Today, I was still in great pain from a leg I managed to wreck without actually being hit by a car at all, go figure! I was also raging at my crappy knock-off ‘military’ boots, which are falling apart a mere twenty miles after purchase. I wore them again anyway, for I planned to do very little walking today, and also the hiking boots are still stronger in the Force than I am. Besides, with luck, a limp and bust-out heels, nobody will try and strike up conversation with me. Right?
Once in San Francisco, I promptly fell asleep on the number five bus and ended up at Ocean Beach. While limping over the road to see where the return bus left from, an old black man who also had a limp, but he had crutches to go with it, started a conversation with me. And I do mean, while we were crossing the road. He told me he likes to come to the beach, watch the water and feed the seagulls and chill out, and seemed friendly and nice; but he instantly attracted such a storm of seagulls that I had to flee the area. And not at my usual warp speed, either.
But it was a lovely sunny day, and the waves were the biggest waves I have ever seen (and the ‘DANGER OF DEATH’ signs, they were the biggest too). I thought I would wander up the hill a bit, towards what must surely be the Cliff House, and have a look at the view (and also, for a loo, for it was now two hours since I had found one). It was very pretty there, and I wasted much time taking bad photos of the waves.
Alas, one bit of wandering led to another, and before I knew it I was on the Coastal Trail through Lincoln Park, which was very picturesque. Sadly, it involved me being stuck on the side of a cliff above the breakers, on a path of unknown length and utterly alone except for the signs (‘PEOPLE HAVE DIED HERE, YOU KNOW’ and ‘LOOK OUT! LANDSLIDES!’ and so forth) and the occasional jogger who would leap out whenever I wondered if I could get away with ducking behind a bush for thirty seconds. I wondered how long it would be before I lacked the strength not to stagger up to a complete stranger, grasp their lapels and demand to know how long it was since they passed a bog, whoops, ‘rest-room’. I was dying of heat – in February – but did not dare stop to take off my hoodie or apply suncream; and I was dying of thirst but did not dare to even think about unstoppering any of the legion of water bottles in my backpack.
This all sounds very intrepid, doesn’t it? It went on for probably about an hour, too. But finally I made it back to paved areas and limped through the sweltering mid-day sun, up and down hill after swooping vista-crowned hill, to a small bagel-selling place and it had loos and I could put on suncream and drink water and all was well. Except my leg, which was killing me.
Next stop, the Golden Gate Park, which is where I originally intended to end up in the first place, several hours ago. And where there will be Sitting Down, by god!
Well, if I wasn’t so terrified of being the sort of idiot who sits down in poison ivy. And I wasn’t making very good time at all – could barely manage the pensioner shuffle, in fact. Growing old is going to suck; I am far too used to being able to tell my legs to power along and they do. Still, it was all very pretty, and I got to see it all in slow motion, too. Eventually, I reached my goal and shuffled into the de Youngs museum, for which I had a free pass – and fifteen minutes later, I shuffled out, for they made me carry the rucksack of military proportions in my hand, and I nearly toppled over into something fearsomely expensive.
Fortunately, the California Academy of Sciences was only across the park from it, and I had a free pass for that, too. So it was that for the second time in two days I shuffled round an aquarium, taking blurry pictures of all the same fish I always take pictures of in aquariums on holiday (and never, ever process). However! There was also a rainforest experience – a big plastic dome that you walked up the inside of, in a spiral, and got a lift back down to the aquarium again. It sounded about my speed. And it was full of a veritable rainbow of lolling, flopping butterflies, big and beautiful and everywhere – in your hair, in your face, on your camera… anywhere but posing photogenically, in fact. Indeed, at the lift, there was a guy with a net telling everyone to check their backs, and each other, for Nuisance Butterflies. Wow; most places, they only have this plastic curtain cut into strips to keep them in.
But at the bottom of the lift, there was another man, and more mirrors, and he was very insistent that we all had to check ourselves and each other all over again, or he would not cycle the airlock and let us out. What the hell? Do these butterflies have rabies or something? Do they have some power so great that if only one gets out, the city is doomed? This guy was so serious (and shouty) about it that I expected to walk out of the airlock into a rank of riot-police, primed to drag off anyone who looked a bit off-colour.
My love of science had waned on me by this point, so I started limping for the exit. Once outside, it became apparent that I was not going to make it very far.
And here a miracle occurred – my phone started ringing. Once I had realised that noise was coming from my bag, I dragged it out, and saw that the Bossman was calling me. Shit. Yesterday went tits up because of mere texts; what crisis could have inspired an actual money-guzzling phonecall?
‘I have finished up in the office and am driving to meet you,’ said the Bossman. ‘I shall find you using the power of stalking and GPS, text me your location and don’t move from it.’
I very rarely spend an hour sitting still without being thoroughly bored, but this was an emergency. I collapsed on the grass, poison ivy be damned, and remained motionless until help arrived. Not only did help arrive, but help drove me back to Ocean Beach for the sunset, then on to the Wharves, where we eschewed the clam chowder and went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which was my first time ever visit to, so help bought me a mojito, even though he was driving (awww). And then drove me back to the hotel. And thus, I did not die today either. Hurrah!