I arrived at the airport this morning wondering what I’d be getting for breakfast. Lucky for me, the American Airlines terminal is actually pretty good for food at the Miami International Airport. There are a number of Cuban eateries where you can get local food at decent prices. When I arrived at the area closest to my gate, I noticed a nearly weaving line coming out of one of the eateries, and it ended up being the sole Cuban spot within reasonable walking distance without getting back on the terminal air train. Au Bon Pain, Manchu Wok, you name it — all the other spots didn’t even have one or two people getting food there. But this place had over 15 people in line, waiting for everything from a ham and cheese Cuban sandwich to guava strudels to cafe con leche. I begrudgingly got into the line, which I noticed moved pretty quickly, and ordered my Cuban breakfast sandwich, cafe con leche, and pan de bono. I think I was the only person in line who ordered in English. As I burned my tongue with my cafe con leche, I thought to myself, only in Miami would something like this ever happen, where people would only get into this particular line for food, mostly order in Spanish, and act as though no other places offered food.
I don’t usually have very much time here in Miami to explore since I come for work, but in that moment, I felt very lucky to be able to come here as often as I do and experience things just like this.
After last night’s disappointing meal, I was wondering what we had in store tonight for our second customer dinner in a row. This customer chose a Peruvian place on the exact same block in Doral as last night’s dinner, so clearly in this very new suburb, the “hip” area was really all on one block. Tonight’s customer we were meeting for the very first time. I had no idea what to expect of him other than the two phone calls we’d had, plus the email exchanges that have all been to-the-point.
“Is there anything you don’t eat?” I asked him as we sat down.
“Nope, I’m not picky at all,” he said, clearly eager to start ordering and eating. “I eat and like everything!”
“Do you like spicy food?” my colleague asked. “Can we get the hot ceviche?”
“Ya, I like heat!” the customer responded.
My colleague and I both looked at each other and smiled. We already liked this guy, but now, we just liked him that much more.
It’s always a crap shoot when you’re taking customers out. You can’t be as blunt with them as you can with your own friends or colleagues where you can critique them or make fun of them for their foibles, what they like and don’t like, especially when you are all new to each other. With customers, I’ve heard everything from they don’t eat animals with more than two legs to a deep hatred of mushrooms to they only eat eggs cooked with the eggs and whites together. It’s a relief, especially when you share dishes, when you can order and eat everything you want without walking on egg shells to suggest the next thing to get.
And in the end, tonight’s meal was delicious, a far cry from last night’s.
It was a grueling day of customer trainings onsite here in Miami today, not to mention all the email follow-ups and multiple customer calls I had to take in the afternoon. By the end of the day, I felt exhausted. I had spoken way too much, especially given my throat and mucus issues, and I just wanted to lie down and rest. But what I did have to look forward to before lying down to sleep tonight was dinner at Dragonfly, a Japanese restaurant in Doral, a small suburb of Miami, that a few of my colleagues have raved to me about. They insisted it was some of the best sushi in the Miami area, that I had to come try it at some point when in town for customer visits. So a colleague and I took one of our customers to this restaurant tonight, and I was really excited to have some good fish… until I wasn’t.
The salmon and tuna were mediocre and not particularly melt-in-your-mouth. The cooked unagi was nearly tough, definitely not soft and lush the way it usually should be. And the snow crab roll I ordered tasted like it was crab from out of a can; it was certainly not fresh at all, and it was almost embarrassing. What exactly is all the fuss about this place? The fish did not live up to any of the hype that I’d heard about it. The only redeeming qualities of this meal were the cooked seabass and the charred octopus bowl. Now, I feel like I need to get more sushi to make up for this total disappointment. I was expecting more after such a long and tiring work day.
It’s always funny being on planes and seeing how people act. I am still working on getting over all the mucus build up as a result of my severe cold from the last week, as well as the cough that keeps lingering and occasionally keeps me short of breath (and at times, as I’ve been told today, sounding like I am about to cry). As I’ve been coughing here and there, the person next to me on the plane offered me some cough drops. I declined and told her that it was very thoughtful, but I actually had my own. Then, as the flight attendant is asking what I’d like to drink, I asked for hot water and lemon. The woman sitting next to me smiles and points at my mug. “That’s what my mother always, always drinks, no matter what,” she said. “At the end of a meal, while relaxing on the couch, a couple hours before bed… she always had hot water with lemon. Said it was good for your digestion and relaxation. Mother always knew best.”
