Observing people

“What do you enjoy doing?” they used to ask when I was a kid.

“Observing,” I triumphantly answered.

It’s not that I was curious about people (or things) because of pure curiosity. It’s because I was interested in what worked and didn’t work for others so that I could understand myself better.

I don’t like it, but I am so comfortable

I used to look down upon them.

The ones who would rant on and on about their job. They hated the manager, the coworkers…the location, everything! Absolutely everything! They would toss their hands up in the air, falling into mimicry of a coworker that they hate. They would describe in detail a miniscule moment in the day’s meeting. WHY! they exclaim.

“And so…” I say “Why not…” I slowly begin…

A facial expression of acceptance would settle over their face. Fate, destiny, and ruthless acceptance. “Because I am just so comfortable.”

I think that I understand now.

He is difficult, they all said

The swirling gossip circles toward me and immediately, I raise my head like a predator. Floating voices say he is difficult. I see the annoyed expressions as they return. I am overwhelmed with pity as I sit far far away. But curiosity rises inside me…and most importantly, an urge to take the challenge seizes me entirely.

I am so compelled to help him.

Only because I used to be like that. I used to be the outcast, perhaps deliberately. I wanted to be accepted desperately, but failed. I wanted to sit with the popular girls at lunch, not sitting alone, seized with anxiety that everyone was watching me eating alone. And in an effort to rationalize my failure, I would differentiate myself. “Don’t be normal, be different!” was my motto for years. And although I don’t say it anymore, I hold principles that I cannot break…I still don’t own an iPhone, I deliberately chose to get a mac, and seek out places that nobody has heard of.

I see him and there is only sorrow. Everyone wants to be accepted. Everyone also wants to be appreciated and not forgotten. I walk over and say pleasantries. And yet, is there a difference between him and me? Because I was desperately seeking for acceptance from everyone and was willing to compromise for it? And because he is desperately seeking for acceptance but is unwilling to compromise?

And so with that…

We ate lunch… (a fantastic side story which can only be told in person).

G Lunch

And showed up at the office at 2 pm.

Bikes at HP

I quickly showered and ushered myself out in a dress (the lightest thing that I could carry in my bag.) Somehow though, my exhaustion kept me from saying that much for the rest of the day—absorbing what was happening to webOS.

Then a conference call

“We won’t make it,” Sashimi declared. “We’ll just have to miss it.”

I suggested that we call in, knowing that our culture had that behavior. There was a hesitant silence from everyone else, so I let the subject drop.

It was 10 am and we were only slightly just only halfway through. We passed through San Mateo, stopping at the 19 mile point for a rest stop, eating a quick breakfast.

We passed the Bridge to Nowhere, a steep drop. I observed as others just got off their bike. When I reached the edge, I hopped off and carried my bike the 2 foot drop into the dirt. Behind me, Cuyler with his mountain bike was gearing up for the drop…and minutes later he caught up with me. We were now traveling through a trailer park and warehouse area. A golf cart slowly passed us. “I wonder if they hate us – all these cyclists passing through,” someone commented.

I could tell it was almost time because all our phones buzzed at 10:45 am, warning us about the impending meeting. And here time passed uneventfully as we biked down, reaching East Palo Alto. “Let’s find a shady spot,” someone said underneath the sun that was quickly casting harsh rays on our unprotected skin.

In East Palo Alto

We struggled with trying to contact someone, but I was more vicious and ambitious. I txted a producer who responded. And it was done. We were dialed in on my phone, which was now a defunct no longer made hardware device.

Conference call on a now-defunct phone

And then it popped

Not one, but two flats.

8:30 am Sashimi got a flat and so dropped back. By that point, I fortunately caught up with the rest of the group…and stopped sulking in my own whatamidoing way. We floated through SFO, a route that I had only driven or been driven. The air was electric and I returned to my chatty self with another coworker. When…I heard a flapping sound…a flat!, my coworker said.

I don’t have tools, I said. He looked through the tire and found a wire sticking through the rubber. I found my extra tube that I had buried in my bag. Then we stood there lamely, against a fenced parking lot—the early morning sun brushing against our faces. Sashimi came after fixing his flat and I sent a txt to the rest of the group alerting them that we were fixing flats.

