thankful for Thanksgiving

Banana boat tragedy by Robbie V
“Banana boat tragedy” by Robbie V

Next week is a two-day work week, and my schedule for those two days is almost completely wide open. This means, if all goes well, I might actually recover from being away for Charleston last week and being away two days this week for meetings. There are about 50 action items on my list, ranging from a few minutes attention to a few hours attention. And that’s just the “must deal with now” stuff. Forget doing any of my ongoing projects.

The blessing and curse of travel — you get to do cool things, see cool places, and meet cool people, but then you spend several days of work hell trying to atone for the sin of not being there.

Amtrak 1, United 0

I’m currently on a train heading towards Philadelphia. An Acela business class car, no less, and all I’d purchased was a coach class ticket on a regular train. See, there was a problem at Union Station in DC, preventing my train from Richmond from getting there. So, in Alexandria, they recommended we get off at the station, take the metro to Union Station, and board a different train there that was heading in the direction of our destinations. Our tickets would be honored, and all we had to do was pay for the metro ticket.

Here’s where Amtrak did it right. As soon as the folks on my train found out about the delay, they let us know. As soon as they knew it would be longer than the original 45 min estimate, they came through the cars again with the transfer information. Communication was excellent and timely. Then, when we all arrived at Union Station, the information desk was able to quickly route us to the right train.

That was when we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we’d be on an Acela train. Well, at least, I was pleased, because that meant free wifi for the rest of my trip. w00t!

The train is packed to the gills, but the Amtrak employees are unfazed and courteous as ever. Looking at this in contrast to the frazzled and disorganized management of my SFO-MRY canceled United flight last week, I am once again finding myself wishing for an extensive network of high-speed rail for regional transportation in the US. If a company like Amtrak, which everyone seems to expect to fail any day, can provide such excellent customer service compared to most airlines, then imagine how well they would do if they expanded into every major market.

I know I’d be taking the train more often!

new town, new digs, new job

On Friday, the movers arrived early in the morning and loaded up most of my earthly possessions, leaving me with a suitcase, a “man bag,” two cats, and two pet carriers. I ran a few errands, but ended up sacking out for a few hours, completely exhausted from the week of packing and saying goodbye. Later that night, I sang my final concert with the Ellensburg Women’s Chorus, and in the morning, we headed off to the airport.

Alex went in with the cargo, and he arrived unscathed, if a bit irritated at all the changes. However, my boy can handle quite a bit of stress, and he was just fine after a few minutes of freedom from the carrier. Pesh, on the other hand, spent the day with me in the cabin and the terminals, and the little nervy furball still hasn’t quite recovered, although she is doing much better tonight than she had been.

I don’t have my own place yet, and my stuff is still in transition. It’s weird living out of a suitcase knowing that everything else you own is on a truck somewhere. I’m staying with a new colleague, who has graciously offered to let me continue to use her guest room for a couple of months so I can have more time to find a decent apartment/condo/townhouse/whatever I end up in. It’s mutually beneficial, as I can also serve as pet sitter (she has two cats) and house sitter when she is out of town. In addition to giving me more time, it’s given me tremendous peace of mind.

Today was my first day at the new place of employment, half of which was spent going through the endless HR paperwork and information sessions. Useful stuff, but too much to digest in one day. I have the next two weeks mapped out for me, for the most part, which is a good thing, actually. I handle stress much better if I know what’s happening next. In fact, the gaps between meetings over the next few days frighten me more than the meetings. It will be easier when I have projects and tasks to work on.

I had forgotten how hard it is to start over again in a new place. I’m dealing with a bit of depression, but I think I’ll be okay in the end. I’m glad that the holidays are coming soon and I can go to my parent’s house for a while. It’s not like being in my own home with all of my things where I want them to be, but it’s the closest I’m going to have to the familiar and stable for quite a while.