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Thursday, August 9, 2012

••◊ Never trust San Francisco schedules, part 1

First of all, just to be fair, I have to say that I have a general negative attitude toward San Francisco.  I've never had a good experience there.  Not that there's some type of superstitious bad voodoo going on, but my experience has always felt that way.

Last Sunday morning I was online wasting time before leaving for the airport.  Sure enough, an email comes through stating that my flight has been pushed back from 10:20 to 11:15.  No big deal.  It just throws off my plan for the day in San Francisco a little.  I get to the airport and now the flight is pushed back to 12:50.  Well...there went my plans.

One of the compromises I have to make as a broad shouldered individual on a discount airline is seating space.  My work around has always been to find two smaller people who like window and aisle seats and sit between them.  Most of the time it works out...  This time, however, a mother of two young children sat down on the opposite side of the aisle.  Five minutes into the flight the baby decides to just start screaming.  For me it was a sure fire advertisement for Yaz or Trojan.  The mother considers her options and decided that the best path forward was to play with the tired child instead of letting it sleep.  Twenty minutes into the flight I'm considering options involving duct tape and/or a cockpit door exit and the woman next to me says, "ah, that poor darling."  ...I'm thinking the polar opposite.  My cortisol levels are spiked after the 1.5 hours of putting up with a horrible mother and her screaming brat.  At least my experience is being consistent.

Upon arrival I was anticipating my suitcase spinning around the silver oval in baggage claim, but after waiting until nearly everyone else has left the baggage claim - no bag.  Did the airline lose it?  I was thinking, "oh great...at least my camera wasn't in that suitcase."  Then a person working in the area pointed us in the direction of the luggage claims office - which turned out to be the wrong office.  After a few more minutes of walking around I found the real luggage claims office expecting to hear that my bag was dropped somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between San Diego and San Francisco.  The bag was there waiting for me.  It had arrived on an earlier flight.  Cortisol level - 1.




I have to admit that one of the nice things about San Francisco is the public transportation system and it's positive acceptance of bicycle riders.  On the BART train there was a dedicated space for bicycle parking that allowed the bicycle to stay out of the way of pedestrians.  Nice.  Seattle and San Diego seem to have more bike paths, but San Francisco certainly has a better overall public transportation system.

On Monday my aunt paid for a professional tour guide to take us around the city - more to come on that later.  On Russian Hill I spotted a couple unusual forms of transportation.  The 3-wheeled Go Car was unexpected, but cool.  The car guides you via GPS and has a narrated tour of the city.  If I would have stayed longer I would have rented one.  The other iconic form of 9mph transportation are the San Francisco trolley cars.  I still haven't figured out how they run a cable that long.  Is a series of cables?  A series of synchronized motors?  A Wikipedia entry is out there somewhere that explains it. 



On Wednesday morning I had a flight out at 6am so I could make it to work in the morning.  The online BART schedule said a train would arrive at my station at 4:23am.  OK, that should leave enough time to get to the airport...or so I thought.  I woke up at 4am, got dressed, and went down to the station just outside my hotel - which doesn't open until 4:15am and has multiple people of questionable mental state surrounding the entrance until then.  The station opens up, I buy a ticket, and wait down in the lower corridor for the train.  4:30 comes.  OK so the train is a little late.  4:35 comes.  Something isn't right.  Of little comfort was the fact that the passenger 10 feet from me starts discussing his last felony with another outbound passenger.  About that time I searched around for the schedule and it says the train arrives at 4:59.  Oh crap!  It's too late to go up and find a taxi that takes a credit card and make it to the airport through 101 traffic, so I have to risk it.  The train shows up at 5:01am.


I'm negotiating a new plan that mostly involves buying another ticket to at least make it home that day.

The BART train arrives at SFO and I run up to the SFO terminal train platform, mostly with false hope.  At the second stop I'm at the international terminal and decide that rather than waste 15 minutes getting to the domestic terminal I'm going take charge and just run for it.  It was something surely inspired by Usain Bolt.  The early morning Starbucks zombies are staring at me as I do the 1/2 mile sprint through the domestic terminal while pulling my two wheeled suitcase.  I arrive at the Southwest counter panting something like, "I'm late for my flight."  The check-in agent put my bag right through and tells me my bag might arrive later than me.  There's still hope!  I then bolt (no pun intended) to security and and tell them I'm late for my flight.  They put me at the front of the line, which means the mandatory TSA digital strip search.  I can still make it!  I can just smell the aroma of gate 31 - which is actually a good thing this day!  My last 1/4 mile sprint to gate 31 involved a dodge and weave technique that the US soccer team would be proud of.

Turns out I was 5 minutes early. 

At least I got a cool down period before boarding.  The flight was 1/3 full, so I sat away from other people so they wouldn't have to smell my manly effort (i.e. sweaty stench). 

Homeward bound.

My luggage arrived on time too.  Never give up.  Never surrender!



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