I started this week out in Oregon and Washington states and then ended it in New York! Straight from one coast to the other, and all in the same week! Phew!
I’ve gotta be honest, I did hesitate to make this trip when I realized that I would be flying to my customer on September 11th. Given what the day is remembered for, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why I might hesitate to jump on a plane on that particular date. Oh, and the day that I flew back home? Yeah, that was Friday the 13th. Looking back on it, I prolly should have stayed home but I didn’t have any significant problems, so I guess that it’s all good!
You know I’ve gotta say it – while still not as friendly as Delta always has been to me, US Airways is kind of lightening up with me. This time the folks at the counter and at the gate went out of their way to be nice and to talk with me.
“Good morning! Where are you headed today?” the lady behind the counter asked me.
“I’m going to . . . umm . . . where the hell am I going to this time?! Oh yeah! I’m going to Rochester New York!” I told her, with just a touch embarrassed that I’d had to stop and think about it for a moment.
“OK, and how many bags are you checking?!” she asked as soon as she stopped laughing.
“I’ve got two of ‘em. Two nice and heavy bags!!” I told her, grunting just a bit as I lugged the fifty pound bags up and onto her scale so that she could attach their tags to them. “Y’all must positively hate me for making you lift those bags over and over!”
“Nah, they aren’t that bad! “ she told me with a laugh as she took them off of the scale and put them onto her conveyor belt. “Ok, they are checked all of the way through to Rochester for you!”
Then later, as I was handing the young lady at the gate my ticket to board the plane, she looked up and smiled at me.
“Hey! How have you been?!” she asked with a great smile.
Now it wasn’t the words that these folks and I shared with each other that impressed me – it was the attitude. They were being genuinely friendly, and until recently this hasn’t been something I’ve seen a lot of from the US Airways folks in Austin. I’ve had their employees be very friendly to me in other airports, but not so much with Austin.
Much like my last trip, I had set this one up with very little advance notice, and so I again failed to get upgrades to first class. Keeping the events of my last trip in mind (my being told that I could not sit in the exit row if it wasn’t my assigned seat) I made it a point to choose the exit row seat when I made my reservations. All things considered, it seemed a bit ironic that at the end of the boarding process, the flight attendant walked back and spoke to all of us in the area.
“You all look kind of crowded, so I thought I’d let you know that we are done boarding and you are free to move to any of the open rows or seats if you like!” she told us all with a smile. I looked at the guy next to me, fully expecting that he might take the chance to get out of the seat next to the old cross dresser, but he shook his head and stayed put. I thought about it for a second and then decided that I’d rather have some elbow room for the next two and half hours, and so I got up and moved forward to a row that was completely empty. I was putting all of my things away when I saw my ticket for the next flight fall through the gap between the seats and onto the floor of the seats behind me - well out of my reach. With a flustered sigh, I looked at the person in the seat behind me, and was almost struck dumb. All exaggerating aside, this was one of the very prettiest young women I had ever seen in my life – everything about her was flawless. She was African American, with absolutely flawless skin and the biggest and prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen framed by a glorious head of hair that made me turn green with envy. Speaking of green, she had very elaborate eye shadow, with dark blues and greens, all perfectly layered with a skill that I will never have. For a split second, I had the absurd urge to ask her if I could take her photo for my blog, but I knew just how odd and creepy that would sound and so I kept the thought to myself.
“I’m so sorry, but I dropped my ticket back there. Would you mind?” I blurted when I finally regained my voice.
“Sure, hold on!” she said with an awesome smile that melted my heart. As she put down her book, I noticed that she also had flawless nails, at just the right length, and painted with the very same deep and rich colors as her eye shadow. It took her a moment to unbuckle her seat belt and pick up my ticket, but she got the job done for me.
“I’m so sorry,” I repeated like an idiot “I sort of figured that ticket is going to be kind of handy to have when we land though!”
She surprised me by actually striking up a conversation with me, but I’d have to admit that I don’t recall another thing that was said. . .
When we were done yapping at each other, I turned back around and opened the cover of my Ipad to tuck my ticket safely away where it wouldn’t get lost again. As I flipped the cover open, I saw my reflection in its dark glass screen. The stark contrast between the flawless young woman seated behind me, and my own tired and wrinkled reflection now looking back at me was more than a little depressing.
