August 18th, 2011

Wait -- what?

And all I got was this souvenir map of Mt. Tam.

So yesterday, as part of a fairly baroque series of plans still in motion, I was to be at timprov's hotel near his aunt and uncle's to fetch him for lunch and then spend time with the assembled Cooperage. And he was finishing up getting his stuff ready, and I was on the couch looking out the window as one does when idly chatting, and I said, "Hey, is that...that's not some kind of camera. That's a gun." timprov got up and looked out the window and said, "Aaaand that's another." We were looking down into the parking lot at a SWAT team member and a plainclotheswoman, both pointing weapons at the front door of the hotel. I think we both thought it was some kind of exercise pre-arranged with the hotel staff, no live ammunition, etc. I think we weren't quite sure what to think. But leaving for lunch at that very moment seemed counterindicated, so we watched out the window with interest.

After a bit of this, it dawned on us that we were looking out on Interstate 580 in the middle of the North Bay and seeing no traffic whatsoever, while Sir Francis Drake Road up on the hill was packed solid with cars. Hmm, we said to ourselves, and again, hmm, and so off we went to timprov's laptop to look into the situation. And a very quick Google news search told us that the hotel we were in had an armed gunman in standoff with the police, that 580 and the Richmond Bridge had both been closed, and that the hotel we were in had been evacuated.

We decided that the very last place we wanted to be was in a hotel the police thought was evacuated, with a person who had apparently shot across 580. So I called 911 for the first time in my life, and I told them where we were, and they indicated that the third floor had not yet been evacuated but that the gunman was on a lower floor; they told us to stay put until the police came around evacuating people.

So we did, eating Wheat Thins and sympathizing with the poor police officers who still had weapons trained on the front door and who were fidgeting enough that they were clearly uncomfortable with the long wait. We saw another police officer with SWAT gear and large gun taking cover behind the barricade in the middle of 580, moving down the road to where a stand of trees was between him and the hotel, and then jumping the barricade and hurrying into the stand of trees with his weapon at the ready. Huh! we said. Isn't that a thing! we said. We should talk to a couple of people about this! we said. Good thing we have Wheat Thins! we said. (I don't actually like Wheat Thins very much. But time passes quickly, it turns out, when you're in a hotel with a police standoff with an armed gunman; some kind of available snack is really called for.)

Eventually the police came along, and we were escorted to the third-floor elevator lobby with some twentysomethings and their sweet, overfed, undertrained dog, two middle-aged ladies, and a French family (father, mother, and young daughter around 9 or 10 years old--I spoke a tiny bit of French to the little girl, as the parents both had English but she did not, and it seemed like this might be a good and soothing thing, knowing that someone else around had some rudiments of your language in this stressful situation). The police took us down the elevator in groups, with the armed police officer standing at the front of each elevator load, and then the police officers and their large weapons escorted us out of the hotel to the back side. We were sent down the road in back of the hotel, towards the FedEx building, which turned out to be padlocked shut on the side we were on. We had to walk through a car dealership. I spoke to the little girl in French again, asking if she wanted to buy a new car, which she apparently found funny, I think because she wanted to find something normal and funny and okay and all that. She was pretty freaked out by the guns. Anyway, she started bounding towards the building shouting, "FedEx! FedEx!" because they'd told her that's where we were supposed to go. They should get her to do a commercial.

At that point we were handed over to a park ranger from Mount Tamalpais, since she was a peace officer and had been called in for the portion of this day that did not involve guns. And she was wry and funny and trying to be calming, but all she had in her truck for dealing with this situation was a box of maps and children's worksheets. "If you fill out the worksheet, you get a badge!" she told the little French girl, who looked at her like she was a dangerous lunatic. She was the best part, because she was doing what she could, even if what she could was a little random and slightly psychotic. She was organized and cheerful, and hey! a souvenir map of Mt. Tam!

Then there were the ducks. A family of one adult and somewhere near a dozen adolescent ducks decided to take this opportunity to head down 580 going the wrong direction. That was when timprov really wished he'd had his camera, because, hey! Ducks! 580!

Tim's uncles were out running errands and could fetch us, and the rest of the day could go on with some modifications. The rest of my plans were able to go on as baroquely planned, but timprov has had some hassle that is only now getting resolved, and it's a very good thing Stan and Judy were there, that's what I have to say about that.

Before all of this started, timprov had been wondering what made this Extended Stay Deluxe particularly deluxe, and alecaustin feels that we now know: it provides bonus armed felon with every stay. How many hotels have you stayed in that can say as much?