Thursday, July 24, 2014

Me too!

After one of my recent trips, I returned to find that my pretty red mustang had hail damage all over it. I have only rarely used the parking garage at the airport because it costs twice as much as the other parking lots, but the other parking lots leave my car exposed to all of the elements. Well after having my car hail damaged, I decided to use a compromise, and so I have started parking off the airport, where they at least have a roof over the car. So it's still out in the weather, but it should be reasonably protected from hail in the future, and it costs the same as the uncovered parking at the airport.  I've used it three or four times now, and most mornings the same driver has picked me up to take me to the airport, and I've been impressed with his attitude each time. Each and every time he has greeted me with a smile and a friendly word, and he has gone out of his way to grab my bags for me.
All in all, I wish I had discovered this place long ago. 

I had a bit of a shock as I was sitting in the Austin airport waiting for my flight. As has become my habit, I used my phone to log onto Facebook, and I updated my status to show that I was in the airport. Just a few seconds later I received a reply from a coworker of mine.
"Me too! I'll wave at you from down the concourse!"
Of course the first thing that i did was try to look every direction at once to see if she was at the same gate that I was sitting at, but fortunately she wasn't anywhere to be seen. Well, clearly I wasn't gonna invite her to share a cup of coffee with me, but I like her and didn't want to be rude either, so I fibbed through my teeth.
"Hey, I'd come say hi, but I have to board my flight!" I then promptly turned my phone off just to be SURE this wasn't gonna get any more awkward!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Black Moods and Feeding the Squirrels

There actually has been quite a lot going on my life the last month or two, but no real time for writing about it. Well, I have time this morning! (More on that in a moment)
If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know by now that I am pretty much always worried about the possibility of losing my job. Well, I'm back to that point again, but this time with a few added reasons to be nervous. We had an engineer fired a month or two ago for more or less stealing from the company - he was fabricating receipts and expensing things that were not for his job. He was very popular with one of our major customer on the east coast, and so we thought it likely that he would either be hired by them or at the very least, that he would try and continue servicing their equipment as a contractor.  That came as no huge surprise to us, but what did catch everyone a bit off guard is that he has apparently taken quite a few of our other customers with him as well. The east coast has gone all but silent the last two months as far as field service is concerned.  It's gotten to the point where people are scared, including my manager, and he isn't the type to worry easily.
At the same time that this is happening, my manager has heard through the grapevine that our company is considering getting rid of both field service and sales, to start using other companies to sell our products. This is not at all unusual - just think of companies like Grainger that make nothing but sell everyone else's products.
I'm so worried that I've gone out and bought a drill press and blocks of aluminum and started fabricating some of the fixtures that we use when we work on equipment so that I can try going into business repairing them for myself if I have to. I had already started doing this before I'd heard that the guy we fired apparently doing the same thing, so I was less than happy to discover that it looks like I will have competition if it comes to that. I guess that the major difference is that if it comes to that point, I will approach my company about a partnership, where I would work on their equipment with their blessings and perhaps their support. Damn but I hope I never have to find out if that ship will float or not.

When I first joined the army at 17 years old, and found myself in Ft Sill Ok, I didn't do real well. Soon after graduating from advanced training where I learned electronics and pretty much everything associated with the Pershing missile, I learned about alcohol. The first time I tried it, I hated it, but in my attempts to fit in with "the guys", I kept at it. Bad news - I came to like it far too much, and soon I found myself pretty much drunk any time that I was not on duty, and I was seriously depressed all of the time.  There were a few influences in my life at that time, some good, and some bad, but far and away the most influential was Bill M. and his family. When I was thousands of miles from home and everything and everyone that I knew, they gave me a place to go. A place where being drunk all of the time was not the norm. A place where you saw how a functional family behaved - something that I had never seen before. It was a place where life was almost normal, with no Army, alcoholic fathers, or pain killing mothers to dwell on. They were far and away the very best friends that I have ever had. So much so, that I named my first child after Bill. For all of that, as happens so often with the military lifestyle, we still lost track of each other when we went our separate ways after leaving the service. Well, that separation just ended as he and most of his family came to visit us while they were on vacation.

