48hrs in San Francisco

Thursday 4:30am, wake up. Shower. Dress. Feed cat. Prepare for shuttle service, scheduled for pick-up between 4:50 and 5:10. Lock front door. Walk out to curb. Wait for shuttle.

5:15am, answer phone. Shuttle driver hoping to arrive in 10mins. Wait some more. Six vehicles pass.

5:25am, see shuttle turn the wrong way down my street. Sigh. Watch as shuttle proceeds down two blocks. Answer phone. “I can see your van. I’m across from the Publix two blocks west of you.” Shuttle stops in middle of street to load my bag and my sleepy self. Driver awkwardly attempts to open door for me. Door locked. Driver walks hurriedly back around to unlock. I help myself into the van. Drive to airport, not a direct route. Sigh again.

6:50am, flight departs TPA. Sleep.

8:30ish, land in Charlotte. Change planes. Board plane to SFO. Pilot claims 30-45min early arrival. Bonus. Meditate 3hrs. OM. Take out laptop, do some minor repairs to an app, while neighbor snores loudly. Land early. Meet Tom, ride to hotel. Thank Tom.

3:30ish, check into hotel. Shower. Dress. California club for lunch. Delicious. Remark to bartender that a beer would be great, but probably not a good idea for an interview.

4:20pm, cab to interview. Cab driver is a musician. Tells me about his endeavors training an 18yr old singer with “magnificent pipes.”

4:30pm, interview begins. Programming puzzles. Problem solving exercises. Design pattern discussion. Best practices. Pitfalls. Best and worst parts of working with iOS. Smart people. Great synergy.

9:30pm, interview ends. Drive to restaurant. Town Hall. First things first. Imperial IPA. Delicious. Conversation about location services. Demo app I built last month. More synergy. Best prosciutto I’ve ever had. Flounder étouffé. Biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen. Okra looks curiously like jalapeño. Excellent flavor. Almost spicy enough. Bill delivered in old book. Nice touch.

11:30pm, dinner ends. Goodbye to potential co-workers. Txt ex-wife to express lack of time or bandwidth for video chat with son. Sigh. Walk five blocks to hotel. Street smells of urine. Surprisingly chilly. Walk faster.

12am, arrive at hotel. Meeting with venture partner over bourbon. Still no investors. Bummer. New prospects for funding. I’ll believe it when I see it.

1am, drunk. Tweet about long fucking day. Feel like rock star. Search for code example. Send email to interviewer. “Thanks for an awesome day. Here’s that code I mentioned.” Gratitude. Sleep.

Friday 8am, wake. Back to sleep. Fucked up dreams. Spiked bat across the face.

8:30am, wake again. Shower. Relax. Wait for friends to wake. Twitter. Email. More twitter. More minor updates to app.

10:15am, friends awake. Negotiate breakfast venue. Wait. Confirm breakfast spot. Dottie’s True Blue Café. Rejoice.

11:30am, check out of hotel. Walk toward Dottie’s. Street smells of worse things than urine, but indeterminate. Consider taking up cigarettes to kill sense of smell.

11:45am, arrive at café. Line out the door. Twenty people at least. Report to friends. Consider alternative venue. Bill is still 30mins out. Get in line. Line moves quickly. Agree to stick with Dottie’s.

11:55am, Tom arrives. Bullshit about sights and smells of the Tenderloin. Tom remarks that folks in line are upwardly mobile, yet passersby are ancient hippies and unsavory types. Common for the Tenderloin. Line moves.

12:10pm, front of line. Host says “all parties must be present to seat you.” We counter “we’ll order for him.” 4-top at the back. Lovely artwork on the walls. Surly waitress. “Can we substitute pancake for toast?” “NO.” Chuckle. Tea, Earl Gray, Hot. Tom remarks “tastes like dishwater.” Order. Three egg omelette with jack cheddar and andouille. Pancakes and bacon for Bill. Omelette with ham and cheddar for Tom.

12:30pm, Bill’s food arrives. Bill arrives seconds later. Surly waitress pours coffee into half full tea cup, narrates her action ironically. Tom says “not a problem. tastes like dishwater anyway.” Omelettes arrive. Delicious. So much cheese. Bill comments “it was cheesy the first time you said it.”

1pm, drive back to interview location. Quick follow-up with Sammy. First time meeting her. She is totally cute. Unexpected parting gift. Toys to play with when I get home. Minor employment application mixup. Ironically, will resolve email snafu via email. “Nice to meet you! We’ll be in touch.” Gratitude.

1:05pm, search for Tom’s car. Notice used condom on street. Obviously been there a while. Chuckle. Flight is delayed. Drive to Tom’s house. Conference call in the car. Tom handles it like a pro.

2ish, fix some test code while Tom has conference call. Tom puts out fires, resolves project drama. Build app with new changes. Distribute build to team. Broken. Derp. Txt from Marvin. Build is borked. Rebuild. Redistribute. Win. Notice weird behavior. More test code. Shit. Forgot to check in to flight. Will have shitty seats. Confirmation number doesn’t work.

2:55pm, start to wind down and tidy up. Drive to airport. Thanks Tom!

