Spaf's Journal: The Fat Lady Sings...and Flies

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Thursday, 5pm. I'm getting ready to leave for the airport. Tomorrow, I have a presentation to give to a new CERIAS sponsor, plus meeting with the program manager of one of my DoD contracts to review progress. I download to my Mac a PC version of the PowerPoint slides for the standard CERIAS presentation, then reboot. The Mac refuses to reboot. I have no time to investigate or fix, because I must leave for the airport. Uh-oh.

Thursday, 5:15-5:45, in transit. I am trying to call Andra on my cellphone to have her contact my host for tomorrow and send him a copy of the slides in case my Mac does not recover. However, something is wrong with the Cellular One service (or my phone). It dials, but does not connect. Twice it connects, but I am dropped into the middle of someone else's phone conversation. Amusing, but I'm not in the mood to eavesdrop on a discussion of why Mandy can't have her nose or other body parts pierced.

Thursday, 6pm, finally, I get through. Andra will email a copy of the standard presentation, minus the set of extra slides I had for this talk (only on my Mac) unless she hears from me again. Minor relief.

Thursday, 7pm. Arrive at airport for flight to Baltimore, via Pittsburgh, delayed because of traffic and construction. I rush to my gate because my flight is supposed to leave at 7:15. I discover it has been delayed because of mechanical difficulties. I go to the US Air club and work on my Mac.

7:30pm. Thank heavens it is a Mac. Some minor repairs and it is back to normal. No clue as to why it wouldn't reboot before. Probably offended by the download of Windows files.

8:10pm (EST). The plane leaves, very late. It is also very full. I am sitting next to someone who has not bathed recently and must work in outdoors construction or a steel mill. I pray that the plane depressurizes so the individual oxygen masks deploy. No such luck.

8:15 (EDT): Plane arrives at the gate in Pittsburgh. I now have less than 10 minutes to make my connecting flight to Baltimore. Good thing I packed a carryon instead of checked luggage. Bad news: my gate is in the other wing of the airport. At the far end. So, I have to power-walk/run the length of the airport. Additional obstacle: as I have continued to lose weight (down 40 pounds from a year ago), my pants and belts no longer fit quite right. I am loathe to go out and buy new ones, because I intend to lose more in the next few months. I may need to change my mind -- every step at higher than normal speed resulted in a slight drop in pants. (I admit -- I have no butt. Therefore, there is little to slow the descent of pants.) So, my travel was interrupted every 100 yds or so as I readjusted myself. Note to self: next trip, wear a one-piece toga.

8:24: arrived at the plane in time to get on just before the doors close. I am the last person on board. The plane pulls back, then sits on the runway because of some delay. It finally takes off without incident.

11:30: plane arrives in Baltimore. I go directly to Hertz and get my car. I head out on the road and start following the directions to get to my hotel. I miss the sign for my turn (I was focused on a confused and/or drunk driver occupying the lanes in front of me at the time) and continue on, ending up on a county road in the wilderness when the expressway ends. I decide to consult the map. I find that Hertz has failed to put a map in the car -- the first time that has ever happened to me when renting via their Gold service. Sigh. I backtrack and (luckily) see the turn.

12:30 Found the hotel without incident, checked in, and got to my room. Checked my email quickly. Got ready for bed. Dropped my contact lens and spent 10 minutes looking for it. Went to bed finally at 1:10am.

6:30am Awoke jarringly. The radio station I had carefully tuned last night that played light classical music was off the air. The nearest station was playing some hip-hop/rap. The static of detuned reception didn't help. Especially as I awoke with a killer headache. I think it was my sinuses in spasm from the trauma of my seatmate on the flight the night before.

8am: No incidents or problems (beyond the headache, which had subsided somewhat after 3 Advil) marred the morning. Got the car, and headed out. Drove without incident to my PM's office, and even found a parking spot only about a mile from the building....

8:45am. The computer system for badges is down. They cannot verify I have a valid badge in the system. It requires 3 phone calls, two pieces of new paperwork, and the presence of 3 of my hosts to get a badge to get me in. We go get some coffee prior to my first meeting, with the deputy director of software research.

9:00 A prior meeting is running late. We'll go around the corner to wait. Someone else is coming around the corner at a high rate of speed however, and we have a collision. I am now wearing a full cup of coffee on my favorite jacket, pants, shoes, and notebook. For one of the first times in ages, I have none on my shirt, however.

9:10 More awake and considerably more moist, I go to my first meeting. I get two aspirin from my hosts as my headache has continued.

Rest of morning: Largely uneventful -- even productive. One of my other meetings is canceled, however, because my host is busy with another meeting.

Noon: drive back to the hotel uneventful. My headache has receded. The day is beautiful. Maybe the day will be better from here on.

1pm: my presentation goes great. I get good feedback from people, several ideas are tossed out for future collaboration, and I view it as a good event.

3:30pm: I head back to the airport. Check in the car, and head to the US Air club. Check in. For some reason, I am not in the system. Despite having a confirmed reservation and having taken the outbound flight, I am not in the computer. It takes 20 minutes to get me checked in and ticketed.

4pm: I check my email. Nothing important. I check my voice mail. No messages -- nobody loves me anymore. I try calling members of my crack team at CERIAS. None of the three I tried to call were answering their phones, so I assume they were off cracking beers in my absence.

