Okay, so technically we did park up within the city limits on Sunday, but for only about as long as it takes for people to find a loo, so I’m not sure it counted. Anyway, I didn’t do it All On My Own, using only my wits and credit card* to survive, which was my plan for today! So off I set. Bright and early, in the Women’s Military Issue Combat boots, with seven sticking plasters on each foot to help prevent further carnage. And a change of footwear, and a posh frock for going out for dinner, and a kilo of water and a camera bigger than all of the above. It was going to be a long day. My plans for it involved trying the cable-cars (which I was under the impression were going to be the sort of cable-cars you get in Europe – barns hanging from string, hundreds of feet in the air above spiky mountainsides – and was seriously impressed by the website saying people hang off the sides of them) and going down to the docks for some clam chowder and seeing museums and Chinatown and anything else that happened to be in the vicinity.
*(This is not a long-term survival option, as you will discover when you return home).
However, it swept off quite swiftly to start with! There actually was a train to town, today, and I was on it by the skin of my teeth. By ten o’clock, I had a city pass in my grubby mitts, by half past ten I had got the best seat on a cable-car and had the life terrified out of me as it inched slowly up and down hills, wheels firmly on the ground, while skyscapers wreathed in mist rose all around me. Nine miles an hour can really seem far too fast, who knew? By half past ten I was at the docks, whoops, Wharves, which were also wreathed in mist, so I went to the aquarium and strolled through a tunnel of sharks and stroked a sting-ray. When I emerged, the mist had gone, leaving a bright and glowing day in its absence, Alcatraz squatting in the middle of it like an underdone bannock. I took lots of photos of it (and indeed, of everything else, having never learned from that fact that I have finished processing no holiday photos ever).
I was just turning away, hand-rolled cigarette clamped between my lips, when I saw something vast and black heave itself out of the bay. Cthulhu! I thought, freezing in horror.
Holyfuckingshit, actual real wild dolphins! I was back at the rail, looking a bit like an octopus myself as I juggled the camera and the rollie and the lighter and the phone to text the Bossman and tell him I was looking at dolphins. (Though, true to form for out-fantabulising anything I do, it turns out the Bossman kayaks with dolphins, so was all, Meh). There was not even another soul within shouting distance so I could yell, Holyfuckingshit, dolphins!
(Probably just as well, everyone here seems very polite. The cars go out of their way not to run you over when you’re on pedestrian crossings, for instance.) So now I have a genuine photo of a dolphin fin, if you zoom in about six million percent and don’t mind the pixellation.
That was something I had not expected at all, having done very little background reading for this Trip Of A Lifetime! (in my defence, I had to get up-to-date at work and make some shelves so I didn’t come home to a half-finished pit) Buoyed up by triumph, I strode mightily into the nearest restaurant for clam chowder and breakfast beer; and with discernment like mine, this is how I came to have the dodgiest stomach on earth all night long. But at the time I did not know this, for I was overjoyed to discover that, in America, they have discovered how to serve soup In A Bun. I believe there is now no food item that cannot be served in a bun.
During all this, I got a text from the Bossman informing me of the plan for tonight. I have to go to a different city (erk, I have only barely started finding my way round this city)! But it is one stop on the train from the city where the hotel is (yay). And here are some train code numbers for the ones I should get (erk). And my battery is about to die (eek!) So I texted back in a great hurry, saying my phone was dying and could he let me know when I was supposed to be turning up, dived onto a cable-car and nearly got lost in Chinatown. But I found the train station again, only I could not find these code numbers for the trains at all.
I staked out a dive bar round the corner, and had a pint of American beer all on my own, so that was at least a Thing off my List of Things To Do In America (that are quite easy and not very scary, touchwood). And when I turned the phone back on, all I had from the Bossman was a text pulling me up for my crappy spelling. (For lo, every time I upgrade to a new phone, I am less and less able to make the damn thing work). And words may have been exchanged (and by ‘may’ I mean, ‘were’ and by ‘exchanged’, I mean, ‘I sent some snippy comments that I later regretted, but they were spelled impeccably, dammit‘. And took my phone charge down from ‘low’ to ‘dangerously low’, because that’s how long it takes me to spell on this phone.)
