Step – ouch! – Step – ouch! – Step – ouch!
Lisa asks me why I’m limping during our five mile walk around GORGEOUS San Francisco in July (and for anyone wondering, not a wing-nut in sight!). I tell her my ankle’s hurting a little bit and I think I just need to ‘walk it off’.
We’re up here for the American Library Association annual conference (AKA ALA FYI). It’s a HUGE conference – 20 to 30 THOUSAND people attend each year. It’s so big that there’s only a handful of convention centers that can accommodate it. Luckily San Francisco is one of them – much better than say, Blithe; especially in the summer.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Thirty thousand pairs of sensible shoes and pince-nez.
But we are not really like that – well most of us are not…but obviously someone is a Marion the Librarian.
And I’m sure there are many blogs out there that talk about how unique we are – it’s a hot topic amongst newly-made librarians. But this posting is NOT about that – it’s about ME. So let’s get back to it…
I’m not working in a library at this point (I’m called a ‘non-traditional librarian’ for those not in the know) however, my boss is really in to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone philosophy and public television’s role in civil society. And what a coinkidink – Putnam is the keynote speaker at ALA that year [circa 2000]. So I get to go with my most excellent librarian friend, Lisa. She’d lived in SF and recently moved back to Tucson.
So anyway, we’re walking along the hilly streets of SF and my ankle is killing me but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing. We finally get to the convention center and I sit down, take off my shoe and realize that part of my ankle is the size of a softball. Crap.
I get myself to the first aide ‘tent’ and the nurse looks at it and informs me that it’s swollen. Really? I’d not noticed. She suggests I get some crutches. I have no crutches with me – it’s not an item I usually pack. So she looks around the tent and comes back with some crutches that look like they were put together during the turn of the previous century. But I take them – she gives me ZERO instruction on how to fit them or use them. I’ve never had crutches before.
Let me describe them: the padding that my hands have to grasp is weirdly sticky, like someone put duct tape on them and pulled it off. The armpit padding is completely revolting – dirty and emitting a distinctive stench of old cheese. I have to sign some paperwork to ‘borrow’ them and she impresses upon me that I have to return them to the tent no later than 5PM. I feel kind of threatened; like she’s going to send some thugs after me at exactly 5:01PM.
I leave the tent having signed away my life to Nurse Helpy Helperton. Within an hour my armpits HURT and I’m really fatigued. Little did I know that the armpit padding is not supposed to be shoved RIGHT INTO YOUR ARMPITS when you walk. When I return them promptly at 5PM, the nurse informs me that I’m not using them correctly and they needed to be shortened. Gosh, thanks for the tip 6 hours later. My pits are very sore.
I hobble out with Lisa to the convention bus and we go back to the Miako in Japan Town. We’re meeting our friends at a restaurant at the TOP of California St. for Chinese food later that evening. Our plan is to get to a drug store, buy some crutches and proceed with the conference. We call around – we cannot find any crutches anywhere for my height of 5’4”….the only ones to be found are for those 4’10” and shorter or 5’10” or taller. I’m screwed. But I don’t want to be a drag so I insist we hoof it from Japan Town to China Town. Sometimes I’m stupid. This would be one of those times.
If you’re not familiar with California St. in SF, it’s pretty much vertical.
Luckily dinner with friends was excellent – we spend a long time there – a LONG TIME. It’s now dark – like 9PM dark. Everyone wants to take public transportation to go clubbing. I am not up for that but I’m kind of terrified of taking a bus by myself back to Japan Town. However, I don’t want to make Lisa (my roommate) miss out on everything and I’m an adult. So I insist on taking the bus back to the hotel by myself even though Lisa is more than willing to come back with me. I say no – I’m an adult.
