Getting a ticket for The Apple “World Wide Developer Conference” (WWDC) this year was a dream come true for me. It is a lottery now whether you get to attend or not and when I got the email telling me I’d been successful, I was over the moon. Then I looked at the date I’d have to fly and something was bugging my mind about it; I was sure there was something I was supposed to be doing around then. Then it struck me; that was the day after my brother’s wedding. Damn, I’d have to cancel it, wouldn’t I? Wouldn’t I?
Nope, I decided to buy the ticket and try to sort out some way of managing to attend both events.
All it meant really was that I’d have to forsake drinking at the wedding, to make sure could drive home the same night and was up early enough on the Sunday to make it to the airport on time, without a hangover.
Another complication was that I’d been delegated in the last week to do a speech in place of my nephew, who wasn’t going to manage it. Surely it would be impossible to pull it off without drinking to muster some Dutch courage?
Now, I’m hopeless at telling jokes, so I heeded some advice I was given a few years back and wrote a poem instead of a speech with one liners. Poems (if you write them properly) give you a rhythm built in, so the humorous lines should benefit from the timing.
Anyway, the big day came and my two children and I attended what turned out to be a great wedding. I spent the day sober. My speech went okay, even though both my hands and voice were shaking uncontrollably. It was over in a flash, such a quick flash that I felt sure I’d rushed it somewhat. My brother said he liked what I said though, so that’s all that really matters I suppose.
After depositing my children at my Ma’s for the night, where they were to be picked up the next day by my ex-wife, I headed back home for a fitful sleep before tackling my big journey the next morning.
I managed to get up on time, have some breakfast, make sure I’d remembered everything before throwing my bags in the van and heading to the airport. As I drove I remember thinking to myself that for once everything was happening with a smoothness unheralded for me. I found the long stay car park, got a decent space then went over to catch the courtesy bus which took you to the main airport terminal in three minutes. I sat in my seat, enjoying the sunshine flooding into the bus contemplating what I’d do once at the airport (coffee? leisurely perusal of the shops in Departures?) when it struck me: My passport was still sitting on my desk in Newburgh. Panic lunged a prickly dagger into my chest and I jumped up, grabbed my case and bag and went to ask the driver to stop the bus so I could walk back to the car park. The driver, thankfully, was a sympathetic man and because I was the only one on the bus he turned it round and drove me back to the car park. Nice bloke.
I ran back to my van and after throwing my bags into the back, realised I’d have to put the ticket through the machine before it would let me out at the turnstile. I ran over, stuffed the thin cardboard into the slot only to be advised that I’d have twenty five pounds to pay.
I think I can conclude that my heart isn’t in any danger of cardiac arrest. If it was, surely that morning was the day when it would rear its ugly head and I’d now be a dead guy. In a long stay car park at Aberdeen airport.
I pushed the intercom on the ticket machine and waited with extreme impatience as the purring of the ringtone reached my ears, for what felt like a few really long minutes but was probably only seconds. Would they have somebody there to answer queries at half past nine on a Sunday morning? A click told me that they did and after explaining my situation I was told just to go to the turnstile, put the ticket in then ring again and they’d let me through. I duly did so before embarking on a breakneck journey back to my house, one eye constantly on the clock checking to see if I was going to manage it.
I got back home in twenty minutes, parking with abandon then rushing into the house where I grabbed my passport, sitting exactly where it should be, thank goodness, before jumping back into the van and haring it back to the airport.
I made it back with ten minutes to spare until my flight left. Five minutes into the return journey I realised I’d also forgotten the new Beats headphones I’d bought a few weeks earlier especially for the journey, so I decided to go to an airport shop and buy a second (slightly cheaper) pair before going to the gate.
I made it, with minutes to spare.
The flight was uneventful, I found Terminal 5 at Heathrow with little difficulty, got coffee and a fancy bacon sandwich and managed to Facetime my children before boarding the international flight.
Ten hours later I arrived at San Francisco airport to join, in what would become a recurring theme for the week, the line, this one being for customs. I’ve sweated these things before, admittedly before nine eleven happened, but found the customs at US airports to be particularly awkward. They used to question you to the point where you were thinking that the only place you’d be travelling to would be straight back home, before waving you on, with nonchalance, signalling their next victim up behind you. That was 2001 however and this was an altogether more “technical” experience. I was asked one question before being told to put my hand on the green-lit glass for a finger and thumb scan for the biometrics. Before I knew it, I was free to roam the USA. I still had to get from the airport to register at the conference when all I wanted to roam was the route to my hotel and bed, however.
There are a number of modes of transport in San Francisco. There’s the Muni, a bus service, a couple of mini-bus services (shuttles), taxis, of course and BART, which is a kind of underground/overground train. I decided to take the BART.
After about ten minutes of study, I vaguely started to understand how the system worked. If I’d been more used to underground systems I’d have probably got it quicker, but I stuck ten dollars into the machine, got my ticket, jumped on the first train that came and, armed with a free map of the city and a BART booklet showing the stations, the BART took me “Downtown”.
I got off at a station I thought looked near both my hotel and the Moscone Center, where the event was to be held. Unfortunately when I emerged into the daylight I found myself completely disequilibreated. I headed in the direction I thought I had to go, but was full of doubt that I was going the right way. I put it down to tiredness and the jetlag. After walking a bit, I stopped to have a look at the map again. A man came over and asked me where I was trying to find, which I duly told him. He then gave me good directions as to where I should be, for which I was grateful.
“That must be worth a couple of bucks, then,” he said, as I made to resume my walk.
I panicked a bit at that, thoughts of my getting robbed if I showed him any money I had, so I mumbled a bit about “not changing money yet” and pulled the few quarters and dimes I got in my change from the BART ticket and dropping it into his hand. He walked away muttering to himself, looking at the shrapnel he’d received.
The man’s directions were spot on, however and I soon found myself outside Moscone Center West, where I could register. Alas the place had closed for the day half an hour before I arrived, so I then had to try and find my hotel.
Another thing that should have happened but didn’t before I left was the arrival of my US travel adaptors which I’d ordered from Amazon. Therefore I had both my phone and iPad on “Airplane” mode to conserve battery life. This meant that I was scared to use the maps app to find my way to the hotel, so I just did it using the manual map instead. Another half an hour, another series of wrong turnings later and I was there. My booking was confirmed, I got my keycard for room 505 at Hotel Vintage Court so I went up and threw myself onto the bed for a few hours of welcome rest. Tired but excited, I was eager to see what my first full day in San Francisco would bring. Hopefully not too many more disasters.