It was surreal standing in the middle of the street next to SFO. Airplanes passed above and I could feel the electricity. And I was feeling about the ride. An airport police car drove past the three of us with his window rolled down, “Do you need any help?”

No, we said as my tube was pumped up.

I hopped back on and to my surprise, I found the group waiting for us at the light, eating breakfast.

8:40 am Then it happened again. I looked down, a flat on the same tire. I got off…and this time with the entire group stopped, I stood back and watched. My obnoxious side bubbled to the top, now that I felt comfortable and less irritated with the morning. It was better now. Especially with the declaration that we would never make to HQ by 11 am.

Fixing my flat

The second, third hours of the bike ride

7:15 am And we’re off. It’s an easy ride down Valencia to Mission. But I am hesitating, worried about the upcoming hill. I have not biked this way before…and inside, I regret not trying it out. And suddenly there it is, Cortland. The hill. I gain momentum in my highest gear and slowly switch down down to my lowest gear. I am zooming forward. But I can feel it, the strain, the sudden exhaustion. And yet I went up all the hills on Sunday without much hesitation but here I am struggling.

7:30 am I make it through and I am gliding down Cortland…catching up to the core group as they stop at the light. It is supposedly flat from here and we swing around heading through Excelsior, Glen Park…I recognize this area when I have gotten lost, trying to find something other than the hipsters-infused areas of the Mission and Noe Valley.

7:55 am Regret? I am not sure what I feel as I charge up yet another “slightly steep” hill past the freeway. Everyone else is going up quickly. Quietly inside, I am recalling the feelings that I had during the Inca Trail where I stared at the initial ascent with horror. Sunny disposition, sunny disposition, I remind myself.

8:05 am “No brakes!” Sashimi yells as we wind through a residential area. I love the wind whipping through—the feeling that I wasn’t wasting money on a car or public transit. I love that I am moving faster than walking. But as I wind through the old row of houses without pedaling, I hold onto the brake.

8:15 am It feels like we have reached Parkside. I recognize it—a part of San Francisco rarely visited by many. A group of Googlers pass by and Sashimi asks about their style. They pass us easily and someone says, “Style II…I think.”

8:20 am We are now starting to pass through the lake I see normally on the Caltrain and 101. The beauty is intended to be magnificent to a biker—the kind of nature you can’t capture at speeds of 70mph. But none of that gets to me, my mind so intent on just moving, just moving.

The first hour of the epic bike ride

On Tuesday, I completed a 40+ mile bike ride from my place in SF Mission to the Sunnyvale Palm Campus. Why? Let’s finish that story later.

5:45 am Alarm goes off. I am confused because it is dark. Then I realize that it is the day.

6:00 am I finally roll out of bed and grab my things together. I wash up and put on my bike pants and clima-cool top.

6:20 am I respond to a frantic txt/phone call. Can Davor park in front of your place? Yes. I respond about 8 minutes later.

6:31 am I ride the one block to Ritual Roasters expecting that I am the last one to arrive. I see Sashimi and he says that Teddy is inside getting coffee. Well…ok…I head back to my place to wait for Davor. We decide that we should start at my place.

6:33 am I spot Davor awkwardly parking his BMW to the side. My phone is ringing—knowing it is him, I pull right in front of his car waving at him. Perpendicular! I say and gesture to completely block my driveway.

6:40 am I see a few others and wave at them to stop at my place. I hop around, half-wondering what I got myself in to. Someone mentions that it will be hot as he looks at the cloudless horizon. I decide to drop off my jacket and eat part of my banana nut bread. Francis buys breakfast at the gas station a block away.

6:58 am Sashimi and others come by… I complain that we are probably waking up my roommates – knowing how voices echo through the windows in my building. And then we’re off…

This is the part that I love about biking.

I pedal and pedal. I move forward. And suddenly I am moving, rolling forward suddenly at a speed unknown while walking. At some point, I am floating, taking in the overhead sun, the broken pavement, and the urban jungle.

I am fearless.

Tomorrow, I decided after weeks…and impulsively that I will take on this challenge. More than 45 miles from San Francisco to Sunnyvale (my weekly visit to the webOS headquarters) on a bike.

And as someone commented today, “I have learned that I should never underestimate you.”