5pm: I had dozed off in my chair when I was paged. I had arranged a meeting with someone regarding some consulting, and she had arrived. We headed out to dinner at the one good restaurant in the airport, and had a reasonable meal and discussion.

6:30pm Got to the gate for my 6:50 flight. The flight was delayed. I am talking with my companion when I hear a voice: "Pardon me, are you Gene Spafford?" I turn, and it is Ira Winkler! So, we spend the next half hour talking at the gate when they announce boarding. We realize it is now 7pm. Hmmmm, a 6:50 departure doesn't seem likely.

7:30pm Flight departs Baltimore. Boarding the flight, I recognize and greet another familiar face -- Professor Fred Schneider of Cornell University. As I think about it, should this plane crash, which of the three of us (Ira, Fred, me) would be mentioned first in the newspaper accounts? (Probably Fred, I conclude.) My mood is not necessarily buoyed by the people sitting around me -- either a club (or cult) returning from a trip, they are all busily reading their bibles. Aside: ever notice that everyone who reads a Bible on a plane moves their lips while reading? Why is that?

8:15pm (EDT): plane arrives at the gate in Pittsburgh. I have 15 minutes to make my connecting flight. However, the gate is only a few gates away and they are still doing general boarding. Great!

In the waiting area, I notice this very (very) attractive young lady in a Delco shirt. On the 6 Clydesdales scale, she was clearly a 5. Now as anyone who knows me realizes, given the choice between sitting on a flight next to a Bible scholar or a beautiful woman, the scholar will lose every time. I appreciate scholarship, but.... So, I was hoping that instead of my usual luck of sitting next to someone who was field-testing garlic cologne, that I'd get to sit next to her.

We both headed for the same area of the plane! Unfortunately, she turned off and took a window seat in a row next to an old geezer. (Well, I'm sort of an old geezer, but he was really old.) The seats were arranged in 2 & 3 per row, and she was in the 3-seat section, so she and gramps had an empty seat between them. My seat? One row back, in the 2 seat section. Next to the fattest woman I think I have seen in years. If you looked in the dictionary under "morbidly obese" you would see her picture. She must have weighed 400+ pounds. She was so large, her stomach was actually up against the seat in front of her -- the guy in the seat could not have reclined. (Aside -- ever wonder how someone that fat gets the seatbelt on? The attendant brought her a length of belt with buckles on both ends to hook into her seatbelt to lengthen it.) This woman was so large, she snored while awake. Astonishing.

The young lady I had my eye on put her bag above my seat. Wonderful perfume, too. Sigh.

Of course, the huge woman's rear end flopped over into my seat so I got about 1/2 of a normal seat to sit in. The plane was full, too, so I couldn't sit anywhere else. I debated trying to move to the empty seat between gramps and cupcake, but decided that the way my day was going, gramps would have the garlic cologne, and cupcake would have a blanket restraining order, so I gritted my teeth and stayed where I was.

During the flight, the attendant passed out drinks. Big Bertha ordered a club soda. I noted this and thought "Well, she is ordering something with no calories. Maybe her condition is glandular." She did take the peanuts, however. The attendant started to give me some nuts, and I declined. Bertha brightened immediately -- "I'll take his peanuts. In fact, if there's anyone else who doesn't want theirs...." I'm surprised she didn't hear me roll my eyes. The flight attendant certainly did.

The flight was agony. Cupcake and gramps struck up a great conversation about her computer that I could overhear a little of. Bertha was inhaling the peanuts and snoring. The ride was turbulent and everyone was supposed to stay seated. I had little choice as Bertha was expanding visibly and had now wedged me in the seat.

8:50pm (EST): Plane arrives in Indy. I jump out of my seat, glad to be able to breathe again. Bertha has bent the armrest. I get Cupcake's backpack out of the overhead compartment. She gives me a killer, 500-watt smile and says thanks. Arrgh! I have to wonder if there is something in my flight profile that tells the airlines to seat me next to the wackos?.

I exit the plane. There are several airline personnel waiting to board, with a case in tow. I think it was a crew there with a jaws-of-life to get Bertha out of her seat. I decide not to stay for the spectacle.

9:30: I encounter severe thunderstorms on the way home.

10pm: I return home, much the worse for wear. I sleep fitfully.

8:30am: Kathy is sleeping in. I am going to try to be quiet and make pancakes for Elizabeth. No coffee intake yet, so I go to get a coffee cup. I knock a precariously perched cup off the shelf, and it falls to the tile floor and....bounces. However, it is the right frequency to set off the glass-break detectors on the alarm system....which is still armed. Kathy is now awake. As are, undoubtedly, the neighbors.

9:00am. Kathy comes down to make tea. The power flickered around 7:50, so the microwave oven is flashing. Kathy asks the time. I tell her "9:05". She enters the time and goes to get orange juice.

9:10am. Kathy discovers that she has nuked her teacup for 9 minutes, 5 seconds. 2/3 of the water has evaporated or boiled over, coating the inside of the oven. The tea bag has exploded and burned. The remaining mess has become a solid, disgusting mass on the sides of the cup. Somehow, this has become my fault and I am responsible for the disaster response.

Who needs to travel for adventure?


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Copyright © 1999 by Eugene H. Spafford. All rights reserved. Do not copy without the author's written permission.