It occurred to me that my last post might have come across a little, er, bitchy. And it’s occurred to me that I’m not going to leave The Land of the Screaming Child for another hour or so.
Really, I’ve had some adventures on this trip. Take, for example, my arrival in San Francisco.
The flight was a normal one, on time and relaxing. I’d made reservations with a shuttle before I left and the reservation guy told me to call him as soon as I got off the plane. ‘Don’t even go to baggage claim,’ he said. ‘Just call me from the first payphone you see.’
So I did. And he asked if I’d picked up my bags, to which I replied: ‘Um. No. You told me not to.’ So he suggested I get my luggage and call him back.
So I did. And he gave me directions to the pickup zone, told me to follow the detour and wait for him at Courtyard One. Of course I did. I waited and I waited.
Eventually, a guy in a shuttle drove up. Now I’d reserved a shuttle with a company called Silicon. The shuttle that arrived said East Bay. It looked like it was destined for the junk heap. Peeling paint. Rust. Dents. I figured it wasn’t mine. So I stood there, looking stupid, waiting for another van.
The guy in the East Bay van got out and approached me (I was the only one standing on the curb). Here’s how I remember our conversation:
Me: Um. No. I’m Kim.
Me: Cell phone?
Him: Telephone Jose?
Me: Excuse me?
Me: Yeah, I called. Are you Silicon Valley?
Me: Are you my shuttle?
Him: Yes, yes. Come on.
Me: I made reservations with Silicon Valley Airporter. Is that you?
Him: [something in Spanish]
Me: [blink. Blink blink.]
Him: You fly?
Me: Yes. I just got here.
Me: Um. Seattle. [Then, with a little more confidence.] I flew in from Seattle.
Me: Where am I going?
Me: Um. Palo Alto. The Sheraton.
Him: Okay. Come.
Me: Are you the guy I called?
Him: It’s okay. Come. Get in van.
Me: Uh, okay.
I swear to you this is how the conversation went. I got in the van and took my seat behind two very angry businessmen. I don’t know where they came from or where they were going, but they were pissed.
So we took off, tearing through the pick-up/drop-off lanes. And then we stopped. I fell forward, bumped against the seat in front of me. The businessmen growled. The driver rolled down his window, started shouting at a cop. The cop came over, hand on gun. The driver, in a very thick Spanish accent, yelled ‘Officer, officer! I am very sick! Can I please leave my van here? I am very sick!’
The cop, apparently stunned, nodded and backed away, hand still on gun. The driver rolled up the window, jumped out of the van and disappeared into the building. The businessmen growled more and beat their hands on their thighs. I wondered where I was and what I was doing there.
It was over 100 degrees outside. Inside the van it was hotter. We couldn’t roll the windows down. One of the businessmen opened the door, but it swung shut and nearly hit his foot. He growled, swung the door open again and braced it with his arm.
Eventually, after twenty or so minutes, the driver returned. I wasn’t sure I should be thankful.
We tore off again, along the airport terminal, swung into a parking lot, then turned around and went back to the place where I’d been kidnapped. A lone woman stood on the curb. The driver rolled down the window, shouted ‘Jose?’ She shook her head, waved him off. The driver got out of the van, approached the woman. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I had a pretty good idea. Eventually the woman got into the van, sat next to me. The businessmen growled. The woman took out her palm pilot. I sweated and prayed.
It went on like this for two more hours. We headed down the freeway, dodging in and out of traffic. Switching lanes without warning. We passengers were flung to and fro, our bodies slamming into one another’s. (Did I mention the fact that the seatbelts didn’t work? It’s true.)
Finally, he found my hotel. I gave him my credit card and hoped for the best. And then it happened. He processed my card, turned to me and asked:
‘How much tip?’
By then I’d learned his language. Bravely, I spoke:
‘Tip?’ And I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as though the word held absolutely no meaning.