After a whole day of really big, impressive things yesterday, I had the sneaking feeling today was going to be a big of an anticlimax. In fact, I was tempted to spend the day doing absolutely nothing except maybe having a go in the pool. (This hotel has an outdoor pool! The last time I was in a hotel with an outdoor pool, it was a twenty-euro roachpit in Granada. The pool was on the roof; lighting, railings and water pump were not. I did not use the pool, because I wanted to live. So I was deadly excited to find out this place had a ‘Outdoor heated pool! Dive in at any time of year and enjoy our heated water! Notheatedinwintermonths.’ )
As a slight aside: over Christmas, I read an interesting article on cracked.com, which was all about how to build healthy habits rather than unhealthy ones. (This tells you two things: firstly, that I consider cracked to be a reliable source of information; secondly, that for all my ‘oh woe is me I do not have enough TIME’, I can still be found ambling around the internet when I should be doing something productive. Not a healthy habit. Ironic, isn’t it?) Anyway, said article was on about how habit-forming works: habits can come from anything that your brain decides you deserve a neurochemical ‘reward’, or happy feeling for. Sadly, the dose must be upped over time because your brain gets used to it and starts treating this as a base level. Thus, if life is always peachy, you will become jaded – you need things to plan and look forward to (such as your next fix). Also, anything that gives you a guaranteed success is far less effective at producing a neurochemical reward, which is why gambling is addictive. Thus, life is rather like a story: you, the hero, must sometimes be in at least mild peril – of not having your frock dry before the big party, perhaps, which is a nice, sedate level of peril – and there must be genuine doubt as to the outcome, building reader tension. Then, if your frock is dry, you get a neurochemical reward, go merrily out to party and end up in a ding-dong fight with your best mate, who is wearing the same frock. Or something.
Apparently, the trick is to find healthy habits that fulfil all this: for instance, gardening. This may not sound as interesting as the Trainspotting lifestyle, but consider! – you lay your plans, you acquire your seeds, you agonise about the weather, you plant your seeds, you agonise about the slugs, the seeds sprout, you agonise some more, you curse the weeds, and at the end you may or may not have something you can take home and eat (in my case: not). Then you curse gardening and swear off it forever, tarp over your allotment for the winter, and immediately start planning how it will All Be Different Next Year.
Which is the world’s longest way of saying: if the rest of this holiday is as utterly awesome and trauma-free as yesterday, however will I manage to keep paying attention? This is why I debated having a day of just slobbing around the hotel, squandering my good fortune as only the truly blessed can do. Instead, I decided to practice strength of character and go out and find my way to San Francisco alone, dammit. So eight a.m. found me packed and ready to go!
I promptly got bumped off the free hotel shuttle bus to make way for somebody more important, but made it to the train station on only my second attempt. All day-ticketed up, I nearly got on the wrong train, sprang back off again, and only made it to my train because it was delayed by two minutes (you have to cross the tracks to get to the other platform – I am not used to this level of mild peril). To my dismay, it was nearly one p.m. by this time, and I had made it a grand total of two whole miles, but I was sure the day could still be saved.
My train immediately broke down at station right upstream of my one, so after streams of automated promises that they were going to look into maybe finding a working train any minute now, at two in the afternoon I gave up and stomped back to the hotel in an extremely foul mood. With no refund, because there were no actual staff at the station at all. Caltrain, you are the Scotrail of the Americas.
The Bossman apologised profusely by text for my problems, despite having been responsible for precisely none of them, and I feared he feared I would still be in a tearing bad mood when he got back to work. This would not be a great way to start the holiday. It was time to shape up! Really fast stomping in the scorching February heat should sort that right out!
Surprisingly, it actually worked. Well, I was under cloudless blue skies, surrounded by trees groaning with citrus fruit and colourful flowers; plus, I felt I was finally Taking Matters Into My Own Hands (having found a route that has pedestrian access for the entire distance, on the tomorrow, I will be walking to the train station, hell yes, I do not trust the hotel shuttle at all). I even found a supermarket and picked up some beers for me and the Bossman, and went out for a swim in the (not heated in winter) outdoor pool. Which was extremely warm (or I was). I haven’t swum for years; it is very hard to keep up an extremely foul mood while also exhausted.
So that all ended well, for a day that went utterly down the pan, and the Bossman came back and took me out to the Mall, where we wandered around wondering what the hell we were doing at a Mall, and then went out for gigantic portions of cheesecake.
On the drive home, we passed an advert for the Winchester Mystery House. ‘That’s that thing again!’ I said, ‘it’s a sign! [or billboard, even]. I must check out where it actually is!’
I could not believe it, the Winchester Mystery House is round the corner from where we ate on Saturday night. Literally round the corner. It was only a few hundred feet from where we had cheesecakes tonight! So I have twice been within a stone’s throw of it!
I have a new mission for tomorrow.