1/31/09

Too... much... stuff.

This is going to be long, rambling, and probably boring, so be prepared. On January 18th, a day before my wife's birthday (she was so pleased), I sat myself down in a luxurious leather seat aboard a Southwest flight to Orlando, Florida for this tradeshow. If you've ever been on a Southwest flight going anywhere, you know that even if you are having sex with the pilot you have very little chance of getting a good seat, unless you happen to be having sex with him/her en route.

Why are there no good seats? Because in order to make money on an $89 fare, they have to pack three people into the space that would normally be occupied by two. And when half the people on your flight actually take up 1.6 people-worth of space, you are going to be uncomfortable no matter what you do. Luckily, the fat guy I ended up sitting next to actually wanted to sit in the middle so I was only squashed against hairy flesh on the one side.

Here's something else I discovered. There is a serious drawback to leather seats. I realize they are a great thing for the airlines -- they last a long time, they're easy to clean, they sound like they're upscale, and they don't soak up liquid. Unfortunately, there is another thing they don't soak up. Leather seats = zero fart absorption. Give me a nice, upholstered foam-filled seat any day of the week. I don't know what the fuck the guy sitting next to me ate for breakfast, but he singlehandedly polluted 110 feet of airborne aluminum tube. Or maybe he had help, I don't know. Either way, at times it was brutal. I did the only thing I could do: I went into full Unibomber mode and pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head, put my sunglasses on, turned toward the shaded window and tried to breath through my mouth. Oh, and I watched a movie on my nano called Wanted. Not bad if you like special effects and/or Angelina Jolie.

The first night of this conference they have a big party. It's usually just an excuse to eat bad food and drink bad beer and wine, so I usually go for a while and then bail out early since I've been awake for 17 hours. The party stretched across a beach between two hotels, and they had different bands spaced out along the way, covering different musical styles. It started with Latin (DJ), went to blues (passable) then to acoustic (bad) and finally to country (so-so). I went to the conference with one of the guys on my team that I never get to see except during our weekly video meeting. I have to say, he's a lot less pixelated in person. We were standing down on the "country end" drinking Coronas and watching two scary girls do some sort of line stomp on a plywood bar when my phone rang.

It was my wife. She was buried in 18" of snow and the snow blower wouldn't run. Actually, it would run just fine -- but it wouldn't blow snow, which means it's no longer a snow blower and is instead just a motor bolted to a hundred and fifty pound pile of shit. As I walked and tried to find a quiet place to talk away from the music, we tried a bunch of things to get it going, and were rewarded with smoke and the smell of burning rubber. At that point I knew the second stage was frozen up. We pointed a kerosene heater at it for ten minutes and even that didn't work. Finally in desperation, I told her to dump a bucket of boiling water down the chute to see if it would melt the frozen up mechanism and, believe it or not, it worked.

Still, by that time I was almost back to my room, so I figured I'd just stay there. When I had first arrived at the hotel, I changed my room to one with a balcony, having grand visions of sitting out there at night, drinking a scotch and maybe doing some writing, but that was not to be.

Due to global warming, Orlando was twenty eight fucking degrees at night for the first three nights I was there. As an added bonus, I had Coughy McCougherson in the room next to me. He was making this sound every five minutes until I couldn't stand it any more and finally had to fall asleep listening to my ipod. I think he may have died a few nights later, because something in his room started ringing at 4 am and wouldn't stop. After about 30 minutes of that, I heard security in the hall and they were banging on his door. I knew they were security because they kept yelling "SECURITY!" in between each hammer-fest. Finally they let themselves in. I guess he was just a party animal because apparently he wasn't even there. Assknob. Unless he really did die, of course. In which case I'd refer to him as the dead assknob.

The first day of the conference, other people almost died, too. There is something called the "General Session" which is basically a big rah-rah session with some famous people. This year it was Blue Man Group and Dan Aykroyd. BMG was great, Dan A, not so much. I mean, he didn't suck, but he started off with Beldar, and went downhill from there. He went for some laughs that didn't happen and that's always a little awkward. I guess you can take the actor out of the SNL, but can't take the SNL out of the actor.

