[VOID] Getting Screwed in San Francisco

Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Tue, 5 May 1998 07:21:10 -0700

Realize I am completely right (in my frame of reference) when I believe the
universe is out to get me. I, personally, am among those people slated
never to get away with one. Always strings attached.

A series of incidents in childhood, all vague now, inculcated me with a
realization that while others may get away with it, I will always be
caught. It continued all the way through to freshman year, BOC'd over
knowing the Fourier transform too well. On our first 'round-the-world, when
I almost got swept away into the Pacific. When I filed my first patent, I
had my first date, a fabulous weekend, and a crushing rejection in less
time than it took Schwarzkopf to conquer Iraq. And after this weekend in
the Albuquerque forest, I should have known I was in for it.

I like a dark mood. Sitting here in D's bathroom typing away at midnight, I
can gleefully rake myself over the coals. How have I been mocked? Let me
count the ways.

On Saturday, I spent the day pining after a dramatic local girl at the
festival. Actually, I guess I still owe her the photos of her
freshly-painted three-alien-headed multi-armed Indian goddess across her
lower back. I tried my level best, even a trip out in the country in the
convertible, and nothing budged. Which is fine. But it sucks when lust is
never requited -- what it's like to go through every day wanting a
connection with people who don't with you -- and hence, quite logically,
immediately suppressing and shaming the feedback. That's the
intellecutualization that immediately set upon gnawing away my
un-justifiable hurt when I came back that night and saw here already off
with a dreadlocked, slightly dim, devilsticking, pierced-dick, punk.
Because I'm in *no place* to judge, or even have wanted. It was completely
unrealistic to have anything in common; I am convinced I cannot be lusted
after (and believe me, Beltane is in no small measure about lust). I can
try to excite, in the mind, exposing who I am and the journey I'm on, but I
can't expect, today backsliding to 260lb, or really ever, as an
unfashionable minority geek, be cool. Not even among my minority (both the
ones by color and by calling). {That's why I was so moved by what happened
that night in Brisbane -- I seduced a woman off another man's arms by force
of wit alone.} She's not estimating earning potential, and nor should she.
This ain't charity, life; and no one is responsible for someone else's
happiness (love is a choice, not an obligation, and definitely a directed
edge.) So go off in the woods with the bad boy. He may not be a husband or
a father at his current slacker state in life (I had met him earlier), but
even though he might change, that's not in the rules of this game.

{You know, I always said "I want to be needed" -- to be a critical part of
someone else's life. The way I need Adam, for example. The deeper truth is
"I want to wanted". I have learned too well how to make people need me; I
have dozens of people I work with at any one time needing something from
me. And I do it to friends, too, like my date from two weeks ago, who want
to contact me and I let fall on the floor. Like Sal, whom I didn't call
back all last week, even though I could forkpost. Like the forkchive lurker
from Motorola I met today who once wrote me about persistent identifiers I
didn't write back. Like the offer to be on a friend's startup's technical
advisory board I caught stuck in my queue today from a month ago. I know
how to tease people into knowing what good work I can do, getting them to
need me and leaving them stretched out like taffy for a hit of rohit.
Getting to be wanted is another trick entirely}

[Aside: across the ballroom from our HTML-future meeting today, the SF
49ers were holding auditions for their cheerleading squad. Nearly a hundred
drop-dead gorgeous women dressed to kill have been prowling around this
hotel all night. I was busy, though, as you'll see -- organizing a workshop
dinner where you could hear a pin drop]

Enough about lust. I did have other wishes granted that night: mainly the
gift of touch, of giving backrubs and being held and
releasing energy. I felt great. They were expensive wishes, as the tally

Sunday, the real world came crashing back down reminding me I hadn't
disposed of my responsibilities. My IEEE column was terrifically incomplete
a week after my two-week delayed deadline. I missed my first flight out due
to sheer exhaustion, and ran to catch the next. I was stuck in Denver for
three hours, and though I met an old MIT acquaintance by chance to cheer me
up, I was completely broke, the local ATM extorted an arm and a leg, and I
botched sync'ing up with an Indian couple from HB I'd met a month ago at a
concert to make plans that evening back in LA. And I still wasn't writing
the final prose of my column.

