Still Kicking

My knee and leg haven’t fallen off yet, but apparently my desire to post has. I need to correct this soon. Among the short stories I want to lengthen are my recent PS4 purchase and thoughts, the Vikings in general this year, and the return of posts containing smaller chunks of random gudness.

The Last Leg

I’d better finish documenting this journey before it’s so far in the rear-view mirror that I forget all about it.

Where was I? Oh yes, hanging around in the Baltimore airport. After eating and penning (?) my last post, I packed everything up and slowly made my way to the gate. Before too long, we’re boarding, being seated, all that fun stuff.

Then came the knee injury. I’m a tall guy. Most commercial airplanes are not made for tall guys. At all. I found this out firsthand when trying to shimmy into my window seat for the flight to Minneapolis. As I stick my left leg halfway into the seat, I plant my foot, it gets caught on something and I attempt to move my leg to get it out. What followed was one of the sharpest, most excruciating pains I’ve felt in a long, long time. I basically collapsed into my seat at that point and start grabbing my knee. I’ve twisted stuff before, but this really hurt.

The rest of this flight was pretty boring. I sat right next to the wing, and felt a lot like John Lithgow. I bet he wished he had a smartphone up there.

Finally, we land in Minneapolis. So close now! Except for the hour-long delay staring me in the face when I land. Yup, the video boards show that instead of a 2:05 PM takeoff for my flight, it’s now 3:27 PM. The hell? Most other flights are on time. Weather was not a factor. Ugh. So, off I trudge towards gate A14, which I believe was the single furthest gate away from where I emerged from the Baltimore flight.

I became quite familiar on this trip with sweating through stuff, including my jacket, and the walk to A14 was just one more episode. It got to be downright ridiculous. First, my entire walk takes place next to huge windows, and it was sunny as hell outside. Second, they’re pumping heat throughout the entire airport. Third, my luggage felt about 25 pounds heavier than when I was tugging it the other way a few days prior. Add it all up and you get a nasty sweatbucket named Daam Gud.

Finally, I arrive at A14 and ask the gate lady why the flight’s delayed. She tells me that the flight crew for MY flight had to be flown in on another flight, and THAT flight’s delayed. Well, not much we can do about that.

Except, change the gate! A few minutes later, the cheery gate lady gets on the mic to let us know that we all need to move to gate C23, approximately 300 miles away in the airport. The old folks sitting at A14 were not happy. At this point, I didn’t care. It sucked because I didn’t want to walk any further, but what’s a little more sweat?

It was right around now when all the airport TVs tuned in to the crazy shootings at LAX. Definitely had most people’s attention, seeing as we’re all sitting around in an airport.

I think it was about 3:45 PM when we finally boarded the flight, and probably another 15 minutes until we took off. Those were easily the longest 15 minutes of this entire experience. It didn’t help that the plane we were sitting in was easily the smallest, most sardine-can-like plane I’ve ever flown on. The ones I’M used to are small for tall guys. This one was almost cruel in its tininess.

After landing in Fargo, Daam Gud Wife surprised the crap out of me by telling me she’s outside to pick me up! And that, my friends, is just one reason she’s the Daam Gud Wife!

Morals of the trip: bring a car charger. Work out more. Don’t use your legs in airplanes.

Airports

Most of my recent adventures in airports come courtesy of McCarran International in Las Vegas, where the one-way trip back to Fargo almost always take off at some ungodly hour (like 6 AM, meaning you’re supposed to check in by 4!) which leads to extended waiting times at the gate. It never takes as long to clear security and get to the gates as I anticipate. Sitting from 4:30 AM or so until 6 AM at a gate in Las Vegas is the longest 10 hours of your life.

Today I’m doing it again at BWI Airport in Baltimore. The trip to return the rental car went flawlessly – amazing what you can do when it’s light out, you can read the street signs (which, you know, exist) and all that. Crazy. Getting to the airport was no problem. Getting through the TSA circus also wasn’t a problem, although their setup is pretty disorganized compared to what I see in Fargo or even Las Vegas. For as long of a line as you see in Vegas, you get through quick. The line wasn’t nearly as long in Baltimore and I suspect I spent at least as much time, if not more, waiting to get my big bad laptop bag cleared.