Anyway, from the dining hall to the session was a straight shot up two separate escalators, one from the first floor to the second, and another from the second to the third. Now picture 8,000 people trying to get up these escalators and into the same room at the same time. What happened is obvious in retrospect. There was a traffic jam at the top, and the people riding the escalator had nowhere to go since there was an unending stream of people behind them. When they got to the top and hit bodies, it started a geekalanche. People were screaming, "MOVE! MOVE!" and disaster was narrowly averted by everyone except maybe Dan Aykroyd.

In a different mid-week session, I learned something else. First, I learned that due to a weak dollar, it's cheaper to fly to the states from overseas than ever before. Apparently, Germany got this memo and sent a shitload of people over. A lot of them looked like this. I believe most of them were (and probably still are) named Deiter or Hans. I think of all the whiter nationalities, Germans are the easiest to pick out. They seem very ... precise. I can tell you one thing, however. There is nothing worse than trying to listen to a presentation when two people are talking to each other in the seats behind you, except when the people are talking to each other in German. Or Hebrew. That one is good, too. It's the only language that makes you sound like you are coughing up snails.

I think I am easily annoyed, or more likely I just hate people. At another session I went to, the guy next to me was a major nose-breather. Every breath in and out was through his nose, and with a gusto usually reserved for use by perverts sniffing women's underwear.

I am also not sure they have elevators outside the U.S. I base this theory on what I experienced in the hotel after we were done for the day. I boarded the elevator to the 8th floor, and two other random gentlemen got on with me; one of apparent Chinese descent and one African American. They both pushed their buttons and we were off. At the sixth floor, the doors opened, and nobody moved. The doors started closing again. When they were maybe two feet apart, the Chinese guy ran from the back of the elevator and dove head-first out the door sideways, landing flat out on the carpet. Seriously, it was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. He wasn't wearing a hat, so there was nothing for him to reach back and grab, but the dive itself was priceless. At the point of his dive, the doors were almost contacting him on both sides of his body. That's how close it was. Since his fancy move was so fast, the doors didn't even re-open. The other guy in the elevator just looked at me as the doors shut and said, "That was some serious James Bond shit right there."

The other thing I love about Florida is that when the temperature drops below 60, people who live here lose their minds and start wearing winter clothes. We're talking parkas, gloves and scarves. And when it's 30 degrees out -- everyone who lives here dies a little inside, and goes batshit crazy with the the heater controls. The hallways in the hotel, the shuttle buses, the restaurants -- all had to be pushing 80 degrees. It was like walking towards the seventh level of Hell every time I went back to my room.

The product showcase was an experience as well. The object of the game there is for you is to get free stuff, and the object of the game for the vendors is to scan your badge at all costs so they can later bombard you with junk mail and bulk mail and faxes and phone calls for whatever crap it is that they happen to be selling.

The easiest way to ensnare an unsuspecting geek, of course, is with a hot girl offering a big-screen TV. So some vendors will stoop to this level, and hire models to hand out their literature and scan badges and ask if you'd like to "enter their giveaway." If you are a newbie, you will fall for this every time and before you know it, the 5' 10" hot model will be gone and you will be sharing a moist handshake with the sweaty, balding guy with the bad comb-over and the clip-on tie. As a seasoned professional, your job is to avoid these traps, and get the freebie without any interaction with their sales person. Talk to the model, enter the contest, say you have somewhere to be in 5 minutes and promise to stop back. Done.

Overall the conference was really very good, and some of the sessions were excellent. I did come away with some new ideas on how to tweak our infrastructure, so it was worth it, but by the end of the week you are basically the walking dead. Your head is so crammed full of stuff that you can't possibly absorb one more thing, and you are so tired from the late nights and early mornings that you are asleep on your feet. I was also studying for a certification test that I had to take on Thursday.

