According to Jen, I sometimes run in my sleep. I must have been doing that, because somehow I have managed to strain a hamstring in my sleep. I hobble into the bathroom and start wrestling with the shower, which, in the manner of all US hotel showers, will only provide water if you turn the tap while simultaneously yanking a plunger on the bath tap. (Why? Why!?) Sometimes I find it’s possible to do this without getting a burp of cold water on the back of my head, but today is not one of those days.
I haven’t had much sleep, but it was continuous and I feel much better than yesterday. And I have a cool ride to the airport: a big black car with tinted windows, the kind that usually have screaming girls beating on them and yelling, “I love you 50 Cent!” Inside there are drinks and snacks available but, I am disappointed to see, no neatly laid out lines of cocaine.
At San Francisco Airport there are 50 people in a check-in line and nobody’s moving. I work out why: all the electronic check-in machines are showing: “Easy Check-In is available from 4:45 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.” Yep, they don’t start work this early. They must have a good union.
When the machines finally come up, there is some kind of system-wide error and everyone needs to get checked in manually. This creates an interesting dynamic, because the airport staff want to stick to the process of requiring us to all try checking in at the machines first, but the passengers quickly realize it’s faster to skip straight to the line to see a human. For a while there is lots of sneaking from the first line to the second, and then a woman—a New Yorker, from her accent—tires of the charade and starts haranguing the staff. “You think we like standing in line? You think we should stand here for fun?” After that everyone is allowed to proceed directly to manual check-in.
Naturally the flight is delayed, so I sit by the gate for 90 minutes, thinking about how much extra sleep I could have had. When we finally get on board, I don’t even try to wait for lift-off: I close my eyes and let the warm, smooth arms of unconsciousness embrace me. I wake up a few times to the alarmed looks of fellow passengers and the lingering echo of my own snoring, but boy, I just don’t care at all.
Seattle is freezing. My new media escort, Tina, tells me that the city recently broke the all-time record for consecutive days of rain (27), but then some sunshine came along and messed it all up. I get the impression that everybody is a little disappointed about this.
The reason I’m here so early is I have a reading at Amazon.com. These corporate events are different from my usual readings, because most of the audience have never heard of me. But it’s a full room—about 50 people—and they can relate to Company’s story, so I get lots of laughs. I also sign a lot of books, because Amazon.com is giving them away free to attendees.
After that it’s bookstore drop-ins. The most remarkable thing about this is an advertisement I see on the back of a bus, which says, “Avoid Accidental 911 Calls: Lock Your Keypad!” It has a picture of a man with a cellphone in the back pocket of his pants, accidentally dialing 911 with his buttocks. Let me say that again. He is dialing 911 with his butt. I wish my ass was that agile. Right now, while I’m writing this blog, it could be making me a cup of coffee.
The other thing that surprises me is a group of young people in the middle of downtown waving signs that sport words like “REPENT” and “HELL.” I occasionally see people like this back home, but they tend to be old and clearly insane. These sign-wavers are clean-cut teenagers, and I find this much spookier.
Back at the hotel I receive a package of new reviews from my publisher. Most are great, but there is also my first bad one. I should have known this was coming, but things have been so dream-like lately that instead it’s an ugly surprise. Even though it’s not completely horrible, I pay way more attention to it than to the good ones, and have to force myself to stop obsessing about it.
For dinner I’ve arranged to meet Greg, who’s an admin on NationStates. Greg and I have been in almost constant electronic communication for the last two and a half years, but we’ve never met before today. Unfortunately, when making this arrangement I forgot that I was in Seattle, because the plan is for me to wait outside my hotel. It’s raining (of course) and, according to my body’s internal thermometer, about minus one thousand degrees. By the time Greg arrives I can no longer feel my toes.
Over dinner Greg helpfully offers to educate me about how tipping works: I simply take 15 - 20% of the meal cost and add $1 - $2 per drink that contains more than 2.9% alcoholic content plus 50% of any discount provided by the barman and 1% for every Tuesday between now and the next eclipse. I think that was it. After doing the sums, I have to explain to the barman that he owes me a $4.50 tip… but in retrospect, maybe I miscalculated.
There is no reading tonight: that’s on Saturday. But I’m excited, because it’s my first opportunity for a really long, continuous sleep. Oh yeah. I’m in the fast lane, baby.