Monday, May 07, 2007

Two Weeks On The Road

Two weeks of traveling for work, not alone, but with colleagues, is one of the loneliest ways to live. I worked from 8am breakfast til late at night, almost always surrounded by people, except for the couple hours I spent in the hotel room answering emails (average=131 per day including spam). When I tell people about my travels it sounds fun, and sometimes it is. But mostly, overall, it is sickeningly lonely, to the point where you sit at a lunch table of 10 and find that you are repeating the same thing for the 11th time, your throat sore from chatting, your cheeks punchy from fake smiling, and your feet swollen from walking the aisles of a tradeshow. And for human contact you get a shiver if your elbow touches someone else's accidentally in line for the salad.

Apparently, I am in for this every year - or until we have another reorg - as the two shows I went to are traditionally back to back. It's truly brutal. I met with over 120 suppliers in the two weeks, and ate more small potatoes than I ever thought could be manufactured at one time in one place. This year it was Anaheim and Quebec. Next year it will be Vancouver and Las Vegas.

The first week was in Anaheim, home to even more roller coasters. Since I am on a roller coaster binge, I must admit that more Disney and Knotts Berry Farm fed the fire. And, there is a roller coaster better than Spiderman: The Xcelerator - 0-80 in like 2 seconds, then straight up and straight down. It is AWESOME. I can't wait to go back. It would truly be worth taking a morning flight to California, going on the ride, then returning on the red-eye back. In fact, it would be worth double the price! Upon disembarking I have never felt so awake. A colleague commented that we should be required to ride it during the tradeshow at around 3:00 just when you feel like crashing.

BUT that is nothing compared to what is coming. There will be a new roller coaster that will open next year at a Hard Rock themed park in Myrtle Beach called Led Zeppelin The Ride based on the song Whole Lotta Love. If I am not at that opening day party for that ride my life will be over. And if I could ride with Jimmy Page in my heart, I wouldn't feel so lonely :)

The other highlight of that week was NOT seeing KC & The Sunshine Band (which I did) but it was getting to ride in a helicopter from Anaheim to San Diego and landing at SeaWorld and then getting to pet the Beluga Whale. That was a couple of hours where I realized how lucky I was. But still lonely, nobody to share that experience with. Somehow I wound up in the group with the Germans, so not only was there nobody to talk to, there was nobody who was speaking English so that I could try to insert myself into a conversation.

The second week I went to Quebec City and Montreal. No roller coasters there, but instead a whole lot of very good looking Canadians, who are also, incredibly polite. And after a week that felt like a month, what a relief to be around all those hotties.

One of the great problems with going to a bilingual event is that everything happens TWICE. First in French, then in English. Therefore, allow twice as long for anything to be over. Every speech, every powerpoint presentation, every announcement about where the lunch will be held is done twice. For me, this isn't a huge problem since I don't speak French. I can ignore the French and listen to the English. But those poor French Canadians have to listen to it all twice and not be able to ignore one of the languages. It must just drive them mad. Yet, they are still unfailingly polite and calm.

The only real highlight here was eating dinner in the room where FDR and Winston Churchill planned the Normandy Invasion. Or so they told me. I think actually it was a different room, but it was the President of the hotel who told me, so I had to pretend to believe him, and then brag about it after.

Montreal looks just like Manhattan if you were deaf and didn't notice that everybody is speaking French. If you put me there with headphones on I might not know where I was. And I live in Manhattan. It is uncanny.

The taxi drivers are just as nefarious as our hometown breed. We arrived in Montreal by rail and waited for about 10 minutes for a taxi. After loading in the luggage, we directed the driver to our hotel, the Queen Elizabeth. As we pulled away I asked if it was far. "Not far," he said. My friend said "About 10 minutes?" "No, he said, about one minute." Jokingly I said, "What is it right around the block?" He smiled and said it was more like it was upstairs. In fact it was not only around the block, it was basically in the same building but up the hill. There is an escalator connecting the two. We got stuck at a red light and it took about 2 minutes and cost $5.00.

And finally, I must end this piece with some musings about some of the way cool things there are to visit in Canada. In no particular order, but all with a great deal of enthusiasm to encourage anybody reading this to go: Springtime igloo building in Nain (Labrador); a 2-week cruise to Labrador; 3-day train ride from Vancouver to Toronto where you are allowed to take one trip off the train for up to a year, and then get back on (I recommend Banff); train trip to a Polar Bear rescue place, and then continue on the Polar Bear Express to the coast to see the Polar Bears in action; shoe museum in Toronto; ice skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa (longest ice skating rink in Canada maybe the world).

Happy trails.


Larry Slade said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this interesting post about your trips.
Maybe next time you are lonely on the road you can think about your readers, through time and your fine prose, being right there with you.
And know that we miss you too.
I hardly ever leave NYC and like to read about doing so. It's easier with a lot less wear, tear, and money spent.

SP said...

Wow - two weeks, two cities, a whale, a helicopter ride, two amusement parks, international travel, foreign languages - I bet you are exausted! I am tired just READING your post. Hope you have a happy mother's day weekend.