It's been thirty years, but in some ways it seemed like we had never been away from each other.  We swapped lots of stories, very few of which were flattering, so it is fortunate that I had already told my wife most of them! He now has four children, and on this trip he brought his youngest two, both daughters. Unlike my spouse and I, who are essentially couch potatoes, these folks like to get out and see things, with a particular emphasis on the historical sites. With their invitation, we sort of crashed their vacation and tagged along with them to the LBJ Ranch, the LBJ Library, the Alamo, and then for a finale at the beach in Galveston.

You know how sometimes your children get a bee in their bonnet, and just refuse to behave themselves? Yeah, this was my daughter while we were going through the LBJ Library. She insisted on running around, and insisted on being loud so that she could hear the echo in the huge tile rooms, and eventually I had to pull her outside to talk to her. There we were, sitting on the tailgate of the truck, me angry and her sulking, when a squirrel boldly walks up and starts kissing my daughters toes. I don't care how mad you are, when a squirrel starts talking to your child, you shut up and grab the camera. So that is how I have photos and video of my daughter feeding a brave little squirrel.


It was whirlwind of a week, and I was more than a little sad when it came time to once again say goodbye to Bill and his family. I think we will make it a point to try and make a trip to see them in the future.

By pure coincidence, my daughter in law drove down from Washington state during this time frame, and she had a bit of a problem along the way -she lost her wallet somewhere in West Texas. She had no ID, no credit cards, and no cash, and she was still several hundred miles away from her parents’ home. Of course she discovered that she was missing her wallet the hard way while stopped at a gas station to refill her fuel tank. Things were looking pretty bleak for her, and so she called her grandmother for advice and support. I guess a gentleman on the other side of the fuel pump over heard her crying and the story that she relayed to her grandmother, because he filled up her gas tank for her. Considering the cost of fuel these days, that was no small act of kindness.
Well, this is where I came into the story. I was headed off to work, and sent her text to ask her how she was making out on her drive. The next thing I know, my phone is bleeping over and over with received text messages, so I pulled over to check them and got this whole story from her.
When I got to work, I started tracking down the places that she had stopped at and calling them to see if anyone had found the wallet, but no joy with that. We had been at it for maybe an hour and half when she called me and blurted out that someone she had never heard of had sent her a Facebook message telling her that they had her wallet and wanted to know how to return it to her. I looked the guy up, and it turns out that he is a guitar player and singer for a rock band out of Phoenix Az called the "Black Moods". So good news - the wallet was found. Bad news - the band is out of Phoenix and so it probably went the wrong direction.  First I tried to reach him through Facebook, and then I followed links to his band and sent them a message giving them my information and asking them to call me about the wallet. While I was on their web page, I came across a post talking about their future gigs, and I almost fell out of my chair when I discovered that they were headed to the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally not but maybe twenty minutes from me. Now stop and think about all for a second.
She lost her wallet with all of her credit cards and several hundred dollars in cash.
A stranger heard about it and filled her fuel tank so that she and her baby wouldn't be stranded,
A band full of decent people out of Arizona found it in west Texas and kept it safe for her. They also went through the trouble to find and contact her on Facebook.
That band just happened to be performing in Austin Texas right near me.
Wow . . .  I think my daughter in law is one very lucky young woman.

Not long after I sent the band a message, I received a phone call from them and headed off to pick the wallet up. When I got there, I was overwhelmed by their decency and pretty much babbled like an idiot. I told them how awesome I thought they were, and tried to explain just how much it meant to her, as she was going to be in a world of shit without any of her documents or resources. I offered to give them all of the cash in my wallet, I think it was $60, and they flat out refused, telling me that they had been through the same thing, and so had just wanted to do the right thing.
Anyway, these are some good people so do me a favor and go to their Youtube and Facebook pages and give them some love! In today's entertainment world, all of those "likes" and subscriptions matter. Besides, I checked out their music and I actually like 'em!

