An Idler In San Francisco


You can attempt to divide by zero or take the square root of a negative number. It’s adorable that you’d even try, because it’s impossible, of course.

“Getting from downtown San Francisco to Cupertino without any fuss” is the divide by zero of Bay area logistics. It can’t be done. It’s doubly-frustrating because I’m not battering my head against eternal principles of mathematics but against lousy urban planning.

Why, yes! I am on a southbound Caltrain! How perceptive of you!

Yeah. I’ve made this trip loads of times and I’m never satisfied with any answer.

Rent a car? You get the satisfaction of arriving directly at your destination. But! Renting (or, rather, picking up and returning) is a hassle, and given the timing of your meeting, I’m likely to be battling traffic.

Public transportation? Caltrain will get you nearish to Apple or Google, but there’s still a not-inconsiderable final link to solve. And you’re at the mercy of the train schedule.

Just get a hotel in the area? There aren’t any inexpensive hotels and there isn’t much to do there during my free time. (I haven’t tried AirBnB, though).

Uber/Lyft? It solves many of the problems, BUT holy cats, the cost of the roundtrip is nearly the same as a night in a hotel.

It’s going to be a poke in something with a sharp something. I just get to choose what those things are. So I walk or take MUNI to the downtown Caltrain station, ride for about an hour, and then get a Lyft from the station to wherever I need to go.

I fear that this whole circus might influence my thoughts on Apple’s new spaceship campus. The gorgeous new Cupertino auditorium will surely bring an end to media events in San Francisco, other than the WWDC keynote. “Needs must when the devil drives” and all that but all the same, it makes things tough for East Coast freelancers, who spend out-of-pocket for travel.

But it’s a small price to pay for what looks to be a lovely afternoon ahead of me.

This is my last day of my week in San Francisco. When former Macworld Expo director Paul Kent organized a big birthday party for my friend and Industry Treasure™ Sal Soghoian, I barely considered not attending. If any man deserves a tribute, it’s him. Plus, I was very correct in assuming that the people who came to the dinner would be people I was going to have fun hanging out with.

It reminded me of the good times of the Macworld Expos. They were special because they brought together everybody whose business or interests were associated with Apple. I attend plenty of events where I get to mingle with friends from one sector or another but I’ve missed the chance to be with the engineers, the developers, the consultants, the educators, the nonprofits, and the people who just wanted to spend some of their days off at the Moscone Center.

2016 was the first year since — jeez, 1990? — when I didn’t spend even a single day in San Francisco. Partly, this was due to a shift in my attitude toward Apple media events. I can count on them being livestreamed, so it became harder to convince myself that the benefits of being there in person outweighed the expense and the trouble.

This trip might have adjusted my thinking. I sat myself down while I was planning it and ran through the following sequence of facts:

  • I have a bunch of friends in San Francisco;
  • Many of them have extended an open invitation to visit and use their guest rooms;
  • They made these offers because they enjoy your company as much as you enjoy theirs.

That’s sometimes a hard leap to make, despite the sincerity and clarity of the offer. This time, I managed to slap some sense into myself. So the next time Apple throws the doors open for an event that seems like it’ll be even more interesting than usual, I’ll think of it as a trip to hang out with friends for a few days and check out the new 27″ iPad Titanic.

I go home with a lot of cool photos and a big smile on my face. This is my first San Francisco trip ever in which I was free to pursue my own agenda. And, sure, I did a little business. But I’m old enough now that my idea of a good night in Berkeley is eating dinner on the sofa with a couple of people I’ve known and loved for more than a decade, watching old movies on PBS.