I’ve just spent the last 3 days in Atlanta for a conference. I initially signed up before Cheddar came into my life, and I was hesitant to go on my first trip, leaving him home without me for 4 days. My best friend did me a solid and looked in on him while I was gone, played with him, and spoiled him in my absence.
That freed me up to open myself to the experience of a work conference. In my state of mind of late, this could have been hit or miss. Many of my colleagues would be there too. I was apprehensive, because I’m not one to drink the work koolaid. In fact, I’m struggling to keep a positive outlook when it comes to work. Everyone goes through it, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I departed San Francisco airport Tuesday, allowing myself a full day of travel ahead of the Wednesday start of the conference. I’d hoped to arrive at a decent hour Tuesday, maybe hit the gym, order room service, take a bath, and have a good night’s sleep before the full-on agenda kicked in.
That was not to be. Unfortunately, the flight to Atlanta Tuesday ended up being a total clusterfuck. Thanks, United. I had a connection in Houston, which should have been no problem. Bad idea, as it turns out. I have 14 emails notifying me of the various delays we experienced, as well as 10 text messages. Clearly, consistency of communications is not United’s forte.
“You see, what had happened was…” (one of my favorite phrases, by the by) we were notified the original aircraft was unflyable due to maintenance that couldn’t be fixed in the short amount of time we had until take-off. A new aircraft had to be located in a nearby hangar, and transported to a gate nearby for us to board instead. That accounted for about 4 of the delay notifications, each approximately 15-30 minutes in length. Dangle that carrot, United. By some miracle, a new aircraft was located within an hour, so our flight was not cancelled. We boarded the plane, and got onto the runway, and I was so ready to make up for lost time.
Then, news from the cockpit: this aircraft had a maintenance deadline by midnight, and there was no crew on the ground in Atlanta to perform it, so that meant the maintenance had to be performed before we could depart. We left our place in line for take-off, and headed back to the gate. Defeat. More delay notifications.
Back at the gate, we remained on the plane while the maintenance was performed, and we finally received the announcement that we were ready to hit the runway. Joy. However, one small hitch. A tow truck had to pull us out of the gate, to be able to get to the runway. That tow truck had broken down, in the path of our plane. So a tow truck had to be called to tow the original tow truck out of our way. More delay notifications.
I should have arrived in Atlanta around 8:30pm. I checked into the hotel at 1:30am. Add to the mix that I was sicker than I’d been in over a year. My eyes wouldn’t stop watering, I was sneezy and leaking through my nose. By the time we finally got into the air, my ears had popped and plugged so many times I do believe I was underwater, while I was in fact in the air. Painful and uncomfortable do not even begin to describe the entire experience.
The conference itself saturated my mind with great ideas and food for thought which would help me on my client work in the upcoming busy season. If one has no choice but to go forth into the fray, it’s best to bring a gun to a gunfight, rather than a knife.
I was pleasantly surprised. I’m no joiner. I don’t get asked to present anymore at these events, since I’ve come back from Australia. While having the opportunity to travel abroad enriched me personally, the US doesn’t seem to appreciate my unique experience, and I slipped down the ladder a few rungs. Fine by me, I didn’t want to have responsibility anyway.
I enjoyed myself with coworkers, and had a good time. I caught up with an old friend the first night of the conference at a local gay bar and an old reliable Mexican food joint, on what little sleep I had. The second night, we had a huge offsite event – a block party closed off to the general public across a row of 4 restaurants: American, Italian, BBQ, and German food. The bar in each restaurant was open with no money exchanged by attendees, and no one was counting. The buffets were out with insane amounts of food which could probably feed one of the “Stan” countries for a week (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc.)
I write this on the plane headed back to San Francisco, after one of the funnest afternoons I’ve had in a while. Many coworkers from the San Francisco office are on the same flight as me. There is a sense of connection. The plane is not full of strangers, but of colleagues. We’re friendly and tipsy thanks to the airport bar next to our gate which we took over in advance of boarding, and it’s had an amazing impact on the remaining passengers. There is no ill will, crankiness, or general rudeness. There is safety. There is friendship. It’s actually kinda fun. This has never happened to me before. I’ve maybe known one or two people on previous flights before – but never nearly half the plane. These flight attendants won’t know what hit ’em.
However, my heart weighs heavy, as the news breaking in Paris was blowing up my phone via CNN alerts as we boarded. My safety, my comfort, comes at a huge cost for those on the other side of the world, going through a horrible tragedy I cannot even fathom.
I had the opportunity to visit Paris for the first time 6 months ago. It came as a surprise, how much I enjoyed myself and liked it there. I had fully anticipated to like Rome, Italy, infinitely more. That was not to be. I stayed at an Airbnb in Republiqué, and visited the statue at Republiqué where the Charlie Hebdo vigil was held.
Tonight’s events hit me hard, despite my jovial surroundings, and bring a low hanging despondent fog across what was the most cheerful workday I’ve had in a long time. Tomorrow morning, families will receive the worst of news. Some will wake up in hospitals, forever changed, only to learn of the horrific occurrences of November 13, 2015. Some won’t wake up at all.
All I can express is gratitude for what I have and have not, that my loved ones are safe, and a yearning to express concern for those affected in the Paris attacks. I had a most inconvenient trip out here. But I’m ok.
I hope you and yours, dear reader, were not affected, and that you take those small moments of joy that surprise you in a good way, and cherish them.
All too often in life, we think we just need to get through this or that, and then we’ll be free to enjoy life. Obstacle after obstacle presents itself, and we distance ourselves from the end goal of happiness, thinking if we can just overcome that obstacle, we can then enjoy life. But life is funny that way – it IS the obstacles. It is the work conference. It’s the delayed flight. It’s missing your newly adopted kitten, wondering if he misses you at home, if he thinks of you, even if it’s only in relation to your ability to open that bag of treats.
Take life for what it is, obstacles and all, because you never know when it won’t be yours to live anymore. Peace to all on this day of mourning for what happened Paris, and how some people still engage in attacks like these. It is the city of love, and love will prevail. That is the only way to truly conquer hate. Love.