Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Houston... Texas, not the High School

Just about every mention of Houston is in a positive way, especially since the four years I spent at Houston High School were some of the best times of my life (until I met Brent, of course). However, I have to say that Houston is no longer a term I use in such a light... Last week, I traveled to the great state of Texas to attend and speak at the Petroleum Industry Tent Conference on behalf of my company. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, picked up a rental car, and drove straight to meet with the editors of an industrial trade magazine. The two lovely people I met with had at least 140 years between them, bless their hearts, but they were the sweetest people I've ever met. They even took me to lunch, at where else than Texas Roadhouse. They're running a story on us in late spring, and I left the meeting thinking this was going to be a wonderful business trip...

That evening, I met with a consultant of BakerRisk. Little did I know, he was a certified professional engineer with two PhDs. I went into our dinner meeting thinking I could handle my own, and I really knew what I was talking about. I left, however, feeling like a complete idiot, as just about everything he said went over my head. The only time I was on the same page as him was when he started talking about traveling and his children (whom I think are around my age). Other than that, I can't tell you much else he said. Thank goodness for digital voice recorders. When I got back to the hotel, there were two Mexican gangs crowding around the front entrance... not the most comforting feeling when you're all by yourself in a strange place. Being from Memphis, however, I thought nothing of it, went about my business. And they didn't so much as make a peep at me. I really think people can sense your "hard"ness being from Memphis. :)

I woke up Thursday with a lot of anxiety. I was giving two presentations that day, and while I felt prepared for both of them, I knew I was way out of my league. When it came time for the first presentation, I carried my head high and tried to mask my nervousness. I guess it worked, because I had them laughing at my jokes (I'm definitely not a funny person... I try, but it rarely works), following along, and even taking a few notes throughout the entire presentation. I was able to answer all of their questions, and even received an applause at the end. The next presentation went just as well, and thankfully, I had a colleague there to help me out with some of the tougher questions. That night, my company sponsored the networking reception, and we had a great deal of interest in our products. I was commended several times on being able to hold my own with the engineering folk. The day was definitely a success.

Friday, however, was another story. The day started off very boring, with basically recaps of the day before. This was the day of my third and final presentation: the Mahaffey sales spiel, and it took place right after lunch. I don't know if everyone ate some bad fish or what, but the mood was quite different from Thursday. Again, it started off great... they laughed at my joke and seemed to really take in the information I was presenting. Then came the engineering questions. Mind you, I told them the day before that I was in no way, shape, or form an engineer. I guess that went over their heads... They asked question after question, and barely let me get two words in. Thankfully my colleague was still there to help me out a bit... though he really wasn't of much help, as he couldn't hear a word they were saying (he's deaf in one ear and partially in the other). Thankfully they laughed at my ending joke, which made me feel a little better. The other company presenting had a rough go of it as well, so that raised my spirits a bit too. All afternoon, I kept thinking about a line from Wedding Crashers: "You're leaving me in the trenches taking grenades, John." That's exactly how I felt...

Finally the conference was over, and I had never been so ready to go home. Well... home for me had to wait because my flight was cancelled. Actually, all flights in and out of Memphis were cancelled for the remainder of the night. Ice storms suck. Then the Houston airport shut down for a few hours, due to increasing thunderstorms. Awesome. I was booked on the next flight out, which was scheduled for 6:10 am on Saturday. I treated myself to a nice dinner, by way of room service of course. I woke up before the crack of dawn the next morning, only to find out that my flight was again cancelled. I was rebooked on the noon flight. I arrived at the airport around 10 am and hung out for a while. My flight was delayed 10 minutes when I got there, and it was steadily being pushed back... 12: 20 pm, 12:39 pm, 12:45 pm, and finally 12:54 pm. I spoke to the gate agent and also saw on my phone that the final delay time was indeed 12:54 pm. It was 11:25 am when I took it upon myself to head to another terminal and get a 15-minute chair massage... It had been a rough week, and I deserved it. I kept checking my BlackBerry to make sure the flight was still saying a 12:54 departure, which it did. I returned to my terminal and gate at 12:23 pm... the plane was gone. Are you KIDDING me?!?! I broke down into hysterics... All the gate agent could say was "sorry." Umm... you and the screen both said 12:54, along with the online flight status page. Why wasn't that updated? "I have no idea ma'am. We did make an annoucement." I don't know if I've ever felt all those emotions at once: tired, sad, frustrated, exhausted, angry, ridiculous, pissed... Stupid me for leaving the terminal, but how f-ed up can an airline be that you can't update your supposed "real-time" flight status page with the correct info? I was then rebooked on the 4:10 pm flight, and needless to say, I sat my butt down at the gate and didn't move except for once to pee. I read Dear John in its entirety, and now I can't to see the movie this weekend... not that that has anything to do with this story.

I finally got on the flight and made it home around 6:30 on Saturday night. Brent, being the super awesome husband he is, bought me a bottle of my favorite wine and cooked me a wonderful dinner. He was so sweet throughout the entire mess, and I am so thankful for him.

Brent and I collect shot glasses from every place we visit. While this was my third trip to Houston, I hadn't remembered to pick one up. And now I know why...

UPDATE: The next three trips to Houston (for this same committee meeting) have gone wonderfully. I've had a great time every trip since, and I feel like my presence adds value, which is a pretty cool thing when you're in a room surrounded by Professional Engineers. :)

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