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Vancouver, Washington, United States
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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Travel diary, last week of July

It’s very interesting just thinking about where I am now and where I actually should be.  As I write these words, I’m supposed to be in Milwaukee for a conference, but I’m still home instead, which is not a very bad place to be, considering how often I’ve been hanging around here lately.  I haven’t felt well all week end long, and feel that I need to see the doctor in the morning.  I therefore didn’t fly out today, and changed my reservation for tomorrow, and even Tuesday if necessary, as the conference won’t start in earnest until Wednesday anyway, and there are five others from the same company already there.


I can say that I have survived one of the most challenging travel weeks I’ve ever had.  It was the kind of week where everything that could go wrong actually did.  It started with waking up tired and grouchy on Monday, and got down hill from there.


My flight to Baltimore, which was supposed to leave at 4:30 PM. Ended up leaving sometime after six instead.  This got me into Baltimore way past midnight, something which I tried to avoid by booking an earlier flight.


Upon arriving, it took me close to 45 minutes to find a taxi, as the regular taxi stand was closed due to construction.  The closure takes effect after midnight everyday, so most people didn’t know about it.  After running up and down the terminal and asking people, some of whom didn’t speak English, and most of whom had no clue what I was talking about, I finally caught a lucky break and got a hold of a taxi.  I later came to wonder whether it was all that lucky.


We proceeded to the four star hotel which I booked on the Internet for what I thought was a very good price.  After a fight with the Indian cab driver, who was very upset at the fact that I was paying with a credit card even though I did warn him of the fact before we left the airport, I got into the hotel and checked into my room.  I didn’t like the ambiance of the hotel – something about it struck me as being a bit creepy, but hey, it was almost 2:30 in the morning and I was so tired I couldn’t tell a rabbit from a flock of sheep.


I went up to my room, only to find that the air conditioning wasn’t working.  With temperature in the 90’s and almost 100% humidity, that wasn’t something I could tolerate.  Upon ringing up the front desk, they said that they had no one to fix the AC, but that they’ll move me into a smaller room if that was OK with me.  I did not mention that the room I was in was very, very small!  I figured I was there to spend the night, so I didn’t care so much if the room was small or large – I was so tired I just wanted a bed to lay my body.


Upon trying to get into the replacement room, the key didn’t work.  The hotel man and myself tried every trick in the book to no avail.  Suddenly, he just put down the key and ran away saying “I’ll get the lady up front to come and help you”.


I was getting way past irritable by then.  I waited for the lady for a couple of minutes, when my evil part began to take over.  I headed to the lift and proceeded to the lobby, only to find my friend the hotel man hanging out at his little stand, and the lady at the front desk talking to someone else (another colleague from what I could gather).


“I’m sorry” she said as she saw me approaching, “I’ll find something for you right away”.  I tried to gather whatever remaining patience and kindness, and told her that indeed she should find me something – a taxi to take me the hell out of here.


She was a bit surprised – she didn’t think I’d say that, and frankly, I was surprised myself.  It was so late and I was so tired that it would have made sense to try to sort something out for the remainder of the night, considering that I had to be at work at 8:00 AM, but my brain’s stubborn circuitry was irrevocably engaged and I wasn’t about to back down.


The taxi came, and I headed to the nearest Marriott.  I figured that’s something I know, and I was sure that I would find a clean and comfortable (and air conditioned) room to spend whatever left of the night in.  To my dismay, I was told that they didn’t have any availability when I got there, due to a convention they were having.  All I remember was that I just stood there and started laughing, so much so that I’m sure the lady behind the counter thought I was crazy (which may not have been very far from the truth at the time).  I begged and pleaded with her, and she (I guess) felt sorry enough for me to put me up in a room for the remainder of the night, on the condition that I’d get the heck out of there in the morning.


The following day went exactly as expected.  Machines crashed, software didn’t work nearly as well, and on my way to DC for a business dinner with a contact there, the train was two hours late.


The following day I went to visit a friend in Herndon VA, about 40 minutes from Union Station in DC where I was staying, and ended up staying there until half past midnight.  I wanted to take a cab back to my hotel, but my friend wanted to give me a ride instead.  Upon explaining to him that it would be easier for me to take a cab, since the hotel I was in was difficult to find, we agreed for him to take me to Tyson’s Corner, which is a midpoint between his house and my hotel, where I would take a taxi and thus save on the fare.


My friend wanted to be nice to me, and kept on driving past Tyson’s Corner without letting me know.  We got into DC, where we spent 40 minutes cruising around downtown DC trying to find my hotel.  There was not a soul out there to ask, and we drove through some heavily guarded areas as well as very scary ones.  My friend, who is a fantastic person, is the kind of person who’s directionally challenged, and therefore uses landmarks to find his way (I thought I was the only one that did that).  Since it was pitch dark, since it was a part of town he wasn’t familiar with to begin with, and since the streets in DC tend to run in circles with the capital being the center, he got completely lost.  We ended up chasing a cab in which I jumped, asking the driver to take me to the hotel where I was staying.  We drove for less than a block, and low and behold, there was the hotel!  I was worried about my friend – wondering whether he’ll be able to find his way back to the highway.  Other than his wife killing me, I was worried that I’d feel quite guilty and bad if anything were to happen to him.  He assured me he was OK though, and I asked him (just like an overprotective mother) to call me when he gets home, to which he obliged.


It was Thursday by then, and I still had a trip to New York City to finish before going home the following day.  I woke up in the morning with a horrible pain in my left foot.  I took it with stride though and proceeded to board the train to New York’s Pen Station, where I met my friend and had a wonderful time with.  It was a visit deserving of an article of its own right, so I’ll save that for a future reflection.  Needless to say, we went to a Brazilian restaurant and had a delightful time.  I took the train the following morning back to Baltimore and caught the last flight back to Denver.


I was hoping to finish some work yesterday, when a friend of mine who flew in from oversees came to visit.  He never did tell me that he was coming to the US, leaving it as a surprise for me.  Though I didn’t get anything done, I did nevertheless have lots of fun.  Today, however, was a day about which I knew very little.  I was so tired all day that I kept waking up and falling asleep.  I remember putting the laundry in the fridge (or maybe it was the washer – I’d better go find out), and recall that I woke up in earnest after 8 PM.  I ordered a pizza, and here I am!


I have lots I’d like to write about, but my brain, my body and my fingers are very tired – besides there is a total of over 50 emails I need to attend to – so I must stop.  Hopefully I’ll feel like writing sometime soon.


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