Heading Out to San Francisco

For one reason or another, my family isn’t very big on Christmas tradition. We don’t cut down live trees. We don’t prepare an elaborate turkey dinner for Christmas. Heck, we have yet to construct a family coat of arms. This probably means the Lutfey family isn’t every going to be featured in a Norman Rockwell painting anytime in the foreseeable future. Despite all of this, we do make an effort to be in the same city every year around the holidays. This year my mom and I packed our bags and headed out to visit my sister in San Francisco. (NOTE TO SELF: Come up with a witty and insightful “Rice-a-roni” joke to end the paragraph.)

My journey started out by driving to Denver International Airport. My plan was to park in the long term parking lot and take the shuttle to the terminal. Which would have worked fine, except for the fact that the long term parking was too full to accept any new cars. I honestly don’t how this could happen since the airport is located in the geographic center of the Great Plains. I think letting cars park next to the paved parking lot in one of the hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped prairie land would be a valid option. But then again, people often tell me I think too much. My concern started growing when I kept driving towards the airport only to find the on-site long term parking was full. Same thing for the relatively close-in economy parking. The only option left was parking in the actual parking garage. Fortunately, there was plenty of empty spots. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive place to park in the entire state of Colorado. As I got out of the car I noticed a sign stating that all cars left would be towed when either A) Thirty days had elapsed, or B) The bill for parking exceeds the estimated blue book value of the car.

Once we arrived in San Francisco and got all of our belonging settled, my sister drove us around the city so we could see various points of interest. After seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf, my sister drove us through the mission district (a predominantly gay part of the city.) As we were stopped at an intersection, I pointed to a man in the crosswalk and said, “He looks SO gay.” Right after I said that, I realized my window was open. The guy looked right at me, made a “telephone” gesture by extending his thumb and pinkie finger, and mouthed the words “call me.”

OK, the last part just happened in my “wouldn’t it have been funny if…” fantasy world. My mom was completely offended by the whole situation, which only made it more entertaining for me. My sister was amused, but thought I was flattering myself. I spent the next hour or so making the telephone gesture whenever my mom looked at me. My sister’s boyfriend sat in the car quietly thinking to himself, “They will be gone in three days. They will be gone in three days….”

Over the past few years we have gotten into the habit (or “tradition”, if you will) of going to see some form of theatrical presentation around the holidays. In the past we have seen “Rent” and “Phantom of the Opera.” This year my sister purchased tickets to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I must say it was quite an experience. Anyone familiar with transsexual Nazi propaganda musicals knows exactly what I’m talking about. For all the other people out there still living in trees and caves, the show centers around a young man whose penis is cut off in an elaborate attempt to escape from East Berlin during the mid 1980s. Despite (or maybe because of) the odd premise, I enjoyed the evening. The musical numbers were fun to listen to and the finale used enormous volumes of artificial fog. (NOTE TO IMPRESSIONABLE READERS: Please do not take this paragraph as an endorsement of genital mutilation.)

After my whole “getting stuck in the women’s bathroom in an Amsterdam McDonalds” experience back in 1999, I thought my days of writing about fast food franchise restrooms were over. Not so, it turns out. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Despite being in the culturally diverse city of San Francisco, we stopped in a McDonalds near my sister’s apartment one afternoon for a quick bite to eat. Situated on the west side of the city near a monstrously large park, the area is home to quite a few homeless people. One of the fundamental rules of owning a restaurant in a large city is to make it really difficult for anyone to use the bathroom facilities. Most of the time this involves the use of a bathroom key tied to some sort of large and cumbersome item such as a brick or open container of scalding hot french fry grease.

This facility, however, took the inaccessibility concept one step further by installing a remote buzzer device. Anyone wanting to go to the bathroom would go to the cashier and asked to be buzzed inside. In principle, this is a decent solution. There is, however, a weak link in the system– it assumes everyone understands the concept of a buzzer. Which, unfortunately, was not the case. As we sat at a table we watched several people have difficulty gaining entrance to the bathroom. One young man kept trying to turn the knob after the buzzer stopped, which turns out to be the exact opposite of what he was supposed to be doing. This led to a rather annoyed manager coming over and giving him a quick lesson on how to operate the door. This was followed by a spirited philosophical discussion of “if there is one person in the bathroom and two stalls, am I allowed to go in?” After we finished eating, I decided it would just be easier to go outside and pee in an obscured corner of the parking lot.

Eventually we had to fly back to Colorado. We got on the plane and I realized the passenger in the seat next to me was the same guy one I yelled at in the Mission District. Let’s just say I had some explaining to do. Or was I sitting next to my mom? Either way, the plane landed in Colorado, I went back to Loveland, and my sister’s boyfriend is happy to be rid of us for the better part of a year.