Musings and Personal

It’s all Uphill from Here

February 12, 2015

I raced around the hotel with manic jitters the first day of the San Francisco Writers Conference.  Honestly, I wasn’t nervous about the conference itself (yet).  My misgivings centered around navigating the BART (Bay Area Regional Transit).  Directionally-challenged and anxiety-prone when traveling unfamiliar roads alone, adrenaline coursed through my veins.

Problem #1:  I was not coordinated enough to slip the ticket in the BART machine and pull it out at the same time I walked through the briefly open barrier.  (See Pitching Forward in A Pitch to read how this seemingly easy movement is a challenge for me.)

Problem #2:  I was going to walk the half mile to the Mark Hopkins Hotel.  I had been there only once prior, and my husband drove.

  • I reserved a shuttle to the BART station and got there in plenty of time.  Success #1.
  • I found the ticket area and paid.  Success #2.
  • I didn’t make it through the turnstile and had to ask the attendant for a wave through the handicap pass.  Fail #1.
  • With the help of a girl 15 years younger, I found the correct BART line to take into the city.  Success #3.
  • Note:  This young woman was a 21st century version of myself.  She wore ear buds and read an article on her phone.  Her backpack was slung casually over her shoulders and she wore a hip San Francisco outfit.  She had a piercing hanging from her lip.  (Mine was a more modest belly button.)
  • I accessed the GPS on my phone before I left the station.  Success #4.
  • I followed the cheerful GPS voice.  Success #5.
    • Note:  My internal navigation system is so horrible I even get lost with GPS.  My phone routinely tells me “proceed to the route.” I swear her calm computer voice has a tinge of frustration at times.

If only I had known this whole time that the uncertainty I focused on was nothing compared to what lay ahead.  I knew the Mark Hopkins was at the top of a hill but I had NO idea how much of an understatement that was!

  • The first block had a gradual incline.  My heart pounded but I made it up and through the traffic light without pause.
  • The next block was significantly steeper.  I slowed down a bit.  My breath became more labored as I felt the effects of the incline.  I hoped the approaching traffic light was red.  I needed to catch my breath but didn’t want to look like the out-of-shape mother I am.  No such luck.
  • Next block and I swore I was walking vertical.  I decided to stop at the next traffic light even if it wasn’t red.  I desperately needed to catch my breath, which escaped from my open lips at an alarming rate.  I lucked out – the light was red.
  • I continued when the light turned green.  The incline of the sidewalk seemed even steeper and I wondered how that was possible.  In slow motion I pulled myself upward and onward, passed on the left by San Francisco natives.  (Ever notice there are no obese people in San Francisco?)  I was sluggish and afraid my legs would give out.  I stopped in the middle of the block.  I didn’t care if everyone thought I was pathetic. Sweat trickled down my back.  I repeatedly thanked God for the deodorant in my bag. I forced myself to begin again.
  • At the next block I got excited.  I could not see any more hills!  Did this block end at the Mark Hopkins?!  Am I almost there?!!  It looked like a hotel building on the right side where the road leveled off.  I got a second wind and picked up my pace.  I eagerly anticipated the hotel’s air conditioning.  I approached the stoplight and saw I was woefully wrong.  It was an illusion because of the sidewalk’s nearly ladder-like position.  Depressed, I leaned against the nearest building.  I rested through two red lights then begrudgingly went on.
  • Perhaps this one was the last.  Nope.  The hills of San Francisco mocked me and I wanted to give them the middle finger.  This time I stopped two times on my trek to the top.  I prayed my pacemaker battery would hold out until I reached the hotel and collapsed.
  • I started the next block.  I could not look up anymore.  I focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  I approached the top and looked up.  I saw a small set of stairs with a railing.  Could this be?  No, I won’t get my hopes up… YES, YES IT WAS THE HOTEL!

I quickly slipped into the hotel’s restroom.  I went into a stall and freshened my pits.

Praise God, I made it!

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