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.
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.