Spending the last three days in Orange County has reminded me of an adventure there 18 years ago involving a Tai Chi workout in a hotel parking lot, some SCUBA divers, the Orange County Sheriff, and some apparently concerned hotel staff.
I was in Irvine to attend a series of company meetings, and at the end of the second day of exhausting drudgery attending presentations and breathing hotel air I had to get out, even if it was only to the parking lot. It was late. I had changed into some comfortable sweats and sniffed around the parking lot for an out-of-the-way spot to do my 37 move Yang form.
As I did my warm-up exercises I felt new energy moving through my body. I'd avoided alcohol and was feeling sharp in the mild night air. The lights of surrounding buildings twinkled, but I had picked a spot facing a relatively dark empty expanse of graded land, so that the area directly in front of me as I began my form was mostly a curtain of blackness out of which emerged faint horizon light from developments up the coast.
As I finished my first set and began the form again a large bus pulled up about 20 feet driectly in front of me. There was at least 100 yards of empty parking lot space on either side of me, but the bus stopped and began unloading so that the people had to decide to go left or right to either side of me. What made things more complicated was the fact that everyone who got off also claimed a huge amount of heavy SCUBA gear from inside the cargo area of the bus and lugged it to a spot about ten feet to my right where there eventually arose a large mound of BCS jackets, wet suits, and other equipment. A hose was brought out from the building in back of me and people began washing their stuff off under the street lamps while I did my solo form about 20 feet away.
The Tai Chi had got me into an alpha state so massive that I just watched the show unfolding before me with a kind of detachment, as though it was a movie being projected all around me. I just kept doing my form, over and over, and in time the divers all drifted off with their equipment to their vehicles and the bus left.
Once again I was all alone in the parking lot. The lamps buzzed softly in their tall towers, shedding a kind of yellow-green light all over the expanse of asphalt. I just kept on moving deeper into the form, quietly exulting in having outlasted the noisy, complicated intrusion.
Suddenly I noticed some new lights moving across the darkness way off in the undeveloped area. There were a lot of colors and they were moving fast, gradually coming closer. I continued my practice and tracked the lights, some flashing some not. Finally it dawned on me that the lights were attached to approaching vehicles, police vehicles. There were about four cars, and I thought, "OK, here's something even more interesting than the last show. I'll just keep on with my form."
The police cars converged out of the dirt field beyond the parking lot and came to a stop together at the edge of the hotel property. Policemen emerged from the cars and began walking in my direction. Still, I just watched in a distracted way, waiting to see them veer off in one direction or another, as though I was invisible because of my Tai Chi. But they didn't veer off. When the officers were about 30 yards away from me I realized with a kind of sinking feeling that they were coming because they had some business with me. They stopped about 20 feet away and stood there, about 10 of them. I slowly came to rest and said "hello." Then, anticipating, in my super-calm state, some kind of confrontation, I added in my steadiest voice, "I'm a guest at this hotel, what do you want with me."
There was silence as the officers stared back. Then one of them stepped forward and stammered, "W-what are you doing?" I replied that I was doing a kind of Chinese calesthentics. I explained that it was a workout I do when away on business as I was that night. They considered this reply, and then the stammering officer continued, "We got a call that someone was out in the back of the parking lot on PCP." I said, "Well, I'm the only one here, I haven't seen anyone else except a bus full of divers that unloaded and went home about 20 minutes ago."
The officers looked at one another, had a short conference, and one of them said, "Well then, no problem, sorry to have bothered you." They turned, walked back to their cars, switched off the flashing lights and drove back into the dark area. I stood and watched their lights gradually receed and finally wink out. This was enough excitement in one night for me, and I turned and walked back into the hotel, went up to my room, took a shower and went to bed.
Later, back in San Francisco at Tai Chi class I told my teacher about the incident. He laughed and replied, "well, the way your form looks no wonder they thought you were on PCP." I had to laugh too, at how expertly he had nailed me. Then he clapped for class to begin.