Saturday, November 1, 2008

Vankoover State of Mind

I find it hard to have sympathy for people whose jobs call for them to travel the globe at a fairly frequent pace. For one, I’ve enjoyed travelling since I was a child. My family—both immediate and expanded—has been spread around the lower 48 for much of my life, and as a result I have been a part of countless snack cart services, interstate rest stops, scenic coastal train routes, and uncomfortable Greyhound seats. So being on the road doesn’t bother me. But beyond that, jobs that call for a lot of travel often take you to big, exciting places. Locations like New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, London, Miami, etc. When you’re being paid to work in San Diego for a day and then you get to party like a rock star in the Gaslamp District that night, don’t look for me to shed a tear on your behalf.

This is all the more so because, on that rare occasion that I get to travel for my job, I get sent to a glitzy location like Vancouver, WA.

That’s Vancouver, Washington, not Vancouver, British Columbia. Hanging out with TJ, Zach, Ashhad, and others last weekend at Shady Grove, they teased me that I was going to a bootleg Vancouver, even suggesting that it was spelled “Vankoover.” I hate all of them.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure it’s a great city to live in and raise children (if you’re into that kind of thing). It’s clean, the people are friendly, and it’s close enough to Portland, OR that you can still have some of that big city feel. But when you’re a tourist, it doesn’t really give you anything to brag about to the folks back home.

I flew there for a large company-sponsored workshop, and was primarily confined to my hotel and its immediate area. The opportunities for my own personal debauchery, therefore, were limited. I’m sure I’ve disappointed those coworkers who have enjoyed an up close and personal view of my “On the Rocks”-type antics during past business trips. They were fans of the blog before there was a blog. And that’s not to say that there haven’t been some good boozing tales—it just hasn’t been me in the lead role.
  • Sunday night three female coworkers and I went to a small Italian restaurant for dinner. Midway through our meal, Lady Friend called me. I walked outside and took the call while standing on the sidewalk. A few minutes later a short, chubby older guy came stumbling down the way. I was the only other being around, and he decided to stop and chat. I’m not sure how many of me he was seeing, but he seemed to be conversing with all of us, patiently waiting for his turn to talk—despite the fact that several seconds had gone by since I had finished my last sentence. When I asked if he was ok, he said, “Ahm shahray—Ahm druhk.” He wobbled in a circular motion, perhaps imitating the straw that had been mixing his drinks a few minutes earlier. My little drunken buddy quickly tired of the chitchat, and decided to move on down the road. His feet weren’t quite up to the task, though, and he soon lost his balance and barreled shoulder first into the restaurant window. As luck would have it, my coworkers were seated at that very window, and spun around to see what the booming thud had been. The drunk guy shuffled back from the window, and looked up to see my friend Michele looking out the window at him in sheer confusion. In earnest, he said, “Ahm shahray, baaaybee!”

    When I finished my phone call and returned to my table, one of my coworkers said, “Did you push that guy into the window?!?”
  • On Monday night I came back to the hotel from dinner, and decided to see who among my friends were hanging out at the bar. Finding a few coworkers, I stopped and talked for a few minutes. However, it wasn’t exactly a good ratio of managers / plebes, so I decided to make it an early night and headed back to my room. About ten minutes later, I was seated at my laptop checking e-mails when my room phone rang. I picked it up, and a frat boy voice said, “Dude, you don’t know me, but I was hanging out down here at the bar, and saw you talking to those people. You look just like this guy I went to college with—did you go to school in Massachusetts?” I assured him that I hadn’t, and he said, “Okay man, my bad” and hung up. The next day I talked with the manager from whom the mystery caller had found out my name (a girl at the registration desk told me that he then used my name to have the hotel operator patch him through to my room phone). She said that he was a Jet Blue flight attendant. She didn’t say that she had told the whole story to my project and team managers, who then proceeded to bust my balls over it for the remainder of the trip, insisting that the guy had been a homosexual fan/stalker. There were also insinuations as to the lascivious things I would do for free plane tickets. And while I’m not above degrading behavior for cheap airfare, I can say with 100% certainty that I would only perform them with members of the opposite sex.
  • Tuesday I found myself being hunted by a cougar. Unfortunately, this wasn’t exactly Mrs. Robinson, or even Mrs. Cleary. No, this was a less-than-desirable customer in her late 40s who inexplicably put the hit out on me—during business hours. She started by asking a project manager on my team about my marital status. Later that morning, during a general session, she and a co-conspirator asked one of my female coworker friends for my cellphone number. Thankfully, my friend didn’t give it to her.

    That evening was the traditional Workshop reception. A cash bar stocked with top shelf bottles is always present, and everyone tends to use it as a launching point before hitting bars and clubs afterwards; which means the majority of all the week’s craziness goes down that night. Uh oh. I stood at a table with Michele and some customers, when Co-Conspirator approached. Pulling me aside, she handed me a small piece of cardstock while saying, “This isn’t from me, and this isn’t about business.” Sure enough, it was Cougar’s business card. Michele, a lightweight and in essence my big sister at work, was one rum drink in and ready to go after Cougar in my defense; luckily, she refrained. Being only two gin & tonics into my night, I had the sense to simply stay away from Cougar throughout the rest of the reception. When she moved to one location within the large hotel ballroom, I moved to one on the opposite side. Near the end of the event, Co-Conspirator found me again. “I hope you don’t hate me for delivering that message—I’m just the messenger.” I assured her that I wasn’t mad at her (though I sort of was), but in a flash I saw a way to put it all to an end. I showed her a picture of Lady Friend that I keep on my phone, saying, “I’m not a fool.” Caught off guard, she said, “Wow—no, no you’re not.” That was the last I heard from either Cougar or Co-Conspirator on the subject for the rest of the week.

Now I’m back in the ‘Burgh; I have a blissfully-full glass of E&J and Coke in my hand and a blissfully-empty calendar between now and Thanksgiving Eve. Strength and honor.

1 comment:

TJ said...

*takes a bow for the 'Vankoover' spelling*