Peer Mentoring Seminar

I went on a little business trip yesterday to take a class about Peer Mentoring. The class was awesome, taught by a guy named Steve Trautman from Practical Leader.

We’ll get to that, though. Let’s start at the beginning.

The class was in San Jose, but I couldn’t get a flight directly from Portland to San Jose, so I got this awesome Portland-to-Seattle-to-San-Jose thing on the way down. Nothing like flying north when your destination is south.

I don’t travel much, so a lot of the changes between now and the last time I traveled were pretty amazing. You don’t really check in with a human anymore. Instead, almost every airline has these sort of ATM looking machines planted around the airport that you go check in with. Punch in your confirmation number or put in your credit card, it looks up your reservation, and it prints you a boarding pass right there. If you don’t have any luggage to check, you’re good to go.

The security checkpoints are a little different, too. Your ID gets checked at the security checkpoint so the people at the gate don’t need to. Plus, last time I traveled, not everyone had to take off their shoes - it was more of a “random check” sort of thing. Now everyone has to take off their shoes, empty their pockets… you end up sending your carry-on through the x-ray machine as well as a bin full of everything not affixed to your body. My belt ended up setting off the metal detector (it’s never done that before) so that had to go through the x-ray. Once you get through the metal detectors, you pick your crap up on the other side and it feels like you’re getting dressed first thing in the morning: Put on your belt, put on your shoes, put your keys in your pocket. Crazy.

As I was getting on the plane to Seattle I bonked my head really hard on the door frame. Turns out the plane was super small - like, the ceilings were probably 5’ 10” clearance, so I had to hunker down to walk around. I’ve ridden coach before, but these seats were like “mini-coach.” I’ve never seen seats so small. Thank goodness the seat next to me was empty because I had to sit sort of diagonal to get my legs to fit with any level of comfort.

When we got to Seattle, we got off the plane right on the tarmac. I didn’t realize how common this was. I’ve only ever gotten on or off planes using the covered “tunnel” things that you walk down directly from the airport. On this trip, the only time I got on or off a plane that wasn’t right on the tarmac was that first boarding in Portland - every other time, I got on or off the plane by walking out onto the tarmac. In some cases, it was as loose as “follow the yellow line to get to the plane” - not even any cover at all.

Got to San Jose late and picked up my rental car. I had asked for a compact - not only for price, but because I hate driving around large cars. Lucky for me, they upgraded me - free - to a full size because they were out of compacts. Faaaaaantastic. I’m in an unfamiliar area of California where every parking spot is a sub-compact and I “get” a full size car.

Left the car lot and went to the hotel to check in. My room was on the other side of the complex. Of course, why wouldn’t it be? Got to the room and noticed there was a peephole in the normal spot on the door and one at the level of my navel. Why does my belly button need a peephole? Oh, I see - it’s the handicapped-accessible room. What does that mean? It means that everything has been moved down so that folks in wheelchairs can get to it easier. A noble gesture and I’m glad that they do things like that. On the other hand, it means that everything is down around my knees.

I suppose it didn’t really matter, though, since I basically just went to bed once I got in.

When I woke up the next day it was raining. In San Jose. I visit California, like, never, and it rains the day I’m there. Went and had some waffles at the little continental breakfast bar the hotel had, checked out, and drove to the place where the class was.

The class size was small - there were only seven scheduled - but we ended up starting a half-hour late because four of the seven decided to show up late. I hate that.

That said, the class went off without a hitch and was really awesome. I learned a lot of techniques that I want to apply to the way I do things, and I see how in the past some of the things I was doing wrong were causing frustration to others (as well as things the folks asking questions could have done differently to be better learners). I totally recommend it to anyone who has to answer questions or help people out with on-the-job training sorts of things, regardless of whether you’re in a technology business. It’s globally applicable stuff that can make everyone better mentors and better apprentices.

After class I returned the rental car and headed back to the airport to catch my flight. I had some time, so I went to the Togo’s in the San Jose airport. My instructor was in there just ahead of me, which was kind of “small world,” but then, San Jose airport didn’t strike me as all that big, either, and he was on the way to Seattle. Anyway, he went up and decided to order a sandwich… but wasn’t too successful, since they only had like three of the eight bread types listed. Oh, and they didn’t have all of the sandwich toppings listed on the menu, either. Hmmm. When he was done, I decided to skip the sandwich and just have the soup of the day (clam chowder). They sell soup one of three ways: small, large, and “in a bread bowl.” I decided to go for the bread bowl. “We don’t have bread bowls.” Ummmm, okay. Large soup it is.

Ten minutes before my flight was to depart, I figured I’d take a last minute restroom break. Unfortunately, a plane had just landed so there was a pretty significant line for the two available urinals. Eventually I got my turn. As I was going, the guy next to me finished, flushed, and walked off. The next guy came up to the newly vacated urinal and as he was about to start going, quickly backed off and left the bathroom. What? I then looked down to see that the urinal next to me was, in fact, overflowing all over my fucking shoes. The water had to be a good quarter-inch deep. What was I going to do? I was in the middle of peeing - you can’t just clamp it off, and it’s too late anyway, so… I ended up starting to laugh and said really loud, “That’s AWESOME.” The guys in line started laughing.

The flight home was in “mini-coach” again, but this time I didn’t have two seats to myself so I had to cramp in. It wasn’t a horrible flight, but I can see the value of paying for a larger seat. I had my coat out this time, so when we de-planed on the tarmac I was ready for it.

Just before I left, the last major upgrade since I last traveled hit me: Paying for parking. Now when you come into the lot, you get a ticket with a magnetic strip on it. As you walk out of the airport (before you make it to your car), you feed it into a machine, then it asks for money, so you feed in either cash or put your credit card in. It then spits your credit card out, your original ticket out, and a receipt. When you pull out of the parking lot, there are two lot attendants (to take money from folks who didn’t use the machine) and like eight automated exits where you feed in your original ticket (you keep the receipt), they eat your ticket and they open the gate to let you out. Very cool.

All in all, not a bad trip, and a really great class. Plus an eye-opening travel experience. Makes me feel like I really need to travel more so I can keep up with these things. Maybe I’ll have to make that a priority.