Following a successful conference in Silicon Valley and some ultra-vexatious logistical hurdles while relocating to San Francisco, this morning I checked into a hotel in the Bay Area – mentally already able to sense the cool sheets that would soon be enveloping my aching bones.
After two previous attempts to get suitable accommodation, relieved to find an agreeable attitude on the part of the hotel reception staff, and moments away from the lift to that much anticipated rest and relaxation, it was interesting to suddenly notice the whole scene in front of me starting to shake and shudder.
The strangest sensation. The girl checking me in grabbed hold of the desk in front of her (as everyone who’s ever worked in a customer-facing role, that us and them dividing physical barrier is so often a last refuge, a piece of tangible flotsam to hang on to during just another manic Monday .. am I right?)
Slightly freaked-out, yet also a tad giggly she said, ‘Wow, just now some angry customers were getting into a fight in the line in front of reception and now this, ha, what a day!’
Meanwhile her clearly pregnant and somewhat regal-looking colleague had fully preserved her composure throughout the tremor but did share how odd it had been to ‘feel the world around shake, and then also my baby in my belly.’
I gather this must happen quite often as none of the locals seemed overly worried, in fact they almost seemed a bit titillated as if proud of a famous local idiosyncrasy.
It was strange though. It lasted only a few minutes but it was unmistakable and the very next moment the lifts were being used again without any concern.
At first, I thought a plane, train or coach (no, not an automobile) had passed too closely over, under or alongside the hotel premises. But the whole building did that fluid-flowing shaky thing that back in the 70s and/or 80s on some lame TV series was meant to denote a character’s flashback to an earlier scene in the story.
The sensation of seeing the real live picture in front of me – including the friendly hotel staff – swirling from left to right and back again was quite psychedelic. This, come to think of it, might explain a few things about the history and cultural impact of this part of the world.
I suppose if you live here these minor and not-so minor shakes and shudders just become part of the mental landscape. And I believe the ‘big one’ is yet to happen at some point.
And perhaps it’s a bit like people from abroad thinking the entire continent must be ablaze whenever we suffer particularly bad bushfires in Australia. Or the way in which people in Florida or Far North Queensland somehow adapt to the regular hurricanes.
I remember once checking in on a close friend in that subtropical region of Australia during a news blitz about one of the most potentially damaging storms set to make landfall around where he lived.
After ensuring me he was fine he described the standard procedure when a big storm is expected to hit. “We get some candles and matches ready, pour ourselves a tall drink and sit back, waiting for the generator to kick in.”
Maybe it’s just that the only sensible approach to living life is to go with the flow in a big way, while obviously still trying to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as far as possible.
Knowing that while control is an illusion, it’s a helpful one serving – if nothing else – to help soothe my mind and keep it from entering anxiety action stations too often.
While my heart and soul know full well that ultimately I’m not in control by any means, I do need to trick my mind into believing it is in order to make sure it keeps pulling the cart onwards and upwards.
Going with the flow then, in life and whether on the road or at home?
Adopting a flexible outlook might make sense all-round. After all, you never know what or who could be waiting just around the corner, requiring you to think on your feet quicksmart whether you like it or not.
[To be continued – probably]