She was a really warm, kind person, and seemingly very contemplative on this flight. She occasionally continued to make comments about what I was doing, whether it was my being on my computer or the food I was eating to even the coat I was wearing (which she asked if I had custom made, which I obviously did not). She wasn’t necessarily being intrusive, but she seemed to want some conversation. And given my throat condition and the work I had to get done on this flight, I just couldn’t give it to her.
When I thought about it, she seemed a bit depressed, like she needed some love and attention, and maybe she just wasn’t getting it in her life somehow.
Sometimes, when bad things happen to me, I wonder if it’s all payback for bad things I’ve done either in a previous life, or in this life in the past. I especially have thought this when I’ve gotten really sick, most notably in 2015 when I very randomly got diagnosed with pertussis or whooping cough, then again in 2017 when I got really sick while in Australia/New Zealand and eventually had silent reflux. Now, somehow, I am sick again for the second time in two months, and I wonder… what did I do to deserve this?
I was miserable on the flight back from San Francisco last night, constantly asking the flight attendants to bring me more hot water. Then, when I woke up this morning, I realized this cold had really blown up, as my nose was fully stuffed, my cough had gotten worse, and my phlegm production had probably quadrupled. I was just sick around this same time last month, and now I’m sick again? How is this even possible? And I started thinking about all the sick people who came to kickoff who were hugging me and giving me high-fives… this is not good at all. It’s like my immune system has weakened, and now I am picking up all these disgusting ills of the world and dumping them into my body.
My friends and family have all been telling me that in recent years with the growing inequality in San Francisco that both house and car theft have been on the rise. People in broad daylight are being robbed in their own neighborhoods for everything from their phones to their jewelry. And sadly, as I’m driving through different neighborhoods, whether it’s in the Richmond District where I grew up and where my parents still live, or in different parts of the Mission and South of Market, I notice cars with broken windows everywhere. I’ve also noticed that more houses have security system signs in their windows or by their front doors to try to scare off potential burglars. Even my friend’s mom’s house, which is a short walking distance from my parents’ house, had their garage broken into, but fortunately, they couldn’t break open the door leading upstairs to the main house.
While at dinner tonight with my parents, cousin and his wife, and my uncle, my cousin’s car, which was parked just in front of the restaurant we were dining at on a very busy street, had its back passenger window smashed. My cousin drives a pretty high-profile car, a Tesla Model 3, and apparently it’s been a known type of vandalism because there’s a way for a burglar to get access to the Model 3 trunk by breaking the back window. My cousin didn’t have anything in the trunk, so at least they had nothing stolen. None of us even realized that the tiny side window was smashed until my dad was reaching for his seat belt and noticed the broken glass and the draft, not to mention the glass shards all over the back area of the car.
I felt really bad when I found out this happened. He and his wife drove all the way up from Sunnyvale just to have dinner with me because I was in town, and this happened in the only 1.5 hours that we sat down at dinner together. It made me so upset to think that this is what this city is becoming, where people are scared to park their cars anywhere, even in very high foot-traffic areas, because they are constantly fearing vandalism and theft by people who have nothing else better to do with their lives. Owning a car here has its own cost in this respect.
I’ll admit that I was a bit pessimistic about this year’s annual Go-To-Market kickoff, especially since last year, I really didn’t enjoy almost any of the sessions at all, I really hated our partners being there and knowing inside out what that fiscal year’s strategy was going to be, and I absolutely hated the homework we had to do to prepare for individual “quiz” like presentations on day 2 of the three-day event. The whole purpose of GTM kick-off is to 1) highlight the accomplishments of the previous year and 2) establish the new fiscal year’s strategy for how to move forward and what we need to do to accomplish our goals. This year, we got a rough schedule of when sessions would happen, but there was zero description of what the sessions entailed or what we had to prepare for, if anything. I was irritated last week about this and thinking the worst.
But now that day 1 has completed, I can say that a lot of things have changed for the better. The sessions were actually engaging and interactive, information was shared that actually made sense that I could agree with, and we even had a trivia piece that added an element of competition to the day, which added to the fun. We also had customer panels, which everyone seems to enjoy, as opposed to having our partners on stage.
