Monday, November 8, 2010
It’s another one of those coast jumper trips, you know the drill – wait in line to be frisked by underpaid blue gloved TSA agents. I carry network equipment with me, lots of it. It’s the arteries of my occupation and a direct path to my financial well being. It’s sensitive in nature so in no way am I going to ship it, especially UPS (can’t trust those brown short wearing ship jockey’s). Where was I? Oh yeah, the airport. Due to my amazing luck and the equipment I tether TSA loves me. When my bag runs through the x-ray scanner it takes at least three agents to look at the screen and ponder. I think they get excited because it gives them something to do and the profile of my bag looks like cables attached to a bomb that looks suspiciously like a Cisco router; and lord knows they can’t let a Cisco router on board an airplane.
My taxi ride to the hotel had more turbulence then an elephant’s fart. I should have known what I was getting into when the taxi driver sped up to the curb and slammed on his breaks sliding about three feet past me. The door seemed stuck and I couldn’t get it open, then I heard the taxi driver say, “just kick it a few times!”. Sure enough, have damage will travel. When getting into the minivan disguised as a cab I noticed open hand prints on the inside of the windows – these looked like marks made from someone getting a panic attack. I knew then, I was in the right cab. The ride to the hotel was one of the most memorable cab rides I have had in years. This guy missed his calling; his driving characteristics were somewhere between a circus act, stunt driver and a crash test dummy. We were on the freeway when an ambulance flew by; he proceeded to follow the emergency vehicle like an attached rail car. It was more vehicular sodomy then tailgating. In and out of traffic he followed the sirens like a piece of cheese hung from a wire. After a while I am assuming the speeding ambulance was too slow so he passed it and moved on. He was changing multiple lanes and cutting people off but what was crazy to me was how calm his demeanor was. Casually moving the steering wheel while a violent fate was making chase. The pure horror locked the muscles in my face and I couldn’t stop smiling. One hand had a death grip on the seat while the other..oh yes, I too was giving the window a panicked high five. The ride came to a halt like air brakes on an old rollercoaster. My head nearly hit the seat in front of me. I told him his driving was awesome and tipped nicely. He smiled and yelled, “top gun!” while giving me the thumbs up. I wanted to come back with a witty response like “mustard!” but my body was still going through shock from the previous 27 near-death experiences.
This trip has definitely started on the right path.
Until Next Time
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
There was this old man (had to be in his late 70s) I used to work with at my first job. He was bald, had a faded navy seal tattooed on his forearm and smoked Lucky Strikes as if they were a life-source. His name was Vince; he worked in the plumbing department at H&E in Hesperia (a local hardware store that smelled like lumber, grease, soil and sweat. It was cooled by giant swamp coolers so everything felt moist. Every time the desert winds would blow into the store through the automatic doors you could feel your skin shrink under the contrast of environments. Most days I sat with him during lunch and he would tell stories of the war or some adventure he had while stationed in Europe. Although I could not tell which story was actually true he always had a message that went with each of his captivating chronicles.
My favorite story was about his good friend “James”. Now James was married, however he was not pleased with his wife. He would bark it up with Vince at the local tavern and tell these horrible stories about his wife. “She couldn’t care less about me – all she does is gripe about money and how useless I am!” This went on and on for several years but James never left, he just hoped that someday it would get better. It was a Saturday, the yard was mowed and the heavy scent of freshly cut grass filled the air. Vince decided to quench his thirst at the tavern before Marge (his wife of 20 years) got home. When he got to the tavern to his surprise he saw his pal James sitting at the bar. “I think she’s cheat’n on me Vince!!” James yelled with a drunken stagger. “Now hold on there Jimmy what’s the matter?” Vince kept the next Scotch from getting near James. “one of these days…I’ll leave her! I mean it!! – Now bug off I need some air!” James stumbled out the door to the blinding light of the sun. He then heard was sounded like a horn..but then it was too late. Without warning a bus that suffered a blown tire ran up the sidewalk and in an instant knocked the life out of James.
“That was it? That was the story?” I asked. Vince took a deep drag from his filter-less cigarette and sighed. “Now you see James hated his situation but he never left. The longer he stayed the more impossible it seemed to leave. Even when his wife took an interest to the pool guy, he never left. Til that one day a bus drove by and killed him. So if you are ever in a bad situation; leave as soon as you can, or you’ll never see the bus coming.”
Until Next Time.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Lanyards; these are given as a form of identification in the congresses I travel to. They are much more than just a fancy piece of vinyl that is held at the neck, they are more like badges of honor. Something you receive for spending hours in airports, cramped in coach seats, waiting in line to be strip searched by TSA and not to mention the ridiculous work hours while under the influence of jet lag. In airport bars you can make strangers in to friends within a hour but you’ll forget who they were in minutes. Traveling for work is a twisted love story of random events and sterno heated chicken kabobs. A never ending tale of fatigue driven lunacy and time zone lobotomy.