I arrived at 4PM, wading through voice mail, still in physical weariness
from the weekend, indeed the til-4AM nights of the entire previous week. I
called Adam, and I called Adam, and I called, and he wasn't there, just as
he wasn't the Friday before when he called with devastating news about the
crappiness of his overall work situation and an emergency retreat to SLO
for the weekend and I was stuck on a cold, freezing mountaintop utterly
alone by a roadside pay phone for half an hour from 3:30 to 4AM desperately
wanting him to come back in range. I wandered around OC for two hours
indecisively, tired and panic'd trying to reconcile driving to SF and
trying to find that couple and wanting Adam to spot me through finishing
this damn column. I wanted to cancel going on yet another conference trip
Monday, but my adviser had specifically authorized a more-expensive ticket
to enable me to go Monday at my expense by driving. He had recommended
against going, so when I heard that while I was in Santa Fe he approved my
once-hypothetical combined itinerary I couldn't decipher the shame of not
going and having wasted his money on the reverse ticket. I ran around in
circles trying to solve this knot when my dad insisted it's just money and
I should plunk down the cash for a plane ticket the next day.

So I went home to write and promptly fell asleep, asking Adam to please
call and wake me the moment he got back from SLO. {SLO is the site of
another travel-stress moment, when I had to buy a last-minute walk-up
commuter prop back to LAX after finishing an ignominous third in the ACM
programming competition and realizing the van would be back too late to
catch a transcontinental flight back home for the holidays. TRAVELMAN has
been so-afflicted for a long, long time}

He didn't, so I rolled out of bed at 5:30 AM and did a little column
research and ran for the airport. The parking lot shuttlebus driver just
roared past my stop without opening a door. On the bright side, the extra
ten minutes found I'd left my wallet, hence couldn't buy a ticket. Ran back
home and realized I had my passport and personal checks in the car all
along as fallback. Ran back and found the buggers had my reservation
erroneously as 8:30, even though my mom explicitly reserved me the first
flight out -- which was already oversold! So I sat there contemplating how
much money I'd alread wasted buying me eight hours of sleep instead of
driving (in turn, instead of writing the column) and weighing whether
missing an hour of the conference was enough to make me call the whole
thing off, as I sat in suspense on the wait-list. And if I missed the
flight, I'd have to get UCI to rewrite *its* ticket, with all its attendant
embarrassment. In the end, I got the last seat on the flight, only after
making hay of their reservations error. And then only in coach, even though
I would have been confirmed in first.

I arrived at the meeting, hoping against hope it would be a dynamic forum
where all kinds of insights on reconstituting HTML as a set of XML DTDs
would emerge, but as I took on my appointed job of scribing minutes, it
delivered less than hoped. At this moment, it's genuinely true no one knows
the future of HTML.

Adam called at 10:20 to say he'd just arrived back; he spent an extra day
of connubial bliss in SLO and cursed himself for expecting unalloyed
happiness to paper over his work challenges without a cost. About $300 in
this case, the cost of waiting, hoping he'd show up Sunday night to help
me. (yes, I know precisely how pathetic that makes me sound -- I *am*). I
didn't reach him when I tried to hail him back at 10:30 break, or later in
the afternoon.

I scribbled together my slides in a rush between sessions because I didn't
know I'd speak or not, and the theme had changed. The other breaks were
schmoozing, since it's the same old crowd. About ten people of the sixty
I'd seen elsewhere in the past month, some up to four times. The talk was
shaky, but sufficient, although everyone commented on one half (FORMs) and
no one on the half I really cared about (YML).

I was still on a high and ignoring the column when I started whizzing
around drumming up support for dinner gathering. Organized Benihana's at
6:30 for fifteen people and squeezed a separate round with the IBMers in
between. Racing, racing, I neglected to make a reservation so early in the
evening, that I was horrified at the half-hour wait when we got there...
which extended to an hour. Dinner was cold (socially) -- too many cases of
jetlag to sustain conversation. And even I stepped out of the act, shutting
up. Even the chef refused to lighten things up, slicing and dicing on the
grill in silence. At least I got to sit on a rock and watch the planes
gliding in and out of SFO across the bay with Susan and catch up on old
times and happy news from W3C.

