San Francisco Day 4

Road Trip! Yesterday was the day we got a rental car and down to the Valley and around to 3 meetings we’d organised. The Hertz place was just down from our hotel and we went to pick the car up a bit earlier than planned because we’d walked past a place in SoMA called The Creamery that we thought looked good and it turned out to be on the road we’d go on to get to the freeway so we wanted to stop there for breakfast. Hertz place couldn’t cope with us being early – they processed us and asked us to wait a few minutes while they found a car – well that didn’t happen. We sat there for over half an hour. I wish the lady had just told us that the car wouldn’t be ready until our original time and we could’ve gone for breakfast and come back.

However, we were finally introduced to our Mazda 6 and we navigated our way out of the garage. I know I’m the primary driver in our family but we figured that because the Mister drove less often, he’d have less second nature habits when driving so it might be easy for him to consciously think and retrain for driving on the right. I promised myself I’d just sit there on my ‘normal’ side, without a steering wheel and just be quiet. Lots of one-way streets in San Francisco so that was the easy part getting out of town – we came out of the car parking building and drove a few metres to stop at the lights. So far so good. Pedestrians swarmed across in front of us while the lights were red and there was a sudden scraping sound and slight bump at the front of the car. A guy was there tugging at something and everyone around him was looking down at the front of the car. I was thinking that we didn’t stop suddenly with a bump, we hadn’t run over a person in the cross walk … the guy eventually emerged dragging a suitcase. Ah ha, he’d obviously bumped the front of the car with it. Man! Only driving for a minute and a scrape!

After the lights we drove down a block and it wasn’t long before I had to screech “you’re too far right!!!” – The Mister was running the hub caps along curb and then mounted it so that we were driving a little bit on the foot path – I almost expected to see parking metres being caught and flicked over the bonnet however he corrected himself before it got to that! I said, just get yourself along the white line on your side of the car, don’t try and keep right. A few more nervous blocks and we arrived at The Creamery and got a park outside. Upon inspection it turned out the suitcase guy had completely bent the number plate in half!!! WTF?! We kicked it back into place and hoped Hertz wouldn’t notice. On second thoughts, I wondered if I was supposed to get out at the time of the incident and sue the guy?

We had a GPS (never used one before) so he programmed that after coffee and we got straight on the freeway – it was a talking GPS – “Keep to the right. Take the next freeway exit on the right in nought point four miles [ding dong]” – so it was rather easy from that standpoint. God the freeway was rough – shitty concrete roads with gouged out bits and pot holes – it was a fairly rough ride. A few times The Mister drifted too right again but on the freeway the rumble lane markers and road edge gave him the jolt he needed.

Road trip - 101

Road trip - 101

We made it to Google Town and met up with Steve Souders (who we met when he was over to speak at Webstock) for a bit of a tour and lunch with his wife. Man that place is huge – it’s like a village of some sort – mid-rise buildings all over the place with courtyards, sweet pea, vegetable and herb gardens, volley ball courts, Google-coloured bikes, free wi-fi, jet pools (with a full time life guard), cafes, kitchenettes, couches for dozing, meeting rooms with voice and face recognition so that when you’re meeting with a team on the other side of the world it’s full video conferencing that displays the face of the person talking, and even a laundry room so you can do it while you work rather than having to be at home evenings or weekends to do it! We had lunch in their main restaurant which was like a shopping mall food court – stations of different cuisines all with their own names, signage and staff, a sandwich bar, a dessert bar, a freezer full of Google branded ice-cream and any drink you want. The Mister had a freshly made chicken burrito and I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, gingerchocchip biscuit loaf and fruit salad. We ate outside at picnic tables. The Mister was excited to see the Google maps car with it’s round camera mounted on top.

Google

Next stop Palo Alto where we visited a Xero connection – bill.com. They were in a strange office park low rise, sparsley furnished and 3 of their senior guys came to talk Xero and see The Mister’s new mobile app. It was a really quick meeting, just to put names to faces really, and we weren’t sure we were parked legally (The Mister not wanting to attempt parallel parking) so we left pretty quickly.

On out to the East Bay to Pleasanton to meet with The Sleeter Group – we’d met Doug and Sherrill (the Sleeters) on their quick trip to Wellington recently so it was a great chance to catch up with them again and carry on the Xero conversation where we’d left off. They too had office park rooms for their small team – it was great to see it though – gives us an idea of how normal America does business. We went to the local mall with Doug and chatted over Starbucks (I know I know … but I didn’t want to be rude. At least they had 8oz cups so my double shot short warm latte was actually quite drinkable). We chatted on into the evening then Doug and Sherrill took us down-town-Pleasanton to a great little Italian restaurant. We drove by lots more office park buildings and Doug was pointing them out and telling us about the reasonable rent and lifestyle – I think he was promoting good spots for Xero offices … I don’t think so!

Pleasanton

Then it was time to get back into the City to deliver the rental car back by 9pm to avoid overnight parking charges. We were on pretty good terms with the road and car by now so headed off into the dusk. We were also pretty friendly with the GPS lady by this point too, referring to it as ‘her’ or ‘she’ and I decided pretty early on that The Mister didn’t need 2 women telling him what to do in the car so other than the occasional hand signal that he should move left a bit, I totally left the driving to him 🙂 (Yes, you can believe that!)

Bay Bridge

Back in town we had to put a few dollars gas in the car to take it back full.  A nice handy gas station was on the main road we used off the freeway however actually pumping gas was a challenge. The pump wouldn’t work without payment first but it wouldn’t take The Mister’s card … it kept saying “see Cashier” – so off he went. There was an Aisian woman behind thick glass, she was on the phone, didn’t look up and just shoved out the metal draw under the glass and said “Card!” The Mister put his Visa into the tray and she slid the draw back. She swiped the card, moved the phone away from her mouth a bit and said “Thirty dollar.” Wasn’t a question. He said “I don’t know how much I need, the car’s almost full.” She said “Thirty dollar!” He said “No, it won’t be 30 dollar, it’ll be less.” She said “THIRTY DOLLAR.” He said “OK”. She carried on talking on the phone, slid his card back without a receipt and left him cursing (out loud) all the way back to the car. However the pump now worked and we filled the car. 18 dollars. Dammit.  Must find out from Bev what to do next time.

We got back to the Hertz garage and they circled the car before we’d even stopped it, scribbling on their clip boards and The Mister was barely out of the driver’s seat before a gloved-lady cleaner got in and started disinfecting the steering wheel. They didn’t notice the number plate. And we got a third off coupon that they applied straight away for us having to wait so long that morning.

So a long day, man people do a lot of driving here, but great to get out.

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