People ask me what I love about being on the road. Perhaps this will answer that question.
I should have known what kind of day it would be when, first thing, I broke my bootlace. And had no spare.
As background, just know that when we got “home” (that is, San Anselmo) in early September, our internet had been down since July: no web, no phone. I had set up myriad appointments with our doctors, dentists, hair & nail salons, you-name-it, for the few weeks we’d be here. Starting today, with two back-to-back doctor appointments first thing in the morning, one for me, the other for both of us. After that, a pleasant ferry ride into the City, to meet our prospective tenant (and good friend), G, for lunch.
Ben called Comcast on Wednesday, and was told by their office (um, in Manila) that someone would be there “between now and 6pm tonight.” One guess. Nope. Thursday morning, he was told by someone else in their Manila office that a tech would be out “between 4pm and 6pm tonight.” Guess again. Nobody. Finally, the third guy (and we’re still talking to Manila) said, “They might be able to squeeze you in tomorrow, between 7:30am and 5pm.” Really? Because we have nothing better to do with our time?
Someone has to wait for Comcast, and since I had the 8:30 doctor appointment and it didn’t make sense to bring two cars and then try to park them both at the ferry, I went into Uber and requested a pickup. I’d have my 8:30 appointment, then Ben could come and meet me for our 10am, and we’d drive to the ferry together. But, with the Comcast thing looming “anytime,” now the plan became Ben arriving at 10am, going to our appointment, then dropping me at the ferry and coming back home to wait. Except we now needed someone to be at the house while we were both at the 10am appointment. Luckily, our neighbor and dog nanny, Gini, came to the rescue. I got this all set up, and suddenly realized the Uber was now only 2 minutes away, and had to rush to get out the door, cramming phone, wallet, and everything else into my pockets. “Should I bring my laptop?” I asked, thinking aloud, then decided, “No, to hell with it, no time. I have my phone. It’s 100% charged.”
Uber got me to my doctor’s office in record time. The door was locked, but it was only 8:15, and my appointment was for 8:30. I heard a sneeze from the stairwell, and my doctor appeared, looking fresh and sparkling clean. I was reminded again of how I look when I rush out the door, my faded and weathered old field coat’s pockets bulging with my stuff. I greeted the doc cheerily.
“Do you have an appointment?” he asked, puzzled. “My staff doesn’t come in till 9.”
“Well, yes, at 8:30.”
“Hm. Well, come on in, let me figure this out.”
He unlocked the door, asked me to have a seat, and disappeared into the back office, coming out a few minutes later with the news that the appointment had been canceled.
“Didn’t they call you?”
“Phone’s been out—since July,” I told him. And then launched into a completely unnecessary and pointlessly boring story of our internet repair adventures. He listened politely.
“Well, they wouldn’t have canceled without getting ahold of you. Let’s just do this.” And he proceeded to diagnose and treat what I already suspected. Nothing bad, those of you who care, just a minor foot injury. He wrapped me up and I was on my way.
On my way out, his staff had since arrived, and I asked, “What happened?”
“Your appointment was for yesterday,” I was told. “You were a no show. We tried to call.”
“Yeah, phone’s been out—since July.”
Aside: Those of you who know me, know that I make accurate appointments. Those of you who don’t, trust me: I don’t make these mistakes. No big deal, move on.
I looked at my phone, it was 9am. My next appointment, right across the hall, was at 10am. With Ben, who hopefully was getting ready to leave the house; or better yet, was already talking with the Comcast guy. I desperately needed a coffee so, despite the limp, I walked about half a mile to the nearest coffee cart. That went okay, except the guy toasted my croissant. Toasted? Whatever.
I limped back to the medical center, and met Ben driving in. “No Comcast?” I asked, though I could see from his face that the answer was No. “They said between 9am and 4pm,” he replied in answer to my look. “So I guess I have to sit around all day waiting for them.”
We started up the stairs, and I told him about my appointment mixup. “I hope this one works,” he offered forebodingly. “No way!” I laughed. “It couldn’t happen twice.”
On this day, though, apparently it could. The door was locked. I got on my phone and called. “I have an appointment at 10am in your Greenbrae office, and the office is locked,” I told them.
