Waiting in line

February 24th, 2015

Without a nod or examination, I plunked myself behind the last person in line. An Asian no less. Then I prepared myself for the long wait. I don’t look up anymore to watch the personalities in line.

A boy follows behind me and knowledgably goes outside the escalator.

It has always been uncomfortable surrounded by the city’s freebie go-getters and legitimate movie critics. I hear aimless conversations from someone who has never been here before. “Wow, thanks for inviting me!” he exclaims.

“Yeah, I always get here two hours early,” a voice echoes experience.

We are prepared for the long haul.

30 minutes pass. 60 minutes.

A lanky man walks around the line. “Miss, please move forward,” he says to me. “We need to get to keep the pathways clear.”

I nod and scoot forward with my laptop in my lap. The lanky man stares at the people and announces, “In five to ten minutes, I will start numbering.”

The line nods, understanding and he leaves. A box of pizza arrives. Another girl arrives and squeezes herself into the group in front of me.

Children drag chairs across the worn carpet to their spot in line, hitting Chris’ shin. He stares at them as he yelps in pain. The children don’t notice and neither does their mother. The moment passes and he rubs his shin.

Then the people in the line stand. I sense the shifting and close my laptop, thrusting it quickly into my bag. I check my phone and set it to vibrate. I pat my pockets and check my bag. Then I stand and follow the snaking line, slowly as one by one we get access into the movie theater.

I weather the cold

February 18th, 2015

Growing up, the house was always cold. Or at least I would like to think that my parents, being Asian and all, would never use a money-wasting thing as the heater.

But I think that I am wrong. My parents didn’t want to see my sister and I suffer. So they used the heater and the AC. But I never recalled those things ever long for very long. They were on in order to get the home to a certain comfort level and then it was off.

In doing so, I learned the value of the comfort. Every time I hear the rush of air—the air that would make my room comfortable, I was already trained to feel the cents, bills disappearing into the abyss. Comfort equaled money. Money equaled privilege.

So being conditioned, I prefer cold temperatures. And hated absolutely hated summers. There was little that I could do during the summers except whine and complain and hope that the AC could help. So that led directly to my love of San Francisco weather. I love the 50s and 60s temperature here in the city. The brisk wind that touched my face and hands. It is wakeful.

And I chose an apartment that is naturally like a freezer due its lack of great insulation. Even with large tall ceilings, rarely does the apartment ever heat up with the sun. Instead, it stays cool. Just the way I like it. But the bad thing about it is even with central heating, the apartment takes forever to heat up. Or even when it does, the tall rooms heat slower than the small rooms. And so here I am in a small room thinking, thermostat, you have done your work already and I don’t need you. But my roommates always do.

What I always find ironic is that the roommates, especially the roommates who grew up in snowy areas like Wisconsin and New York, they want the temperature to be at a nice 70°F. I like mine at 60°F. The brisk chill reminding me that I am still alive. In San Francisco.

The Accidental Email Thread

February 17th, 2015

The end of the dinner was approaching. I felt it. In anxiety, I checked my phone, pulling down the notifications to look at unread emails. I stiffened, hoping that there were no emails from my team about the big client presentation. I didn’t want to deal with anything more until the morning. I told myself that I had to remove the work email from my phone for my sanity.

But then I saw it. Starting slightly after 8 pm, an email went out with an innocent question:

I’m not sure who to email about this. Typically the direct deposits I get match the amount listed under “earned” in my earnings reports exactly, but this month it did not. Under earned it said $4,055.68 but my direct deposit was for $3,905.68. Any idea why the difference? I have a feeling it has to do with Target reimbursement but wasn’t sure.

I didn’t know who this person was. And wondered if it was yet another annoying email sent to the wrong person, like people with my first name and last name. And the to field read publishers@federatedpublishers.com What’s interesting is that nearly everyone replied had some unique signature, advertising blogs. Primarily food blogs. I realized that in my attempt to spread my blog a few years ago, I must have subscribed my email to the grand lists.

Subsequently, other emails followed. Some were about not knowing the answer to the question, that they didn’t know why they got the email. Then someone concluded that the the OP must have emailed a mass email d-list, that hey everybody calm down and stop replying to the email. But the emails continued to pour in until even the famous Guy Kawaski chimed in and lectured everyone about how they’re making it worse. Then it became a bit of self-promotion and gratitude for finding each other (so very much like a blogging community). Then came more angry “UNSUBSCRIBE” and “STOP REPLYING”.

And the email that some people followed so unwittingly:

“By all means, everyone keep replying.”

Then suddenly about 90 minutes later, emails stopped.

