Incident in San Francisco (Chapter 10, page 1 of 2)

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Chapter 10

Laura had an uneventful flight to San Francisco. The night was clear, so she made full use of the opportunity to enjoy the bird's-eye view of the Montreal area as the plane gained altitude after takeoff. She had been too busy packing to have dinner before leaving , and her appetite made the Air Canada meal quite enjoyable, although their offerings were definitely a cut above those of most air carriers. As she finished her meal and the small bottle of a passable Quebec white wine, the lights of Toronto passed beneath her window, the miles of lights in sharp contrast to the huge body of total darkness beside which was Lake Ontario.

This late-night midweek flight was only about a third full, so Laura was able to curl up across three seats. With the help of a couple of pillows and a blanket provided by the flight attendant, and the sudden tiredness brought on by the hectic work preparing for this trip, she was soon fast asleep.

She woke up at the sound of the changed pitch of the big jet's engines. The pilot announced that they were beginning their descent in to the San Francisco area, and Laura took the window seat again to drink in the experience of her first live view of this area she'd only heard about and seen in movies. Unfamiliar with the mountainous topography of the California inland, she was puzzled by the patches of almost total darkness interspersed with the clusters of lights which she easily recognized as towns or suburban developments. As the plane lost altitude quickly, she saw clearly the vast expanse of San Francisco Bay, with strings of lights dissecting it where the many bridges provided a connection between the older peninsula and the newer cities to the north and east.

As the plane roared low over the Bay on its final approach to the runway jutting out into the water, Laura saw that they were well below the horizon to the west. The glow of the city lights provided enough light for her to see the range of hills which separated the bay from the ocean, and she realized that the darkened areas she had seen to the east were probably also mountainous and so unsuitable for extensive development. She updated her mental file about San Francisco with that new knowledge, and added a note to remember to check the skyline tomorrow in daylight to see just what the mountains looked like.

As the taxi took her up the Bayshore Freeway toward the city, she noticed an exit marked "Cow Palace", but couldn't see any buildings which looked as though they could host a rodeo so assumed that it must be well off the freeway. When the car made the final curve around the San Bruno hills, the San Francisco skyline was revealed. Like the view of the mountains, this would have to wait for daylight: the concern for the environment and use of resources dictated that skyscrapers be darkened this late at night. The exception was the large hotels, and Laura was suitably impressed by the Art Deco splendor of the Marriott as the taxi approached her destination. But her appreciation of its interior would have to wait for morning, too, because tonight her main concern was to quickly check in and crawl into a comfortable bed.

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