“Our Greenbrae office is closed on Fridays,” I was told.
“Then why do we have an appointment there?” I wanted to know. Just as a side note, when I made the appointment, I specifically stressed that I wanted to change to the Greenbrae office, and asked if that was possible; they said No Problem. Well, here was the Problem. This day just keeps getting better.
We worked it out, made another appointment. Then I looked at the time. “You know, we could make the 10:10 ferry,” I said to Ben. “Let’s try. That way, I can meet G early and have more time with him.” Miraculously, we hit all the lights green and made it with a couple of minutes to spare. I’d half-expected to miss it by one minute, and have to wait 50 minutes for the next one.
Just as I settled on the ferry, my message pinged me. It was from G:
G: I may get pigeonholed into a meeting that ends at 12:30.
Great, I thought, if he’s going to cancel, could he have texted me ONE minute earlier, and Ben and I would be on our way back home? I laughed (this was starting to get funny) and read on to discover it was just a postponement. Oh. And I’d hopped an earlier ferry hoping to have an earlier day. Well, I can always find something to do in the City. Right?
So far, this day has been an almost total waste, so I thought, “What the hell,” and went up to the bar (I love the ferry system!). I ordered what I thought would be the easiest drink, one that wouldn’t make the bartender have to think at 10am: a Bloody Mary. First, the bartender ran out of vodka. When she’d replenished her stock, she pulled out the Bloody Mary mix and yes, it ran out also. I won’t even tell you she ran out of limes, you wouldn’t believe me. But she did. As she was rummaging around in her tiny closet for more, and I turned to the grey-haired woman behind me and apologized. “For what?” she asked, “not your fault.” Then began a discussion about how people get so upset at delays, when, as she reminded me, “We’re on a boat. Where else can they go?” And the bartender joined in with comparing the different commuting times and relative levels of crankiness of the passengers. We all agreed that “any day above ground is a good day,” and the grey-haired woman ordered a vodka gimlet.
So, I was working on my drink, enjoying the view, when we were engulfed in a fog so thick, you couldn’t see five feet out the window. “If this boat crashes and sinks,” I thought, “that’d be just perfect for today.”
I was giggling to myself about that (and causing the neaby passengers to look sideways at me) when my phone pings me with another text. This time from my boss:
B: Hello! Are we having our call today?
Oops. We have a call every Friday at 10am, and it was now 10:25. Dammit! I thought.
R: Oh, fuck. [You see we’re very professional.] Sorry! What a morning!
I couldn’t even begin to explain, and she kindly offered her sympathy. We agreed to postpone.
The ferry docked at the Embarcadero without incident, and I wandered into the bookstore to waste some time. Now, I love bookstores, despite my reliance on eBooks (yes, I know, but I have over 400 books on my tablet, and where would I put 400 books in the Airstream?), but what is the use of a bookstore without chairs to sit and read? I sat in the only kiddie chair in the store and thumbed through a guide to Parisian cemeteries, but it was no use. When the bookstore clerk looked at me fumbling with my pockets (to get my phone and see what time it was) and said pointedly, “Can I help you?” I realized it was time to move on.
I strolled out into the madness of a weekday morning in the Financial District, remembering to curb my instincts to be friendly and greet passersby. As I walked by the Autodesk “campus” (why do they call it that? So Millenials will think they’re still in school?), I saw a sandwich board out front advertising their free “gallery.” What the hell. I got on the elevator and it emptied me onto the gallery floor. I signed in—extra measures of security don’t bother me these days—and began to wander around. Wow. I love technology, and was soon engulfed in a hopeful vision of the future where cars grow on trees (literally) and we monitor and reverse coral reef destruction from satellites.
Too soon it was time to come back to the realities of the 21st century, and get me an Uber. After a not-unexpected mixup about which door I was waiting at, Gene got me to the Starbucks near the Adobe “campus” (again!) without incident, where I ordered my second huge coffee of the day. Oh, did I mention that my phone battery was dying? From 100% to 35% in about three hours. Never before or since has it done that. I needed Starbucks and their wireless charging tables.
