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!