America Day 70 – Gear change

The fog is down in San Francisco, and by the time I’ve got into my hire car the light is almost gone. I’ve got a hybrid which will help with costs considering the large amounts of ground I’ll be covering in this half baked trip up the 1.

The Airbnb is in Daly City. I booked it based on price. Turns out it’s right by a canyon named after Daisaku Ikeda, the President of the society through which I practice secular Buddhism. I take this as a good omen. I’ve been quietly worrying about all the unknowns on this hurried road trip. I’m glad of a positive sign at the start.

I open the door to the airbnb flat and it’s dark inside. Looks nice enough though. It feels like I’m alone so I say “oh, this’ll be fine,” only to notice somebody stand up at my voice. The oldest man in the world has been sitting at the table on the far side of the room, plugged into his laptop. He pulls his headphones off.

“Are you James?” I ask. “No, I’m in 4. I’m your neighbor.” He plugs back in. No conversation here. I go on the internet to try and decide where to go out in town. I stick a random finger at a bar in SoMa where I might get some decent recommendations, and book an uber pool. The oldest man in the world finely chops a single strawberry and eats it on bread. “I’m going out. Any recommendations?” He looks at me a while. “All the places I know are for lunch.”


I wait on a foggy corner for Asadullah. He picks up two other passengers who are sitting in the car with me as I write. Uber Pool just WORKS in California. It’s significantly cheaper, a little slower, and always full. In the UK it’s the same price but you have to walk somewhere for pick up and the chances are nobody will get in with you anyway.

I greeted both my fellow passengers with a hello. Neither of them responded. We didn’t even say anything to one another about two minutes ago when Asadullah literally came closer to rearending someone at 60mph than anyone I’ve ever been in a car with. We all looked up for a moment, then looked back down. They both have earpods on, these young men. In fact, the first three humans I’ve met so far in San Francisco have all been wearing headphones and been immersed in screens. The Matrix is looking more and more like a work of prophecy.

Now I’m in Tempest, starting with a quick pilsner to fuel a walk around the streets in this area. Everybody at the bar is glued to the football or dunked in their phones. This world is so weird. But the internet is what made this trip possible. Airbnb let me be relaxed about the fact I had no idea yesterday where I would sleep tonight in this totally unfamiliar city.

Google maps will be providing my route, whilst Reddit and some blogs are giving me ideas for stop off points. Spotify, mobile phone data tethering and perhaps some podcasts will be streaming through the stereo in the lovely cheap to run semi-electric car that I booked through Expedia. I’m in the centre of town for less than ten bucks thanks to Uber. I can write this blog in this bar using a swipe keyboard and people all over the world will pick it up and read it on a train or while having a shit or at the breakfast table or in bed.

Job’s pretty much over. I’m on my own again. I reckon I’m gonna love it for about three days and then I’ll get lonely.

I’m going to get out of the city early tomorrow morning and go look at trees. I’ll have to come to this city both longer and better another time.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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