I Lost My Way in San Francisco

It was late afternoon as I trudged up and down the hills of San Francisco yesterday, testing out the route from the Hotel Tomo to Kaiser Hospital, where my father is having heart surgery today. I thought it was just up the road, but somehow . . . it wasn’t. My heart pounded as I climbed uphill and down. I passed drunks, crazy people, and homeless guys picking stuff out of the garbage. A pretty blonde girl walking with her friend lit up a marijuana cigarette behind me. I Inhaled the smoke in happy amazement. I saw 50 sushi shops, a dozen liquor stores, four giant churches, and a lot of street signs, but I did not see Kaiser hospital.  Feeling like a stupid tourist, I kept checking the map I’d gotten at the hotel, but it didn’t help much. It was getting dark. I was not about to walk back in the dark in my cute purple hat and big old steal-able purse.
I had to face the fact: Kaiser Hospital was not here. It must have moved. Or something. Nervously clutching my purse against my side, I decided I couldn’t walk any farther. I crossed the street and took a bus back to Japantown and my hotel. Luckily, a gigantic Japanese sculpture marked my way. Back in my room, I looked at the more detailed map I had brought from home. Oh Lord. I was walking in the wrong direction. Kaiser was the other way!
This is not the first—or the 20th time this has happened to me. If I added up all the hours I have spent trying to find something that wasn’t where I thought it was, it would probably equal several years. I’m good at some things, but finding my way around isn’t one of them. It’s a good thing I now live in a town where it’s almost impossible to get lost. Everything is off of Highway 101 with ocean on one side and forest on the other. And yes, I have a GPS, but I didn’t think I needed it. Silly me.
One guy who didn’t get lost was the driver of the ride-share shuttle I took from the airport. The driver spoke minimal English and drove like a maniac. He raced all over San Francisco so fast I can’t believe he didn’t mow down a couple dozen pedestrians. At one point, he stopped on the street where I knew my hotel was, so I prepared to get out. This guy in Victorian costume welcomed us to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, and then this guy in the back seat got out. I pretended I wasn’t halfway out the door. A half hour and a hundred streets later, we were back on Sutter and landed at the Hotel Tomo.
I still don’t have my bearings. The view outside my hotel room window is fabulous. Don’t know what I’m seeing but it’s the big city, and the lights are like one big Christmas display to me. I took a taxi to the hospital this morning. The talkative Iranian driver gabbed about divorce customs in his country and how his wife rags on him to eat healthy, and he wished my father well. $6.50 and worth every penny. I arrived one minute before the rest of the family got here from San Jose.
Somehow they didn’t get lost. Maybe my brother’s right. Maybe I am adopted. Nah.
My father is in surgery right now. I’m waiting with my brother. Please send up a prayer that Dad comes out of this all right.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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