King Gama, a character in Gilbert & Sullivan's Princess Ida, is a classic curmudgeon. He gets his kicks by making other people miserable ("I can tell a woman's age in half a minute...and I do." "I know everybody's income and what everybody earns and carefully compare it to their income tax returns") but when he is taken captive by King Hildebrand and held for several days, all of his needs are met, his wants are anticipated and fulfilled and he is miserable because has "nothing whatever to grumble at."
King Gama would have been in hog heaven if he had been with us after the performance of Princess Ida that we attended this afternoon. I don't think I've seen Ida since 1995, when we went to Buxton, England with The Lamplighters to participate in the International Gilbert & Sullivan festival (which the Lamplighters won). I also don't remember the last time our friend Rick Williams, for years the Lamplighters principal patterman, did a show--at least not a show that we saw. So we definitely didn't want to miss this production.
In addition, I had a Groupon to a restaurant called Capurro's, which is on Fisherman's Wharf. The Groupon was for their roast crab (of course) dinner, a 2-for-1 deal, which seemed cheap at half the price when I bought it back in December.
Forgetting that Ida is a 3-act show, so would run longer than most G&S operettas, I made the reservation for 5:30 (I tried for 6, but they said it would have to be 5:30). Still, it's a hop, skip and a jump from the Yerba Buena Center, where The Lamplighters perform, and we figured that if we didn't stop to chat with anybody after the show, we could probably make it, or at least Walt could drop me off around 5:30 while he attempted to find parking in that impossible-to-park neighborhood.
We had a plan. And it was going well. We got to the check-out machines at the garage shortly before 5, giving us 30 minutes to get the 2.8 miles across town to the restaurant. (Yahoo directions say to allow 8 minutes for the trip.)
Now I should say that when we parked in this multi-structure parking garage, which holds 2,585 cars and is the largest parking structure in San Francisco, we had to park on the top floor because there was no space on the other 6 floors. But there was lots of space to be had on the roof, and we were 2 hours early (in time to get a snack at Starbucks before the show). As we walked the 2 long blocks to the theater, we noted that MacWorld was happening next to the parking lot and another convention was in the other convention space at Moscone Center. The streets were crowded. It was a busy San Francisco Saturday afternoon.
After the show, we got to the garage, paid our bill and took the elevator up to the rooftop. It was a nightmare. There were cars in line to get out the one exit as far as the eye could see, with four different lanes having to merge into one before heading down the ramp to the ground floor.
Our car was completely blocked by the solid line of cars waiting to merge into this mess. The woman directly behind our car said she had been sitting there for an hour.
We figured maybe the two conventions had both let out at 5 p.m. and everybody was trying to leave at once.
When I first saw the mess, I called the restaurant to postpone our reservation by an hour, but by the time I saw how truly bad the congestion was, I decided to cancel altogether and come down another time for that lucious crab.
When I took this picture of the clock on the San Francisco Chronicle building across the street...
...we had been there an hour and still had not been able to back out of our parking slot and the cars behind us when we arrived were still behind us, though maybe a few inches farther forward than they had been originally.
Around this time the second wave of people coming back to their cars started -- the shoppers, laden with boxes and bags, and many with small children in tow, had the same look of "omygawd!" on their faces that we had an hour before.
Oh, it wasn't all bad. We did get to see a lovely sunset.
And I had brought the earphones to my iPod with me, so I was able to listen to more than an hour of my current Diana Gabaldon book.
We might just have left the car there and gone out to dinner, but we had already paid our money and the rule is that you have to leave the structure within 15 minutes. Yeah. Right! We weren't sure how or if we could legally leave and return when the traffic had cleared without having to re-pay the $17 we had already paid plus whatever extra they figured we owed for our time away to eat. This was further complicated, of course, by the fact that all transactions are by computer!
I took this picture about 15 minutes before Walt finally started the engine and began to make an assault on the line of cars blocking us, which were, by now, starting to loosen up a little.
Finally, two hours after arriving, we were leavng the roof and s-l-o-w-l-y making our way down the 7 levels of switchbacks to the ground floor, though they had to make a special call to someone to lift the bar to let us out since we had exceeded our 15 minute allotted time to leave. I'm wondering how many calls that poor parking lot attendant made this afternoon! (Of course we weren't all that much better off when we finally left the structure because it was a madhouse of cars, bikes and pedestrians on the street as well.)