Saturday, August 06, 2005

On The Road Again

So before you ask, let me tell you that
a. I didn't screw up at the meeting. (In fact, I barely spoke!)
b. It went OK (we agreed to have a meeting with the real buyer, and that will be where we stand or are shot to pieces. Imagine music from spaghetti westerns here. In fact, imagine me dressed in a shabby green poncho, squinting down an office corridor, my hand hanging by my side, hovering next to my Blackberry Handheld, ready to beat my opponent to the draw, the noon-day sun beating down outside the air conditioned office... But I digress...)

I had one heck of a day: 11 hours traveling or in transit, for the sake of a one hour meeting in the middle of the day. Holy Toledo! (hah! managed it!) And since it's the journey and not the destination that matters... here's an account.

To begin with, managed to catch an express on the NJ Transit, without realising (this blog is dedicated to the retention of Queen's English, at least as far as spelling goes) it. And guess what? The damn express doesn't stop at Newark Airport... only at Newark Penn Station. What kind of dimwit country has express trains which don't stop at major stops like an airport? It'd be like a fast train on the Mumbai western line not stopping at Santa Cruz or Parla, the closest stops to the airport... oh, wait. Umm. Hmmm. (Embarassedly drawing circles in the dust with my big toe.)

So anyhow, had to pay an extra 7 bucks to get back to the airport... found my way to the right terminal, boarded. Measured out my time with Sierra Mist. And then, looking down, saw this familar shape - a huge water body, shaped like a diseased pancreas... Lake Michigan! (I still can't get over the coolness of seeing things straight out of a geography book live and in the flesh - if from a height of 30000 feet). I'm told that in winter, the lake freezes over enough for people to drive trucks and buses over it (instead of all the way around).

Disembarked at Detroit, and made our way to Hertz to rent a car to drive to Toledo. Detroit is much as I'd imagined it in my mind: bright blue skies with wisps of cloud and noon-day heat shimmering over sprawling concrete. But we weren't there for long - just long enough to rent a car and get the hell out. My boss told me conversationally that we were just 10 minutes drive from the Canadian border, and since he's lived in Toronto and keeps talking about what a great place it is, I wondered for a few moments whether he was going to make a dash across the border (what a great movie this would have been: high-noon, the good the bad and the ugly and the three fugitives all rolled into one). But he didn't, and we set course for Toledo.

Over the course of the 1 hour drive to Toledo, Ohio, I could see how easy it would be to fall asleep at the wheel on highways like this. Long, straight highways, heat-haze making me squint and not much around. The sameness of what you see can drag, pull ones eyelids down slowly. A friend of mine drives from NJ to Washington DC every week, and he tells me that music on the radio alone is not enough - he sings, to keep himself awake.

The coolest things about the drive, though were:
1. The hertz direction finder - a device that maps roads, shows you which turns to take and where you are... you programme it to where you want to go, and it guides you... so you keep looking at it, and take the turns indicated, and voila, you're there! I could barely keep my eyes of it, but eventually got distracted when we passed a sign for
2. Telegraph Road!!! There's almost certainly no link between this road, one of the major thoroughfares in Detroit, and the Straits song, but there's an ironic link between the words of the song and the economic situation in Detroit and other such towns.

And so, driving down the highway, we finally came upon a sign that said "Welcome to Ohio" and soon after, Toledo. Toledo seemed a small town - Calicut might be bigger - with tired peeling old brick buildings and a depressing air. I concentrated on our meeting, then left. I'd ordered a car from a place which ran out of smaller cars and sent me a limo! Unfortunately, the driver of the limo was a total conspiracy theorist, and for the one hour drive back to Detroit airport, regaled me with how George Bush was a CIA agent, or ran the CIA, or was run by the CIA (depending on which particular story he was telling); how if only the world knew how many murders Clinton had ordered, his image would be different, and so on... finally ending with how he wanted to go to Goa, and live in India for a year, and how he thinks India is the best democracy in the world. I don't know whether to be touched or just plain scared for the country when he lands in Goa.

The rest of my trip back was a crazy mishmash of varied versions of Murphy's law: my flight was delayed due to bad weather and we were told we'd have more information in 30 minutes, then, as I was buying coffee somewhere, 10 minutes later, I heard the last boarding call, forcing me to sprint the rest of the way to the gate with laptop, purse, wallet and coffee all over the place. Some disgusting passenger had spilt some gunk on the floor of the aircraft, as a result of which my laptop bag strap is soaking wet and smelly, and the padded part will probably discolour my clothes if I put it against my shoulder. NJ transit trains were running late, so I had to wait at the platform for 20 minutes (grumble grumble in Bombay there are trains every 4 minutes) when all I wanted to do was sink into a bath. NJ transit lines lost power while I was actually on the train, so that we were stuck on the track, with the air conditioning and lights out (grumble grumble at least the Bombay locals have ventilation).

Finally made it back at about 8:30 p.m. Staggered in, checked my mail (how I love wi-fi), and slept for a straight 12 hours.

Enjoy your weekend. I'm sure going to enjoy mine!


yesbob said...

wottamess !! but the mumbai fast local one was GUD !!

Heh Heh said...

um, you need to choose NJTransit trains specifically marked EWR. Those are the ones that stop at the airport in addition to Newark Penn. Random info that might come in handy sometime :)

funkysmell said...

nice blog

progga said...

Thanks, flame, for the tip. I shall follow it religiously in the future!
YB, the Mumbai fast locals rock - esp the anti-traffic ones, which does Bandra - Churchgate in 20 minutes flat.

progga said...

And Funk, thank you. :)

akr said...

my word. never a dull moment, is there....:)

progga said...

Seriously. My world seems to be an interesting combination of Murphy's Law, the Charlie Brown "Why Me?" poster (where he's hopelessly entangled in a kite string and hanging upside down from a branch of a tree) and the RLS lines - "The world is full of so many things, I'm sure we should all be happy as kings." :)

A Cynic in Wonderland said...

Yello !!

progga said...

Hey, Cynic. How're the CXOs?!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Wednesday, right? My blog has a link to 'Overheard in New York'. There's a mention of the power outage there, a conductor's take on it.

Nice post. Speaking of evocative, your descriptions are good. Why don't you write about those childhood journeys?


Saltwater Blues said...

howdy Progga, hope all's going well for you.

warm regards,

livinghigh said...

hey - so glad u had fun.. and yes, de blooper abt de "fast" mumbai train was cute! ;-)

so ure a bambaiyya, eh? ;-)

progga said...

SwB, doing well, thanks.
High, well, not really a native, but have spent 3 years there (incl the last 2). I've grown accustomed to the place, y'know?

A cynic in wonderland said...

i am getting rid of em cxos too ...have quit join the new place next month

you quit bombay too is it?

progga said...

Hey Cyn,
you and me do things in droves (if we can be considered a drove), it appears. Have fun with the new place... also Bombay? I'm actually missing my old CXOs, given my new ones. Who'd a thought it?! This leads us to the Calvin rule of life: Life is never so bad that it can't get worse.

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