Dull moments can last forever or never happen – at the same time. The hotel staff are the ghost of service; always moving tables, setting up food dispensaries and distributing linens – they are often seen but rarely present. The pungency of taxi drivers, sounds of the street philosophers and the sights of community college bar maids all play a part in this act; a perpetual sequel to a play that has yet been written. The immune system is always under siege and the feeling of “almost sick” is often standard procedure within these grounds.
It’s not romantic, polished or divine. Your never in a place it’s more of a state of mind. Keeping the brain true to the task at hand while dealing with fatigue, hotel nutrition and a hangover can be a challenge but after awhile it all goes numb. Thursdays are Mondays, Fridays are Tuesdays and today will happen sometime tomorrow. Try waking up in a cold sweat because you're late for the meeting only to find out it’s 3am because your mind thinks it’s still in another time zone. After the panic subsides you toss and turn trying to get back in to a hold of sleep only to be awaken again by environment unfamiliarity and the adultery happening next door. Hotels are only familiar due to repetition, the smells and paid smiles are often the same. Bad air fresheners’ and stale cold air being pumped through the vents are just part this element. The rest made up of controlled situations with an uncontrollable circumstance.
The experience of the traveler is feeling out of place; and that’s core of why I’m here. It’s something you look forward to as much as you want it to end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Until Next time.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Orlando Florida, what can you say? My lungs feel like a moist towelette. I think my room is temperature controlled by a swamp cooler and gigantic Italian armpit. You cannot purchase chewing gum anywhere in the Disney World properties. It’s banned, like a steak sandwich in India. I had two beers in make shift bar that was in a hallway next to a really loud fountain and an unassuming triangle.
There are a lot of people wondering the halls, most of them are on their phone or reading a text message. This leads to an interesting phenomena; no one is looking where they are walking. I have witnessed several collisions with unsuspecting structure baring pylons and hotel staff. We had a rogue squirrel run into the hotel and attempted to enter one of our highly sensitive meetings; fortunately for us our security team (which are ex-secret serviceman) were able to corner the squirrel and force him back outside.
When scheduling a shuttle to for transportation to the airport (on the web) there is a line for gratuity. So, they want you to tip before you even get “serviced”. What is that all about? Speaking of awesome, we paid $3200 for an internet line in our meeting room with speeds that peak about 512Kb, that’s less than half the speed of the slowest DSL service. It took 12 seconds for that Google page to show up. It cost $8 dollars to use the gym that looks more like a Salvation Army break room. That's $8 per visit.
They have a lifeguard that’s armed with a megaphone, she really likes using the siren and yelling at people who look like they’re having too much fun. She is sitting on a highchair about 5 feet above the water and overlooks a knee deep pool that’s about 15 feet long. It looks completely ridiculous, because it is.
Disney employes “undercover” trash collectors. They look like tourist but carry a hidden trash bag, whenever there is paper or something unmentionable on the ground they pick it up at speeds far too fast for modern equipment to calculate. It’s equally impressive as it is disturbing. I still have three more days of this socialist menopause.
Until next time.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
At another hotel, working at another congress. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep or maybe it’s a prolonged exposure to consciousness. Whatever the case the mind is being offered information from the senses that really don’t add up. I feel like a misguided missile of reality, a grenade that suddenly became a boomerang to the unsuspected origin of deployment. There sounds what seems to be a giant dishwasher in the ceiling. My thoughts gather like those pilled stones you find near some beaches that someone wearing a tinfoil hat had stacked previously. That was a lot of work to stack those very small piles of pebbles in line – most of them form some sort of geometric design. The mysterious wonder of people come in all kinds of shapes, flavors and semi glossed laminated coupons.
I think that giant dishwasher is on its drying cycle. Am I the only one who hears it? There is a large white dry-erase board to the right of my table, when did it show up? I haven’t noticed it until I realized it was there. Just like a mattress store or Carlface McGee. No one ever expects that guy. This meeting room seems to be breathing like a cheap lava lamp. The fax machine feels distant, it must be thinking of a symbiotic relationship and a navy blue can opener equipped with 26 medium sized easy grip handles. Sure it’s complicated but who doing the math? Lunch is being served, maybe I should eat before Dubious the Perudo Master decides to throw the switch and exacerbate my sandwich.
Lunch, just came back from it. Is it me or eating alone in a really large meeting hall seem a bit odd. I was sitting at a table amongst 47 other white sheeted eight foot round tables complete with the cloth napkin apparatus. There were three waiters in black suites standing eerily still. Almost elbow to elbow in an exaggerated Disney’esk perfectly animated posture. In the corner of my eye I noticed one waiter standing alone. About 34 feet, 8 inches from the others, he however was not still, constantly shifting his weight from one leg to the other as if he was impatiently waiting for nothing to happen. His movement was slow and rhythmic, you could almost set your watch to him. So I did, but he was the wrong time – stupid Grandfather Clock pendulum impersonator. I was sitting in the middle of this empty room and the hotel had these small speakers on very tall poles playing inappropriately fast jazz. You know that kind of jazz that jumps into your skin and slaps around like a hyperactive cool handkerchief stuck between a warm back and a hot sweater. Yes, it was almost near comfortable.
The fatigue is settling in as the day is near to an end.
Until Next Time.