The Circle of Virtue, or Why I Am An Optimist

I basically believe people are good, most things are possible and that life rewards virtue. Despite evidence to the contrary, I am still an optimist. Tonight was a clear example of why optimism is a great aid to living one's life. So, it is Sunday night in San Francisco. That is one great city. Perhaps my favourite city. The clock says 7pm and I have no idea where to eat. So I start walking and reckon that something good will turn up within the hour.

Now, those who know December in San Francisco and the eating patterns of locals and tourists will be pretty sure to tell you that without a reservation you are almost certain to be going hungry. Especially along the Embarcadero from Fishermans wharf Southbound. However, I am an optimist and I smiled off the bellhop's advice and set out.

35 minutes later and I am at the Ferry Building. This rings a bell on a review that I once read, and I go in. Aha! The Slanted Door.

It is packed. Heaving. People queue outside. Some kind of conference has descended on it, all still wearing their name badges and with rolled up posters under their arms explaining some weird medical conditions. The delightful, beautiful and cheerful female maitre d' shakes her head and suggests that a table for one is not something she can do, despite my obvious European charms.

Now this is where optimism comes into play: I understand how much she wants to help and the limitations she has to work under, so I offer to go stand at the bar and wait. She offers me a piece of advice “just stand behind someone who is eating desert at the bar, and we'll do something for you”. So off I go, select my Witcap from the list of Belgium beers and let the barman know I am waiting for a chair at the bar. He is an optimist, he winks and points out two women who have the cheque in front of them and are on their last mouthful of white wine. So I stand and wait. And wait. And wait. They take a very long time over one mouthful each. So, while waiting, I share a few words with a charming Australian guy who is eating prawns on his own at one end of the bar.

Finally, the two women get up and leave. Barman nods, smiles and points out the chair … and two young ladies get up from a table near by and walk straight into the two chairs. Or rather one chair, as I am now in one of them. Dilemma! Hunger v. good manners? Good manners and optimism win again. I give up my seat, they sit together. I resume waiting.

About 5 minutes and the rest of that delicious wheat beer later, the barman nods me over and the Australian has given up his seat for me to enjoy while he finishes his beer. The first reward of optimism . I start chatting to the two ladies (who turn out to be from Tivo in  Palo Alto via Minnesota from Bangalore and Kenya). The barman tips me off that they have bought my beer in reward for giving up my seat. The second reward for optimism. I return the favour and buy the Australian a beer as he gave his seat to me. Circle of Karma is complete . Optimism got me a great meal (and I mean exceptionally good) and some enchanting conversation and about 10 points of karma. If this was a game of Fallout, I'd be thinking of paladin level after this.

The point is: I could have booked, had a good meal, had 10 minutes less to wait and had nothing more to remember. In fact, I most likely will not have remembered it at all later as it would be unexceptional. But optimism is a way to create exceptional events. There are – sadly – disappointments and problems sometimes, but they are nothing compared to the rewards of optimism. Go on, give it a try.

Oh, the meal:

asian carpaccio of beef, lime, cilantro, crushed peanuts and sesame crackers
caramelised prawns, jasmine rice, half order of bok choi and shiitake mushrooms
pineapple tart, eucalyptus icecream and reisling Auslese
four barrels organic espresso

Truely world class food, and out-of-this-world coffee (and I am a coffee fiend).

Sometimes, despite the attempts of others to pop my bubble, I have to say that being an optimist is a great way to live.


  1. David, I thought this was a media blog, not a coffee review. Next thing you 'll be riffing on Midnight Oil and the karma that drives the lead singer to become the Environment Minister.
    Cheers, David Sykes


  2. Dear Mr Sykes. Thanks for the Oilers' album. It is still the most played album in our car. Obviously anyone in media needs food and coffee. Writing about them is a reasonable step. I'll get back to the hardcore media and technology stuff soon enough!


  3. I have a couple more for you if you are interested. Let me know your address and i'll send you a late Christmas present. dmsykes at gmail dot com
    Hope it's going well, Dave


Comments are closed.