Oh, the joys of business travel. As I write this I’m sitting in LaGuardia airport, on my way back home from a trip to Maine. The trip started at 5:30 am on Monday. When I looked out the bathroom window on my way to the shower I saw the eastern sky glowing, the sun approaching the horizon but not yet within its reach. (NOTE: this is foreshadowing.)
On my way to the airport, I usually take a shortcut through a church parking lot, but when I go there the gates were closed so I had to turn around and go the long way. This did not cause me to be late, but it did cause me to say many bad words.
The flights were uneventful. I didn’t play with cool new technology, and I stayed inside each plane until it reached the terminal.
The plane rides were followed by a two-and-a-half hour drive from Portland to Bangor. Enter Google Maps. (NOTE: this is also foreshadowing; however, it is unrelated to the prior foreshadowing.)
I looked over my directions while I was waiting at the rental car counter. I noticed the trip would take me on two toll roads. I had no cash in my wallet – I had given my last three dollars to my wife the night before for my son’s soccer practice. The lady at the rental car agency told me that the toll booths were cash only, but assured me that I would pass ATMs between the airport and the highway, so I would not need to deviate from my Google directions. She was correct, and after I followed the 67 Google Map steps that took me out of the airport parking lot I got my cash and hit the highway.
My directions told me to take I-95 to Stillwater Ave. Google did not think it was necessary to provide an exit number, the directions told me that after exiting the highway by taking a slight right on to the ramp (30 ft), merging onto the ramp (6 ft), then continuing on the ramp (50 ft), then taking a slight right to turn onto Stillwater Ave (250 ft), I would take the first right (137 ft) and my destination would be on the left (0 ft).
I saw the exit for Stillwater Ave (hey Google, it’s exit 186), exited the highway etc. and when I turned onto Stillwater, the first right happened to be the parking lot for a movie theater, and while I do enjoy movies, that was not my destination. The next right was the entrance to a mall parking light, as were the following thee rights. Being a male, I drove around for nearly a half-hour before I bit the bullet and called my client to tell her I was lost.
“Oh, you need to take the second Stillwater exit,” she told me. “Exit 193.” (hear that, Google?)
I made it to my destination, worked, and then dined alone, no doubt attracting quite a bit of attention to myself because I was laughing out loud reading Dave Barry’s latest book. In the book Dave mentions Stephen King, and it made me realize I was in King’s turf, so I kept an eye out, hoping he would make a cameo.
The next morning I woke up with the sun flooding my hotel room through the crack in the curtains. I looked at the clock, which insisted it was 5:30 am. I was certain the clock had slowed down during the night, so bright was the sun. I jumped out of bed and checked my cell phone and my watch. They both agreed. It was 5:30 am. Apparently the sun rises a hell of a lot earlier in Maine than it does in Ohio.
I worked, dined alone again, laughed out loud as I finished the Dave Barry book, and retired to my hotel room. The next morning it was rainy, so the cloud cover kept the light at bay until 6:00am. Time to check out of the hotel and drive back down to Portland for a meeting.
While I was driving, I occupied my time by flipping through radio stations in search of classic rock. I found mostly God and talk radio.
…and the Lord sayeth unto…
…even though it is complete, we are still waiting…
…complete, we are still waiting…
Hardcore déjà vu. Of course, déjà vu means they changed something in the Mainetrix. I kept a look out for Agents. (NOTE: if you got that, you are a geek. Don’t fret yourself, I’m a bigger geek for writing it.)
I was 5 miles from my exit when the Low Fuel light came on. I watched the needle edge closer and closer to the bottom as I drove through Portland hoping to pass a gas station. I finally found a Circle K and pulled in. Every pump had a yellow bag on the handle. But wait! There was one open. I pulled up to it, and as I got out of the car the gas station attendant walked over with a bag to cover the handle. He explained they had to re-boot the pumps, and they would be down for 10-15 minutes. I explained I was on vapors, and he kindly waited while I filled the tank. For the record, I did not meet a single rude person in Maine. I also did not meet Stephen King.
That evening I actually got to dine with a friend. I had lobster (pronounced “lob-stah”), then retired to my hotel, At Least You’re Not Sleeping In Your Rental Car (NOTE: that’s not the name they put on the sign, but it really sums it up). My room was a non-smoking room, but it clearly had not always been that way. The air conditioner was ineffective at cooling the room, and overly-effective at emanating obnoxious noises throughout the night. That, coupled with the seven hard, Chiclet-sized pillows, added up to a poor night’s rest.
The sun and the fear of missing my flight gave me a one-two punch at 5:30 am, prompting another early wake-up call. Now it’s almost time to board my final flight. It’s been a good trip, but I’m always eager to get back home…and travel always inspires a blog post.