A blogger documented the drama that ensued through social media. The way that suddenly all these self-aware tech-centric people bonded as if we had been stuck on a subway car for some time. Thank you for existing, I would say. But in a few days, I’ll be on my merry way.

This is me with the flu

February 16th, 2015

The night was young. It was barely 7 PM. But my ears were burning. My throat felt coated and I coughed.

But you see, I was in a new city. And my fingers were dancing over my keyboard bringing up the best and the greatest restaurants on Yelp. I gazed over the top-rated restaurants in Hot and New, my mind calculating my limits on my daily expense account and estimating the distance from the hotel.

Could I? Would I? Will it even be worth it?

I rubbed my stomach. Unfettered, untouched. I wasn’t hungry, but it had been more than 12 hours since I ate something substantial. Since the morning, I had only drank water and hot tea. I wanted to take a hot shower and crawl into my uncomfortable hotel bed.

But I couldn’t. So I compromised with myself. Within a five minute walk, I found a healthy restaurant and ordered a hot drink of turmeric and lemon. My head burned for the next 48 hours, but I pushed myself. Through the 6 hour flight. Through the appearance at my parents’ community event. And meetings. And email. And life. Because life doesn’t stop for anything although I wish sometimes that it would. Even when I am not sick.

What is status?

February 4th, 2015

The man arrives at the gate. Coffee in hand. A small shoulder bag over his shoulder carrying important documents and an iPad. He doesn’t travel with a computer anymore. He finds it easier to read documents from his clients quickly on the tablet. His iPhone lies in his sports jacket pocket. He walks briskly past all the college students and tired families to Priority Boarding. Group 1.

Then suddenly, the loudspeaker booms with a female voice. “Attention passengers at gate 86, destination Atlanta at 8:15 AM,” the female voice says. “Our first class cabin is overbooked. We are asking for volunteers to give up their first class seat to take a middle seat in economy.”

The man grimaces and looks down. Then he notices a woman in front of him, squeamish and fidgety. She is talking to a friend who is standing at the front of group 3. “I got first class!” she says. “I am not sure.”

The man doesn’t budge. But he knows what may happen next.

The female voice booms over the crowd of passengers again. “We’ll make an offer for first class passengers willing to take a middle seat in economy.”

An offer, he thinks, spinning the idea in his mind. No, he thinks, he must arrive in Atlanta rested for tomorrow’s client meeting. Nothing is worth it.

Then suddenly, it isn’t. The woman goes to the counter and talks to the flight attendant. She joins her friend in Group 3, grinning. “Look, what I got!” she says and laughs.

Twenty minutes go back and another request is made. Nobody budges. Then in 15 minutes, a female representative goes up to Group 1. Starting at the back. “Can I take a look at your ticket?” she says to a well-dressed woman behind him. She sighs. Then suddenly it’s his turn. He wants to say how many miles he has, how he is a loyal customer. But he looks at the passengers around him, did he belong anyway? When in another life, he wanted to be an artist living with his college girlfriend spending their nights drinking PBR and long discussions of the world and things now he knew.

“Okay,” he says to the representative.

What is the grind?

February 3rd, 2015

It is this:

For most people, it’s the wake up, the morning coffee, the eyes awake, anxieties of performance rushes back into focus. It’s the email and the text messages from colleagues. It’s the irritation at the colleagues and the mild appreciation for the intern who covered you for four hours yesterday. It’s the rush to work, the mindless commute of parking the car, going up the escalator, then the sitting at the desk and typing in facebook.com

But then what is business travel? It’s a grind too. There’s glamour yes, the kind where you get to arrive in style in a taxi or even better, a black towncar. You whisk into the swanky lounge filled with designed furniture that makes you feel like you’re in a land of mirrors and DWR. And you walk into your room, so clean, so posh. Good night’s sleep yes, but it’s not like at home where other things distract you and comfort you at the same time. Maybe you log on paying $12 per day for wireless Internet, but the rush of the emails and the work pile in. You worry that you said something wrong in the email in the client, but you were terse and concise. But there’s a bad feeling and you wonder endlessly. You take that to bed. A throbbing thought in a black netted mess circling above the King bed draped in white, not yours really. You are fearful of rooms that you’re not familiar with so you leave a light on near the minibar overfilled with $7 snacks, $5, and $20 liquor bottles that you will never open.

This is the grind. You can’t appreciate the hotel the same way you would on vacation where you would arrive with your partner with gleeful smiles, carefully thinking of the days because they are endless.

