May 19, 2004
I spent last weekend in Houston, visting Mel for our second annual quilting get together. At the start, my trip seemed charmed. Despite rush hour and a slew of accidents resulting from the rainstorms that had just gone through, I got to the airport Friday evening with plenty of time to spare. I found a parking space in my preferred section of the deck (if I can park in the same general area each time, that’s one less detail I have to remember). I was holding a first class boarding pass, too, another of those surprise upgrades that appeared without my having to ask or give up money or miles. Things went a little awry when the flight was delayed (those rainstorms again, preventing the inbound aircraft from arriving on time). But we did leave, and not only did I have a first class seat, I had two of them at my disposal. That meant I could just move to the other seat when the overhead light cast a shadow on the pages of my paper journal when I pulled it out to do the morning pages I’d skipped in the a.m. Talk about luxury; I felt pretty darn spoiled.
My reign as a princess ended in the terminal, where I had to make the long walk to the rental car bus just like a normal person. IAH has switched this around since the last time I was there; instead of having to wait for a shuttle from the company you rented from, you just hop on a bus to the rental car terminal, where a half dozen companies all have their cars. I like that system; it prevents the “oh, if only I’d rented from Hertz even though they were expensive I’d be on my way by now instead of standing here tired and cranky waiting for Advantage”-type laments that can get a trip off to a bad start. The Enterprise guy was as perky as I’ve come expect from them and soon enough I was on my way in a larger car than I’d reserved because they couldn’t find the keys to the one compact they had in the lot.
I made it to my hotel without getting lost even once even though it was past my bedtime by this point (I did, however, get a little distracted by a building downtown that had multicolored racing lights above its top floor; I don’t remember seeing that before). I parked to check in and couldn’t get the key out of the car’s ignition. I turned it this way and that and pushed it in and tugged at it gently and forcefully searched for a lever or button or other release. I jerked the steering wheel from side to side because that’s sometimes worked in other cars. I was considering calling Enterprise but decided I should read the manual first. Obviously I was not the first person to face this problem because there was a section addressing it right there on page 11. I followed the guidance about what to do in case the key became “trapped temporarily in the key cylinder”. It remained trapped. I was not thrilled to read the next sentence: “If a malfunction occurs, the system may trap the key in the ignition cylinder to warn you that this safety feature is inoperable. The engine can be started and stopped but the key cannot be removed until you obtain service.” If I had an extra key, that might have been okay, but I had no extra. As a last resort, I did the automotive equivalent of a PC reboot: started the car, drove a few feet, then turned it off. The key slid right out. I was relieved.
The sensible thing to do when I got into my room was go to bed, but instead I got out my laptop and plugged it into the free high speed internet connection. I’d done this successfully in several different rooms in two different states at this hotel chain’s properties, so didn’t anticipate trouble. There was trouble. No connection. I called the help desk who’d walked me through hooking up my very first time, and they were again helpful, except because this was a hardware problem they couldn’t solve it. Too bad transporter technology isn’t available; they could have beamed me a new cable. Instead, the front desk brought me the phone from the room next door, complete with its cable. That worked. (I have no idea what the people who checked into that room the next day did, since the maid didn’t come in to clean my room and thus didn’t see the extra phone.)
I met Mel bright and early Saturday morning at an easy to find McDonald’s. You know I had to have a McGriddle, since I’d first experienced their sweet sausagey goodness during last year’s QuiltCon trip. Fortified, we headed off to a quilt shop (it would not be QuiltCon without fabric shopping) and then on to Mel’s guild’s quilt show.
The show was very nice. Not so big as to be overwhelming, with a good balance of vendors to quilts, and with lots of pieces I liked enough to take pictures of for future reference, including Mel’s two big quilts and her mom’s pieces. Taking pictures at quilt shows is a form of wishful thinking for me. “Someday”, I think, “I’ll do a floral applique or a charm quilt with a rainbow color scheme, and when I do I’ll have these pictures for inspiration.” Never mind that I already have a lifetime’s worth of inspiration on hand in pictures and books and clippings. I thought it was very cool that their guild banner went on a shuttle mission with an astronaut who’s a member and took it as her personal item. I also liked seeing the “normal” quilts done by Cynthia England, who’s a nationally known teacher and winner of several major awards (and who was, coincidently, the speaker at the first quilt guild meeting I ever attended anywhere). I may never manage to develop a distinctive style like hers, but I’m sure if I applied myself I could do a Pine Burr quilt like the one she had in the show.
Sunday morning we met bright and still a bit early for more fabric fun before I had to go catch my plane. I thought the people in Tulsa were being overcautious about checking my ID and boarding pass twice in the ten feet that separates the head of the security line from the screening belt, but IAH did them one better and checked it three times before I could get my bags and body into the gate area. Perhaps they have a big problem with people sneaking past the entrance to the queue? Got me. The flight back left on time despite the rainstorm that blew in as I was sitting at the gate waiting to board. Once again, I was in first class. I don’t know what I’ve done to merit these upgrades, but I’m not going to ask lest they discover an error in my permanent record and banish me to coach forevermore.
I could not bask long in the post-QuiltCon glow, as Monday afternoon I was back at the airport headed off on what’s become a monthly trip for work. It means a couple/few hours on a cramped regional jet (no first class there) and a couple more driving once I land, but on the plus side it does put me in the right neighborhood to have dinner with Kelly (last night there was even a special guest appearance by Ratboy). I’ll get back home Thursday night and then I’ll get to stay put for two whole weeks before my next excursion.
A year ago, I’d been to the zoo instead of Houston.
The year before that, I was writing up A Brief History of Me and Weight. Would that I could say that story has a happy ending, but I’m still working on that.