When I checked in at my hotel in Rochester, I was greeted by two young women behind the counter, and it was clear pretty quickly that one was training the other. Funny, the young lady that was being trained was so nervous and blushing so much, that I almost felt guilty for inflicting myself upon her. . .
This time I was working on one of our Infrared Mass Spectrometers (FTIR) for a customer an hour or so drive from Rochester. It was an absolutely beautiful drive with very little in the way of houses and towns to obstruct the view of nature. It was nothing but lots of mountains, trees, and rivers. I’ve got to say that I can thank of much worse ways to make a living than driving through the kind of beauty that I’ve enjoyed this last week or so.
It didn’t take too long to complete the repair that they had brought me out for, since it was just replacing a laser that expires every two to three years. I’ve done so many of these laser replacements by now, that I know the process by heart and don’t need to open any procedures or manuals. When I got this machine back into action, things got a little more interesting though. . .
“You know, we sent part of another one of these to your factory a couple of years ago, and they said that it couldn’t be repaired. Do you think that you can take a look at it?” she asked me when I was done and had started to put my things away.
“Well, that depends! What did they say was wrong with it?” I asked her.
“We had a leak, and Hydrofluoric acid was released. We sent the gas cell (the component that a test gas is held in) to your factory and they said that they couldn’t repair it. Do you think you can find the leak?”
“I dunno! Those guys are pretty sharp at what they do, and if they said it can’t be repaired then I’d be surprised if I can fix it.” I replied to her skeptically.
Doubtful or not, I followed her to this other machine and started to laugh when I saw its condition. Its exterior looked burnt and its interior was covered in a white powder.
“OK, I’ll give you my honest opinion! While I wouldn’t bet my life on it, I would be willing to bet a good steak dinner that our guy at the factory never even tried to fix this. I’ll bet that he read your health and safety sheet saying that it was exposed to Hydrofluoric Acid, then he got one look at the burnt appearance and the powder inside of it, and backed away from it saying ‘uh huh, no way I’m touching that thing! I’ve gotta say that I wouldn’t fault him for it either! My specialty is hardware and electronics, not chemistry, and so when I hear Hydrofluoric Acid and then see an unknown powder, it scares the hell outta me.”
“Well that was years ago, and we have cleaned it several times since then, so there isn’t any Hydrofluoric Acid on it and you have nothing to worry about now.” She assured me.
“Hmm . . . I dunno . . . Despite you’re saying that it was cleaned several times, the interior still is covered with powder so something is still there. I’m allergic to bone eating acids, you know?”
“But there is nothing left to worry about!”
“Are you positive enough to work with me and handle everything I’m handling?” I replied with a raised eyebrow.
“Absolutely!!” She agreed, and then proved it by reaching out with her bare hands and picking up assorted components that were covered in the white powder.
“You are nuts!” I told her while shaking my head, but still I put on some gloves and went to work on it with her helping me. I did indeed find and fix their leak, and then got the rest of the instrument up and running. I really think that I am starting to hate chemistry . . .
On the cool side, on my drive back up to Rochester, I saw the most amazing rainbow! It stretched clear across the sky and formed a perfect arch, and I really can’t recall ever in my life seeing a rainbow that was so perfect. I tried to get good photos of it, but I’m afraid that they just don’t do it justice.
On my flight home, I am almost sure that the female flight attendant was a transsexual. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure. Her look was perfect and gave absolutely nothing away, but her voice was just a little off, with a quality and tone that I have come to associate with many TS’s. Regardless, she was a real hoot and made just about everyone entering the plane smile. While the male flight attendant was taking care of everyone in first class, she would stop the people that were boarding.
“Why don’t you hang out and talk with me for a minute while my colleague there gets the drinks for First Class? Yeah, he really needs to do something to earn his paycheck dontcha think?”
For my last laugh of the trip, I almost choked while trying to stifle a laugh when a relatively attractive woman in a very low cut blouse entered the plane and walked past me. Between her mostly exposed breasts and her neck, she had the name “Cheryl” tattooed in large and elaborate cursive writing clear across her collar bone. Since she kind of looked like a bit of a ditz to me, I couldn’t help asking myself if she had her name tattooed there so that the boys would stop getting her name wrong while in the throes of passion. . .