Why You Should Talk to Strangers in Airports

This is Part 2 of my trip to San Francisco. Click on the link to read Part 1.

Amanda and I were scheduled to have a short, 20-minute-or-so layover in San Diego on the way to San Francisco, but our connecting flight was delayed, as flights often are, so we found ourselves waiting in an airport bar.

We were both pretty tired, but I was glad to have the chance to charge my dying phone and to order our first drink of the trip. The bartenders were cute and chatty, an ideal combination for their line of work, and they did a lot to really warm the roomful of what might have otherwise been annoyed, inconvenienced passengers.

The only fly in the soup, so to speak, was the fact that there were literal flies buzzing all around the bar. Big ones, too. I swatted at a particularly daring specimen at the same time as the woman sitting on my right, causing us to nearly high-five. This immediately cemented a bond between us as fellow travelers combating against an insect invasion in a foreign land. The natural next step was the strike up a conversation.

She told us she was from San Francisco, but had recently moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she was working on something with medicine and robotics that was going to better the lives of people all over the world. Unfortunately, I cannot remember specifics. In my defense, I’d just worked an 8-hour-day and was on the third leg of what felt like the longest trip of my life. I was tired and was half listening, so I forgot it moments after she mentioned it, but when I see this awesome idea come to fruition I’ll link back to it so that not knowing will no longer keep you up at night.

For now, just know that whatever it was, it was cool, and she seemed awesome. I decided she embodied everything I wanted to be in my mid-thirties. She was unattached and confident. She had perfectly mastered an airport-chic look that has always eluded me. And as she sipped white wine holding her glass with her unabashedly naked left hand, she managed to chat casually about all the places she’d been, including New Orleans during Katrina, without coming off as a braggart or a narcissus.

She said she’d only lived in Tucson for a couple of months and was still searching for her tribe. I liked the idea of calling my group of friends my “tribe.” It sounded like something sacred and intimate. She was headed to San Francisco for the weekend to visit old friends (presumably from her San Francisco tribe) who had invited her to a cookout, but had cancelled the party last-minute because of the rain predicted for the weekend. She couldn’t very well cancel her flight last-minute, though, so that’s what brought her to this fly-filled airport bar in San Diego on Friday night.

We told her we were just in town for the weekend, too, and that I hadn’t ever been to San Fran before. She lit up. She couldn’t wait to tell us her favorite parts of it. She asked what we planned on seeing. We ticked off the items on our list: Fisherman’s Wharf, a trolley, Ghirardelli Square, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge.

“You should see it from Chrissy Field,” she said urgently at that. Amanda and I hadn’t heard of it. “It’s kind of tucked away, more of a locals’ place to go, really. It’s a beach with a park behind it, and on a pretty day you can see the whole bridge from there. You should still be able to see a lot of it in the rain.”

We thanked her and said we would. And then another idea struck her, and her face lit up again with an excitement for our trip that was touching, really, coming from a new-found airport friend. She must have a been a part of out tribe.

“Chrissy Field is just a five-minute walk from Palace of Fine Arts! You have to check that out, too. It’s this really pretty place where there are major arches and beautiful plants andoh, you just have to go.”

We chatted a bit longer and before we knew it our connecting flight had arrived and we continued on our separate journeys.

In addition to forgetting her incredible line of work, I can’t remember her name. This is ironic to me because she ended up playing a major part in what Amanda and I experienced on our trip.

Saturday morning, we took the trolley in Fisherman’s Wharf and then, per our tribeswoman’s instructions, hopped onto a bus headed straight for Chrissy Field and Palace of Fine Arts. We would never have taken that bus without her advice, and we were really, really glad we did.

Both were incredible, even in the rain. Our airport confidante hadn’t mentioned this, but Chrissy Field is also a dog park! I’m a huge dog lover, so I couldn’t get enough of the happy pups splashing through the low tides with their owners nearby. And the Palace of Fine Arts was just stunning. It’s this tucked away place that we would have walked right by had she not told us it wasn’t to be missed. I’m so grateful to her that we didn’t.

Here are some pictures to prove that sometimes you should really take advice from a stranger in an airport bar:

View of Alcatraz from Chrissy Field, San Francisco, CAIt’s hard to see in the mist, but that lump in the background is actually Alcatraz Island. The white lump in the foreground is an adorable Maltipoo-looking puppy. I would have gotten closer, but I didn’t want the owner to get creeped out that I was taking a picture…and as I’m typing this, I now realize sounds a little shady. The dog made me do it!

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Chrissy Field in fog.Here’s the view of the Golden Gate Bridge with another adorable white doggy in the foreground.

Puppy Paw Prints in the Sand at Chrissy Field. Look at dose pwuppy paw pwints! Gah. So cute. I couldn’t get over how infinitely more awesome a dog beach is than a dog park…and dog parks are pretty damn awesome.

Chrissy Field View of Golden Gate Bridge CloserHere’s the Golden Gate Bridge again, a little closer up this time. This was all we could really see of it in the mist and rain, but it was still pretty impressive. I love going to iconic things like this that I’ve heard of all my life. Seeing them in the flesh (or in the metal?) is somehow reassuring. It’s a feeling of, Yes. This majestic thing exists, and so do I in relation to it. And that makes me feel both real and very small, but at peace.

Waterfront View of Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CAThis is a waterfront view of one of the impressive domes of the Palace of Fine Arts. This picture really doesn’t do it justice, and nor do the following, but they’re the closest thing I can get to uploading a screenshot of what my eyes saw to your eyes, so we’ll have to work with the limited technology we’ve got in the 21st century. For perspective’s sake, keep in mind that the arches were about as tall as four or five of me.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA, Dome Ceiling DetailCheck out the intricate detail put into the inside ceilings of these domes. Craftsmanship and things!

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA, Top of the WorldA couple was taking turns snapping pictures of themselves at the top of these stair-like concrete structures around the dome that actually, upon further inspection, turned out to be planters missing plants and not stairs…but we re-purposed them as stairs for this photo op. I didn’t think anyone in San Francisco would mind. After all, they’re all about recycling and reusing things, right? *You probably should not try this at home.

Foliage at Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, CA

Every archway held some beautiful new view of greenery. I imagined these fern-like plants were what was growing out of those stair-like planters at one point.

After fawning over the Palace of Fine Arts for about an hour, Amanda and I hopped on the bus back to Fisherman’s Wharf to continue our Saturday in San Francisco. More stories about that to come, including a reappearance of the fern motif, only this time as a prop for a bit of performance art piece, sort of. Stay tuned to see what I mean by that.



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