Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Buses, taxis, and witches

Speaking of Eccentric Postdoc, she spent the better part of two years believing that The Doktah and I were witches. Let me explain.

The three of us and The P.I. were attending a conference in San Francisco. Because we flew out the day the conference began, we went straight from the airport to the conference center. At the end of the day, The P.I. headed off to his parents’ house where he was staying for the duration of the conference. Eccentric Postdoc, The Doktah and I, however, had reservations at a local hotel.

I had made these reservations, and, in the interest of saving money, I had tried to find a cheaper hotel than the ones right in the conference center area. Because I didn’t want to be too far away, I called the hotels I was considering to ask them how close they were to the Moscone Center. One place was pretty inexpensive, and the person on the phone told me they were only a ten-minute walk from the conference center. “Great!” I said, and booked a room.

So the three of us picked up our bags from the coat check at the conference and went outside into the dark San Francisco night to try to figure out how to get to the hotel. None of us had ever been to San Francisco before; this combined with our jet lag and fatigue from attending lectures all day made for three rather groggy, confused people. Three groggy, confused people longing to take showers, actually. So The Doktah and I were all for hailing a cab to get us to the hotel. We could figure out a cheaper way to and from in the morning, but at that moment, we just wanted to get there.

Have you ever tried to hail a cab on a Saturday night in front of the Moscone Center just as a conference is ending? It’s not so easy. But we had no idea where the hotel was in relation to the center, and we had no idea what buses might go by the hotel, so we were pretty much stuck trying to hail a cab. The Eccentric Postdoc, however, did not agree.

“We should walk, I think,” she said, in her usual slow style of speech. “There is no taxi.”

“But we don’t know how to get there,” I told her patiently. I knew that English was her second language, and I tried to be patient. “We can’t walk, because we don’t know where the hotel is.”

She nodded, apparently satisfied with this explanation. But thirty seconds later she said, “I think we should just walk.”

I swallowed a sigh of aggravation, and said, “We can’t walk. We don’t know where the hotel is. We have no map.”

“But I think we will not get a taxi,” she persisted. “So I think it is better if we just walk.”

Bear in mind that this was the end of a very long day of plane travel followed by hours of seminars. So it is not unreasonable that I got annoyed pretty quickly. “We cannot walk there,” I explained, very testily. “We have no idea where it is. We don’t even know what direction to walk in. We can’t walk.”


“But I think we should walk,” she began again.

I lost all semblance of patience. “We don’t know where it is!” I shouted. “If you want to walk, fine! We’ll meet you there!”

Fortunately, at this point The Doktah succeeded in finally hailing a cab, and we climbed in gratefully. The cab then took us on a confusing circuitous route through the city, and I began to have suspicions about the “ten minute walk” from the hotel to the Moscone Center. When we got to the hotel, we asked at the front desk if there was a bus, and they gave us a schedule. It turned out that the Moscone Center was not so much a ten-minute walk from the hotel as it was a 45-minute bus ride. But, you know, same difference.

The hotel room was basically fine, although it smelled a bit wonky. But there was a shower and beds, so we were pretty happy with it, all in all. There was also a TV, so The Doktah and I were able to indulge our Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel habits while at the conference. Poor Eccentric Postdoc just had to deal with it. She must have been hugely relieved the one night we stayed out sort of late and she got to shut out the lights and go to slep early.

The Doktah also happened to be reading a book about vampires or something on that particular trip. I think that after seeing us watch Buffy and Angel, which made no sense to her at all because of her struggling English, the book tipped the balance for Eccentric Postdoc. It seems that when we got back home, Eccentric Postdoc told The P.I. that The Doktah and I were witches. I think he just let her continue to think so.

Man, that trip must have been really bad for her.

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