I chose a seat facing the window, and sat sipping my coffee and watching the flocks of Millenials go by. My text dinged again, this time my co-editor:.
M: Can you look up the GoPro ad block? And all the emails about it?
I pulled it up on my phone and started scrolling through the history, when I realized I would never get the gist on my tiny phone screen. Oh, yeah, that’s why I was gonna bring my laptop. Oh, no, now a phone call. I hate phone calls.
Luckily, with only a little bitching and moaning about vendors on the side, M and I worked out the problem with an elegant solution (if I say so myself), and all were happy.
My text dinged again. It’s 12:26.
G: Oy Oy Oy [uh oh]
R: Take your time, I’m just strolling over from Starbucks, I’ll wait.
G: OK, awesome, I will come grab you in ~10 mins or so.
I chose a seat on a quite comfortable sofa facing the door and reception desk, and recommenced my observations of Millenials and those who work with them. And I must say, if you aren’t under 30, please, do yourself and everyone else a favor, and don’t try to dress like you are. Baggy jeans and untucked shirts are fine if you’re a slim 25-year-old, but if you’re 40? Just say no, and resign yourself to khakis and a button-down. Please.
It’s now 12:37.
G: Oy, working on leaving. [No, G isn’t Jewish. But if his day is like mine, he is now.]
R: I’m chillin’, watching the Millenials flock.
G: Aaaak, please don’t hate me. I think it will be more like 10m extra. I’m getting stacked. I’ve pushed back the meeting chomping for our end time!
R: Not worried about lunch, just want to see you.
G: I promise we will get it together, this visit was not a waste!
Then, at 1:00:
G: Oh no. Where are you?
R: In your lobby…
And he was at Starbucks. I laughed out loud, startling the receptionist, and began to gather my things. I met G on the sidewalk, we proceeded to a wonderful little restaurant called School, and had a tasty lunch—oh, and a cocktail called a Samurai.
Lunch and business over, it was time to start the trek back to the ferry. As I’m standing, waiting for the ferry to arrive, my phone pings. This time, it’s Ben:
B: Garbage disposal is frozen, trying to unstick it.
R: Of course it is! Add it to the list.
B: Finally got a “real” answer after 2 hours fighting with Comcast. A tech will arrive between 4 & 6.
R: Ha. My ferry gets in at 3:30. Classic end to this comedy-of-errors day! I’ll get a bus.
I turned and asked a man who was obviously a regular commuter, “Does the commuter bus still run from the ferry?”
“Yes,” he answered, “but I don’t think it starts until the 4pm ferry.” Oh. There’s always Uber—the one thing that’s worked today.
So, I’m sitting on the ferry nursing my vodka & tonic (ah, the ferry!), when my text dings again. This time it was David, my cooking and drinking buddy.
D: You home?
R: No, but if you pick me up at the ferry at 3:30, I’ll buy drinks!
When I got to his truck (not hard to find, parked illegally across two handicapped spaces, I love my friends), I didn’t look in the seat behind, so when I sat down I was immediately engulfed by his 160-pound English mastiff. Drool—not my own—running down my arm, I said, “I’ve had a day, but it’s getting better by the minute. Where to?”
David was on a time schedule, and was just going to take me home. Wow, braving Friday rush hour traffic just to take me home? What a friend!
When we got there, I greeted Ben and poured all three of us a stiff drink. Comcast still hadn’t arrived, so Ben could have been with me all day, and we’d have had a great time together in the City. Alas. After David left, Ben asked, “What’s for dinner?” and I just looked at him and said, “Anything I don’t have to make.” Pizza it is!
Just as the pizza guy was showing up, so did the guys from Comcast—at last. After waiting nearly three days, being glibly lied to by a myriad of Filipinos who had no intention of doing their jobs, our nearly-two-months-broken internet was restored. While our pizza got cold. Now I have to get their accounting department to give me two months’ credit. I pity the poor person who answers my call on Monday*.
And that, my friends, is why I live on the road.
*Note: I actually spoke with a wonderful woman, Teresa, in Comcast accounting. She credited us two months’ service. Just like that.