It’s 10:04 AM as I type this, and I believe my flight boards at 11:15 or so. I hope the games I downloaded on this thing don’t need Internet access.

I am the ultimate source of all things uninteresting.

More Balti

I was practically escorted to work today by two marked “NSA Police” vehicles. That was fun. I would’ve taken a picture, but yeah, no.

Otherwise, today pretty much flew by, which is surprising considering it’s my last full day here. I’m really looking forward to getting home, so I expected today to just crawl.

Met a few more really nice people today. Maureen is from the area and literally could not get enough North Dakota stories, particularly those about the brutal winters. It was my pleasure to keep serving them up! The crew here seemed to enjoy my presence. Bumi and Betty are already calling for me to come back next week. I will miss this place somewhat, but I’ll be quite a bit less than thrilled if that ends up coming to be. I need at least, you know, a week or two before I contemplate going back. And, as some have said, my role/job CAN be done from Fargo. But, meeting face-to-face also has its advantages.

So, there’s a baseball pitcher named Tim Lincecum. Whenever I say the name of the town I’m in (Linthicum) I feel like I am saying the pitcher’s name with a severe lisp. I cannot escape it. I hear other people saying it and it doesn’t sound like they’re lithping Lincecum. Ugh. I am ridiculous.

A Trip to Baltimore

What follows is a chronological trip through my little trip to Baltimore. I suppose I could be even more correct by calling this “A Trip to Linthicum Heights” but that just isn’t as fun. Plus, I (along with my reader(s)) had never heard of Linthicum Heights before this week.

A little background: last week, a manager at my work (who happens to be a former boss of mine, college classmate, and friend) had mentioned that people in Baltimore were wanting to do a little more with the program I work on. He had proposed a possible Monday to Thursday trip for this week, but as last week drew to a close, I hadn’t heard anything more about it. Naturally, I assumed no trip.

And then…

Monday, 10/28/2013, 8 AM: I arrive at work in Fargo, like any other day. I open my email and see the usual flood of emails that I can safely ignore or skim. Then, I spot a couple emails from the old boss, subject line “Maryland.” My pulse quickens a bit.

Paraphrased, it reads, “Still interested in going to Baltimore? There’s a flight leaving at 5:15 PM. You’d be back Thursday or Friday.”

If I’ve learned anything at my job, it’s that sometimes you’re asked if you want to do something, and there’s usually an unspoken consequence somewhere down the line if you say no. At the same time, I know my program better than anyone at my company, so it wouldn’t be like I’d be discussing something with which I have no familiarity.

So, I reply and tell him I’m game.

9:15 AM: The company’s travel agency calls and tells me that I’ll have two flights today: one from Fargo to Minneapolis, and another from Minneapolis to the Baltimore area. The Fargo flight takes off at 1:15 PM! My already screwed-up day just got a lot more compacted. At that moment, roughly 1,000 different “you must do this before you leave” items fly into my head.

Enter Daam Gud Wife. I get in touch with her and she immediately leaves work to meet me at home and help me pack. I can safely say I would have forgotten much, much more if it hadn’t been for her!

After furiously packing, double-checking, and so on, we get everything ready and have one “final” cigarette in our garage.

10:30 AM: I had been talking myself into and out of purchasing a small tablet for about a week or so. Something about an Android tablet seemed strangely appealing (strange mostly because virtually all of my gadgets are fruity) but with all the variants, it was difficult to decide, and so I put off making a decision.

Well, once I knew I was going to be away from all of my usual creature comforts, my brain made the decision, so DGW and I head over to Best Buy where I picked up a new Nexus 7. I also grabbed one of those cover/keyboard combination deals, which I’m using now to type this. It’s much smaller than a normal keyboard, obviously, and I’ve been fat-fingering all kinds of stuff. Particularly annoying is that I have to hit a function key to type an apostrophe instead of just hitting Shift. First world problems.

