Monday, April 09, 2012
I am now home from 2 weeks of Road Warriorhood and glad to be back to a normal routine. Especially since I seemed to have been plagued by Travel Gremlins.
I spent a week in Houston, visiting suppliers and at a workshop/conference. I arrived Monday, got my car and started driving. I know better, but I had printed off directions from Mapquest the week before. I didn't realize until I started driving that for some reason only the directions to the first stop printed, and not the other 2 places I needed to go. At least I had the addresses, I thought, so I could look them up on my phone.
So, knowing Mapquest is evil, I still trusted it, and followed the instructions onto a toll road. I was prepared, I had cash. Until I saw the big signs saying "No Cash", an electronic sticker/card only. No idea if the rental car has this sticker and it was too late to get off the road so I hoped for the best. Then the toll road merged into a pay toll road...and I wound up in the exact change line, where you have to throw change into the big funnel thing. Coins, not cash. I rarely carry cash, and never coins. I just happened to have some change from an earlier purchase that morning and threw it in...and was $0.12 short. By that time there is a line of angry honking cars behind me, I am stuck because I am $0.12 short and can't back up. So I inch forward and the barrier actually goes up. I suspect I am in deep doodoo and will get a major bill in a few weeks with all sorts of penalties because I stiffed the state of Texas $0.12.
So I continue on my way, still trusting the evil Mapquest, exit the freeway and turn right per the directions. I keep driving...and driving...and realize I am going the wrong way. I am still early though so I sop for lunch and go back the way I came. I do arrive at my supplier and have a good tour and lesson on how the raw material is made. I make it to the hotel, find parking, check in and go walking through downtown Houston.
Tuesday, while in the workshop, my inner ears start to itch and my throat feels funny. I am getting sick. Oh joy. By Thursday I am coughing my lungs out, lightheaded and sniffling. Friday the fever starts. Double joy. I have another supplier visit in the morning, and because I am directionally challenged I wind up driving 15 miles in the wrong direction before realizing that I missed a turn somewhere. So I end up half an hour late. Then I start getting text messages from Delta...my flight home keeps getting delayed. I finally make it back to Detroit 90 minutes late. It's 9:30 pm by the time I collect my car and drive home, still feverish and coughing. And we have to leave Saturday afternoon. So I get to stay up late doing laundry and searching for my adapters and Euros and maps.
We leave half an hour later than I wanted on Saturday but still with plenty of time to spare. We arrive 2 full hours early, get our bags checked and make it through security with no issues, eat dinner and go hang out at the gate the Delta agent indicated when we checked our bags. By 3:15 they still had not started boarding for our 3:35 flight so we squeeze through the crowd to the counter to learn that our gate changed - and was not announced - and so we get to run a quarter mile through the terminal (and remember I am sick, feverish and coughing). We get there...and the door is closed.
No worries though! the gate agent says. We haven't started loading yet so you're still in time...because we don't have a plane yet. More joy. 3:45 - ten minutes after we were supposed to have departed - they announce that the flight has been cancelled. Then they say we have all been rebooked on another flight leaving just as soon as we can get to the new gate assignment which is clear on the opposite end of the terminal. More running, yay.
We get to the new gate and hang around there until 4:30 when they announce that only 50 people get to go because the new plane is smaller. So there is a mad rush to the counter and the agents are too busy telling people to stop crowding - because the gate is now 2 planes behind - to tell anyone if they have made the flight. And we were supposed to make our connection to 6:00 pm, from Pittsburgh to Paris. It is just over a one hour flight from Detroit to Pittsburgh...and we get bumped because there is no way to make the connection now.
We make our way to the rebooking counter. While waiting an hour in line - with only 3 people ahead of us - I get the travel agency on the phone and explain what happened. Helpful Travel Agent says you'll just have to take the late flight then. I tell her that is not an option, there is only 1 seat available on that flight. Helpful Travel Agent says "So what's the problem then?"
This travel agency is the one that booked our tickets; there are 2 of us, me and my daughter. After a few seconds of silence while I consider an appropriate response that both conveys my opinion and keeps things civil enough to get her help, I point out that there are 2 of us. Helpful travel agent says - I kid you not - "Well how many seats do you need then?"
So, needless to say, we did not get rebooked on the direct Saturday flight. The best Helpful Travel Agent can do is rebook us for a Sunday flight to Minneapolis St. Paul, and then to Paris. The Sunday direct flights are also fully booked and so not an option. Great. I live an hour's drive away from the airport, so after spending 5 hours at DTW I get to go home and come back the next day. I am beyond unhappy by that point.
