With a group of travelers as my audience, I’d like to take a moment to brag a bit. It’s a small little detail, this piece of superiority that I possess, but, then, the best parts of life are hidden in the details, are they not? Ok, ready for it? I’m going to come out and declare that I have the best luggage tag in the whole world.
I can’t actually take credit for this amazing piece of identification; it was a gift from my sister a couple of years ago. She had a photo of her, our mother and me printed on a piece of plastic, with no name, no address, no phone number added on. There is, in fact, not one word printed on the thing, and yet, at an airport, in that tense time of waiting to see whether or not your luggage took the same flight you did, my bag is more immediately identifiable as mine than anyone else’s. When I first tied the thing to by suitcase it seemed funny and ironic, as time passes I’ve come to understand it as a kind of profound security measure. A person cannot steal my luggage and say they did it because they were confused, because not just me but me and my tribe are there, staring at whoever might inquire.
I kind of wish that my sister had done this DIY style, printed the thing herself in some non-replicable way, because I do so enjoy a bit of superiority, but I have to be honest and say that she got it off of one of those websites that you send photo files to and have them print your face on whatever you’d like it on. And, given that it really is that easy, I guess I have to go one step further and say that you all should get your own. It really is a great little thing to have.
When I was growing up, the people who were already grown up would always say that they remembered when this valley, whose name wasn’t Silicon yet, was full of orchards. I remember being annoyed, or maybe disappointed, because it was always a story about how much better things used to be and I didn’t like feeling like I came around after things got bad.
But when I was growing up there were still cherry orchards all over the place. There was one, in fact, right next door to the daycare center my brother and I went to, and another on the path from that house back to ours. Back then, when cherries were the only thing left but there were lots of them, this was the best time of the year. Cherry season isn’t long, but in the few short weeks that they’re ripe and available, a person can really gorge herself. Cherries, starting just about now, would be everywhere for these few short weeks. In stores, yes, but also spilling out of roadside stands on just about every corner in town.
Those days are gone. This valley is in a whole different kind of fertility mode, as we all know. But there are still some cherries orchards to be found here and there. One of the last, actually, is just down the street from this hotel. And, anyway, cherries are still growing somewhere, and wherever that may be, this is the moment to get them. Stop by Olson’s, just down the street at the corner of El Camino and Mathilda, or any one of the weekend farmer’s markets to get your fill of what used to be the specialty product of the area, before all of you started using the valley to turn life into a science fiction novel.
Business travel, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, can be kind of a bummer. Sure, it’s exciting at first. Maybe when you started doing it, staying hotels was still a novelty, eating in restaurants every night still an enjoyable decadence. After a while, though, the nights get lonely and the restaurant food gets monotonous, not to mention inescapably heavy. Packing and repacking your suitcase, and keeping your things always ready to be packed, can make you feel a little unsettled, even when you’re home. After a while, you might start to wonder what the point of it all is, you know? Why bother?
Well, friends, if you find yourself asking those questions, I have a solution for you! According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, Tylenol, or, rather, acetaminophen can cure symptoms of existential angst. Sounds bizarre and fishy, I know, but some crazy Canadians really, truly put a lot of time and money into this idea and, in the end, are willing to defend the claim. I say, why not give it a try? The next time you find yourself in an airport security line that you could swear was written by Kafka, pop a Tylenol. Tracking the results will, for sure, be more interesting than continuing to track your own rage and helplessness, so at the very least there’s a guarantee of some version of success. And, who knows, maybe you’ll suddenly feel a calm awareness of the importance of the screening process that will maybe lead to a sense that there are systems in the world that are in place to take care of you and then, maybe, you will even go one step further and believe, for four to six hours, that your individual life matters to your government. That would be so cool.
Last night, listening to an archived episode of Radiolab, one of my favorite ways to use the internet, I learned about something they were calling “the Cupertino effect”. It was an episode called “Oops”, and the phrase was introduced just after a story about the Unibomber, so I got a little nervous about what “oops” our humble hometown might have inflicted on the world. It turned out to be merely hilarious. According to a man named Ben Zimmer, “the Cupertino effect” refers to an early version of spell check that only accepted the word co-operate spelled like that, with a hyphen. Do you see where this is going? Because this early spell check didn’t understand that cooperation is also possible without a hyphen, it told those hyphen-less peace-makers that the word the were looking for was spelled “cupertino”.
Who, you might be wondering, would allow themselves to be corrected in this way? Well, let’s just say that when writing in another language, sometimes the tools the computer gives you are life savers and sometimes they lead you astray, as I and some of you may well have experienced ourselves. Zimmer gives an example of a German NATO officer writing about “the cupertino with our Italian comrades,” and another from the EU scientific and research committee talking about “stimulating cross-border cupertino.”
I, personally, love this. When future generations, or aliens, or whomever you believe will be doing it, are combing through the remains of our civilization and they’re poring over NATO and EU documents, there is some possibility that they might think that cupertino is a synonym for cooperation, I mean co-operation, I mean cupertino. And, if you follow my logic, the next step would have to be imagining that this here, the real Cupertino, had been the source of peace and unity. And it’s also just very, very funny.
Have any of you noticed, lately, what appears to be a bizarre fashion trend for cars? That is, an inordinate number of cars are suddenly wearing pink mustaches. I had been passively noticing it for a while, weeks, but maybe even months, without paying much attention. I thought it was a trend, and that I would eventually walk into some dumb boutique where I could turn my nose up at the chance to buy my very own.
The other night, though, I met a guy who was talking about having recently started “driving”. Do you drive a taxi? I asked. Sort of, he responded, and thus I learned about Lyft. Turns out all those mustachioed vehicles are identifying citizen taxi drivers, accessible via an app. Anyone can sign up to be a driver and anyone can sign up to get a lyft.
The driver I met talked about this being a great service because taxis around here won’t go to certain neighborhoods, which is true, and because so often the drivers are unfriendly bordering on hostile, which has not actually been my experience. The city is concerned about loss of revenue, of course, but claims also to be concerned that Lyft drivers don’t have any anti-discrimination policies to be beholden to, which kind of rings false in my ears. Personally, I don’t care so much about this debate. I’m just glad to know what those stupid mustaches are all about and I thought there might be one or two of you out there who would feel the same.