New toy in hand, we drive up to the airport, have another “final” cigarette in the watching area, then park near the entrance and have a really final cigarette.

12:15 PM: A lot of these are approximate times. I decide to grab a quick bite to eat since it’ll be a bit before I can really stop to eat. The Fargo airport has a Subway with no line, so I start ordering. As I’m placing my order, some random 50-something guy steps directly in the Subway-customer-walking-path parallel to the counter, preventing me from walking down to the cash register to pay. I audibly say “Excuse me” and the guy doesn’t budge. So I walk in between him and the counter, dragging my luggage behind me. A few seconds later, he blurts out very douchily, “Excuse ME.” I looked at him with disgust. Please say something else old man, please. He leaves shortly after, and the Subway guy and I had a little chat at his expense. What a fuckstick.

I finally get through security and find a spot near the gate. I end up recognizing quite a few different people from work, mostly upper management types who likely wouldn’t recognize me. Interesting.

Eventually we board, and Delta does something that I think is flat out awesome. Since, on average, the overhead compartments get filled up with more crap than people should be bringing on, Delta allows you to tag your carry-on, leave it right at the gate (literally right before you enter the plane) and then pick it up at the destination gate (again, right when you leave the plane) for no charge. No waiting at the luggage return, just grab your stuff and go. This is so ridiculously convenient. Loved it.

The flight to Minneapolis was completely uneventful, although I do remember watching the sunlight hit the numerous lakes from different angles, and it was purty. From some angles, the lakes looked like T-1000 grade liquid metal.

2:15 PM: arrive in Minneapolis. I’ve been to Minneapolis countless times but have never had a reason to step in the airport. The gate I was dropped off at and the gate I needed to get to were on virtually opposite sides of the airport. Thankfully, there are probably miles of moving sidewalks, which I’ve always thought were a little lame, but boy do I appreciate them now.

The Minneapolis airport is pretty nice. I had to hang out near the D gates I believe, and there were little charging stations for gadgets, vending machines, a little store… granted, none of these are ground-breaking airport amenities, but their airport just looked fairly modern. Had I been thinking, I would’ve crammed every bit of electricity into my phone as humanly possible. It would help me later.

3:15 PM: we take off for Baltimore. Apparently the gate-check bag thing isn’t available everywhere. Oh well. I found a spot. This plane had three seats on each side, and were somehow bigger than the seats in the previous plane (which was a 2 on one side, 3 on the other variety.) I was sandwiched in between two mute females. I ended up reading a book on my phone, which chewed up more battery than I would’ve liked. Still, gotta kill time. The flight to Baltimore took about two hours.

6:15 PM: the Baltimore Washington International Airport is a beast. I start looking for the rental car counters but a friendly information guy tells me I have to take a shuttle bus to the rental car facility, which is about ten minutes away. Goodie. A bunch of us take the awkward, quiet ride to the facility, and I pick up my car, a Ford Fusion that’s either new or maybe a year old. Nice ride. Strangely, the Enterprise guy tells me I can return my car to the airport instead of the facility. This just seems odd to me, but it’s a massive convenience so I won’t ask too many questions. However, I really don’t want to drop the car off somewhere I shouldn’t be… so maybe I will double-check before I leave.

7 PM: I think around here I finally get my rental car. It’s completely dark outside by now, which concerns me since I need to find my away around in this town. I check my phone.. it’s got about 6% charge left. Oh, fuck. That’s absolutely the last thing I want right now.

I bring up Google Maps quickly and try to memorize the route to the hotel. There are virtually no straight roads around here — everything is windy and curvy, which makes routes more difficult to memorize for me. Before I know it, my phone dies and a small wave of panic washes over me. Not only do I have no safety net as far as a map, but I’m not close to the hotel yet, there are almost no street lights anywhere, a lot of streets don’t have identifying signage, and there are huge overgrown trees everywhere. Very picturesque, but about now it felt like a horror movie.