The morning of my exam, I had a surreal moment. I went to the dining hall and got breakfast, and sat down at a big round table, all alone because it was early. I had my iPod phones plugged into my ears, and I was doing some last minute cramming for my test. When I finally looked up from my study sheet, there were 11 Japanese guys sitting at the table with me. I must have looked surprised because when I pulled my earbuds out, they were all looking at me and laughing. I stood up, gave them a little bow and left for my exam. I don't know if that was politically correct or not, but they didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes you go a little crazy at these things, I think. It's a shorter drive for some of us than others, I know. Here's a real life example that made me think maybe I was losing it:

The last day of the conference, I was standing in the bathroom taking a leak in one of the disgusting urinals, and I happened to glance down at the valve on the top. The company that manufactured this valve was Zurn. I immediately decided that Zurn was the god of all things urine. Kind of like Thor, but instead of being the god of thunder, he's Zurn, the god of pee. In the space of 30 seconds, he had a costume, a superpower (beams of yellow force he could bend to his will) He wore a yellow suit with a red lightning bolt on it, but then I thought, "No, I just gave the Green Lantern's powers to the Silver Age Flash," and that's when I realized I needed some sleep because everyone knows the Green Lantern has beams of green power. Also, I had finished peeing 20 seconds ago and there was a line.

In my next rambling and incoherent post, I will tell you about the week that followed, whereupon my lovely wife and I had the best weather ever and managed to laugh our asses off, and even got to hang with Shamus and his family for bit, which is an experience in and of itself.

Go watch his Epcot video and try not to laugh.




31 comments:

  1. DarkAthena2:27 AM

    I seriously need to attend this geekfest. It sounds delicious.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well worth the wait. Sorry that your misery always leads to my amusement. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This had me laughing coffee out of my nose. Thank you. It was just what I needed after the crappy week I had been having.

    Oh and as a Floridian I can concur that when the temperature dips below the 40 degree mark, we all go wombatshit crazy and have no idea what to do with ourselves. Don't even get me started on what happens when it rains...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Johnny, I was laughing so damn hard I had tears in my eyes. Wow. I love the Chinese guy diving out of the elevator. Man. Funny stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Johnny, I was in Orlando the same frigid week you were. Unfortunately I was on a plane bound for Chicago when the mercury finally hit 70. I am glad you got to enjoy the warm up.

    I love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Coughing up snails! Oh my God! You kill me JV. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. JV,
    When you take these trips bring along a couple Lunestas. Don't worry about the anal seep thing, that's just for people who snore.

    ReplyDelete
  8. For what it's worth, our seats up front aren't all that comfortable either. They take out all cushioning in order to keep us awake, the party poopers. But I do suppose our view is nicer. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous5:01 AM

    Yes, too much:
    http://www.ontoinfo.com/2008/12/07/10000-for-a-post/

    ReplyDelete
  10. I lived in south Florida for two years, and I visited the Orlando area for a shuttle launch in December. Your observations of Floridians in action during winter are spot on. People from other states forget that it does get just a little more wintry the further upstate you go - the odd snap of freezing temps here and there are par for the course. I've even seen snow falling in Margate - though for all of about thirty seconds.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey "anonymous" -- you sound bitter, just like "admin" does. Are you sure you're not the same person? Either way, I posted a response but it appears to be moderated. Let's see if it gets posted or not.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a tool.
    I hope you enjoyed every cent you won as much as I enjoy this site.
    Can't stop laughing at the Unibomber hoodie and the 110 foot aluminum tube. I can picture you huddled against the window. Excellent comedy. Thanks again. I always enjoy a fart joke.

    ReplyDelete
  13. My birthday is January 19th too. Tell her happy birthday.

    And Unabomber hoods are the best.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm thinking that maybe there was some sort of asian version of "punked" that you were chosen to unknowingly be on. Between the creeping japanese table sitters and the james bond jump, something else had to be going on.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous2:24 PM

    I had a lady pull out a bar of Lavendar soap when she was sitting next to me on a flight once and held it to her nose........
    It was just a little popper too...I was embarrassed...but proud at the same time too..

    ReplyDelete
  16. JV,
    As a fellow geek, I must point out the obvious error in your post. Zurn, Galactic God of pee, having yellow force-power, and a yellow costume with red lightning bolts, is obviously a villain, because that, in fact, combines the powers and costume of Green Lantern and Flash's arch nemeses (Sinestro of the Weaponers, and Professor Zoom, respectively). Great post, I love the geekalanche! Funny stuff!
    Jon

    ReplyDelete
  17. Melissa2:43 PM

    I totally know what you mean about the loud nose breathers!!
    Can't stand them. Thought I was the only one who got irritated with them. Thanks for normalizing my experience! :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous6:25 PM

    "The easiest way to ensnare an unsuspecting geek, of course, is with a hot girl offering a big-screen TV"

    For future reference, these are called "booth babes."

