on my own

Home of bottom dwellers.
The wireless connection in my hotel room is the most frustrating thing ever. What’s worse, it’s my only option. It’s off and on, dropping me all the time, and only giving me sucky connections when it feels like it. There’s one “hot” spot in the corner of the room, which I found by wandering around with my laptop out in front of me – but we’re talking a one foot square area of space about 4ft off the ground in the middle of nowhere. What the heck Hilton, you got nothing?! I tell you what, I wouldn’t recommend this ~$400/night place to anyone. Stay away folks – the hotel blows, the service is lukewarm, and the internet is non-existant. You hear me Connie? Your hotel blows, I don’t care if the legacy of your loins did offer forth Paris unto the world, you are not fogiven.

Today (Monday) was great. As I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t really sure what this conference had in store for me. Turns out I was done “prepping” at around 9am this morning – and effectively had the rest of the day to do with as I pleased. As I triumphantly packed up my bag and sauntered away from the area where myself and my colleagues were located, I mentioned I was going to get some breakfast and would probably be back down to “check on things” in an hour or so. Even as I was saying the words, I knew them for a blatant lie. I had no intention whatsoever of returning to the conference floor today. I mean, why would I? I was completely setup, and I don’t have to be back until noon Tuesday. I did mention to a fellow employee (whom I’ve never met) that I might be able to offer some assistance with his “prep” later on, and left my cellphone number for him to get in touch with me. Again – knowing full well I would not be answering his calls.

Is this wrong? I don’t know. In some ways, when I do things like this, I do feel slight pangs of guilt. But for the most part, I feel liberated. I get this rebel thing in my head and just ignore phone calls. As soon as I saw the conference area this morning, I made a for-me-only decision: I was going to half-ass this thing. Sound bad? I don’t think so, here’s why: I’ve been working hard; I deserve a little break. So, I’m going to go in there with my dress pants on, stand up in front of people, and absolutely wing it.

Let me take a seemingly unrelated segue here, the reason for which will become apparent towards the end. Sharaun used to tell me to “stop!” doing embarrassing things or acting silly in places like restaurants, amusement parks, grocery stores, etc. – any public place really. My reply to her was always, “Why? We don’t know these people, it’s very likely we’ll never run into a single one of these people again in out entire lives. Who cares if they think I’m an idiot?” So, while not as extreme (I don’t quite want people thinking I’m an idiot), I’m sorta taking that position with this conference.

Anyway, having decided I wasn’t going to make any big investment in the work-bit of this trip, I decided to strike out on my own one-man tour of the city. Yeah sure, one of my new acquaintances from the conference had offered to tag along – but I declined, thinking that a solo adventure might be more interesting, and would certainly be paced more to my liking.

I did it all. I walked to Times Square (took a picture of the MTV building for my forever-teenybopper wife), then over to the Empire State Building (didn’t go up, the wait was two hours and I wanted to make sure I took in as many sights as I could). I caught the subway to Ground Zero, which, not having ever seen the two buildings while they still stood, was not quite as impactful as I’d thought it might be – although surely still a solemn attraction. Then, the guilt started getting to me. I decided maybe I should head back and return to the conference floor, where the multitudes were still milling about and setting up. I bought a return ticket on the subway, and sped back in the direction of the hotel. It was nearly 1pm as I climbed the stairs from the subway up to street-level, which meant my no-breakfast-having stomach was beginning to think about lunch. And what do you know, I emerged from the underground a mere block from the world-famous Carnegie Deli. Seeing that the line waiting to get in was relatively short, I decided to again forsake my conference brethren and instead go for a corned beef sandwich.

The first phone call came as I was waiting in line, a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t answer; they left no voicemail After my sandwich, I did decide to return to my room and change into pants, since some clouds had rolled in and the city had cooled down a bit. I was only there for 15min before I decided that, since today was really my only “free” day, I’d better take full advantage of it. I made up my mind and decided to make for Battery Park and the statue of liberty. As I took the elevator to the lobby, I found myself hoping that I didn’t bump into any of my colleagues on the way out. I walked through the lobby, and paused at the escalators that would put me back on the conference floor. “I should just run down for a few minutes,” I thought, “Make and effort, make a show of being there, maybe help someone out…” I hesitated, and then turned and strolled out towards the subway.

The second phone call came while I was walking through Battery Park, the same unrecognized number. This time, a voicemail: “Hey Dave, just wondering if you were going to make it back today, I was going to call someone to ask them some questions about setting up my stuff – but figured you may know. Anyway, give me a call at this number or stop by if you’re around. Hope to see you soon.” Ugh, guilt. The voicemail is harder to ignore than a missed call, but I managed to press ‘3’ for delete and force myself to go on with my self-indulgence. I snapped some pictures of the Statue of Liberty (again, opting out of the harbor tour in the interest of time), and got back on the subway intending to make my way towards Central Park. I got of a little early, so I could walk down Broadway and check it out, and eventually made it to the park. I bought a bottled water and one of those strawberry shortcake ice cream popsicle things I used to love so much in middle school, and started on my leisurely trek, pointed loosely towards Strawberry Fields.

I stopped to watch the crowd on Sheep Meadow, took in what looked to be some rec baseball at some fields near there, and finally found a nice bench to plunk down on in front of the Imagine memorial in the Strawberry Fields section. While I was sitting there, people-watching and enjoying some busker’s rendition of “No Reply,” my cellphone rang – the third call. This time it was a different number. I silenced it. Buzz-buzz, a voicemail. I listened, “Hey Dave, this is so-and-so what’s-her-face from the show. Boy, your ‘about one hour’ kinda turned into ‘all day,’ huh? Well, anyway, I’m calling to see if you wanted me to do anything with your stuff. If not, no need to return the call. Hope to see you tomorrow, thanks.” Great; more guilt. But you know, if I had wanted to do something with my stuff, I would’ve gone and done it or let someone know. I was done, and I was not going back. It didn’t matter though, because the sun was setting and a beautiful little girl was dancing around the Imagine memorial, picking up the fresh flowers and twirling around with them. The temperature was perfect, and I felt so relaxed and self-sufficient having ferried myself about town all day. I had about twenty blocks to walk back to the hotel, but it was worth it.

And that’s how I managed to spend a whole day shirking responsibility and still feel good about myself. Tomorrow, I’ll go down there, make up some excuse for being MIA all day, and then get down to business. I’ll do what I do, do it well, and then get out of this place on Thursday. I’m not excited, and I’m hating all the “real work” I’m missing by being here, but I’ll stick it out as always. OK, enough of that.

One thing I will say about New York, it’s extremely easy to get around. I actually expected the opposite, a huge, maze-like city of tall buildings and numbered streets. Turns out upper Manhattan, at least, is no problem. And the subway is great. I can get to pretty much anywhere for $2. One other thing I’ll say about New York, the people here make me feel sorely lacking for not having an iPod. Honestly, they must give them out with the drivers’ licenses or something. You walk down the street and every third person has those distinctive white earbuds stuck in their ears. If I lived here, I’d surely cave to the peer pressure.

Oh… and now I’m pissed. I was on the season finale of Lost (yeah, I watched a whole season in a week or so, so what?), and the dang file is cut off – ends about 20min short! What’s worse, the little download meter tells me I’m looking at more than a day of download time on this hobo wireless connection to get a complete version. Now I have to wait until I get home to watch those final 20mins. I’m mad, yes, mad.

I wrote a lot today, first time in a long time. Felt good.

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2 Replies to “on my own”

  1. Dave, your new colleague somehow found that I work with you and called my cell phone to ask why you weren’t returning his calls for help. I pointed him to your blog, hope you’re okay with that.

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