Strange Travels, Part 1

I've been on a couple trips recently, hence the interruption in blogging.

The first was my irregularly scheduled periodic trip to the office in New York for my job. I work for a division of a large company with a three-initial name that supplies hardware and software solutions to large businesses (no, not that one). My group is based in White Plains, but I work out of my house in Florida. Another remote coworker and I generally try to arrange to come up the same week.

The week itself was fairly uneventful, but the travel was interesting in a few unforeseen ways. Last year we scheduled our January trip one week later, which worked fairly well, except for the part about getting to the airport and finding out my ticket had been canceled for nonpayment, thanks to a screwup at our company's outsourced travel agency. But they rebooked me and I got there a few hours late without further problem.

This year we made the mistake of coming up the same week as the all sales engineers from across the country for their annual conference, so temporary office space was in short supply.

Let me back up, though...

When I made the reservation, I noticed that my confirmation code, usually a 6-character alphanumeric code, was not only all-alphabetic but pronounceable, and was kind of an interesting word or name. Perhaps the long-forgotten name of the Greek Goddess of Ticketless Itineraries. Anyway, I'm going to keep it a secret as I may end up using the name someday, perhaps for some software.

I was thinking about this again as I went to catch my flight, and for the first time many months I thought about my previous job. Between my current job with the three-letter enterprise hardware/software company (no, not that one) and earlier at a three-letter giant telecom company (no, not that one), I spent a little under two years at a travel industry IT company. I won't go into too many details but let's just say having seen travel industry IT from the inside, I was not nearly as surprised by last years canceled-with-no-notice ticket as you might expect. Heck, I'm more surprised that the majority of reservations seem somehow to work fine. (Also, I learned to really hate typing the words "Itinerary" and "Itineraries". I still winced a little typing the preceding paragraph. It's even worse when you have a database schema that sometimes randomly misspells them...)

So there I was, I was thinking about my neat reservation code and trying to remember the acronym for the record of a booking. Something with a P? PRN maybe? I couldn't remember what it stood for, and I started thinking "wow, I haven't thought about the travel industry or that company for a long time! How wonderful!"

So at that very moment I walked into the airport terminal, and almost literally ran into their CTO.

Now I left on good terms (other than giving notice one week after another one of their best people) so it wasn't terribly awkward or anything, but it was... just weird. Then, it turned out we were on the same flight.

Thankfully we weren't seated near each other, but it did get me thinking about a story the CEO liked to tell, about the time he and this CTO were on a flight that caught fire. And I mean, "giant flames shooting out of the wings" on fire. Which is the kind of thing I prefer not to think about at that particular moment, especially given the knack the universe had just demonstrated for throwing me curve balls that day...

However, the flight was uneventful and I eventually got to New York and went to pick up my rental car. The lot was almost empty, thanks I think to the sales engineering conference, and I ended up with a very weird Chevy something, a kind of imitation PT Cruiser. It wasn't too bad, except that it had poor visibility (a real problem in the insanely cramped parking garage at the hotel, where you have perhaps 6 inches of clearance on either side of your car on the ramps), and the little problem with the window controls.

Namely, there didn't seem to be any.

This was a a bit of problem as I would need the window down for the lot exit, toll booth on the trip, parking garage at the office, etc. After conducting a thorough search of the entire car in a state of increasing concern that perhaps American car companies had finally lost their minds completely and done away with openable windows, I finally discovered them low on area where the dashboard meets the center hump, which is usually reserved for a small storage area or the cigarette lighter. Apparently they've only partially lost their minds and decided not to do away with them completely, just to relocate them as far physically and logically as possible from the windows they control.

So I drove to the office, eventually passing the sign right in front of the office that is perhaps one of the most confusing and disconcerting traffic control devices I've ever seen, a horror show of multiple parallel arrows bent at alarming angles and finally careening off in different directions, with the word ONLY underneath as a finishing touch. If you understand how the road works, the sign makes perfect sense (though, that would seem to defeat the purpose of having a sign). But for the uninitiated, the sign seems to suggest a sharp hairpin turn to the left, followed by a hard right, a brief straightaway, and then another hard right, followed by your car exploding. ONLY.

The weather was pleasantly warm, warmer even than at home in Florida the previous week, where it had been chilly. Monday was in the mid 60's. Tuesday was not quite so warm but enough so to make standing outside for half an hour less of a drag than it could have been when there was a false fire alarm the next day. (I tried to use the opportunity to walk over and get a picture of the aforementioned sign, but the cell phone camera wasn't up to the task of getting a clear picture at the distance and angle required).

The hotel was in the process of being renovated and the room smelled strongly of fresh paint when I arrived, but was otherwise fantastic, complete with a large flat-panel TV and probably the most comfortable bed I've ever had in a hotel (or most anywhere). The hallway was somewhat less impressive, completely torn up with wires and light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and was reminiscent of some kind of abandoned underground tunnel. Worse, the free internet was bogged down to the point of being useless at times (foiled again by the convention!) Still, the free breakfast buffet included a waffle maker and strawberry topping, which in my book makes up for a lot.

Work went fairly well, I got to catch up with my coworkers a bit. And, aside from making some good progress on a little skunkworks programming project for work, I surprisingly can't think of anything to say about the trip home.

So ended trip one...