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Archive for September 25th, 2010

But at Least it was a Dry Heat.

Been a while since I posted.

I was on travel.  Here’s how that worked out…

A scientist and good friend who I work with was telling me a week or so ago about a conference in Orlando.  She mentioned some of the topic material and I said it sounded fascinating.  She said “You want to go?”    What should I call that scientist friend…?  Hmmm.  She does need a moniker.  How about “Irritable French Woman”?  Yes, IFW it is.  That will do.   Anyway, IFW cornered me with my own insatiable curiosity as she always does.

Ruh-roh!

I had uttered words that boxed me in.  If you haven’t figured out from earlier posts I’d choose many many things before choosing to fly.  I have said in the past:  “I’d rather douse myself in turpentine, strip buck naked, and crawl through broken glass than fly.”

True.  Absolutely true.  Put another way, I’d rather skin my own scrotum and take a sitz bath in salt water and rubbing alcohol than fly.

It’s a trust/control issue.

Anyway, there I was, trapped by my own traitorous mouth – the very same one that got me in so much trouble as a kid, because it doesn’t have a brain and speaks of it’s own volition.

So I sucked it up, took a deep breath, and said “Okay!”

Flash forward to Friday before last.  I had just grabbed a data set for this same conference.  It was 5pm and edging closer to 6pm when I started in on a second data set and felt the familiar telltale signs of a cold.  Sweaty.  Clammy.  Sore throat.

Crap!  And I have to travel on Monday!!!

Offsetting that horrible realization was the awesome gift given to me by Mitchell – the Saddleback leather briefcase/bag thing.  I was excited and filled with stomach-churning trepidation at the same time.  It was like getting married all over again.

By that night I had that full-blown feeling you get when you’re in the ascension phase of a cold – like post-steamroller squirrel roadkill.  Saturday and Sunday were spent with that all-to-familiar headache that feels like trolls are using blunt tools to burrow out of your skull via the sinus cavities.  I had hacked up two pieces of lung in the interim.

By Monday I was feeling a little better.  We’d had our sump pump die on Sunday night so I waited for the plumber to fix it (I was in no condition to do it and I didn’t have the time either).  Then I went in to work to get some papers that I’d printed out and to make some last-minute preparations.

A secretary, I think I have named before but cannot recall the particular name, met me in the hall.  I’ll give her a new name for now.  Let’s see… Office Assassin.   Anyhow, Office Assassin says “So, how you doing?”

“I’m dying.  Thanks for asking”

Office Assassin says “Well, the airplane ride should make you feel all better.”  This was said with a straight face and in a tone that crawled with malice.  I expressed my insincere thanks and told her that I knew she meant it from the bottom of her coal-black heart.

“I didn’t reserve a seat for you in the rear lavatory this time.  See?  My heart grew by three sizes!”

“Great, so now you have a bigger lump of coal to keep you warm this winter.”

Anyways.  I made it to my flight on-time.  I was dizzy and gasping for breath because my traitorous lungs were engaged in staging their revolt against the body entire.   My plane ride to Orlando was mostly uneventful except for the pilot who had obviously spent a lot of time flying F-15A’s.  Rather than a graceful approach the awful wretch kept doing snap-rolls and ruddering us in skewed – in a windless clear blue sky.  His empathy fuel-tanks were clearly on empty that day.

On the ground I dialed up IFW on my cell-phone.  She arrived twenty minutes after I did, looking irritable.  She did not look particularly french.  She started walking pretty fast towards the rental car place with me trailing, wheezing, and gasping.  I said “Geez, it’s 94 degrees right now!  At least it’s a dry heat, right?”   A shrimp crawled across the sidewalk in front of me and some fish I didn’t recognize swam past my head giving lie to my remark.

We got the keys to the rental car (which was not a Mustang convertible in spite of my repeated requests for one) and when we traipsed the 1/4 mile to the slot where it should have been there was no car.  We hiked back to the office, now with IFW looking quite irritable and now somehow looking very french.  At the office they gave us the directions to a different car.  That car was further away and it was also locked.  We went to the rental office again and this time  IFW was looking irritable and french and this time she was also cursing in french.

Secretly I must say that when that happens, it’s actually funny for me to watch.

Our third car was a Matrix, which is a car which has many innovative features, none of them in the least bit comfortable.  It was like riding in a shoebox stuffed with rocks.

Florida is a pretty place.  If it wasn’t in a swamp I expect it’d be prettier.  Twenty minutes later we were in our hotel and we both decided to go to our own rooms to unpack and get ready for a later dinner.

Dinner was at Landry’s.  Our waitress sold food as if she were a car salesman operating only on commission.  We repelled all but her most intense attacks and finally got her to simply bring an appetizer of mussels braised in white wine, herbs, and butter.  They were so awesome that I almost forgot to continue feeling like I was dying.  I ordered a 1/2-1/2 meal of crawfish etoufee and fried crawfish.  I wheeze-waddled out of there with two buttons to my pants irretrievably lost when they popped off after gorging on seafood.  When I called Cruel Wife I told her it was very good seafood but on every other level (even spiritually) it was a horrid awful affair and I was glad she didn’t have to endure it.  I didn’t want CW to feel bad about not having tender, succulent, and fresh seafood (or swampfood in my case).