    ReplyDelete
  19. DA, 1800 bucks is all it'll cost ya.

    Mary, It's how I make it through.

    PT, and another thing -- does everyone in FL smoke cigarettes??

    MM, it was surreal. I mean he just...dove. like in china the doors don't stop and it's the daredevil equivalent of dodging trains or something.

    Duffy, you missed a beautiful week! Sorry you had to go to chi town.

    KK, it's the snails that'll kill ha. That and the peanut butter.

    Hedy, I'm afraid it would just make it worse. Also, nice job on the torpedo frequency jumping patent.

    Michele, I just always assumed they were so nice you had to keep them behind locked doors.

    Don, you're right. I never saw it so cold down there before...

    Mary2, thanks.

    Seven, it was olive green too...

    Alex, you might be right. There were a lot of video cameras around. I could be famous in japan and not know it.

    Anon, I think I hate the smell of lavender even more than methane.

    Jon-El? Is that you? Wow, I forgot completely about Prof Zoom! Holy crap.

    Melissa, ever get them on a conference call? It's the worst.

    Anon, we always called them booth bimbos.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think I've found my clone and it's you, Johnny Virgil!

    I work with Elmer Fudd, Peg Bundy, The Giggler, The Clipper and Mr Throat Clearing Guy. Their idiosyncrasies are like nails on a chalkboard to me and I obsess over them daily, habitually waiting for the next annoying act to start.

    Seriously, how can someone clear his throat every few seconds for eight hours straight?

    How can someone blow his nose so hard throughout the day that those not even remotely close to him can hear it? It sounds as if someone’s mom is holding a Kleenex up to a small child’s nose and telling him to blow with all his might.

    How can someone repeatedly clip his nails ALL DAY LONG and have anything but nubs left?

    I have purchased ear plugs, headphones and a small fan that whirls throughout the day as a way to drown out the dysfunction.

    As for seating on planes, I once sat next to someone who started a conversation with, “Have you ever wondered how many gallons it takes to paint a runway?” I knew I was in trouble and my short 1 hour flight felt like I was going to Australia with a screaming baby next to me.

    P.S. I work from home now.

    http://goochick.blogspot.com/2008/08/its-been-long-day.html

    http://goochick.blogspot.com/2008/03/ive-got-problem.html

    ReplyDelete
  21. kristina11:12 AM

    JV, you are not crazy - all of the rest of them are...

    Thanks for the laughs!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have to say JV, you've got quite a bit more patience than I do.

    I can't stand tradeshows!

    If I have to even think about the three that the company has booked for me this year, I'll seriously pop an ulcer..

    Good to see you survived, and best of luck with the snowblower.. Or at least really expensive snowcone machine if you can't get it to blow the snow anymore.....

    ReplyDelete
  23. Johnny,

    Thanks for the kudos on my patent. I'm almost as proud of that as my nude scene in "Extase." Swapping spit with Clark Gable was so not fun: the guy had dentures.

    ReplyDelete
  24. After seeing that picture of Dieter, I can't get past the Germans.

    "Now is the time on Schprockets ven ve dance!" Ich liebe Dieter! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous11:01 AM

    awesome post. You crack me up.

    :Petunia

    ReplyDelete
  26. ALl in all, I think the conference sounded like a blast. I only get to go to the admin ones for education...talk about stuffy!

    Last time we were on a Southwest flight, my hubby got ice and cheez-its thrown at him by a five year old. Hilarious

    ReplyDelete
  27. I so don't miss those trade shows. Yours sound like more fun, though, what with the diving Chinese, sneaking Japenese, whispering Germans, etc. We did have Brook Burns as booth girl, though (this was when she was on Baywatch). The men were ridiculous about her. I was embarassed for them. Glad you're back!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm still laughing at the "geekalanche". You have a way with words.

    ReplyDelete
  29. ewww the airplane dutch oven. Man that is the worst.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I can't believe you had nothing to say about Kimono's. If you go next year, look me up. I'll introduce you to the wonderful world of Sake-induced public humiliation.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Wow yu sat next to a farter! Bummer.

    ReplyDelete