Well, okay, there is no witch and certainly no dead witch. However, I did manage to live through a day I had been anticipating for about a year, the biggest conference talk I have ever done in front of the scariest and most intimidating audience I have ever had to stand up in front of. It appears as though it was not WOMBAT since the feedback has been pleasant. And most importantly, I made it through. Anything that doesn’t kill you… Funny thing is that now, having gotten through that, I am having a really hard time getting on with doing anything else, I feel like I deserve a big vacation and not a big deadline tomorrow… And I can say that it does not even seem to be registering that I am in the US since I am stuck in a closed conference site with all the catering and accommodations included, and a large EU contingent represented. I could be anywhere.
I’m in Maine, having flown into Boston Saturday, stayed overnight, and driven up to Maine yesterday. The conference I’m attending started last night and seems to be going well. My big performance (that I’ve been nervous about for the almost-year that I’ve known about it) is tomorrow, so I should be rehearsing right now and not blogging…
But I’m blogging anyways. There are a few stories of my trip that caused me sufficient amusement to take a break from the rest of it all.
Story one: I got bumped up to business class on my flight over here. Even though it was the middle of the day and I was not about to sleep, I put my lie-flat bed into lie-flat position just because I could. It was amazing. The service was amazing. Almost a little embarrassing, even. But I’m still puzzled about the number of business class seats on this flight that were occupied by the “too young to drive” set. It was a luxury for us to fly anywhere as children, and we certainly were not flying to Europe, nor flying business class. And yet my sister and I were the rock stars of our elementary school after doing a Washington DC to Minneapolis round trip as unaccompanied minors, but it was nothing compared to a 4-year old (my guess) in one of the huge business class seats. Some people apparently have too much money. The mother of the 4 year old WAS wearing the largest diamond ring I have ever seen in person, it was like a Hollywood ring.
Story two, I’m apparently losing my ability to speak American. I just gave a coffee shop lady the most blank stare ever when she alerted me to my options regarding which milk to put in my iced latte. I never thought I’d be so used to saying “full fat” milk instead of “whole” that it would confuse me to hear it the other way around! I still think the Americans all sound like valley girls, too, even the boys. Is this normal? Has my ear become so trained on British that I have forgotten the sound of my own language?
So apparently it is the busiest travel day of the year in the UK. I wondered why today’s flight was more expensive than usual and why premium economy was not available to book! I’m at Heathrow where the security lines were non-existent because the lines for checking in and the supposedly ‘fast’ bag drop were epic. To Heathrow’s credit, they had lots of extra staff handling crowd control. But to their discredit, the queue wranglers were arguing amongst themselves trying to reroute the queue to accommodate the incoming throngs. The result was not pretty. They’ve also made a neutral switch in the security area-laptops don’t have to come out but now shoes do have to come off. Which is nasty in the summer with no socks! With any luck I’ll be taking off in less than 2 hours…
There must not be very many people left in the U.S. right now because I swear they are all HERE in England at the moment. I cannot walk more than a few yards (or meters, Chris) without hearing American speech. It’s a bit stunning, too, as the young girls especially ALL seem to sound like Valley Girls. I swear, I never sounded like that even when I lived in the U.S. Gag me with a spoon!
Of course, I leave for the US again in just over 12 hours. This time it’s a conference in Maine. Last trip to the US this summer that does not include getting to Minnesota… the Minnesota trip is less than a month away. State Fair! Cheese curds! Jonny Lang! I’m dreaming about it already.
Today I had a brief opportunity to catch up with one of my professional friends, you know, the people you know only through work but with whom you eventually develop a casual friendship based on your jobs. Even easier these days with facebook and blogs. This one is quite amusing because I live in her home country and she lives in my home state. I had last seen her before Christmas, and I was delighted to hear (after being falsely accused last week, much to my chagrin and hurt, of being uniformly negative about my life here) that I seem happy and settled compared with 9 months ago. I topped off a 12 hour work day with a stop at one of my favorite little holes-in-the-wall (and not a Barclay’s cash machine), a tiny restaurant with six tables, that is simply called “Restaurant”… I guess I had forgotten about it when I was ranting about all the chain places in my neighborhood. Even better, a new place opened on the same street this week and it’s Korean food! I can’t wait to go, definitely won’t be able to wait until my sister’s next visit. And I swear, I am not just happy because I am flying back to the US in three days time for another conference, Maine this time. Lobster bake, I am ready for you.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that although I never had a problem with Minnesota winters (you can always put on more clothes) I had a real problem with Minnesota summers (you reach a limit where you can not take more clothes off!) The heat, the humidity, the bugs. The weather swings that can cause so much change in 24 hours that you have to check the weather on a twice-daily basis. The likelihood of getting caught somewhere in clothes that were good for yesterday’s weather and are utterly diabolically wrong for today’s.
Although I have bugs here, I also have the following ten-day forecast:
Partly cloudy every day
High-low for each of the next nine days:
So bottom line, comfortable temperatures, sunshine, and no need to actually check the weather forecast on more than a weekly basis. I’m in heaven. Could someone please remind me why the English complain so much about the weather???
The Economist reports that Britain is tightening the visa-waiver rules, essentially rescinding the visa waiver programme for countries it has decided pose threats. I’m guessing that this will be part of a growing trend, that the age of free and easy entry into countries like the US and the UK is likely over. I’m not sure that I think it’s a real problem either; introduction of a registration system like the Australian ETA (electronic travel authority, essentially an electronic visa that you can apply for over the internet) does not seem to me to be particularly problematic. The process is virtually painless (with the exception of the money charged to your credit card) and it can be done nearly instantaneously. I know that people always argue that business travellers need to be able to go places at the drop of a hat, but I suspect the age of spur-of-the-moment international travel is probably over. And it should be. If you really need to talk to someone in a distant land at the drop of a hat, just do what the rest of us international types do, and video conference over skype or any other video chatting service.