Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Go With Your Gut"

I am directionally challenged, that's why I got lost in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco this morning on my way to a 7:00 a.m. appointment with Nicolas, the British hairstylist. We first met five weeks ago after I called my friend Andrea to find out who does her always-chic hair. Her stylist's last name is not posted anywhere in the salon or on his cards, just Nicolas Studio, Inc, "If your hair is not becoming to you...you should be coming to us!" With his precision miniature scissors, my curly locks have never felt more crisp and defined. I decided he merited a second visit. Appointment slots are hard to come by, so in order to get to my little part-time job at the high school on time I took the second availability of the day (no kidding, the first is at 6:00 a.m.) Last time, I waded with anxiety for ninety minutes through four separate accidents on the 101 North freeway, calling the salon with my sincerest apologies and arriving twenty minutes late. This time, with the Bay Bridge supposedly closed I gave myself the full ninety minutes even before sunrise.

I arrived in the city, after taking the wrong exit once and re-entering the freeway, forty minutes ahead of the appointment, 6:20 a.m., plenty of time to park and read the paper before going into the hole of a salon in a four-star hotel. I had called Andrea to get her directions in order to avoid the potential jams I hit last time I made this trek. I pulled right up to the circular garage that she mentioned--and froze. I couldn't see the Hotel Nikko, or anything that looked slightly familiar since my last visit; I was turned around. Instead of pulling into the garage, I circled the block in search of the hotel or at least Union Square to get my bearings. I found Union Square (a few times), but not the hotel. I pulled into the circular lot and then right back out twice, setting off the gate attendant's alarm (hey, I hadn't even parked the car). I came around from the opposite direction and assumed since I couldn't see the hotel I must be mistaken with the directions. I pulled over twice, checking the GPS on my G-phone, Google maps, the Nikko hotel website from the browser. No luck, total disorientation from the ground. Finally, amid tears of panic in the wrong neighborhood, I listened to that little inner voice, went back up the street where the hotel was supposed to be and pulled into the Hilton. Wrong, I know, but it had to be somewhere nearby. After ascending six flights in a fluster and parking in a "guest only" spot, I went down to street level and discovered that sure enough, the subtle markings of Hotel Nikko took most of the city block I had been circling. If only I had calmly listened to my gut, stayed with the directions, and trusted...

Nicolas is a bit of a philosopher, which is the main reason I returned to him one more time (do I dare try navigating the city again?) I told him about my job at the high school working with students to find their passion and pursue their career dreams through interest-specific volunteering. He remarked that his daughter Sophia, from the ill-fated college graduating class of 2009, still had not found a job. Her interest: equine science, working with specialty horses. The job offer from an Indiana breeder had fallen through and she found herself back home in San Francisco, not quite the center of veterinary occupations or advancements. Nicolas reminded me to follow one's gut. He had been out running errands with Sophia last weekend and had some
spare time before returning home to North Beach. He felt impressed to detour and check out the model boat regatta at Golden Gate Park; Sophia and her friend agreed to tag along. After seeing the boats, Sophia looked across the street to Golden Gate Stables, where her father had once-upon-a-time taken her to learn to ride a horse. Obviously, a passion was born.

As they petted the horses, this unemployed college graduate was suddenly struck with the idea that she might be able to volunteer her time in caring for the police horses boarded there. She found an officer and made a request, precipitating a call to the sergeant, another visit in the afternoon, and a telephone interview later that night. Sophia was asked to begin her volunteer assignment a few days later. Now pleased with her first week of community service, the management suggested there may be a paid job for her in the near future. Sophia is thrilled she listened to her gut and went out on a limb to work for free; Nicolas is pleased to see that the passion he instigated by taking his daughter horseback riding as a child has come full circle, he says, because he listened to that little voice. If only I had tried this technique in the morning when en route to his salon. But then again, his story would not have as much meaning for me without the counterpoint of circling my destination a few times before opening my mind to listen for the answer.

No comments: