Friday, September 27, 2002

India Departs.

Day 1, 9/26/02 4:pm-ish, CA time

After the thrill of the new promotion, excitement of new responsibilities, challenge of rebuilding a team, I get another opportunity. Yep, I am on a plane flyin’ to India! The purpose of this initial trip is what we used to call a “meet & greet” when I worked for Emory & Young, Political Consultancy, etc. I am on my way to India to meet with the lab managers there, as well as staff and teams I have been working with over the phone.

My pal Flash used to joke I was playing “Cowboys & Indians” whenever I was on late night phone conferences. Well, this is my chance to put faces to names, and learn more about the operations, people and culture.

I’ve been packing, unpacking and repacking since we got back from meeting Sara’s folks in Beaver Dam on Monday night. (another story, will post). Got shots for travel, what an adventure, most from my WONDERFUL Doctor. Dr. Jacqueline Nguyen at McCarthy Medical Center. Sound like a shameless plug? It is, she is the best, hands down, bar none, the best. And she wished me luck and empty seats for my travel (more on this in a sec.)

Since Jim Learmonth’s last visit to San Jose, I have been lusting for a better designed backpack to carry my laptop, gear, water, etc., and be motorcycle comfy. So I was looking at Best Buy for a travel adapter plug set for the computer when I tripped, literally, over a Targus ™ Sport Pack Deluxe. It was laying in the aisle, and I tripped over it. Then thought, WOW, that looks like something Jim would carry, it has stretch cords, pockets, flaps, speed buckles, padding, hmmmm. And I bought a pack as well as the power cord adapters.

Got home and retired my Eastridge laptop pack. It has served me well, but is not particularly motorcycle friendly, the straps are thin and wearing, and really, I bought it at Target on clearance for $12, I have got my money’s worth.

The new pack will be dubbed the “Circus” pack. Once I was putting together some travel pack, and my roommate Bad Bob asked if I was “packin like I was gonna run oft and join up to the circus”. This one could do it. I have the laptop, change of clothes, all cords and wires for computer, some magazines and a notebook in the main pocket, then in front of the main pocket is an organizer area with my checkbook, passport, pens, a clip that my wallet/handspring case clips to and hangs inside, but accessible, and room at the bottom for spare t shirt and snacks. This has flaps that zip over it, and elastic that snugs it tight. Then there is a pouch on the top inside of the flap that covers and seals the back of the pack. I have travel meds in there, like malaria drugs, anti-poo drugs, antihisthamine, mosquitoe repellant, and such.

Sounds like a lot, huh? Not even finished! Sha! It is huge. On either side of the pack are external zippered, enclosed pouches, left side has my digital camera, spare batteries, spare memory card, and the USB card reader to import them. Right side has “right now” toiletries: TP (for my bung), gold bond (balls-B-dri) powder, earplugs, toothbrush and paste, hairbrush and lip balm. On the front of the pack are 2 more pouches, webbing, with elastic rim and elastic cord to snug them, left has a quart of water (thanks Sara), the right has my MP3 player, discs and earphones, it also carries my tickets and itinerary copy.

SHA! And a hip belt to load balance, plus a cross strap on the chest to keep the arm straps in place. I LIKE this, if I was not on an airline, I’d have my hard-sheathed Smith & Wesson boot knife clipped alongside. The arm straps have d rings and bandolier loops, for cell phones, pagers, etc, but I am not sporting those this trip.

After I get all this packed, I get frantic on Trillian, trying to get in touch with Aparna, my contact on the ground in Chennai. She assures me there ARE washing machines in India, and I do not need to send my Harley T Shirts to the hotel laundry. Whew! I can pack a lot less. One carryon bag, and one garment bag, I checked both, as I was worried about seat space. Had I known, I would have brought them onboard.

Sleep next to my lovely, brilliant, wonderful, beautiful girlfriend for one last time. Sara looks so at peace when she is sleeping. Even when she snores and drools. J

We wake up, I hit the last of my email, get organized, and she gives me a ride to SFO. I think they should change the verbal instructions at airports, there may be no parking in the red zone, and the white zone is for passenger loading and unloading, but they should also say you can be “Smooching your sweetie” there too.

We decided not to have Sara park & come in, it was a good thing. We arrived at 11:30, I run into the airport, see the line about a MILLION people long. Yep, for my flight. I stood in line for about 45 minutes. When they checked my luggage, they informed me I had 2 minutes till they start boarding, and I still need to go through security. My belt buckle, my boots, my hat, my sunglasses, everything sets this bastard off.

I make it to the gate just as they are finishing, and I pull the “random inspection” card. However, an angry Asian stewardess screams something at the security people, and they asked me if I had a bomb, I said no, and I boarded the plane.

Is it my lucky day? I am sweating from running to gate 98! My hair is a mess, my left boot is not really on properly after it was inspected, the Circus pack is probably dragging ME to the plane! J I find my seat, a window, though I requested aisle. There is a Hispanic guy fumbling through his luggage in front of my seat, and dropping all his drawers all over the floor. Great, 13 hours of this? Oh please. Nope, lady luck smiles down on me. Probably for the $2 I gave to the bums outside Walgreen’s last night while I was buyng Gold Bond (balls-B-dri) Powder.

I am on a window seat, in a row of 3 seats, there is no one else, Hispanic stuff dropping guy is sitting across the asle with a family of 40 and their chickens. Yes, my row is empty! Jackpot! Bingo! By the window, cowboy hat in the aisle seat, circus bag in the middle, and I can STRETCH my legs. YAY! I mean and HOW Bubba! This is a VERY good thing. They close the doors, the announce the flight is boarded, and we are cleared to leave. Yes, I am sitting alone, across 3 seats. Sure, Cisco is frugal, we travel coach, but I hit the lotto today.

I am settled, I have had the lunch plate (Yes sis, it IS repeatin’ on me) I have typed a bit, my wristwatch tells me it is 4:15pm California time, I have been flying since 1:20pm. We have 10 hours and 53 minutes more to Hong Kong, for a quick stop, (hopefully no more passengers on my row) then on to Singapore.

Sitting alone is great, sure, no one to harass and intimidate, but also no one to yammer, and jab elbows in my ribs. Now I will stretch out and relax, more typing later. I’ll post this to Blogger & LOTD to it when I get to Chennai


Hong Kong to Singapore

Well, no one can pull the ace every time, I knew my luck would not hold for the whole trip, I just did not know how soon it would start to unravel. Should have given those bums at the Walgreens TWO dollars each, to buy more slack.

De-planed in Hong Kong, apparently Flight 805 switches planes there, so did I. Getting off the plane, I walked the ramp with two friendly guys from SF, they liked the hat, yeah, everyone likes the hat. Got the gate change info, and had to walk through a security checkpoint. The U.S. checkpoints are a farce. The gal in HK knew what set off the metal detector, what to look at, and had me through in seconds. SECONDS! None of this dumbass random search crap. You look like a bad man, they pull you aside, if not, they put you through.

Walked into HK terminal, with the bad need for a movement. And did it, well. The bathrooms in the HK airport are wonderful. These people are on the water, and they know it, I am certain the flush took 12 minutes and 40 gallons. Porbably right out into the South China Sea, but wow, what a hopper! All walls enclosed, sparkling clean, solid hook to hang the circus bag, clean floors, wow. You close the door, and you are closed into your own cubicle. The door lock slams bolts in the top and bottom, Heck, I could have slept there.

So airline food is not the best, right? United did okay on the flight over, and I was very regular to prove it! :P (Sara, there’s some poop humor, sorry, I am a kid)

Sat in the terminal for an HOUR waiting for the connection. Asians, even in the airport just sort of start at me. Slack Jawed. Why? Must be the hat or the hair, or the incredibly content look of a man who just had a very satisfying movement! Cue? No, mad rush for the gate. Yep, they crowd up like lemmings. Hmmm, just as a test, I walked to the “gold card holder line” and handed them my passport, boarding pass, and mumbled my card was in my bag. As Sherry Baby says “Shine the Line!”

I get to my seat and it started to unravel. No, not an empty row. A 100% booked flight. Cisco’s frugality measures have me fly coach. Coach over was okay, but packed in kinda blows. Every seat, and I am in the third row from the back.. Friday night seems to be a good time to bring your young, screaming babies to Singapore. Yeah, a bunch. Yeah, screaming.

Then the announcement. “Flight attendants, please disarm doorways and prepare to open, We have a small mechanical difficulty, and may experience some delay” Yep, while I did not see a guy with a floor jack changing the tires, there was a nice 1 hour sit-fest, on a warm plane full of sweaty people. Say, aren’t we flying over the ‘nam?

The couple next to me, well, they seem quiet, so that is nice. The baby behind me? Not a happy camper. Fortunately, his projectile vomiting has all been to the aft, and on dad. Not me. One drop of puke, and I am coming over the seat like a vision of death unleashed.

It is 9:12PM, Friday, September 27, 2002. However, according to the clock on my computer, it is 6:12 AM, Friday, September 27, 2002. Okay, I am slipping some time around here, and that is okay. I am tired, but trying not to sleep, as we land in Sing at 11:30, and I have a room. My hope is to go to sleep midnight Sing time, wake up at 8am, visit my pal Miller, and be back to snuff. Will keep score.

5:44pm Friday San Jose Time means 7:44pm Friday Texas time, and I just woke up! Of course, it is Saturday morning, 8:45 am Singapore time! The mind reels at the thought of it, somehow I lost a day flying? But will pick it up on the way back. I think I just got paid a day late, for work I did not do?

Okay, last night! The plane lands, the couple next to me barely move, Asian folks crowd the aisle. I can see the heat and humidity, at midnight, on the glass of the plane window. This is gonna suck. 87% humid, 87 degrees, MIDNIGHT! I hope the Sing are like Texans, and everything is air conditioned.

Finally step OVER the corpse-like couple, and barge into the aisle. Asians are pushy here, But so is a dumbass cowboy in a hat. De-plane, and pee. Bad, must pee. Once off the plane, the rush stops, and every woman in the airport is dragging feet, shuffle-clomp, shuffle clomp. “ladies, move or get wet, I am coming through!”

Relief, then change a little money for the cab to the hotel, go through immigration, get my luggage. The “Texas/Home” tags make mine simple to spot. SNAG! And out to the cab.

Christopher Too, if you ever find yourself in Singapore, his phone is 91071389, and he is great. The man can tell I am dead tired, since it is a set price cab ($35 sing, 1.75sing=1american) he asks if I would like to see some of the town, no tour, too sleepy. As we are headed to the hotel, we get passed by a herd of the “fast & furious” boys, just as silly as in the US. J and a crapload of Honda 100cc motorbikes with bicycle tires.

Now the goods stuff. Lucky mojo is BACK in action. My boss Keith, VERY Bad Man. He has now ruined every hotel in the world for me. After 20+ hours of flying, the Four Seasons is heaven. The checkin girl Kathleen looks like a princess (not as cute as Sara, mind you) She is friendly, rushes me through the checkin, and gets me to my room. Nope, not interested in anything but the shower and bath, leave the TV, how much do I tip the luggage guy ($2sing) thank you very much goodnight princess looking lady.

The room? Oh MY God! If you have the means, I highly recommend the Seasons. Took some photos, but they do not do justice. The bed screams sleep, but the bathroom screams shower harder. I shave, I shower, I crawl into the HUGE bed at 1:30am, thinking, sleep till 9, wake, call miller.

I sleep like the dead. At 8:00 am I wake up, open the curtains to let in light, and try to convince my body it is morning, and I need to not think it is night. It is still an experiment in progress.

All my luggage made it fine, I will bathe, re-dress, and go out for brunch with Miller & son. More later.


Miller is in meetings, and will be here at noon-thirty. So I dressed, went out, found a brekkies place, had a bagel & coffee, not very Thai, huh? And wandered around Orchatd Street. Saw MacDonald’s, Planet Hollywood, Starbucks, Border’s Books, wow, just like San Jose! Cannot wait till Miller arrives to take me to more local joints, I hope.

50 cc. I see tons of 50CC mopeds tricked to look just like the Repsol Honda 500CC grand prix bikes. Apparently most ride mopeds, but trick them out. Top speed of a 500cc GP bike? 150+mph. Top speed of a 50cc moped? 50mph. Hilarious fun.

Then I realized, I am drenched. Soaking wet, it is humid as Houston here. So back to the Hotel, and Rebecca will love this, a THIRD shower. I’ll do emails and catch up waiting for Clay.

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