In lieu of receiving any further clarifications, I went on a bus to the Conservatory of Flowers, as I had a couple of hours to spare and didn’t want to go too far or do something too fun in case I screwed up. Completely ignoring the fact that I had just screwed up. And I had lots of fun after all, running around trying to take really sharp photos of weird flowers I don’t know the names of. (Look, it was cheap entertainment, okay?)
And then I went for a really early train back, just to be on the safe side. Ha, what a topical use of that word – on my way back to the train station, I discovered that not all streets here have pedestrian crossing bits. Much like Dublin, really, so I should be used to it – but in this case, the pedestrian crossing got one halfway across a road, and then petered out – and this road was the on-ramp to the freeway; and at least in Dublin, there is no chance of traffic ever getting up to any speed at all. I fudged it as best I could – waited until all seemed clear and a guy was crossing in the other direction – but as I reached the centre of the road, this enormous black car suddenly came barrelling towards me. I realised I would have to move quickly if I wanted to live, tensed for a mighty spring forward, bust the heel out of my Women’s Issue Military Combat Boots (pah) and pulled all the muscles up the back of my calf. Great. Now in great pain, and still in the path of Certain Doom, I managed to hobble for my life to the safety of the pavement, where I collapsed in a writhing heap and attempted to look nonchalant about it.
Well, that made the rest of the walk to the train far more interesting. However, I made it just before the rush-hour crowds – most of whom, I noted from the top deck of the double-decker train, woo! – were carrying scooters and all of whom looked thoroughly pissed off, so I guess living in paradise doesn’t solve the ‘having a shit job’ thing. I myself was quite ecstatic, still being alive and everything. I watched the sun set over the city, arrived in the dark and staked out the Savvy Cellar wine bar that I had seen on the platform on my way in, oh happy happenstance, and used the last of my phone charge to tell the Bossman where I was, for it was a large and very dark platform with two sides to it, like football. And the wine bar was ferociously expensive. And I suddenly got a text back, saying the Bossman was outside, and probably had been for a number of minutes, for my phone can be very quiet when it wants, so I downed the most expensive glass of wine I have ever had in one fell gulp and ran out. For by this time I realised I was probably not very popular and had some proper atoning to do.
It transpires that the Bossman came in through the front door probably at the exact moment I was dashing out the back door. (This sort of thing is terribly common in badly-scripted comedies; far less so in real life, which gives me the nagging suspicion I am merely some sort of Mary Sue for a very bad writer somewhere in a higher universe. I mean good writer! Great! Don’t kill me off, I beg you!)
Anyway, we met up in the end – now with matching His’n’her limps, god, the shame – and it did turn out that the code numbers he sent me were train times, only done in non-24 hr format and without any punctuation, viz: 556 and 614. Which to me look much like 394 and 812, for instance, which are written at the top of the timetables. And there was much apologising, all of it by me. Although I did attempt to stand my ground by asking him to picture it from my point of view – ‘here I am, right, in a Strange city, for the first time, phone charge nearly dead, and I ask you for times and all I get is upbraided on my spelling, meanwhile you’re near a phone charger and have the leisure to punctuate-‘ but this was met with – ‘here I am, right, working like a dog, meanwhile the woman who is on a holiday I am paying for‘-
Okay, so today displayed only some of the many ways in which I can be a total moron, but at least I know when to fold em.
Mercifully, we had to stop arguing and look all happy and couply because we were off to dinner with the Bossman’s friends/colleagues who were very happy and couply for having been together five years, and it doesn’t do to turn up mid-feud and be all, ‘Hi, our six-month anniversary was just last week’. And all ended well (or at least, I think it did), despite little mishaps like, the oysters. And the dodgy stomach from Hell. And the way I managed, for the first time in my life, to order beer by accident.