But the fun is not yet over! We finally make it to the rebooking agent. I am shivering now, and feverish, my throat is on fire, I can barely speak and cannot string 5 words together without a coughing fit. I am not up to fighting weight and, like all predators, the Delta agent can sense weakness. She bares her shark like grin and swoops in for the kill.
"Your flight was cancelled b/c of a lightning strike. That's weather related and Delta doesn't owe you anything for flights that are called for weather. You'll just have to go home and come back tomorrow."
Well, it goes without saying that I won that argument. Hotel room, meal vouchers and parking were eventually forthcoming. Then, with a smile, she informs me that our luggage was put on the plane we were bumped from and is now landing in Pittsburgh. And we are going to Paris a day later via Minneapolis. I can kiss our luggage goodbye her smile says, but we can go down to baggage claim and see if they can help us.
Baggage claim lady looks at me like I'm crazy when I tell her I want our luggage back in Detroit before we depart. I just know if it is not in our possession when we leave for MSP we will not see it again for a long time. She finally agrees to route it from Pittsburgh to MSP on Sunday morning and we can verify at MSP that it is on the same plane as us.
I have trust issues though. I just know, without a doubt, that if I trust baggage claim lady we will get to Paris, our luggage will not, and we will be in France for a week with no clothes or personal items other than what is in my computer bag. However, I also know without a doubt that if I return home to pack a couple things in a carry on that our luggage will arrive to Paris with us and we will have extra bags to carry. I can't win, so I drive all the way home, we pack some extra clothes in carry ons (and I get the GPS which I had forgotten) and drive back to the airport. I have hotel and meal vouchers and I'm going to use them.
That night we check in on-line but don't have seat assignments yet. Sunday we get to the airport - still no seat assignments. I'm not feeling warm and fuzzy about making this flight but after lunch we try again, we now have seats and the plane leaves on time. Then our kind and trustworthy pilot makes an announcement. Due to bad weather at MSP we are being diverted to some other airport, and we will be put on buses and driven to MSP; unfortunately we will be several hours late.
My voice was completely gone by that point or I would have said something rude enough that would have often me arrested when the plane landed.
Then Mr. Smartass Pilot makes another announcement..."April Fools!". Yeah, I'm laughing.
We land on time, make our connection and eventually land in Paris. The agent in MSP had told us our luggage was still in Pittsburgh, but their system doesn't get updated right away so it might actually be in MSP with us, or already in France. So after clearing customs - and my daughter decides to pull her own April 1 joke by announcing she lost her passport as we are disembarking - we wait and...no luggage. We go to baggage claim...and they find it, miracle of miracles. An hour later they bring it out, so instead of 2 pieces of luggage we now have 4, plus my computer bag.
We get the car, I find my way to our office for a meeting, then to the city where our plant is. I manage to parallel park in front of the hotel. Tuesday, when I try to go to work, I am boxed in and can't get the car out. So I got to walk, fortunately it was only a 30 minute walk, but I had heels on and wasn't expecting that. By Wednesday I'm feeling much better with only a cough...and my daughter wakes up sick with a cough. By Thursday she is also stuffed up and has a fever so stays in bed. Friday we turn the car in and check into a hotel by the airport in Paris. She is still sick enough that she doesn't really feel up to any sightseeing. Saturday morning she gets up and announces she has an ear infection...and we are leaving in 3 hours to go home. No time to get her to a doctor. If you've ever flown with an ear infection you know just what kind of pain she was in for. The last 30 minutes of the flight as we were descending were hell for her.
By the time we got home we missed being able to go to urgent care by 20 minutes. So we have to drive to the ER. They look at me like I'm crazy or something when I say I want them to see here and I don't want to wait until 10 am Sunday for the urgent care to open. Ear infections are horrible, especially after she had to be on a plane, and it was only going to get worse for her at night when she tried to sleep. So she was seen, a $50 copay instead of $10 for urgent care, but at least she got started on the antibiotics.
Sunday neither of us did much of anything except sit in bed reading / watching tv or sleeping.
And despite the travel gremlins I did get my 6 days of pushups done, even if that was pretty much the only exercise I did. Weekly total pushups for last week was 750. I do believe I am winning the challenge.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Or "Why I'm a runner, not a cyclist"
Warning - Possible TMI ahead.
There is a reason I run instead of bike. Well, several reasons, primarily because biking is not part of the black belt test and running is, but I have another reason.
I typically exercise at night, after I get home & have dinner.
