I fly to California.
Many people would consider this an exciting, possibly spiritual, experience. The sun, the surf, the hippies on Height Ashbury. The pneumatic lifeguard babes. I however am travelling on business, to Vertucon corporate headquarters in San Jose, and my hideously delayed flight via the Black Hole of Atlanta dumps me at scenic Norman J Mineta International Airport after 10pm local, which is about as mundane an environment as it is possible to imagine without actually being an accountant.
No-one is wearing a bikini or waxing a surfboard. And my bag is still in Atlanta.
A very nice girl called Dawn checks me in at my hotel. I consider asking her to wax my board, but it’s gone 2am according to my bodyclock, and I’m feeling too rumpled to turn on my undeniable charisma. She tells me how much she loves my accent, as it reminds her of Hugh Grant. “Shame he’s gay” she adds, hermetically sealed on Planet Cretin. I take my frozen smile off to bed.
A subtle combination of threats, tears, phantom pregnancies and hysterical allegations of racial discrimination deter all but the most determined managers from winkling me out from under my cubicular rock in NC. Yet every now and then I am forced by mocking Fate to board some bankrupt’s rattling death-trap and suffer alongside hundreds of business school zombies, all crackling with static from their bry-nylon suits, shirt cuffs and tails trailing like circus chimps, bellowing nonsense into their cell phones. I feel like the Flying Dutchman condemned to round the Cape for eternity with a crew of financial advisors from Solihull.
Now they haunt my dreams, striding with entirely unwonted confidence through the departure lounges of the world towards the meetings and deliverables that hedge their straitened horizons round, while yawning at their feet are the unmarked graves to which they will go unwept, unhonored, and unsung. They call to me to join them, but I resist, resist…
At this point, Dawn of the Brain Dead calls me from Reception to tell me that my bag has arrived at the hotel. It is four in the morning. “Have a nice day!” she adds.
California. “Not far from Heaven” the old ads told us. Not far enough.
Some typical Californians, yesterday. In accordance with local dress codes, the girls’ tops are cantilevered to resist quakes of up to 8.1 on the Richter Scale. Although of course there’s a lot of swaying.