Well, today I am off to Portland Oregon for a service call there. As usual, my flights were pretty early in the morning, and so I was up at four in the morning, and at the airport at about 630AM. I had already received notification that I had upgrades to first class, but one of the flights had me in a bulkhead seat where there is no place to put your bag at your feet.
"Good morning!" I told Heather, the young lady behind the US Airways counter, "I'm going to Portland this morning. Is there any chance that you can get me out of that bulkhead seat?"
"Well that depends! Where are you connecting at?"
"Oh! That's going to be a problem."
"Uh huh. What's the problem?" I asked, already less than thrilled.
"Well, that flight was canceled." She told me regretfully.
"Hmmm . . . Any chance of getting me back into that bulkhead seat?" I asked her with a laugh.

It turns out that I had been rebooked on a flight leaving at 645PM! I just stared at her in shock. The very idea of trying to kill twelve hours in the airport, and what the HELL were they thinking rebooking me on a flight THAT late?! I was just thinking this, and hadn't said it, but I guess that it showed on my face, because she told me to hold on and she would see if there was anything else available. It turns out that there wasn't anything with US Airways, and so she started calling the other airlines and managed to get me a reasonable flights on United that left at 11AM. I hate United airlines with a passion, but I wasn't gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. So here I sit in the Austin airport, with PLENTY of time to update my blog!
I’ve gained about 12 pounds in the last six months, and so very little in my closet actually fits me these days. It makes choosing an outfit somewhat problematical, but don’t let it worry you too much because I have finally gotten pissed off at myself and am gonna “fix” this whole weight problem! I am officially on a diet as of today!After trying on and rejecting about twenty different outfits because they didn’t fit, I pulled this dress out of the back of my closet:

While not exactly a stunner, it was a good compromise – it fits, is reasonably flattering, and is reasonably cool in the heat. All things considered, I guess that made it perfect! It doesn’t look all that short while standing, but I spent most of the day tugging it down every ten minutes while I was sitting. I appreciate not dying of heat stroke, but I am really not a huge fan of dresses that are so short that they make you self-conscious.  It also doesn’t help a lot that I am getting a little old for short skirts and dresses. . .   Still, I did manage to get a compliment from a woman that thought the top was cute while I was getting my rental car. Speaking of rental cars, how do you like the one that they upgraded me to?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

That's where the REALLY wierd people are from . . .

My job has been “interesting” the last couple of weeks, and by “interesting”, I mean it in the fashion of the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times." Almost 19 years ago, I left the US Army and was almost immediately hired by the company that I now work for. I don't know that I personally impressed them during the interview process, but the engineer that interviewed me had worked with others before me that had been to the same training and held the same job that I had in the army and they had impressed him. Since I had graduated as distinguished honor graduate from that somewhat prestigious school, he figured that I must be hell on wheels. He was wrong, but I wasn't about to correct his opinion since he was erring in my favor. I recall that as part of the interview he drew an assortment of schematics and drawings up on the board, explaining how a capacitance manometer worked, and I just kept trying to look as if I had a clue. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but I kept nodding and making non-committal "uh huh" sounds whenever it seemed appropriate to do so, and what do ya know - they hired me! Funny thing - I'd come looking for a job as a calibration tech, but instead they hired me to build and manage an entire service center. When I started working there, my "repair center" consisted of an empty room, with an antiquated 286 computer and a DOT matrix printer sitting on the floor. For the first few months that I worked there, I told my spouse not to bother unpacking all of our boxes, because I had no idea what the hell I was doing and it was just a question of time until my company figured that out.
Well, despite my pessimism, I quickly learned the ropes, and within months I was turning out three times as many repairs as the only other single person service center in the company. I worked very long hours trying to get up to speed and turn around repairs in a short time, and often found myself getting to the office at two and three AM in the morning, and then reading manuals at home until late at night. I had worked damned hard to succeed and I was extremely proud of what I had done and what I had built, and so it came as a shock when several years into it, I was told that I was not making enough money, and that I was not turning around repairs fast enough. I was making twice as much money as the only other single person repair center my company had, and yet I was told that it was not good enough, and so they were going to send down the manager from our much larger service center up in the Dallas area to take charge. I had met Joe, the manager of our Dallas repair center, and thought he was a pretty decent guy, but I knew for certain that he and his employees had been cutting corners for years in order to turn around repairs faster than our other service centers could. As an example, most of our instruments require at least four hours to warm up and reach operating temperature before you can calibrate them, and they were not doing this. As a result, the incoming calibration data that they were sending their customers was complete crap. They were cutting other corners as well, but I won't detail all of that dirty laundry here. Let's just suffice it to say that my honor, and my ethics, would not tolerate doing the job this way. The customer was paying for accurate calibration data, and that was what I was going to give them, or I'd rather not have the job. So it was in this atmosphere when I was informed that Joe would be arriving one Monday morning to take charge of the facility that I had built and had managed for years. “Angry”  does not even come close to describing how mad and hurt I was, and so I replied to our director via email with one sentence:
"If Joe walks through my door Monday, you may consider that my two week notice."
Funny thing, he didn't show up and I'm still here fifteen years later. . .
I came to know Joe pretty well over the years after that and admired him in many ways, but I still wasn't about to run my shop the way that he ran his.
Several years after this, my service center had grown, and I had three people working for me, but I grew bored with it. Day after day, it was the same thing - calibrate the widget, send it back to the customer. A year later it was back for another round.  Over, and over, and over, to the point where it got to be like washing the dishes after a while - there was no challenge, there was no excitement. Then one day, I noticed that there was a stranger in our conference room who appeared to be interviewing people. When I asked who he was and what he was doing in our office, I discovered that he was interviewing for a field service position working on the Residual Gas Analyzers made by a company that we had just bought a few months back. On a spur of the moment impulse, I asked if I might throw my hat into the ring, and so with no preparation, and no knowledge of that product line, I sat down for an unscheduled interview. The very next morning I was told that the job was mine if I wanted it, and thus started my career as a road warrior.

Now, many years later, things have sort of flip flopped. I've been in field service for a long time and am generally considered one of our better engineers because I can work on the vast majority of products that our company now sells. Joe, the manager of our Dallas repair center? He has become the victim of the economy and of his own corner cutting. After a decade and a half, it started getting around that he was cutting corners, and some customers were complaining about the data that they were getting. It didn't help him that he was putting out twice the volume and making twice the profit of our corporate service center, thus making them look bad by comparison. When it came time to close down a repair center in order to save a dollar, it was his that was closed. Now, a man that had been managing our most efficient and profitable service center for more than twenty years was suddenly looking for a job in field service. . .
So it was that I spent the week before last training the gentleman that almost cost me my job so many years ago. I have to admit that training someone who was a successful manager until just a couple of months ago to do my job was one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever had to do.  It did give me the chance to get to know him better than I had though and I learned a good deal about him during our lunches together.
He was born in Vietnam where his father had worked for the US Government. When the US abandoned Vietnam, Joe and his father were both placed in work camps by the communist when they took over the country. It seems that they weren't real fond of Vietnamese who had helped the Americans. When he was almost dead, and could do no more than lay on a cot gasping for breath, his sister managed to more or less purchase his freedom for $2,000. They figured ‘what the hell, he’s dying anyway’, and so they loaded him up on a gurney, carried him out of the gate, and then dumped him in the dirt in front of his sister. Much to the communists’ great annoyance, Joe failed to die as they had expected, and his sister actually managed to nurse him back to health. Apparently this pissed them off, because they came looking for him, but he managed to escape by walking through two entire countries. The bad news is that he jumped out of one fire and directly into another, because the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia captured Joe and about fifty others who were running with him. The Cambodians were about to shoot these fifty people when the Red Cross showed up and begged for their lives. Joe said he remembers huddling in a ditch, bullets flying over their heads, and yet a tall blond woman with the Red Cross arm band was standing in the midst of the bullets, counting Vietnamese and shouting at the Cambodians not to kill them. He had to take his glasses off and wipe the tears out of his eyes as he described the woman and her bravery to me. Ultimately she bought their fifty lives with several large bags of rice. That’s twice that His life has been bought and paid for. . .
 Now I had to take off MY glasses and wipe MY eyes. After many more months under the care of the Red Cross, the US arranged a flight for him to America, where he arrived in New York in November, having nothing to his name but the shorts and sandals that he wore in a place so much colder than anything he had ever experienced before. From such humble and horrible beginnings, this man had become a respected engineer for a high technology company. Yeah, I'll help train him, and do all that I can to help him succeed, even if it means that he will be competing with me for work when there isn't enough to go around. If he doesn't succeed in field service, it sure as HELL won't be because Sgt Huddle let him down. . .

This past week I set off on two service calls - one to Saginaw Michigan, and then straight from there to South Carolina. On my way to Saginaw, the lady sitting next to me in the plane was a bit of a talker. When she found out where I was going, she told me that the son of her best friend was a police officer in Saginaw. I just laughed and asked her to please forgive me if I fervently hoped that I wouldn't be meeting him while I was there.
When I fly pretty, I make it a point to do a bit of an inventory of clothing bag when I arrive at the hotel. If I've forgotten something important, like, oh, say pants for example, I want to know that I need to make a trip to the store BEFORE I wash my makeup off! To the best of my memory, I've never actually forgotten anything significant when it comes to clothes. My bag has been lost and delayed, but I've never forgotten to pack what I needed . . . Until this trip! Fortunately it wasn't a show stopper though - I had just forgotten to pack any socks. I got my shower, and then I took my bare ankled ass to the store where I bought a package of 'em.

I'd have to admit to a little trepidation when it came time to fly back out of Saginaw, because this is a itty bitty airport, and I wasn't at all sure that they might have ever interacted with a cross dresser before. Would they know how they were supposed to treat me? Were they likely to make any kind of fuss? All of these worries were for nothing though, because they treated me just like the bigger airports do - with respect and professionalism. Of course this is what I expected, but there is always that little doubt in the back of my head. Everyone that had to inspect my ID took a nice long look at it, but ultimately passed me through.
I had to almost snicker when I heard two older women sitting next to me talking trash about a woman that had entered the gate area wearing four inch wedge heels.
"How can she walk in those things?" One said to the other while shaking her head.
"I don't know. I never could walk in heels like those! And through the airports at that!" The other replied.
If they had only seen some of the shoes that I had worn on 18 hour days through airports. . .

When I landed at the Raleigh-Durham airport I received a surprise – our travel agency had blown it  
and failed to make either a car or a hotel reservation for me. I discovered this while waiting for the Avis shuttle bus, because I was looking through my emails for my reservation numbers and couldn’t find them. Fortunately I used to make all of my own travel arrangements and so still had all of the web sites and phone numbers that I needed for making my own reservations.
It was all that I could do to keep from laughing myself sick when the Avis bus driver insisted on grabbing my bags for me, because the poor man couldn’t actually lift them. He had to drag my tool box up the steps, and after seeing this, I didn’t have the heart to leave my even heavier suitcase to him, so I lifted it up into the bus myself. I had to hand it to him though, because he didn’t give up. When we got to the Avis lot, he came back and insisted on getting the bags off of the bus on his own, and so I watched the poor guy drag both of my bags down the steps and then gave the poor man a tip.

The woman behind the Avis counter struck up a conversation with me as she was getting a car together for me.
“So you’re from Texas huh?” she asked me as she was typing away on her terminal.
“Yep! It seemed like a good place to settle down when I got out of the army.”
“Are you from Tyler Texas?” She asked me, briefly looking away from her computer to look at me. Tyler is one of those odd little places where it seems like they are subject to more than their fair share of shootings, murders, wing-nuts, etc, so I was pretty quick to deny that charge.
“Uh no, I’m not from there. That’s where they keep the really strange people, and that’s saying quite a bit under the circumstances!” I replied with a laugh, while pointing at myself. Since she had my driver’s license in front of her, she was well aware that I was a male dressed as a woman, so my claiming that other people were stranger apparently struck her funny bone and she laughed like hell.
“Yeah, I have a cousin that lives there and you are SO right! They are a bit off there, aren’t they?! They are all highly religious too.” She said, then she stopped typing to look up at me before she quietly added, “Of course they are all highly religious here too.”  
The way that she said it left me wondering if she was trying to give me warning or something. . .