We ended the evening with team dinners at various restaurant around the Napa/Yountville area, and our team ate at Redd Wood, which was delicious; California produce and local ingredients at its finest. It made me miss having easy access to such fresh local produce here. One team tradition we have is at kick off team dinners, we do a go-around where everyone has to stand up and thank someone for something they have done for them. One of my colleagues stood up and thanked me for being the “New York office social chair,” for always being positive and lending an ear. “You really bring people together,” she said. My heart almost melted. It always feels good to be recognized, but public recognition is not something I have experienced a lot of, so it felt very strange… but in a positive way.
A large group of us were on a shuttle bus headed toward the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa this evening. This resort property is so large that unfortunately, not every room or apartment is walking distance from the main mansion and ballroom area, so instead of walking, we were told we had to call a complimentary shuttle to take us to and from each day. I really didn’t like the idea of this, especially since last year, I was spoiled and had a room that was less than a five-minute walk to the mansion. This year, based on the map, I was far, far out, and so the Silverado workers insisted that I take the shuttle. Another colleague who has been coming here for the last 4 years insisted that no cottage was more than a 10-minute walk from the mansion. A colleague was somewhat close to my apartment based on the map, so we thought we’d be independent and walk there on our own… which was a huge mistake. At past 9pm when it was pitch black outside with very little lighting along the way, we probably walked over 1.5 miles over half an hour, through streams, bridges, a golf course, to finally end up in the private condo properties that, while they are technically part of the Silverado resort, we were not actually supposed to be in this area given we do not live there. We were about 100 yards from the area we were supposed to be, but were fully blocked off by an iron gate that required a code to be entered, which we obviously didn’t have. So we sucked it up, called the front desk, and asked them to come pick us up after giving them our estimated cross streets. The driver was not amused with us and was flabbergasted that we would even attempt walking so late at night when it was so dark. “No one walks here!” he said to us, obviously with a hint of judgment in his tone. “It’s way too far and way too dark.”
Well, at least we made it to our rooms.
Space, especially in metropolitan cities like New York and San Francisco, is not cheap. It’s so expensive that most of the time when we do team “offsites” for multiple days, they end up actually not being off site from our usual offices, but instead “onsite” in a conference room at the office we had to reserve in advance. It’s kind of funny to me, but it is what it is.
Our team has been expanding slowly but surely. There were so many new faces to meet from all of our offices, in San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Cologne, New York, and Austin. Although a lot of people dread the travel and dislike these big team events, at this company, I’ve really looked forward to them because I genuinely think that overall, the calibre of people we’ve hired has been far above average. I actually meet people here who are not only passionate about work and doing a good job as cliche as that sounds, but they have hobbies and interests outside of the office that make them interesting. So it’s nice to make these connections and know that your colleagues are multidimensional beings that are more than just workaholics. And I think I felt this when I first started, but I still feel this now almost two years in. This type of consistency is good.
And even outside of our team as I was running into other familiar faces at the office and meeting new ones, a lot of people seemed so receptive to the messages I’ve posted about my AFSP fundraiser and getting the word out about how pervasive depression and suicide are in society. A few people I’d never even met before introduced themselves to me and said they recognized me from my Slack post on the main team channel, and they were happy that I was supporting a cause like this and being so bold and open. It felt really nice to know that they not only read my post and remembered it, but even remembered me and my name and face.
Even two years later, it feels weird knowing I have good people as colleagues. It’s a happy thought.
After having an early dinner with my parents, they drove me to the Mission Bay Hyatt Place, which is a brand new hotel that opened just a couple of weeks ago. Hotel rates in San Francisco have really skyrocketed over the last few years, so our company booked all traveling employees on my team to stay here. It still wasn’t what I would call “cheap” at $250/night, but unfortunately now for this city, that price is considered cheap.
It’s actually funny that this area is called “Mission Bay” to me. The hotel is located just a block from AT&T park, and growing up, we always just knew this as the “ballpark” area that was relatively industrial, with lots of warehouses where you could buy goods at wholesale prices. Now, it has this “Mission Bay” name that everyone refers to as though it’s always been called this and always existed. It felt so new being here, with all these new low-rise, modern cookie-cutter apartments, “fast casual” food chains like Panera, and even Pinterest’s headquarters is in this area. This is another reminder of how much my hometown is changing, and I just can’t keep up with all the changes. I didn’t recognize this area at all when I arrived. I truly was a tourist in my own city tonight.