As it was dinner was so delayed, I missed my flight back to Orange County.
That's OK, I'll call Adam and he can pick me up at BUR or LAX and we can
continue working. I called and called as I raced back to the airport where
I got more guff about exchanging a ticket to SNA for LAX -- it would be
free to refund it once, but a $75 fee to change it back to SNA the next
morning if I didn't hear from Adam (why? I'd be stranded at LAX since my
car's at SNA...)
I waited and waited and hung on tenterhooks until I gave up on Adam. I was
stuck in SF without a change of clothes or even a shaving kit. Plus, my
allergies were kicking in. And *then* I spent an hour on the phone and with
several SFO ticket agents untangling my two interlocking itineraries. I was
frazzled, which they took as anger, and took offense to, and started
condescending to me. Obviously, I can sympathize; the problem was at the
edge of my addled brain, and thus beyond the counter trainee's. And the

Eventually, I broke down. Not even the Hyatt shuttle phone was working for
me. I ended up on a roadside bench completely broken babbling my day out to
my mom (at 2AM EDT). And then they broke my glasses -- the Hyatt driver
pulled away before I sat down, throwing my bag on the floor.

Thanks be to Dave Raggett, who offered me a sofa to crash on after asking
two others. It's 1 AM now I've been typing away here, trying to capture the
details of what sounded like a hellish day. I only caught about half of it.

I know, it doesn't sound all that bad in words. Trust me, though: even for
DEN-SNA-SFO-SNA-SFO-SNA-LAX-IAD-BWI-ORD- LAX in a month can break your
"I refuse to be responsible for your happiness; I spent many years before
realizing it's wrong to depend on someone else's happiness for your own."
That's what she said when my first dating relationship evaporated in a
twinkle. I'm beginning to see she's right. That's what broke me today. I'm
responsible, responsible, responsible, even where I'm clearly not (the
future of HTML?! As though it needed Rohit's advice!), from not upsetting
UCI's travel budget to mortification at dinner delays and silence to
finishing a column not even IEEE cares about getting on time. Meanwhile, I
rightly condemn myself to the rack for failing to complete the simplest
tasks and working day and night -- and now, going out, too.

It is my duty to be responsible, my character to be overcommitted, and my
fate to be hurt as often as healed.
Rohit Khare
Room 5095
5/5/98 1:18:18 AM
PPS: this note was written in a single pass, in one hour and twenty
minutes, and is fifty percent longer than my IEEE column has to be. I have
been noodling over the latter for three weeks. You do the math.

I had left last night with a "checked-in" FC boarding pass for the 6:30AM
flight, ready to roll. After cutting short a fascinating conversation with
Dave about the new browser he demo'd in Brisbane, I called ahead and ran
down to catch the 6:00 shuttle bus, which they did not hold for me at 6:02.
Fine. Next? Oh, 15-20 minutes. Fine, plunk down *$11* on a taxi for the one
mile to the airport (this hurts a lot more, it's my personal funds). Race
upstairs... and canceled. Back to the United 1K desk, and the seemingly
happier fresh new face gives me a new boarding pass for the next flight,
which means I'm *still* missing the computer law class I went through all
this contorted shit for. But, wait, she refunds me the 500 mile upgrade
cert as a courtesy after hearing my story. That's like getting toilet paper
back. I ask for an hour at the Red Carpet Club, and she says, go on up,
I'll note it in your record. No entry. Go back down, hear an excuse about
how it really is their discretion, and only sales/marketing can issue day
passes -- the same division that hasn't called me in 300,000 miles or
comped me an upgrade in $40,000 of personal travel billings. Fine, I won't
be able to call back and chat with Dave from the RCC, not check my email,
so I'll go to the #%*@ gate. After searching far and wide, they hid the
power outlet behind a filthy trashcan. Oh, and in between, the cellphone
dropped three phone calls within the airport -- a five-bar, full-signal
strength facility. At least I have my health. Well, no -- I can barely
speak, my throat is raw, and my allergies are at full-bore and I don't have
any medicine (since that's in the shaving kit I don't need for daytrips)
and no food and to get to a restaurant from this single-gate-security zone,
I'd have to get past the Praetorian Guard, apparently.

No comment. 'cept that Adam still hasn't called.

The horror has dawned on me that I'm still not done. I have to use these
accursed tickets to come back to SF Friday. For now, there's a rare sight:
an Indian woman in FC -- with her husband and two screaming kids chanting
"Dis-ney-land" sitting right behind me. Ninety more minutes of these
sniveling kids. No, they are not endearing to me. I want my United earplugs
-- which are also in the shaving kit I don't carry on daytrips. (Anyone
learn the lesson of never flying without their toothbrush? Good.) Frankly,
I never went front-cabin as a kid, and no one else below high-school age
should, either.

Rest easy, johnboy -- if I ever did get laid, I'd probably contract a
lingering and enervating disease that destroyed my ability to work. I have
a healthy fear of pleasure, and with good reason.