Sunday, June 18, 2017

On the Road Again, Again

A week ago, I got to "travel on business" to Charlotte, NC.  As I believe I've mentioned before, during the 25+ years working at law firms, my "traveling" for work consisted mainly of going to court houses in neighboring counties to file or search for documents.  I think the farthest trip was to English, Indiana or Marion, Illinois.  So working in a job where I actually have to fly somewhere, for business reasons (i.e., on someone else's dime) is just a total hoot!

I went to Charlotte to help train/program the contract software for one of the three divisions of the business.  Again, Cameron was supposed to go with me, but circumstances changed and he had to stay in Evansville.  My nerves would have preferred having a friendly face, but being an "adult" and all, I was fine.

Long time readers are asking about how intensely I interacted with TSA.  Well, the flight was direct from Evansville to Charlotte, so I only had to go through security in Evansville.  I have been told that the key to night being "randomly" chosen is not to be overly friendly, so I kept this in mind and tried to be neutral going through.... and it worked.  I was not chosen for "random" screening at all!  I took this as a sign that either the trip would be a success, or that it was the beginning of the apocalypse.  

After I landed in Charlotte, retrieved my luggage, and found my rental car, I was ready!  Since I generally am thirsty and/or hungry, and wouldn't mind taking a call from Mother Nature when I'm done with all this, I try to use my God-given sense of direction to get out of the airport complex and find a McD's first thing.  Then I can search Google maps on the phone for directions to wherever I'm going... in this case, Berry's office in Charlotte.  Google first stymied me by telling me there were two Berry locations in Charlotte.  I figured one was offices, and one was a plant, but which was which?  So I picked one, called the woman there I was coming to work with to confirm where I was supposed to go.  

On the road...  Well I enjoy driving, don't have a problem, generally, in strange cities.  I enjoy driving rental cars, sort of let's me enjoy having a new car occasionally without the car payments.  But for some reason, me driving in a strange city, in a strange car, is generally an opportunity for mayhem.  I was doing good - turns out that the Berry offices were like 15 minutes from the McD's.  But Siri and I have communication problems at times.  So she tells me to turn right in 500 feet onto I-??.  So, I see a right, I see a sign for I-??, so I turn.  Siri doesn't do the "recalculating" in a much put upon voice like the GPS does, so it took a couple of more turns before I realized that she was working on getting me back to the same spot to tell me to turn right in 500 feet onto I-??!  And unfortunately, doing that series of turns, my Happy Meal ended up in the floor of the passenger side.  Luckily my McNuggets were in a box, so I just "lost" my fries.  

The work aspect of the trip went very well.  They were totally prepared for what needed to be done and it was work, but easily done work.  Before I left, I told my mother, I don't mind being on the menu, but I really hate being the main course.  It would have been easier if Cameron had been able to come.  But it all was fine.  Except... I'd been invited to dinner one evening with them.  Introvert Rose hated the idea; but Adult Rose, who generally is in charge, told Introvert Rose to can it.  On the first day there, I learned that it would just be me, Shannon - the woman I was training/programming with, and some VP (a man).  The other woman, Allison (who was very nice and easy to talk to), couldn't go because she had to be home with a child.   

Tuesday night, after the flight, the driving around a strange place, and working (and being "on" - introverts will understand), I got to the hotel, ordered room service and worked my day job until my laptop battery died (I left the power cord in the conference room)... all with a splitting headache.  By the end of the night, I was dreading dinner the next evening.

Wednesday morning, still dreading, something told me that Shannon would not be offended if I brought NOT going to dinner.  I got to the conference room about 7:30 that morning and worked on the day job stuff.  When Shannon got there, I bit the bullet and asked about NOT doing dinner.  She was 100% ok with it!  In fact, her ex had their child that evening, so it meant she'd have her home to herself.  I could totally relate.  I realize that I could have totally offended them, but it worked out great, and after another full day, I room serviced it again in my hotel room that evening.

Thursday, was another very productive day and by the time I left, we'd done everything we'd hoped to get done, and possibly a little more.  And Allison sent a very nice email to my boss thanking her for sending me and telling her how invaluable my help was!

The return flight home, I had high hopes - after all, the week started with such a good sign!  Alas, it was not meant to be.  First thing, I was patted down - not as thoroughly as I was in Orlando and Chicago back in March, but it counted.  Then, as I'm being patted down, I hear an obnoxious buzzing and the conveyor belt at the X-ray machine stops and the machine starts flashing red.  I knew it had to be my carry on.  Sigh.  Turns out that if you have a bag of Carmel M&M's in your carry on bag, in the X-ray machine they look ever so suspicious.  The TSA officer swabbed the bag of M&M's for residue and I kicked myself for not having them for breakfast as I considered.  All things considered, it could have been worse, so I chose to be ok about it and the rest of the flight was uneventful.  I counted myself fortunate.  Ah, but TSA had one last surprise for me...

I got home, welcomed by the cats, Mom, and Haley (who had come down to visit while I was gone.). I didn't immediately open and unpack my suitcase, but when I did, very nicely sitting on top of my dirty undies was a lovely card from the TSA advising me that my suitcase had been "randomly" chosen for inspection.  Now, were all the episodes connected?  I don't know.  Does all a of this really fit the definition of "random"?  No.  Should I be concerned that the Honduran government has my fingerprints?  Hmm..  Will all of these questions be answered in our next episode?  Probably not.  For now, though, I'm going to stick with ground travel.