I don’t like myself when I am grumpy. And I am grumpy when I am tired. Which is why I – if in possession of a WWDC ticket – I try to arrive in San Francisco a few days ahead of the conference. I hate the feeling of being a living dead with my body wanting to go to sleep even though the sun showing its warmest and friendliest face.
For a long time I wanted to procure noise cancelling headphones. This is one of the most underrated inventions since somebody invented a way to strap two loudspeakers over ones ears. On the airport where we stopped before getting into the big plane across the Atlantik – Amsterdam – I found me a pair of Bose QuietComfort 25, in Apple-matching White no less.
Those QC25 are said to be the best noise-cancelling headphones in existence and – owning them now – I believe it. I wore them for almost the entire flight. With included adapter I watched 2 movies, listened to some music and – because they cancel so well – had them on while sleeping without any audio playing. The next level up in luxury would be first class seats, as economy seats always give me back pains.
Arriving by Plane
In order to avoid sugar-overload I only drank water and unsweetened tea on the plane. In years before I had always over-indulged in sodas and that had gotten me restlessness and heartburn. I was also glad to have picked an aisle seat since this allowed me to relieve myself at will. Water in, toxins out.
This time I drank no coffee either, because this year I had a specific strategy: sleep a couple of hours right before arrive in California. The idea was to try to reset my internal clock and inform it that it was morning instead of night. The sleeping was greatly aided by the QC25 and a sleeping mask I had kept from an earlier Aeroflot flight.
Immigration took two and a half hours. When mentioning this to the border guard he told me that I could count myself lucky as it might take up to three hours. Must have been lunch time, since only half the booths where occupied with stern-looking people. Mental note: better to arrive in the afternoon.
Filling out the customs declaration I hesitated for a short moment, contemplating if I should declare the $50 worth of gifts I was was bringing into the USA, naturally set on leaving them in the country. I ended up declaring them, but nobody seemed to care about that.
Right outside the San Francisco International Airport, I found a stall selling prepaid “SimpleMobile” SIM card with 2GB data. After that amount of date is used up, you still get throttled data. $97 was the price for avoiding serious Internet withdrawal symptoms while in USA.
Accommodation prices always double during WWDC because everybody with a room to rent smells the money. Pure greed. Even AirBNB rooms go for more than $100 a night. Hotels are easily around $200 per night during that time. Ludicrous.
I had scored a room in a relatively inexpensive hotel next to the Transamerica Pyramid in the financial district, next to Chinatown. Here I got away much cheaper but have to live with several oddities/drawbacks.
When checking in I was presented with house rules to accept and a rental contract to sign. When I made a concerned face I was told not to worry, as my room was already paid for via Expedia. This multi-page document was their way to make sure that I would leave at the end of my stay. As if I would stay voluntarily in this dump…
Showers and toilets down the hall. Loud air conditioning vents right outside your window. And paper-thin walls that cause you to wake at 5 am because you can hear people talking or a TV blearing. Again, QC25 helped here quite a bit, but I think I’ll have to get some earplugs too.
The story seems to go that Chinese business men are buying up such dumps and then they are providing “affordable housing” to the cheapest of the cheap-assest. Unbeknownst to most, there appears an upper class of bums in San Francisco. Namely those who can afford to pay rent in cash at a run-down former hotel like this one.
Oh and of course the WiFi bandwidth is shit, too.
My first order of business – of course – was to walk to the flagship Apple store to fondle some Apple Watches. That was met with great enthusiasm by a young Apple Genius who allowed me to try out and play with several different Apple Watches and bands.
At the end of my spontaneous try on appointment the guy mentioned that I could also try out the golden Apple Edition Watches if I wanted to. Of course I did want and of course the supervisor in charge did have some free time. Would I have half an hour? Again, yes! I was exhilarated by the idea that I could fondle the golden watches and it didn’t play any role that could never hope to afford them.
I was led into a briefing room towards the back left of the store. Before going there you have to decide on two models which you would want to look at. Those have to be brought from the Safe to the briefing room by security.
All watches in the store are running a demo loop which you can start/stop by double pressing the bottom right button. The same is true for the Edition Watches. The one special thing of those is that they come in a leather-padded box which has a Thunderbolt plug so that you can charge the luxury watches in the box. There is also no way how a mere mortal could buy such a box without an Edition.
I am certain that the Apple store employees will have much less time available for such special tours once the bulk of WWDC attendees has stormed the city. So I was glad to have checked off the task so early.
No annual WWDC trip is complete without taking the “pilgrimage” down to Cupertino. I like to rent a car (approx. $37) and take the hour-long drive myself. This year unaccompanied. I met with a few new Apple friends who graciously invited me to eat at Caffé Macs, Apple’s famous cantine. I opted for the Mother of all Buritos, handed over imported gifts and thoroughly enjoyed open and friendly conversations.
Curiously, all Apple guys I interacted with wore an Apple Watch (or were close to receiving one). I asked them what feature – besides telling the time – they liked about it the most and several responded with the haptic map. Different series of taps tell you if you should turn left or right. This is not only useful for blind people, but also for motorcycle enthusiasts who cannot look at the map on their iPhone while riding a bike. I can relate to that since only recently I had ridden my own BMW bike across Austria to deliver it to its new owner.
The most romantic response I was given concerned sharing your heartbeat with a loved one. Yes, the respondent also found that cheesy initially, but later warmed to it. And now it is his – and his wive’s – favorite way of telling each other that they are thinking of each other. Who is capable of such romantic notions? Native Italians, that’s who.
In any case my plan was rejuvenated to get 2 Apple Watches so that I can do the same with my girlfriend. There I said it, please don’t laugh.
Later I went to the Apple Company Store which is the only place in the world where you can Apple-branded Merchandise. Well, not the ONLY one, but the only permanent one. Apple usually also has a pop-up store in Moscone Center. My wallet wept.
I learned that after Friday June 12th, the Company Store will close it’s portals for an indeterminate amount of time for refurbishment. Could this mean that they will create a new Watch section?
Upon my return to the city, I found ideal evening entertainment in the form of the new movie “San Andreas”. The premise of it is that the San Andreas fault causes a record-breaking earthquake devastating Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Carlton Cuse – known for the Lost TV series – wrote the script for this movie and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing famous “So Fo” landmarks being destroyed. Coit Tower and Transamerica Pyramide are only two of the spots that are within walking distance from my hotel.
This movie is really really well made and kept us at the edges of our seats. Seeing it in IMAX 3D greatly enhances the effect. Go see it while you are in San Francisco for WWDC.
I had initially feared that jet lag would be so bad that I could not steer the car on the second day. But this turned out to be a singe.
As far as I can tell I’ve almost gotten over the jet lag. Another trick I am doing is to try to limit the amount of food I eat, especially at night. I have a can of my favorite protein shake to successfully battle those nightly hunger attacks while I am still adjusting to the new time zone.
Also, you should be physically active during the day, and so I plan to attend Sam Soffe’s WWDC Hike. See you at “Dub Dub”!