Tuesday was the first day of the conference and I was actually feeling halfway human again.  The day ended quite well, as I had unfettered time to sit and ponder upon two designs that had been vexing me and came up with a new concept that I want to write a proposal on.  Don’t ask what it was, please, because I can’t tell you.

That night we went and  had seafood again, this time at a place called “The Crab House”.  I mentioned to IFW that one could interpret that two different ways and I sure hoped it was the version that served food and not the other possibility.

I had one of the best bowls of clam chowder I have ever had in my life, and over 50% of it was actual clams – tender, juicy, clammy little morsels that outnumbered the potatoes almost 2 to 1.  The sea bass was truly… unremarkable.  It was anticlimactic.  I’ve had better tuna sandwiches.

Afterward we went back to the hotel and I said I needed to call it a night and went to my room.  Time passes differently in a hotel on travel and it is very similar to hospital-time.  It sort of both stops and moves at the same time, only instead of moving just forwards it also moves sideways.  The net result is that it does pass at normal speed but it seems like it is moving not at all.   I called Cruel Wife again and this time I was able to convince her that dinner was “meh” and she believed me.  I made no mention of the clam chowder.

Wednesday rolled around.  The conference was just ok, not nearly as good as the previous day, but I still got more done than at work, even without my customary 2 hour nap in the middle (in the office I have mastered the ability of sleeping with my eyes open).  I did have a relapse of sorts and was experiencing very real lung pain, which Cruel Wife had predicted from her experiencing of the same cold a few days earlier than me.

IFW drove me to the airport.  I thanked her, I said my goodbyes and got out, and she drove away.  She needed to spend one more day there to present our stuff to people who were attending the last day and I think that made her a bit irritable.

The airport was packed.  I wheezed my way through the ticket/check-in counter and headed to the security line to be screened.  Remember, I was sick, tired, and sweaty…

I put my briefcase through along with a tub containing my ridiculously un-necessary flannel shirt/jacket, shoes, coins, and papers.

I was motioned through the metal detector and set it off.   Still had my cell-phone.

Crap.

I went through the detector again and set it off again.

Crap.  Crap.

I went back through and took off my belt.

I went through the detector again and this time it made a new and interesting yet ominous noise.

“Is it my wallet?  I forgot to remove my wallet.”  Along with forgetting to remove my head from my ass, too, the way this was progressing…

The TSA guy pulled me aside and said “Stand with your arms out, your feet apart a bit, and don’t move.”

Crap crap crap.  Damn.

There I was, getting felt up by a TSA guy with no sense of humor, blue gloves, and a strange bulge in his pocket.  Don’t know what the bulge was and I didn’t ask.  Then he told me “We used to pull one person in ten aside but they called it ‘profiling’ so now we do it totally randomly.  You got lucky.”

Oh sure, I feel lucky.  Standing here sweaty and nervous.  I’m confused and sick.  You are groping me and yet I feel totally great because you aren’t profiling, you’re checking me as if I looked and behaved like a high-risk individual, neither of which describes me.  Yeah, I feel great.  Lucky, even.

He waved me on through and I got to fly home.  The flight was a bit long since this pilot behaved a bit oddly, flying slow and below radar level.  This seemed unusual for a 757 but he did get us there in one piece.  I got my luggage and headed for the ground transportation so I could pick up my truck.

On the bus there were probably six or seven other people.  We got to the lot and he asked us where we were parked.  I told him I was in D-53 (or whatever).  He drove past my truck about a hundred yards.  I told him “It was back there!”  The driver shrugged and said blandly “Well, I’m going to have to drop these folks off and then I’ll get to your vehicle last.”

Gee, thank you for that.  I had nowhere to go, anyway, dude.

The next guy said “I’m in 4-C”.

“What kind of car?”

“Uh, I think it’s a Lexus.”

“What color?”

“Uh… I think it’s blue.  It might be black.”

(In unison four or five of us said) “You think it is blue?  You think it is a Lexus?”

I said “Uh, yeah, it might not be a Lexus.  It might be a Ford, somewhere between 1945 and 1967.  Could be a red truck, too.”

Well, the guy kept bipping his key thingy and eventually the car lit up when we got near it.

Note:  I cannot be the only person to wonder if it was actually his car, can I?  I mean, you can’t actually be that stupid and continue to breathe, can you?

As he got off I said under my breath “… and next time, don’t drive to the airport drunk off your ass…”  Apparently it was loud enough for everyone to hear because they all started laughing.   Tough crowd.  I know my excuse – I’m an asshole – but as a whole, it was a tough crowd.

Thirty minutes later I was in my truck and flying home at Michigan speeds – subsonic, definitely, but also totally ignoring the lines on the road because in Michigan they are only suggestions.

Be it ever so humble, no place is like home.

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