This is my routine on running days: Use the restroom, change, drive the 1.7 miles to the gym, run for an hour, use the restroom, go home, shower.
This is my routine on biking days: Use the restroom, change, use the restroom, drive the 1.7 miles to the gym, use the restroom, bike for 15-20 minutes, sit there red-faced and fidgety for 2-3 minutes until I can walk really fast to the restroom without an accident, bike another 20-30 minutes & repeat, finish the hour on the bike, use the restroom, go home, use the restroom, shower.
Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. The bike is my bell, only I'm not drooling.
I blame my mother.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
This week I am in Houston for the World Petrochemicals Conference and visiting two of my new (to me) raw materials suppliers. As of January I took over responsibility for my company's North American raw material purchasing, a commodity I know nothing about. So I am down here to learn and rejoin the ranks of Road Warriors.
My SP friend GETSTRONGRR has talked about number of times about the Vietnamese dish pho, a noodle soup to which one can add beef, chicken, shrimp, etc. He has made it sound extremely good.
Alas, where I live there are no Vietnamese restaurants so I have despaired of trying this tasty new dish.
So back to Houston. This is a major city, I am somewhere that looks like a downtown with lots of big buildings and sports centers, surely, I thought, there will be every type of imaginable cuisine. Finally I shall try this magical pho.
Apparently no one in this area eats anything but uber expensive steak after approximately 4 pm though because there are NO visible open restaurants within walking distance of the hotel (other than Benihana's, Morton's Steak House, etc.). The places I saw were all closed for dinner. On my wanderings I did come across a place called Bouray's which is a combination Mexican-Vietnamese place (I don't quite understand that particular combination but whatever). It is only open from 11-2 on weekdays.
How that is possible I don't know, but those are the posted hours and they were closed when I went by Monday evening.
So today I skipped the conference lunch and went for a brisk 10 minute walk to order myself a bowl of pho. Not quite realizing just how big of a bowl this would be I also got a shrimp spring roll with some funky looking thick brown sauce. Not a fan of the brown sauce, it was kind of sweet and I like sweet in fruits and desserts, not in real food. The spring roll was kind of bland by itself - note this was not a fried spring roll, it was fresh and wrapped in something clear. I am drawing a blank on just what it was wrapped in, kind of like a seaweed wrap on sushi only it was clear.
Then came the pho, in a bowl larger than my head. I got the chicken kind since they did not offer shrimp as a pho option. Into the bowl went the plate of cilantro and bean sprouts and I was ready for my first taste.
I think I should not have put in so much cilantro. It looked like miso with rice noodles and bean sprouts and had a taste I wasn't expecting. Kind of salty, kind of...something else. Maybe a little sweetish. Not a bad spit it out fast kind of taste, not unpleasant, just...different. And not enough to stop me from finishing the bowl.
Overall it was pretty good, although I'm not in love with whatever that other taste was. I am thinking it was the cilantro, there was quite a lot of it. So I shall give it another shot another time (without so much cilantro) and see if it will grow on me. The first time I tried wasabi on my sushi I didn't much like it (because my lunch companions did not warn me what it was and would do) but now I add extra. And I shall someday try some of the other dishes as well, although I think if I go back tomorrow I will probably try the Mexican side of the menu. A fresh shrimp burrito with hot salsa sounds yummy.
Monday, March 26, 2012
The headline on Time magazine right now is that women are overtaking men as the country's breadwinners. According to the article in 40% of households women are the primary breadwinners, earning more than the men.
I am one of the 40%, even though I am not married currently. I fully support myself and my two children without alimony or child support from the ex. While I was married I gradually caught up to my ex's wages and then surpassed him. It was one source (of myriad) contention; he was not able to handle the fact that I earned more than him, although he was happy to let me pay all the bills so he could use his $ for whatever. For my part (and I am generally pretty good about being objective) I do not believe I ever made an issue of who made more or threw it up in his face; it honestly doesn't matter to me who would be the primary breadwinner. More important is that it would be an equal partnership, where both people contribute what they have and can do, equality being defined by effort and involvement and not by a numbers game.
But I find that a number of men in my acquaintance of various ages are intimidated by a woman who earns as much or more, and even some women who feel that monetary support of the family is the man's "job". I'm not saying that viewpoint is wrong, as long as it works for both people in the relationship. For myself I just cannot conceive of being wholly dependent upon someone else.
For curiosity's sake, how do you feel about this situation? Are you, or would you be, comfortable if your wife made more money than you? Or, women, would you be comfortable earning more than your husband?
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