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Total Eclipse

Saturday morning I woke up at around four AM and once again found myself unable to sleep. This seems to be a new trend with me, and I am not at all happy about it. Saturday is supposed to be my day to sleep in - the day that my spouse gets up with the kids and I get to snore and drool on my pillow. Not so much these days though, as far more often than not, I find myself laying there and looking at the ceiling. Anyway, it didn't take me too long to acknowledge the reality, and so I dragged myself out of bed and went downstairs to slurp some coffee. At about 630 AM I started hearing odd noises outside and so I took a peek out the front door. Much to my surprise, I found my neighbors garage wide open, and the garage lit up like a UFO landing site. I stood there at the door for a moment, then looked down at the pajamas that I was still wearing, and thought to myself "what the hell, why not!" Coffee cup still in hand, I strolled across the street in my PJ's.
"Well YOU'RE at it kind of early this morning aren't you?" I quipped as I approached his garage. He had his hands and his head buried in the engine compartment of his hot rod, and clearly he hadn't heard my approach, because he jumped about a foot into the air when I spoke.
"Hey neighbor!" He said with a laugh, reaching out and shaking my hand. "Well, you know there is a car show going in today right? There are gonna be a LOT of real cool cars and neat people there. Just trying to get her ready so I can go show her off!"

He has been working on this car for years, pretty much building it from scratch. He and another friend of his built the frame, and he had been trying to get all of the pieces collected and put together into something resembling a hot rod for a long time. It might not be the prettiest car you will ever see, but if you had known all of the blood, sweat, and tears that he had poured into that thing, you would consider it a thing of beauty. After more than half a decade, he finally had it mobile and he was just dying to get it out and on the road.
"You know you really ought to pull the mustang out and come with me! You would have a ball and there are going to be some great cars there to look at."
"Awe hell, you know that Mustang is nowhere near car show ready, and never will be." I told him with a laugh.
"Hey now, don't be selling yourself short there, you've done a LOT of work on her. I think you should take her."
I sat there sipping at my coffee trying to figure out how to politely tell him that there was no way in hell that I was dragging my poor beat up Mustang into a car show. I guess he saw the thought process in my eyes, because then he pulled out all of the stops.
"You know I've never had this any farther than around the block. I'd sure appreciate having some backup?" He said, looking me straight in the eye. So now we had gone from "you should do this because it will be fun" to "I really wish I had someone to follow me just in case something goes wrong".  And so my pretty pony and I went to the car show . . . 

It turned out to be good that I followed him, because he did indeed have a couple of minor issues that probably would have resulted in his turning around and going back home part way. It turns out that he had made a goof and accidentally trapped the wire going to his temperature sensor between the engine and the transmission. This is what we in electronics like to call a "dead short", and it resulted in his temperature gage constantly reading maximum. In other words, it was telling him that his car was over heating at all times. Fortunately he just happened to have a field service engineer following him in a blue Mustang that had all of the gear to find that short, and also had a temperature probe to prove that the engine was in fact running at exactly the right temperature. In less than ten minutes, we were back on the way to the car show.

I've got to admit that I really enjoyed myself, but I really head to work at not leaving drool on some of the cars that I looked at. So many cars that I would have dearly loved to have, and so many of them with paint jobs that I will never be able to afford. There were a couple of cars there that everyone seemed to agree were just TOO pretty. This was not a crowd that was impressed by how much money you had spent - these guys almost all seemed to prefer cars that people actually worked on and built themselves. Over and over I watched people walk right past the picture perfect and magazine quality hot rods, just to stop and talk shop at the rusted car sitting next to it. I don't know why, but this attitude kind of impressed me. My mustang got a little love, but not much. In the antique car and hot rod crowd, your average Mustang is the equivalent of a cockroach - common as hell and found everywhere. Don't get me wrong, there are some Mustangs that were built for power that these guys would consider to be deserving of respect, but your standard, run-of-the-mill, stock Mustang - no, not so much.  

