Today is the Saturday before Oracle OpenWorld 2009. For many people it's an extremely busy day, especially if you're flying to San Francisco from a foreign country. But for me the Saturday before OpenWorld is usually a semi-lazy sort of day. My laundry's done, my suitcase is packed, but my computer (obviously) isn't, and I still have to review my cheat sheets, pick up dog poop, and take care of some other things before I go.
Twenty-four hours from now I anticipate that I'll be on a BART, heading toward my hotel in the Union Square area, and then heading down to the Moscone Center for Oracle PartnerNetwork events. And for the next five days, I will be in an urban area, an area very different from my suburban Ontario home.
Now I'll grant that staying in a Union Square hotel is not exactly the same as permanently living in the Union Square area - I won't have any need to search for a Safeway, for example - but it's different enough to merit a comparison between the way that I live for up to 51 weeks out of the year, and the way that I live for one week in San Francisco. And since I live in outer suburbia, not Manhattan, the differences are fairly striking.
So here are seven things that I'm going to miss over the next week:
- Driving in my car. People obviously drive in San Francisco, but I don't know how they do it. I am very happy to live in an area where I don't have to parallel park all that often, and I usually don't have to pay to park my car somewhere. And, most importantly, I don't have to deal with narrow streets, one-way streets, or tons of traffic. Sure I have traffic down here, but at least it's all going in the same direction.
- Family. In all my years of travel, I can only think of one time that my family has traveled with me on business. My family happens to love San Francisco, but when they think of "San Francisco" they don't think of the Union Square/Moscone Center area; their thoughts are a little farther north. And even if their schedules permitted them to come with me this time, they'd hardly see me anyway, so what's the point?
- "Normal" food. Now again, this doesn't affect people who actually LIVE in San Francisco, but it certainly affects people who are traveling. In most cases, travelers are dining out at restaurants, eating at a hotel buffet, or having some other type of catered food (e.g. the box lunches that are served at Oracle OpenWorld). Now it's good food, don't get me wrong, but it's out of the ordinary for your body, and eventually your body tells you to just buy a loaf of bread or a bag of carrots or something and eat like you normally eat at home.
- Quiet. Your situation may be different, but when I go to bed tonight, I won't have partiers walking up and down my street at all hours, I won't have delivery trucks stopping by next door at 3:am, and I'll have precious few sirens. Now if I lived in San Francisco permanently I'd get used to such things - heck, I lived next to a freeway for over six years and barely even noticed it - but it's enough to confuse you in the short term.
- Radio stations that I know. Frankly, I enjoy being in other cities and listening to their radio stations, and I even look forward to the end of daylight saving time because that allows me to pick up a San Francisco station (KCBS 740) on my commute home in Orange and San Bernardino counties. But while I'll hear some new stuff, I won't be hearing my usual stuff. I don't know when the traffic reports will come on (not that I care about traffic in San Francisco), I'm not sure where/if I'll hear Dan Patrick and Petros & Money, and there won't be any Handel on the News.
- In-N-Out Burger. Actually, there is one In-N-Out Burger in San Francisco, but I won't be anywhere near it.
- Last, but not least, vertical space. It goes without saying that things are more crowded in the city on the horizontal plane, but when you think about it they're also crowded in the vertical direction. I live in a single story house, and all of the buildings within 1/4 mile of me are also single story houses. When you look up, you only see sky - and a few telephone poles. Contrast this to my arrival on Market Street, in which I will climb up stairs to emerge from the BART station, walk several blocks between multi-story buildings, take an elevator to my room, take the elevator back down, again walk several blocks between multi-story buildings, then traverse the many vertical levels of the Moscone Center to get registered and get to my OPN events.