3:15pm, try to checkin via kiosk. Wrong information. Flight info is weird. Wait for customer service. Surly attendant. Flight delay will cause me to miss connecting flight. Reassigned without telling me about it. Grumble. Instructed to see supervisor. Surly supervisor says “this is the first class line. Talk to that guy.” Less surly supervisor says “no flights available.” Rerouted through Phoenix. First class upgrade for that leg. Win. Red eye from Phoenix to Tampa. Lose. Net neutral. Tweet about it.

3:45pm, wait. Send update to friend who is picking me up in Tampa. “Arriving 6:15am tomorrow”

4pm, people watching. Hilarious twitter conversations. Even funnier IM conversations. These are definitely going in my coffee table book of hilarious IM threads. Happy. Unexpected delay is opportunity to relax and write this post.

4:54pm, find random banana in a bamboo planter next to my seat. Tweet about it.

5pm, cute chick with limp and cane sits next to me. Adjusts ankle braces. Waves cane at red cap. Threatens to make a scene. I half-jokingly advise her not to make a scene in an airport. Red caps see to her needs.

5:03pm, cute chick rides past me in wheelchair, pushed by red cap, says to me “don’t be jealous.” Winks. Nice touch. More people watching. More writing. Smile at pretty girls who walk past me. Some smile back.

7:41pm, kids playing next to me on the bench. Older sister pulls younger brother off seat by his legs, both giggling. Adorable.

7:54pm, random laughter of passersby makes me happy. So many cute girls in this town!

8pm, yawn. Already starting to feel tired, but still hours to go

8:20pm, Japanese business men sit next to me. They laugh. Wish my Japanese was better. I don’t get the joke.

9pm, a group of French travelers adjusting the contents of their bags, apologizes in English for putting bags next to me. I reply in French, and we bond briefly as I explain that I speak very little French and haven’t spoken it in 10yrs. Inspired to practice more.

11:30pm, board flight. First time flying first class. Constant supply of scotch. Short flight to Phoenix. Chat with 60-something microwave sat com engineer who built a few startups. We bond. I hope he writes a book about his experience. Unexpected synchronicity. Drink more scotch.

1:50am, board flight to Tampa. Full flight. Not much rest, despite the scotch.

Saturday 6:35am, land in Tampa. Txt Marvin.

6:50am, my chariot arrives. Exhausted. Delirious smalltalk. Marvin has a wicked hangover, but weathered it to pick me up. He’s a saint. Supreme gratitude.

7:00am, finally home. Say hi to Oscar. Bed. Oscar paws at my face. He’s happy to see me. Stellar trip, but let’s make it a while before I do this again. And no more red eyes.

Suspending Civil Liberty

There was a time in my life when i would have been excited about being felt up by a random stranger in an airport. Of course, the context of my fantasy involved a cute international 20-something and a mutual understanding. When that very thing really happened this afternoon, it was anything but consensual and nothing like the experience i had imagined. I was given the opportunity to be escorted to a less public place, but i declined and stated that i would rather show the rest of the travelers what they could expect if they exercised their civil liberties. As i stood at the exit of the airport security checkpoint, other travelers passed by and watched a surprisingly pleasant agent gently pat me down. The most remarkable aspect of the experience was the striking similarity between the pat-down procedure to which i was subjected and that used in law enforcement. I struggle to see what probable cause any air travel passenger might ever exhibit that would substantiate this level of scrutiny, short of maybe wearing a T-shirt that says “in all seriousness, i plan to do you harm.”

I’m pretty sure i brought the experience on myself. I wasn’t paying attention when i was walking through security, and i found myself looking for the shortest line, not the shortest line that fed into a non-invasive scanner. As a result, by the time i realized that my lane was feeding directly into the Porn-O-Matic, it was already too late to shift to a different lane. There was a brief moment when i thought i might have an opportunity to choose the metal detector, say if the scanner was occupied, but when the moment of truth came, the path was clear and only one choice presented itself – my naked ass recorded for all time in striking clarity (along with potentially harmful radiation) or a police-style pat down.

What i find most ridiculous about this security measure is the simple fact that they don’t have enough scanners yet. Since they do have enough metal detectors, they are funneling people through both devices arbitrarily based on the layout of the queues feeding the scanning stations. That means any possible benefit there might be involved with the new scanner technology is mitigated by the logistics of pushing a lot of people through a bottleneck. It is possible they hope to do something like random screenings, but based on the layout I saw, it looks like they are hoping to funnel everyone through the scanner eventually. Until then, they are offering no better odds of improving security than random chance. I would prefer that my tax money be spent on a system that produces measurable results with clear advantages over existing solutions and no harmful side-effects or not spent at all.

Also, given the fact that this technology uses X-Ray radiation, I’m naturally skeptical of the claims that the device is harmless. Cumulative effects of long-term exposure to X-Ray radiation are still largely unknown, and I am not interested in finding out those effects if there is an alternative. It seems obvious to me that not being exposed is the best way to prevent ill effects. It also seems obvious that this security measure is doing nothing to reduce risk and only serves to add to the stress of traveling.