Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ire to spare? Go by air!

I don't travel for work all much anymore. There was a time when I used to traverse the country along with the rest of the office dwellers, but after a particularly abysmal sixteen hour trip back from SFO I mentioned to by boss that I would like to stop traveling. This ended up being one of those fortuitous meetings of the minds: he responded by telling me that he no longer wished to pay for me to travel.


I made an exception just the other day when I had to make an out-and-back day trip down to Dallas, albeit a pretty long one given the 7 am departure, 11 pm return. With the late-ish return after what would surely be along day, I thought it might be nice to pack a little flask of rum in order to have a drink for myself and to potentially share with the two FCWs (Female Co-Workers) that would be traveling with me. This was to prove to be a bad idea.

It all came apart when I came under scrutiny by the overbearing TSA. One look at the innards of my bag on the Scan-O-Tron flagged the "suspicious" nature of my possessions, resulting in an immediate redirection from the "normal" line into the full-body scanning Peek-O-Matic where the contents of my other bag would be also investigated. I've never had to go through the Peek-O-Matic before; I fail to see what all the fuss is about. But then again, I didn't get to see the results of my full-body portrait - I might be flattering myself when I think that they weren't totally disappointed in what they saw.

Post non-invasive peeping, I was directed back to the conveyor belt, where a somber-looking "officer" wearing a meaningless badge took me to task for trying to carry more than "two point four fluid ounces" onto the airplane, the potential danger of which eludes me. In any event, I was informed that I would have to pour it all out.

"All of it?? Can't I keep two point four ounces of it?" I inquired, incredulous at the precision to which this is all taken. I mean, seriously: how long did the 17-person senior committee of high-salary government brainiacs take to arrive at precisely two point four ounces? What critical mass is reached at two point four five? God help us at three point zero, right?

No, it would all have to go, and to add insult to injury, I would have to leave the secure area to dump it out, thus putting me back at the end of a very long line. "No worries, Mate, I'll escort you out." Which he did. He actually shadowed me the entire time, watching patiently to make sure every single drop of devil rum was disposed of. He was as good as his word and let go to the front of the line, but then sent me right back through the Peek-O-Matic. Seriously??? I just went through that thing, you saw me go through that thing, and you haven't left my side since. What could possibly have changed that would require another full-body virtual grope??

I console myself thusly: they must have really liked what they saw the first time.

Luckily, the morning of meetings went well and we enjoyed an average lunch at a "very average" Mexican restaurant, as described by the locals. We got to know the local group a little better, which was one of the softer business goals of the trip but important in its own way nonetheless. After lunch, the hosts repaired to their individual domiciles to attend to some of the pressing needs that tend to stack up in the in-boxes of technical people during the work day, while we returned to the conference room where we played with our respective iDevices.

As we were sitting there, a daddy longlegs started to descend from the ceiling.

FCW #1: "I heard that those are the most venomous creatures on the planet, but their teeth are too small to bite a human."

Me: "Really?" I was willing to let that go without making any jokes about the obvious unlikeliness of that. "Comity over comedy" sometimes being the better route, I think, especially when it comes to the younger (and, if I'm honest, quite attractive) FCWs.

FCW #1: "I also heard that their legs fall off if you scare them."

Well, so much for the comity thing. I can only stand so much.

Me: "That seems unlikely. Let's try it. I'll say "BOO!" to it and see what happens."

I thought for a moment about the consequences to the spider should the factoid ultimately been proven correct.

"Maybe that's where ladybugs come from," I theorized.

In the event, saying "Boo!" had no noticeably deleterious effect on the little guy's extremities whatsoever. Even as all three of us crowded around shouting "BOO!" at the poor little spider, he steadfastly, or stubbornly, maintained possession of all eight legs.

Naturally, just as three almost-strangers are gathered around yelling "BOO!" at a spider, the local folks returned to the conference room.

It must have been their innate southern politeness that kept them from making any comments on our strange behavior. Comity being the order of the day, right?

Wondering if perhaps our BOO test was invalid because we weren't frightening enough (after all, "Boo" is a human thing, and not all that scary even for us once we're over the age of three), I whipped out my trusty iPad to Google up some information about Daddy Longlegs. As it turns out, there is a germ of truth to the assertion that their legs fall off under duress. In general, it seems, their legs fall off quite easily. Wiki postulated that it's a defensive tactic against predators, although having your motive appendages simply fall off in response to a threat from a predator seems somewhat self-defeating to me. That said, it probably helps somewhat to have the fight-or-flight decision tree halved for them. Because their brains? Nothing to brag about. According to me, not Wikipedia.

Back at DFW and yet another trip through the Peek-O-Matic, we chased our homeward bound flight from gate to gate, as is the norm at DFW. One change took us to a completely different terminal, a fact that initially had me somewhat irritated at the idea if yet another trip through the security machinery. Fortunately, there is an automated, driver-less shuttle train that runs between the terminals on the "safe side" of the probing electronic eyes. I couldn't help noticing, as we sat at the very front of it, that it had a windshield wiper. Being as it was a robotic train, I had to wonder just who was expected to reap the benefits of a windshield wiper.

One of life's little mysteries, I guess.

Later, after a very long day and a forty-five minute departure delay, we settled into our miniature seats fervently hoping to get some rest on the plane ride home. As I had predicted, though, the inevitable family-with-screaming-infant plopped down in the row in front of us. Well, if I'm honest, I had predicted that the screamer would be behind us, but hey, close enough.

FCW #2, who is of the age and gender that allows her to see such a menace to our peace and quiet as "cute," started playing peek-a-boo with the noisy little dude.

"Boo! Boo! I see you! Boo!"

Trying to discourage such fraternization with the enemy, I leaned over to pass along a tidbit of advice:

"Stop saying 'BOO' to that kid! His legs are gonna fall off!"

The pain doesn't end after the flight, though, even when cases where injury is added to insult: we didn't get back until after midnight. The hassles continue back in the office with the over-complicated process that I have to go through to itemize the expenses incurred. Each item, no matter how mundane or routine, has to have a reason for it entered into the system. Perhaps is was the lack of sleep, or perhaps it was simply an exhibition of my rebellious nature, but when it can time to explain why I had charged $17 to park my car at the airport, I entered:

"Could not carry car on airplane; greater than 2.4 ounces."

I finally got back to working on the airplane on Friday night. Even that was not really planned, but Kyle, piano tuner and trumpet spit collector for the Jackson Two, was coming to town and offered to come by and visit the shop. As long as he was coming up anyway, I suggested that maybe he could assist with the charging of the brake system with brake fluid. Apparently it's not as easy as one might think; people have struggled with it to the degree that there are umpteen (def: 'umpteen' is a figurative number that is greater than two point four and less than the national debt.) different methods of doing it, each defended with the fervency one would expect from an Irish soccer fan.

We used the method described in the directions that came with the brakes. It worked, but there were a couple of things that Kyle was able to help with. One of the lines was reluctant to take fluid and it felt like I had the master cylinder extended far enough to release the internal check valve, but Kyle had learned when he did his brakes that you actually have to disconnect the cylinder from the rudder pedal to get it extended enough to open the internal valve. He also knew that the air bubble we could see in one of the lines despite extensive effort to push it out of there would eventually work out on its own.

The best news, however, is that there were no leaks! I attribute this to my having removed all of the fittings and reinstalled them with a Teflon-enhanced thread sealant. The Teflon enabled me to get one full turn more when putting the fittings back in. That, I am sure, made all the difference.

No comments:

Post a Comment