I found myself desperately trying to recall the names of all of the guys that I was meeting, but I'm afraid I did a poor job. I'd have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable at times, because most of these guys had grown up together, all ran in the same crowd, and were definitely the macho types. Into the mix comes I, a fairly clueless individual with no biceps and no tattoos. If not for the efforts of my neighbor to include me, I doubt anyone would have spoken twice to me.  I had just decided to find a spot in the shade and sit down for a moment when my phone rang. The day was all downhill after that. . .

So tell me - why is it that when it comes to work, the shit never hits the fan on a Monday morning? Why does it always have to be late Friday afternoon, or Saturday when things go to hell, and people are screaming that they need help? One of our larger customers has one of our more complex machines, and it no worky. Since it no worky, part of the customers factory no worky. When THAT happens, people start loosing lots of money every hour and they tend to get a bit excitable about it. I guess this problem had actually started Friday night, but since the customer was not in my region, I had known nothing about it. My region or not, I was the one that everyone started calling Saturday afternoon when the customer started screaming. It is Sunday morning as I type this, and guess who is on an airplane to Utah?

I used to actually dislike traveling on US Airways because their people just weren't anywhere close to being as personable as the folks at Delta Airlines, but I am happy to share that this has changed. Most of the people that I have interacted with on the last few flights have actually been quite friendly with me. As I walked up to the airline counter, the lady behind it looked up and gave me a great big smile.
"Well good morning and welcome back! Two bags to check?" She asked, eyeing the two large bags that I was pulling and no doubt having dealt with me so me many times.
"Sure - two big and HEAVY bags for ya'!" I replied with a laugh as I set my bags up onto her scale. "Y'all must just LOVE me for making you heft so much weight all of the time."
"Oh come on now, they aren't THAT bad!" She said, reading the weight off of the display. There was a moment of quiet as she punched a lot of keys trying to bring up my reservation.
"I had to book this flight at the last second just last night; what's the odds of my getting an upgrade now?" I asked her.
"Hold on and I'll look for you." She answered with a cheerful tone, and then started typing again. "Today is your lucky day we have seats available."
"Yay!" I said with a grin.
"But it won't let me give one to you." She said with a frown, still typing at.
"Not yay," I moaned.
"Well it told me that there were seats available and asked if I wanted to give one to you. I told it 'yes' but it didn't change your seat." She told me with a puzzled tone of voice.
"So it just wanted to know if I WANTED the seat, it wasn't necessarily offering to GIVE it to me huh?"
"That seems to be the case," she laughed. "Hold on - got it!"
So, it might be Sunday, and I might be headed to a major customer without a single component to try and resolve their issue, but I'm ah goin there first class!

When it came time to board the aircraft, the gate agent came over the PA and gave a slightly modified version of their usual spiel:
"When you approach the podium, we would appreciate it if you would have your tickets out and ready. Please don't have them wadded up, wrinkled up, or soaking wet." Fortunately the crowd in the gate area saw the humor in her request and laughed about it, but I decided to have fun with her as I was handing in my ticket.
"So your pretty fussy and demanding when it comes to these things huh?” I asked her with a wink.
"Ugh!" She let out an exasperated sigh, dropping her hand with my ticket still in it for emphasis. "You wouldn't belief the way some people hand them to us - all torn up and wadded in a little ball!"
"And let me guess," I said as she handed me back my ticket. "Some people are holding them in their mouths because they are carrying so many bags they have no other way to hold them."
"YES. EXACTLY!" She replied with a laugh. 

Oh, that failed system? Yeah, I got it running again.

On the cool side of things, the weather in SLC was perfect and flawless for viewing the total eclipse of the moon! If I had been at home in Austin, I would have missed seeing it!