The joys of travelling

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (757 Words)

I recently touched down at San Francisco International (SFO) and have made my way to the hotel, which as you can tell, has wireless internet. Well, this is Silicon Valley, I’d personally expect pedestrian crossings to be internet enabled here (they’re not, I’ve tried).

I didn’t expect to get a lot done today, owing to the jet lag, and indeed, I’m feeling it. It’s ostensibly 6pm but of course, due to this being GMT-7, which because of daylight savings is 8 hours behind, I’m in a sort of grey half-wakefulness right now. I’m deeply, deeply grateful that the hotel room has filter coffee on tap because I need to at least try to stay awake a few more hours yet to avoid stretching this condition into the coming days. It’s funny how even when the upper layers of your consciousness are engaged, lack of sleep does weird things to the lower levels, like screwing with your sense of balance and peripheral vision. I usually find this passes after about 2-3am, when I think your body figures out that it’s not going to bed after all, or the dopamine it starts pumping around the same time every day runs out or something.

Heathrow was mercifully calm this morning, certainly a breeze compared to passing through it earlier in the season. Security on the flight was characteristically tight, this being a flight to the USA; I know why this is of course, but I’m always struck by how much air travel sucks now - it used to be fun and exciting (except for the long-haul bit), now it’s one incessant set of queues with people asking you the same questions 7 times and to remove (or even more curiously, just undo) various items of clothing. At least this time there weren’t hour-long queues and it was just tedious but constantly moving.

I was sat next to a rather odd bloke for the 10 hour flight - someone who professed to be in ‘the film industry’ but it transpired he was a projectionist. He was travelling alone, like me, but his was a holiday, and during the 10 hours it became rather clear to me why he was alone. Rambling conversations that started with an interesting point of discourse but seemed to go absolutely nowhere, an intensely anally retenive attitude which manifested itself as him explaining how he likes to plan his trips at least a year in advance, resulted in him checking his documents every 30 minutes and pestered the flight attendants to double-check them for him, and every time an announcement piped up (like please read the safety card, or check page blah in the magazine for airport layouts) he’d instantly leap into action an begin enthusiastically reading and pondering. It’s not like it was his first time either, he was explaining how he’d been to SF before, which should have been an interesting story but he found a way to suck the life out of that too. For some reason his perfectly good-natured but nevertheless infuriating behaviour drove me absolutely nuts. I’m a pretty mellow chap, my wife will tell you it’s pretty damn hard to get me really pissed off, but this guy managed to get me gritting my teeth in a very short time - I just wanted to jump up and shout ‘for fecks sake, chill out and live a little!’, but of course instead I just buried myself in my book and tried not to get involved in any of his startlingly dull conversations anymore. I feel sorry for the guy opposite him who then bore the brunt.

Anyway, I’m here now. This is my 4th trip to the US and once again I’m struck by how spread out everything is. I guess I’m just used to compact places that are easily navigable on foot or using public transport (like London and Edinburgh)  - hub-like systems with sparser regions between that probably have a lot to do with historical settlement evolution. This part of the country just seems to go on forever in all directions with a fairly uniform distribution of similar landmarks, which just feels kind of .. odd. It does mean that the car is the king here though, which is a shame; all the traffic does tend to detract from otherwise quite pleasant surroundings. The sun is shining at least.

Now, rather ironically, I’m wandering and probably boring anyone reading this to death, just like my temporary flight companion. I’m going to blame the jetlag for the lack of focus…