Sunday, February 26, 2012

Back to the US (and more snow)

PlanningThe departure went like clockwork.

At 3:30 my Dutch toets ended; a quick cross-town pedal and I was in the apartment picking up suitcases by 4.  Train station at 4:30, where one of our engineers was waiting, one arm outstretched with our product prototype to take to Seattle.

A dozen connections, all mapped with military precision, lie ahead.

The train to Liege was on time, the connection to Brussels was only five minutes late.  Check onto the Eurostar with an easy 30-minute lag, then arrived at St. Pancras at 10:15.

I do love it when a plan comes together.  I’ve heard that Bill Gates used to challenge himself with how close he could time plane connections.  ‘too much panting for  my taste: I prefer the bold stride and confident smile that tells the world that I never had any doubt.

(or that I had a great back-up plan)

‘heck into a nearby hotel, quick nap then out at 8:30 the next morning.  ‘Taxi to the Accountant’s Hall: five minutes late for a meeting with investors (damn London traffic) where an hour’s meeting secured a five-figure check.  Two suitcases back in hand: drag them up the stairs, across the street, down to the Tube (I really hate taking suitcases on the Tube).  Around to Paddington, onto the Heathrow Express (stealthily changing shirts without being glimpsed by the other passengers).  Change trains to T4 and check in an easy 1 hour 15 until the flight.

I do a victory lap, picking up two gifts and grabbing breakfast in the lounge.

Kennedy airport, 3 pm.  I‘ve got four bags, three laptops, and a highly suspicious bit of home-brew electronics to get through customs and security.  Predictably, they pull off the product prototype for a sniff-scan.  Unpredictably, they open my shoulder bag behind me and take out several items to run through the x-ray again.  Including my passport pouch.

The only thing that saved me is that I always pat for my passport before leaving security: this time it was gone.  I called time out and announced that my documents were missing: a screener located them fully four bins behind my stuff, mixed in with another person’s.  I asked to speak with a Supervisor: even by Kennedy standards, this was terrible.

DSC0783140 minutes left: the boards announce a gate change necessitating a bus all the way across the tarmac to a new terminal under construction.  We lurch across the airport as the rain and wind rise, a storm that closed O’Hare the day before now arriving.  They hurry everyone onto the plane and we leave ten minutes early, lurching up into the turgid evening sky.

I’ve been jammed into the last row center: dropping from Diamond to Platinum status for 2012 apparently means a significant loss of benefits. The movies are all ‘for pay’, the food runs out before they can try to sell me any.  I doze my way westward.

Snow was starting to fall as I landed in Seattle, not much different from the frosting in Maastricht a day and a half before.  The bags made it through and the computer was filled with emails to be sent.  Be me, I was just spent.  This doesn’t get any easier, even when it all works well.

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