Wednesday, December 05, 2007

planes, trains and my mis-adventures...

So where did I leave you last - oh yes - I shared my experience with Hertz and then my visit with the awesome Expat bloggers that I follow.

So last Monday my colleague Demon and myself flew back from the States. We had made the trip home for Thanksgiving. Demon and his roommate came over for dinner with my family.

I served my "martha stewart" turkey (it should be on the cover of a magazine it looks so yummy), bourbon sweat potatoes, green bean casserole, wild mushroom stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and turkey gravy. Typing this up is making me hungry for more turkey. Oh I can't forget my pumpkin cheesecake - this is my favorite - I make two of these because I want a piece every night from the moment I cut it till it is gone.

I wish I had pictures of all of us crowded around our little table with plates full and giving thanks for friends and family - next year I promise.

Monday morning creeped back around and Demon and I had a driver pick us up and deliver us to the airport. We cracked our standard, how do you tell an american in europe jokes? "take their shoes off, wearing ball caps, etc" as we worked our way through security. The pilot in front of us was laughing and enjoyed our company. We breezed through the airport, bounced through the business lounge and once again longed for the things we have in Europe. I tell you I am getting corrupted living abroad.

Our plane flight was uneventful until somewhere around 5am. Demon had long been asleep. His several drinks had worked mine hadn't - argh! I had finally given up on sleep and had converted from a bed back to a seat. I was looking at the available movies for the 90th time that night and then it happened. A smell so awful, it slinked along the floor, clawing it's way up the seat and then attacked my sinuses. Someone had died on the plane - not literally but something inside of them had ripped it's way free of their internal control and had taken it upon itself to find me and pummel me stupid. Were it possible to identify the owner of this wretched smell I would have woken them with my smiling slightly lunatic face pressed very close, minus my front teeth and asked then politely to find the nearest WC/bathroom and rid themselves of whatever demon had possessed them. Instead I sat in silence and wished a thousand camels fleas upon them.

I have begun to hate flying. I have been doing this constantly for 7 months or so. I don't mind short little hops here and there but these long hauls are going to turn me into crazy man. Some would argue that I am closing in on that status without much help from the airline industry.

It isn't really the airplane or crew - I am flying business class - they serve me enough alcohol and food to put me into a coma - they know what they are doing. What is making me crazy is the time. Once a month I have a 12 hour day. Somewhere in there the other 12 hours just completely disappear. I go from it being Monday to it being Tuesday somewhere over the Atlantic. I am young (shut up peanut gallery) this shouldn't effect me but it does. I lose time, where did it go? Who is taking this time? May I have it back some day? The BDA is bothered by this. Then the reverse happens on the return I get a 27 hour day. Someone throws some time back at me. This kills the nice organized sections of my brain that care about things like that. Time is all relative - I know I know, but this isn't right. Just let me whine alright - I was granted permission to do that by lumping in with Whiney Expats.

Trains - now that's a decent form of transportation. Well decent as long as they aren't on strike. You can book a seat without needing a degree in expedition planning by simply heading by the local train station and talking to the nice people who just want to help you. I know - I was just as surprised - it was amazing (hand wave) customer service. Supposedly I could do all this on the web but after attempting by myself and then procuring the help of a german colleague to book the tickets I just gave up and headed to the train station. It worked out in the end.

So back to trains. They are just cool. You are relaxed, room to walk around, pleasant atmosphere and if you splurge you can even get a cabin by yourself. There is a bar car, restaurant and a guy wandering the aisles bringing hot coffee. I love it. I wish we had more trains available in the states. We have a quick ride between Seattle and Portland that I will probably take a few times in the coming months while I try to accomplish some work in the States. Rumor has it that this is one of the few corridor lines left on the west coast.

I fell in love with trains when I was younger. My father loved them, and by proxy I felt love for them. My son likes them too. I like how that works out. My love affair with trains continued as I grew older - I had a young lady friend (sounds more romantic than girlfriend) living in Delaware and I would catch a train from Georgia or North Carolina up to spend long weekends with her. Of course we slept in separate beds - what kind of guy do you think I am. Alright I was lying about that part but the rest is true. I would leave late on Thursday night 9pm or so out of this little train station and would be in Delaware in the morning. She only had one class and would be done about the time I arrived. The romance lasted for a couple of semesters and I rode the train a lot as a starving college student. So now I find myself in Europe and have the opportunity to ride the train and then I discover that the train is as expensive as a plane sometimes more expensive. Oh well, I will ride them when I can.

Demon and I are headed off to Amsterdam (riding the train!) for a conference on PCI DSS in Europe. I should be an expert of sorts on this - I recently sat on a panel and shared the good and the bad of the practices around protecting credit card data. However my current client is going to need all the help I can get them so I am off to meet the people running PCI in Europe. Should be fun. I doubt I will blog about the conference - the few followers I have bribed to follow me could care less about the scary things I do. Even fewer are interested in the assessment procedures for validating whether a control has been properly implemented safe guarding said credit card information. These people want to know their data is safe and that the bad guys can't get it.

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