The weekend before Thanksgiving was busy. At 6:00am Sat, Mom and Tim left for
the VEX tournament hosted by the high school robotics club. The kid had been
working hard with four classmates on their bot for the past two months and today
was show time. After his martial art training at noon and with sore muscles all
over, Bill joined the event as a parent volunteer.
He knew next to nothing about robotics and, as it turned out, there was little
for him to do. The school club had run 23 years with a stellar record and the
place worked like a well-oiled machine. 38 teams from the Bay Area gathered at
six-foot fold-in-half tables lined up in six rows taking most of the floor of
the assembly hall. Three arenas (aka fields) were set up at the opposite wall
for testing. At the door was a help desk (called the pit admin), a big screen
showing results and ranking, and a snack booth (or concession). Everyone looked
sharp and engaged in something, each had a purpose, and Bill felt easy being the
center of nothing, and was glad to do what he did best: lounging around, staying
out of the way, and recovering from physical exertion.
It was a long day. The teams went back and forth between their tables in the
hall and the theater next door to compete during their slots. 16 were selected
by 3:00pm for four brutal single-elimination rounds. After Tim's team lost at
the quarter finals, Bill rushed out and bought a tuna sandwich to share with the
kid. By the time the tournament ended, he had fully recovered and was happy to
help packing away tables and chairs. It took three more hours to clean up before
they headed home at 8:00pm.
Sunday morning, Bill biked 1.5 hrs to Fremont to find a network cable for Tim,
who needed a fast connection for his games. At his old house, he lifted weights,
swept the yards, trimmed the plants, and headed back at around 2:30pm.
It was a gorgeous windless afternoon, just like yesterday. Under a fresco sky,
the sun was shining on the dancing waters of the Bay. The golden east hills had
turned darker and already started lap-dissolving with a hint of green. The
trails were buzzing with hikers, runners, cyclists, dogs, and small children. It
was the season: since Halloween, festivity descended in the air and no matter
what was befalling, people cheered up. Coming out of the hills, Bill took to the
levees. Flat, quiet, and well-travelled on, they were perfect for biking.
He had begun to feel hollow inside, however. Since morning, he had had black
coffee, two handful of nuts, and two cups of tea. After scaling the Dumbarton
bridge, all he could think of was food: not just any food but hot chocolates,
the thick, cloying, scalding stuff from the store. At the T junction west of
the bridge, he could have continued on to the Starbucks at the end of Willow
Street in East Menlo Park, but instead of replenishing, he wanted to conserve
energy--halfway home, his own and the e-bike's were both draining fast.
Once indoors, he pounced on a big chunk of a leftover cake and a bow of Kyoho
grapes. With another handful of nuts, it was a satisfying supper.