stories from california: planes and palo alto

After two full-body scans at my home airport [I forgot to take my Fitbit off my shorts. Fitness self-trackers are suspicious items.], a flight full of coughing to Vancouver, a hectic connection that could have been much less hectic due to an hour-and-a-half fog-induced delay that I filled with Darwin, Cinnabon and frustrated e-mails to Steve while in Vancouver, and a handful of Lifesavers, I touched down at San Franscisco International Airport on Thursday at 1:30 PM.

Steve met me at the airport, and after four minutes or so of wandering in the huge Arrivals Lobby being unable to find him, I finally made the Canadian BlackBerry start a relationship with AT&T and called him, at which point I camped out by the International Terminal A escalator to wait–within about a minute he popped up beside me open arms–best welcome to California that I could have ever had! From there, we spent a few hours adventuring around San Francisco [not nearly enough time!], and then he dropped me off at the Westin in Palo Alto. I checked into the hotel, left a key at the desk for Kim, and got lost for about ten minutes trying to find our hotel room [Kim eventually devised the “Turn left at the vase” system].  The Westin was beautiful [to quote Kim “Way to go, Stanford!”] and after finding the room I promptly ended up spreading my stuff all over the place.

Steve picked me up a phone to use in California, thus due to lack of free hotel WiFi, I basically paced around the room waiting for a text from Kim–eventually she was on the shuttle and headed from SFO to Palo Alto. The Medicine-X team at Stanford had arranged for a special ePatient orientation dinner [read: meet and greet] at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant not too far away from the conference hotels. Eventually, Kim told me she thought she was close, so I headed down to the lobby to meet her.  The whole experience in California was definitely the ultimate in internet-meetups, and it was super cool. People kept saying to me: “You know, you have an internet stranger picking you up at the airport and you are staying with an internet stranger and . . .” and really, I didn’t THINK of all of these people as internet strangers. At that point on Thursday I was just thinking of them as “Oh my GOD, it’s Kim! And Steve! And Carly!” Internet strangers, assuming they are not the sketchy type, are the best types of strangers because I really felt like I knew them already, that it wasn’t weird at all to say hi while going straight in for a hug.

After some Apple mapping on Kim’s iPhone, Kim and I found our way to the restaurant with the help of some friendly locals who instructed us how to get through the scary tunnels and across the train tracks while we soaked in the gorgeousness of Palo Alto. When we got to the restaurant, we thought we were going in the wrong door when we had to walk through the kitchen, but that’s beside the point. At dinner, we met a handful of other ePatients and one by one, stories started to unfold [we also had some oh my God it’s _____! They’re basically famous! moments at the dinner]. I have never been at an event like the ePatient dinner, so I was really not sure what to expect. I found it hard to interact in the space until closer to the end when people started heading out [leaving the rest of us to gorge on chocolate cake and tiramisu and have conversation in a slightly calmer environment before heading back to the hotel [this time, with Kyla from Stanford in the lead and a handful of other ePaitents around us while walking through the sort-of sketchy tunnels]. Oh, also the food just kind of kept flowing out onto the tables for the length of dinner and we had no idea what was coming next–it was crazy!

I really feel the need to capture as many of these moments as possible, but aside from some exclaiming about ALL THE CARBS!! [ALL THE CARBS!! went on the hotel room desk, and they included animal cookies, Jelly Bellies and Lifesavers] and the GIGANTICNESS of our bathroom, we essentially went back to the hotel and packed it in because it was pretty late by the time we got back . . . and the fun of Medicine-X began bright and early on Friday morning!

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