I finally make enough turns to where I’m starting to see hotels, but not mine. I am getting massively pissed off at this point. I know I’m close but have no idea where to go from here. I can’t even call someone and have them walk me through it. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Eventually I decide I just need to stop at a hotel and get directions. I walk into a lobby and am infinitely relieved to see a couple coworkers hanging out there. They provide directions (I was a street or two off) and I manage to find my hotel.

At this point I have almost completely sweat through my shirt, and my jacket is starting to absorb the excess. Attractive.

9-something: I check in and get up to my room. I unpack what I need to, and then attempt to set the Nexus 7 up. Unfortunately, the first thing it wants to do is update, and since the hotel wi-fi makes you do an extra authentication before connecting, I can’t do anything. Sad face.

The room and hotel are pretty nice. There’s a bar and restaurant on-site, and the room itself is pretty big: couch, work desk, swiveling TV, and a big ass bed. I celebrate this by clipping my nails and going way too far with a corner of my left thumb. (This is bothering me even as I type this.) You’d think I never clipped my damn nails before, much less never clipped a nail too close.

That said, parts of the room are falling apart. Several of the outlets in the room don’t accept plugins… they basically collapse into the wall when I try to plug something in. A few of the outlets on the lamps don’t provide enough juice to charge a device like the Nexus or an iPhone. The faucet and shower head in the bathroom are separated from the wall about an inch each, and the constant battle to find the perfect water temperature for a shower is made nearly impossible. If you move the faucet a millimeter towards hot, it doesn’t do anything for about 20 seconds, then gets scalding hot.

Whoops, I’m out of order a bit here… back to Monday night.

I watch the Monday Night Football game, which ends right around midnight local time. Definitely not used to that. The only interesting part of this game was the last play. For as boring as the rest of it was, I’m actually a little surprised that…

Tuesday, 10/29/2013, 12:30 AM: I can’t fucking sleep. The first night in just about any hotel is terrible. Not used to the bed, not used to the pillows, not used to the ambient noises, nothing.

1:30 AM: Nope, not sleeping.

1:31 AM: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The rest of this will be a bit more condensed, since, well, I think it’s less interesting.

9 AM: I arrive at the building I’ll be working from. The old boss meets me there, introduces me to a few folks, and disappears. I come to realize very quickly that there are a lot of people running around with their hair on fire here. It is an extremely chaotic situation. There’s very little structure and I’m not sure if everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. I certainly don’t.

I end up meeting many folks with whom I’ve been corresponding via email, namely Chantell, Ryan (the awesome British guy), Bumi and Betty. All extraordinarily nice people considering the circumstances. It’s so cliche, but I just love Ryan’s voice. From time to time, Chantell or Betty would say something “British” to him, and he would respond by firing off all kinds of British slang rapid-fire. “Cheerio! Bangers and mash!” was the first of these, and probably my favorite. To be fair, some of the other stuff he’s said, I don’t even understand.

I end up working until about 6 PM. Rob, one of the other folks from the company, tells me that him and a few others are going out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory a little later.

7 PM: There are two Cheesecake Factories in the area – one is a bit south of us, and is located next to or within a casino. The other one is in downtown Baltimore. Rob calls and tells me they’re about to head for the southern one. As I’m about to leave, he calls me again, says they “went the wrong way” and are currently in downtown Baltimore. Uh, ok, guess I’ll change my route!

I start driving and soon hit downtown. What a sight. The highway I’m on takes me all but through M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. That was pretty sweet to see, even at night. Eventually I hit West Pratt and that’s about where it fell apart again.

I had wrongly assumed that there was some kind of parking available at the Cheesecake Factory. As I drive by and scan desperately for something, I realize I’m just going to have to keep driving, and maybe circle back and check again. This sounds simple, but since pretty much every fucking street in downtown Baltimore is a one-way, every left I wanted to take ended up being a right-turn only street, and vice versa. I feel the deja vu from the trip to the hotel kicking in bigtime. It’s worse this time because there’s all kinds of traffic, and inexplicably, a LOT of the streets  have tiny, barely readable identifiers, so you only really know what street you’re at when you’re right at the intersection. This complicated things a LOT.