However, I’m an adult with an underdeveloped hippocampus – you know, the part of the brain that helps with navigation and direction. I never know which way is North. When people tell me that they feel disoriented when they lose their sense of direction – I tell them I feel disoriented when I HAVE a sense of direction. I seriously NEVER remember directions to new places. That’s what Scott is for. Lisa knows this and tells me which stop to get off. My friend Howie then tells me to make sure I get off the bus cross the street, and start walking to my right; walk until I see the first intersection – then make a left and I’ll be able to see the hotel.
So I get on the bus and avoid eye contact so I’m not assaulted by weirdos. I feel really vulnerable at this point. I’m in pain, hobbling, emotionally drained, my armpits are bruised – I’m basically a mess. So I get off the bus – it’s probably close to 10PM. I look around. It is pitch black and the only people I see near me are sleeping on the ground or the bus stop. Panic is starting to well up in my stomach and head. I am completely lost. I look around and NOTHING looks familiar – NOTHING. By this time I am sweating profusely and feel like I have a huge neon sign over my head that is flashing “MUG ME! MUG ME!” Then I close my eyes and I hear Howie’s voice in my head telling me to cross the street and go right. I imagine if there’s a God – he sounds like Howie. I follow those directions in my head and I see the hotel’s sign. I’m pretty much on the verge of a nervous breakdown coupled with relief.
I get to my room – call Scott and completely fall apart. I’m sure he’s wondering if it’s not too late to ditch me for a less dysfunctional soul mate. I’m kidding of course – when push comes to shove – Scott is always there for me. ALWAYS. Just hearing his voice is a balm for my insanity. He coaxes me to take a bath and get some crutches tomorrow.
Lisa and I spend the entire next day not going to the conference and bussing it all over SF for a pair of crutches to fit me. I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone in SF is either a midget or a giant. FINALLY we find some crutches. Lisa is a saint. I’m a sweaty mess. But she takes me to Haight & Ashbury and I fall in love with the biggest music store I’ve ever seen.
That evening in our hotel room – which includes the BEST BATHTUB I’VE EVER SEEN – I decide to take a Vicodin for my ankle and hope that we can actually make it to the conference tomorrow because it’s the last day we’re in SF. So you may be wondering why am I even carrying Vicodin? – Well it’s because I tend to get migraines. Vicodin sometimes doesn’t like me. I feel the same way it about it too.
The next morning we wake up and I feel OK. I get myself ready and notice a slight queasy feeling in my stomach. But I ignore it – determined to make it to something at this conference that my work is paying for me to attend. We get on the conference bus and start heading towards Market Street. Lisa looks at me and notices I’m a little pale and then a little green. I tell her I think I’m going to be sick. When the bus lets everyone off at the convention center Lisa ambles up the bus driver and tells him what’s going on and asks if he’ll drive me back to the hotel. The bus driver looks HORRIFIED and zooms me back to the hotel. You’d think he didn’t want me to puke in his bus.
He is trying to help me off the bus and to the hotel – all I want to do is be left alone so I can continue my internal chant “Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit. Don’t vomit”. But this guy is right in my face not being helpful. Finally I shake him off and take the elevator up to our floor. I swear I just make it into the bathroom 2 seconds before my chanting no longer works. I sleep for about 3 hours; wake up fresh as a daisy…met my friends for lunch and the whole freakin’ conference is over. I have missed EVERYTHING – but I had a GREAT TIME.
And that’s my story.
Oh wait – I lied… a month later, we find out that the Miako has double charged us for the room. We know this because my friend used her debit card to pay and her account was wiped out. That’s a rude surprise. After WEEKS of arguing with the stubborn hotel people, they finally take off the double charge and comped our rooms. We have called and yelled a lot to make this happen. End of story? Nope – 2 months later we get charged AGAIN. Some brainiac in accounting was short on totals, noticed we didn’t get charged and charged us again (without permission to use our credit cards either). Again, my friend’s account was wiped out and again we yelled a lot. Eventually they comped us and tried to give us discounts on the next visit…as if…and I so loved that bathtub.
Ok – that’s my story!