sábado, abril 24, 2010

Am I Grounded?

My friend Claus Emmer writes about the ordeal of a road warrior chased by a cloud.

Hi Ho! I was off to a rapid visit to customers in Europe. An easy trip – I thought I deserved something different after my last trip to negotiating hell…

So while I was winging on gossamer wings 39,232 feet above the ocean, thinking grandiose thoughts, below me – in the dim, dark, dank, deep depths - never to be seen by mortal eyes - some insensate and vindictive evil was stirring. “Ahhhh! Young Claus is lulled into feeling good. Just as per my plan….”

The clincher – I think – was when I briefly held the trivia championship on the plane during the third hour of flight and dared to feel smug.

I was in Decin on Wednesday, visiting with the sales guys about a bunch of issues, and preparing for a meeting with a vendor on Thursday. Had some beers, had some laughs, had a good meal.
Meanwhile – deep underneath the earth the vindictive force was gathering strength….and – just to dump on me – blew up and sent a huge plume of dust up in Iceland. Because I laughed. Because I laughed and had a beer.

Thursday morning we hear disquieting things about some ash cloud…. “Not to Worry! Jet airplanes fly high in the sky”, I chuckle. CNN News: “…the ash cloud has now reached a altitude of 45,000 feet, well above the ceiling of most airplanes….” “The Jets stream will disperse it immediately!” I explain. MSNBC “…the jet stream in effect aligns the particles due to the left sided coriolis force that acts along the substitution axis, thus making it 10 times worse… And of course the dust cloud is due to the melting of the icecaps caused by man-made global warming” “It’ll blow over…” I mutter.

During the meetings we heard about more and more airports closing down. Soon a great darkness was going to settle over Europe, and we had to flee while we could – or at least make it to our next destination without flying.

Philippe headed off by car with the vendors – a 14 hour marathon to Switzerland. I decided to head off with Hans in a company car. This is a company car for the luxurious transportation of clients – life was going to be good.

As I got into the car, I came to realize that Ferox clients were small. Actually they were small contortionists. But really they were small contortionists with atrophied legs. OK – a small
contortionist with even smaller legs would have fit fine in the back seat. I was really pretty uncomfortable in the front seat. And Hans started to cough and heck and swerve off the road every time I started to pull a cigar out of my shirt. Big choice – smoke and go off the road at 130 mph and die, or twitch from withdrawal and live!

“Hans! Hans!”, I said. “Are we there yet?” And I twitch a lot and kind of twist my legs three times and push my hand into my crotch, all the while gritting my teeth as though internal pressure was going to force my tongue out like one of those party whistles.

Hans – convinced of my needs swerves into a rest area and comes to a screeching halt. I get off the car and light my cigar and finish it. Before going back into the car I do hit the restroom though.

As we zoomed though the night – at like 120 MPH and being passed by a by a bunch of Audi’s and Porsche’s doing like 200 – I did notice how weird German towns are named. “Unterbach” – lower stream or beneath stream. Visions of this river crossing under another river, (or this hideous volcanic dust thing hiding under the stream.) “Wolfsleber” - Wolf Liver – or did I imagine that after 6 hours of driving at night?. And of course there were the ubiquitous signs about flatulence that seems to fascinate the Germans so that they count them and put signs on the road.

We arrive in Solingen at 4 O’clock in the morning, and drop the palatial customer car of at the office. Vindictively we didn’t fill the tank – heck it was only a 400 mile trip.

Rode the train to Cologne. Arrived in Cologne and had to wait 2 hours for the train to Brussels. Hans left on the early train – I hadn’t been able to get reservations till an hour later. Got onto my train – seat 42 in car 38. Made the mistake of getting on in car 36 – but I figured that possession – or being on the train – was nine points of the law.

It took me more than 25 minutes to get from car 36 to car 38. A bunch of people without reservations felt that being on the train was enough, and sat/stood/lounged/leaned in every available inch of space.

You’ve all seen the pictures of white gloved Japanese subway people pushing passengers into the car till the doors close? Well – we had the opposite with the train crew pulling people off and threatening jail time to all the people with no reservations. This took about 20 minutes that the train stood there past its departure time while the mass of people was thinned out.

When we finally left – and I reached my car – we only had about 8 people without seats. Oh yes – and my seat was taken. The guy in my seat must have sensed that he was about 5 seconds away from utter mayhem when I politely asked where seat 42 was… “This must be your seat – I was holding it for you…”

He and another guy lay down on the floor till we reached Brussels an hour later…..

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