When I couch surf, usually at some point in the night the person hosting me asks my opinion on what we should do - "Do you want to go out or stay in?" is the usual question. And my response, at least after the first week or so of the trip, has been the same every time.
"My philosophy on this trip is to just go with whatever happens, so you do what you want and I'll go along."
And let me tell you, that has paid off like I couldn't believe. It paid off in a big way in Seattle (twice), and it's worked out well in small ways in tons of other places, from the first night I ever couchsurfed to getting good food and seeing a random jam band in Minneapolis to having a chill day in Louisville. I can't say that every time I left my plans open, something awesome came up. But I can say that many of the really awesome times I've had wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't been as willing to adapt my schedule.
And that worked out to my advantage again yesterday.
So yesterday didn't go quite as planned in D.C. The original plan was to get up, ride down to the mall, and then go see the Archives and maybe a few other things. Instead, I found a ticket on my bike, and when I went to pay it I got caught in an earthquake and wasn't even able to do that. So in the morning/early afternoon I ended up doing approximately none of the things I had planned, at any stage of my planning.
However, while I was sitting around in front of the Canadian Embassy writing the earthquake post on my phone and hoping they were going to open the Municipal Services building back up, I checked facebook and noticed a ton of people commenting about the quake. So I commented on a few of them back, asking where they were and what it was like for them, and telling them about my experience.
Well, one of those people was Susan, a friend from high school. Well sort of - she moved to Virginia around... sophomore year, I think? So we knew each other, but hadn't seen each other or talked for about 10 years. It had, up to that point, been one of those things where you friend someone on facebook and then almost never talk to them.
But she happened to be in Arlington, and I happened to be in D.C., so she asked if I wanted to meet for happy hour. I said sure, we made plans, and I headed towards Arlington in the post-quake traffic.
Oh the traffic... there was not much moving going on anywhere. I'm not proud of it, but I got so frustrated with not moving that I actually did that motorcycle thing and rode down the dotted line between rows of cars. I have never done that on my motorcycle before, and I really don't plan on doing it again, but it probably turned a 2-hour drive into a 30-minute drive. I only did it when traffic was stopped to avoid potentially dangerous situations, and as soon as it started moving I'd slip into a lane (especially if there was another motorcycle there). But it still felt extremely dangerous, and my heart rate was actually up while I was doing it.
Part of the reason I didn't mind doing the drive to Arlington is that I was planning on sleeping there anyway. I had posted on the D.C. Last Minute Board on couchsurfing to try to find a place, and on Monday a guy had responded and said I could stay at his place in Arlington Tuesday night - so I had something set up over there, and was planning on heading over there around dinnertime anyway.
Anyway, I met Susan at Buffalo Wild Wings where she and her coworkers were having an early happy hour due to the earthquake - I think that's generally what happened in most businesses after the quake. We chatted and did the whole "What have you been up to for the last 10 years" deal, and then had a good time hanging out with her coworkers - her boss actually picked up my wings and beer and wouldn't accept money for them, so I just left what I would have given him as a tip on the table.
After spending an hour or so there (they had been there before me for a while), people started heading separate ways, but Susan invited me to her roommates' boyfriend's place to hang out for a little while. Well, I hadn't really made plans with the people I was supposed to be surfing with, so I went along. The four of us - Brian, Sandra, Susan, and me - ended up going up to the roof of his apartment building to hang out and have a beer.
|View from the roof - you can see the Washington monument over there|
|This is one of those surreal things that happens to me when I keep my schedule open.|
The bar was a pretty cool place, actually. We ended up getting pitchers of Sam Adams Octoberfest and sitting around talking. I wanted to get something to eat, so I started glancing through the menu, and noticed "Waiver Wings." In case you don't get it, the point is they're so hot you have to sign a waiver before they'll let you eat them. I mentioned them in passing and said I was curious to try them - and Brian said he was too. After getting a pledge of one wing from each of the girls, we put in an order. (It turns out you don't actually have to sign a waiver, which is too bad.)
These were the type of wings that hit you slow. Like you get some on your lip, lick it off, and about two minutes later it feels like your lip is going to fall off. We consumed copious amounts of beer while eating them. (Probably TMI: this morning was not too pleasant either.) But we ate all but one, which Brian took home to give to an unsuspecting roommate.
After that we headed over to Susan and Sandra's place, and after picking up a six-pack of Magic Hat, we spent the night drinking some wine, beer, and espresso vodka, and smoking a pipe.
I crashed on their couch last night, and slept in this morning - enough that I felt like I couldn't get everything done that I wanted to on the way to Philadelphia, so I pushed that back by a day, and I'm spending today in Arlington - not doing exactly what I originally planned, but that's a story for another time.
And all of that - the entire evening - happened because someone I knew in high school posted about the earthquake on facebook and I noticed it. Well, that, and a healthy dose of being willing to change plans.