Monday, March 15, 2010

159 days to Bar Mitzvah: get on the bus

If ours were a suburban Bar Mitzvah, we would have no choice but to rely on our guests finding their own transportation. It would not be too much to ask, because upon arriving at temple, they would find acres of free parking. They would park their rental cars, leaving whatever they needed -- coats, to-go Starbucks cups, carry on luggage -- in the trunk, feeling safe in the knowledge that break-ins were unlikely.

Our out-of-town guests would pick up their cars at the airport, park them (for free) at the hotel and enjoy their convenience all weekend.

But ours is not a suburban Bar Mitzvah. Temple Emanu-El has no parking lot. To attend services there is to play parking roulette with the tight residential streets of Presidio Terrace, the surrounding neighborhood. In addition, to subject our out-of-town guests to a drive across San Francisco would be to inflict on some of them a trauma so deep as to cause a month of post-Bar Mitzvah night terrors. We don't want to do that to our out-of-town guests, some of whom live in very small towns in Washington State and planned retirement communities in Arizona where aggressive driving means only waiting twelve seconds after the light turns green before putting your Buick into drive and pulling slowly away.

For us, guest transportation is a separate line item. It has been both planned and budgeted for, and it begins the moment our far-flung visitors touch town at San Francisco International Airport.

From there, they need only to take the airport shuttle to BART. Hopefully, they will have acquired some rolling luggage for the trip, which they can then pull behind them with little effort. Particularly savvy guests will fly on either United, Jet Blue or Virgin America, whose terminal abuts the BART station, meaning they can avoid the potentially confusing shuttle and simply stroll onto BART.

We have chosen as Bar Mitzvah HQ the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero in San Francisco. Considering that some of our guests might have such an aversion to the city they live near -- lets say that city might be Seattle, for example -- we are proud to point out that BART will drop our guests DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE HYATT REGENCY EMBARCADERO. All they have to do is get off at the Embarcadero stop, take the stairs on the north side of the station, and they will see the hotel, rising majestically like the Emerald City to Dorothy and Toto, in front of them.

We are encouraging our guests not to rent cars. How will they get to temple? By rented bus, of course. Taking a page from 40th birthdays past, today Sandra Bullock began pricing "party buses." We will need two. One, with a capacity of 24, will transport our families to Friday night services (and then dinner). The other, a much larger (and mind-blowingly expensive) vehicle that seats 55, will pull double-duty on Saturday. It will pick us up at the Hyatt, drop us at Temple Emanu-El, then sit and wait while the Jawa becomes a man, drive us back to the hotel, and then, several hours later, drive us to the Golden Gate Yacht Club, where it will sit, its driver perhaps trading anecdotes with omnipresent BHDS security guards (hired by us to do security, the thinking being that the kids have had eight years to get used to the idea of being afraid of them, and the fact that one of them not only teaches afterschool classes in martial arts but also shows up for the Purim carnival every year wearing camo fatigues and a stone-cold killer smile doesn't hurt) for five hours, then depositing 55 members of the Bar Mitzvah party back at the hotel.

For this we will pay a handsome sum, a fixed cost that wouldn't have shown up on our fantasy suburban Bar Mitzvah ledger. Sandra Bullock has not yet explored the options presented by Genentech, her weirdly benevolent employer. They may have "preferred vendors" who can give us a good deal. I think it'd be cool if they could just float us the use of one of the buses that shuttle around the Genentech campus on any given work day. They're orange, with a giant picture of DNA on their sides.

Better still would be use of the Genenbus, the full-size luxury coach that runs between Genentech and the Glen Park BART station, among other places, all morning and night. Our guests could zone out to DVDs while creeping across the city on their way to Temple Emanu-El.

Does it sound odd that we will require a bus that seats 55? That's about a third of our total party. I brought that up to Sandra Bullock while we were walking Shack after work tonight. "We'll be lucky if we can fit in that," she said. So far, we've got about 65 people staying at the Hyatt Regency.

Which is notable in that it completely colors almost every element of this event. I figured out to stop comparing our plans -- and especially our costs -- to everyone else's. We've got way more people coming from out of town. While they are not coming from Basel, Switzerland, they are carving out time in their summer, ponying up for plane tickets and/or hotel rooms and traveling sizeable distances to get here. We owe them a stellar weekend.

This means eliminating potentially weekend-ruining (or at the very least, complicating) snafus involving transportation. Let them load up onto the party bus. We'll move them around like chess pieces. They can get themselves from Terminal 3 (United), the International Terminal (Virgin, Jet Blue) or Terminals 1 and 2 (all others) to the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, we'll take over from there.


Butter Goats said...

What happened to the 161st day?

eiseman said...

Actually, they may "be coming from Basel, Switzerland." That is if Philippe can make it back for the Bar Mitzvah.

The Hammer said...

Presidio Heights, friend. Presidio Terrace is the gated community that abuts the temple, which frowns upon folks parking in their hood. We are not worthy...