and extricated me from my predicament.

Of course, I apologized profusely. In English. I am learning Japanese, but didn’t know the right way to say “I’m sorry.”

Finally, I made it to my rental car. Of course, being me, I walked over 300 stalls in the wrong direction before I realized that Stall #7 wasn’t going to be next to Stall #386. As luck would have it, I backtracked and there was my little Chevy Cobalt, only steps from the original door I had departed from.

There were some bright spots in my hectic day. Usually, I make the wrong turn when leaving the airport and end up on the 101 heading right for downtown. I don’t want to go there, as my motel of choice is by the ocean, the exact opposite side of town. I can’t tell you how many times I took the wrong exit in the past, even though I know this place just as it were my own home. This time, miraculously, I took the 380 to 280, which is the right way to go. However, I missed the Super Secret Shortcut from Highway 1, and ended up taking the long way over to the Sunset. For some reason, even though it was rush hour, the long way didn’t seem so long.

After unpacking my quart jars and wrestling the rest of my belongings up two flights of stairs (remember, I said “motel” not “hotel”) I am taking a brief rest before I go outside and look at the ocean. After surveying my body, I see I have escaped with scrapes over my left hand, a badly skinned left knee, and I think what is going to be a very bad bruise on my behind. Oh, well… It’s all worth it.

Oh, yes. It’s glorious here. Hot, bright, sunny, very typically NOT San Francisco. My son says October is the hottest time of the year here, and he is right.

The sky is so clear. You can almost see Asia if you look hard enough.