Instead, this grind at the hotel is nearly suffocating. You haven’t been to this city. And from your 4th floor room, you hear the roar of a distant freeway, the pulsing lights of a distant nightlife, but you’re trapped here in front of a desk next to your beckoning bed. What a grind it is, you think, and you hope by closing your eyes, you can drift into a dreamworld.

The stillness falls and silence descends

January 30th, 2015

Now, I love the nights when I am alone. From my bed, I hear the rumble of cars, perhaps several words or laughter floating in the air from passerbys. But most of all, I hear the night breathing, sighing a breath. Calming down the world to rest for the night so that its gentle sibling, the dawn, will wake us up to fresh breath.

The anxieties of the days drift away. They hesitate in the air, lost and unsure where to place their sticky fingers to raise blood pressure and grit teeth. I breathe in deeply and they flutter away like fallen leaves, crackling along the walls, then coming to rest on the carpet.

I read now. Just like how I did more than twenty years ago before bed. I don’t clutch the hardcover books from the library, sometimes 15 borrowed at one time. Instead, I hold my devices, the electronic things that host dynamic text that I must scroll with a flick of the finger. There, the big flat metal rectangle holds treasures. Then the smaller one, the blue one hosts the words and a speakerphone. And then there is the black object, the size in between the flat metal rectangle and the blue one. I left up a cover, revealing what seems to be printed word and I move my finger across the text. It changes!

And I drop into magical worlds. Slowly, my eyes start drifting close and I feel my body fall into my mattress, longing for the muscles to relax and let the night make its call. And so then, I let it go. The stillness falls and silence descends.

Trapped in a box

January 27th, 2015

I look and it’s all fuzzy white. What I see is grainy and not clear. A light comes into focus. Its underside. The underside of the lamp, I surmise.

“Hello?” I say, hoping someone will hear me.

I hear water flowing for several seconds. Then it stops.

My view is suddenly moving, but I didn’t say that I wanted it changed. The fuzzy white becomes a darker gray. Something rattles in the background. The sound of skin moving across fabric. Yet it’s still not mine.

The view raises and I see a flesh colored face. “Still on video chat?” a low voice says.

Climbing a hill

January 19th, 2015

It’s just time, I tell myself every time, it’s just time.

As I roll up on my bike to the foot of the hill, I think, this is it! I can climb this thing! So I pedal and push upward. But soon in a few seconds, I feel my thighs burning as my momentum slows and the only thing keep me balanced is the moving pedals. So I put more strength into it. One cycle. Two. Three. four.

Yes, I can make it.

I shift down. Smaller. Smaller. Smallest. But exhaustion tears through me. Or is it laziness? I am not sure, so I push up. Because I tell myself that anything that goes up must come down. I feel my body heat up and every single time, I am annoyed. I wonder why I do this to myself. A climb up a hill that I never wanted to do. But soon, time passes and I am at the crest. I am there. And then without thinking, I zoom down, giving up all the energy that I used to get up there.

And I think, that wasn’t that bad, was it?

Treasures in a wasteland (aka gentrification)

January 15th, 2015

“It’s in Nob Hill,” I said, looking at the bakery’s location in maps. “Just a few blocks away from us on Larkin and Geary.”

So we promptly walked over that area, passing liquor stores and apartment buildings with barred windows. While waiting at a street corner, a woman yelled to nobody and went inside a liquor store. Unfettered, I barely turned around to look. I was too busy making sure that I didn’t step into anything unpleasant.

We glanced at the stores around us. Tall buildings with old signs. A German bookstore. A church that seemed to be a single room, nothing like the grand Grace cathedral but only had a lighted red sign. Across the street was the popular Korean restaurant with cramped seating and the atmosphere of eating inside a smoky kitchen. I imagined sticky seats and chairs. Very few people were on the street. You see, I wasn’t afraid. If I was in the mood, I would have turned right to find the Vietnamese food, but today, I was on a journey to find tasty pastries.

“Are you sure that we’re going the right way?” Chris asked.

Then we continued walking, passing yet another place that seemed closed and broken. Suddenly, I saw a window that was floor to ceiling, displaying small chairs and tables with young, educated folk. Some with laptops and others with their hands wrapped around steaming coffee mugs. A woman with short-cropped hair manned the cashier. Another man, young with a beard, wore a plaid shirt and helped a customer. Loaves of bread filled one wall in flavors of fig & olive and sourdough. More people were in the back, chopping and kneading. A kitchenaid stand and food processor were in the back. “I think that we’re here,” I said.

“There’s no sign,” Chris said.

“I think that they’re so hip that they don’t need one,” I said. “Like Tartine.”

And we stepped inside, in what seemed an oasis from the Tenderloin.