I got frustrated enough just trying to circle back that I almost decided to go back to the hotel in miserable defeat. Eventually Rob texts me, I inquire about parking, and he advised that they parked in a parking ramp a block or two east of the restaurant.. that would’ve been nice to know. Then again, I could’ve assumed this perhaps.

I finally get parked and walk the block to the restaurant. Downtown Baltimore smelled (at least, last night) distinctly of fresh-baked bread. There are less pleasant smells to be smelled in a big city, I guess!

8 PM: Cheesecake Factory was good, but nothing all that special. The food was good, extremely rich and filling though. It’s probably some kind of sacrilege but I did not eat any cheesecake. The varieties on display at their cheesecake counter were pretty insane, though. I could just hear my ass getting fatter from ogling it.

Eventually our group of 5 leaves and heads back east towards the parking ramps. The four other guys parked in a different ramp than I, so there was an intersection at which we parted. At that very intersection, as we stood there waiting for crosswalk signs to turn, three or four black teenagers (I’m guessing) come flying towards us on bikes, yelling “Get out the way you white motherfuckers! Get off the curb!” at everyone in sight before whizzing by in the direction of my parking ramp. The other four guys advise me to watch out for punks on bikes before we split up. I won’t lie, but that last half block or so seemed much longer of a walk than when I was heading to the restaurant.

Getting back to the hotel was easy, since, you know, my phone had a charge and I didn’t have to worry about all the fucking one-ways and basically unsigned streets anymore!!

9:30 PM: Back at the hotel, full and getting tired. I logged in to do a little bit of work, talked to Daam Gud Wife for a bit, before laying down to dick around with this tablet, which I was able to get set up properly using the work wi-fi. I must say, I really like this thing. But not enough to where I’m going to become “that guy” who starts relentlessly bashing any other brand or type of gadget.

I had a much, much easier time falling asleep Tuesday night — due at least in part to getting less than ideal sleep the night before. It’s interesting that at home, we always sleep with the TV on at a low volume. I don’t know if we’ve ever even tried sleeping without it on. On the road, both with this trip and last year’s jaunt down to Minneapolis for training, I find that the TV must be off for me to fall asleep, but I also need to have the AC/fan running. The room must be cool — too warm and I am a sweatbag that can’t sleep. I’ve been setting the AC on max before going to bed, and then cranking the heat when I wake up. Yup.

Wednesday, 10/30/2013: today has been largely a copy of Tuesday, minus the Cheesecake Factory trip. Sit in various rooms with the support staff, take and discuss suggestions for changes to my program, provide comic relief to majorly stressed out people (honestly, they think I’m really funny somehow) and so on.

There are some very intelligent people working on this stuff. One gentleman I worked with for awhile today, Jonathan, is the spitting image (what does that phrase even mean?) of Damien Lewis. I remember him (the actor) from the movie Dreamcatcher, where he played a character named Jonesy. Looks just like him. I told him this today, which provoked a rare smile.

I left work at about 6 PM, drove back to the hotel, dicked around for awhile, and decided that I should use this to document my travels. I can’t even think of the last time I wrote a journal entry this long. Then again, I have all kinds of time to kill here, and it’s largely uninterrupted, which I guess leads to excruciatingly long journal entries.

Now it’s about 10:45 PM and my fingers are cramping a little, probably from typing on this microkeyboard. I might have to try pairing an Apple keyboard with this to see how that works. I do like this little set up, though.

I have one more full day here, and on Friday morning I need to do the following: check out of the hotel, gas up the car, return it to somewhere, get to my gate on time, fly to Minneaplis, get to my gate on time, fly to Fargo, get picked up by Daam Gud Dad, and then, home sweet home.

10:46 PM: done for now!

10:50 PM: seriously asshole, you’re not a time traveler.

Refirst

Another first entry in another online journal. Certainly not my first time here. I hope to include shades of what was here before, long ago.

I hope that time continues to provide the motivation needed to keep writing these. I want to write, and I want to want to write. I guess we’ll see what all that leads to.