Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week 12

On Tuesday I flew back to Little Rock from Elmira, NY.  With that sentence I probably just skipped over at least 7 potential acquaintances.  It's pitiful, really.  I sat right next to three people I didn't know on three different airplanes on the way back to Arkansas.  I talked to some of them, but didn't formally introduce myself or get a single name.  Can't say I was engrossed in a book or anything, I think I read the same version of Sky Mall three times.  With a lot going on in my head, I just wasn't in the mood to put forth the effort.  But apparently they weren't either, it's a two-way street.

My wife and I spent the next day loading all of the "stuff" in our custody into a 17' U-Haul. That Wednesday night, exhausted and hungry, I was craving something spicy.  NY doesn't seem to know what 'hot' means when it comes to food.  It seems really weird, actually-  down south those red pepper flakes in the shakers at any given pizza joint will light you up fast with just a few tips of the wrist;  here you can shovel enough on one slice to give every bite an audible crunch and be okay without a drink.

Anyway, I wanted something spicy before we left the land of jalapeños and Tabasco, so we went to a new Mexican restaurant in North Little Rock called Casa Mexicana.  My wife pointed out one of the employees scurrying around the dining area and told me that he was a frequenter of Starbucks (therefore he must be the restaurant's manager).  Toward the end of our meal, the man recognized the barista sitting across from me, approached our table, and we all struck up a conversation.  That's how I met the amiable, pudgy fellow named Alex.  He fits the theme of the eatery, ethnically speaking, and is still working on his English.  It feels good to know that a nice waiter like him can afford Starbucks.  Maybe not everything's wrong with the world.

The next morning we hit the road, and drove and drove and drove.  Since this is about new people, and not a soap, I'll spare you the drama.  The next morning, after our night at the Super 8 in Mason, OH just north of Cincinnati, we drove just across the street to a Bob Evans for breakfast.  We certainly weren't expecting to be served by Bob himself!  And we weren't, of course- that man died, no doubt from heart problems caused by his own cheese and sausage, a long time ago.  But our waiter's name was Robert.  Tall, slender, with a salt n' pepper mustache,  probably going on 70.

The waiter had our food out in a flash.  My wife seemed a bit shocked, "That was FAST!"

Bob threw down our plates with flair and gusto as he informed us, "They don't call me Rapid Robert fer nothin' !"

We held it back until he turned, but then nearly rolled out of our booth laughing.  We tipped Rapid Robert generously and were on our way.  After another long day of driving, and this morning's offload into a storage building, we are officially moved from AR to NY!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Week 11

Anyone who's transferred within a corporation is likely to understand that some of the first people you will meet, aside from supervisors, will be the geeks- the IT guys.  That's Brian, Corey, and Scott- I've spent a lot of time with these three since my first day at work in New York (yesterday.)  Corey, a tall, slender, professional looking fellow about my age, has been the go-to guy for network and most software bugs. 

Brian, the programmer, was a more quiet guy, but you could tell by the way his trembling fingers hovered over the keyboard that he's the type of guy who could write a program to simulate what who would would win if an army of Smurfs attacked a fire-breathing Oompa Loompa settlement in Iceland with boomerangs, and he could do it just for the fun of it.  Brian was the guy that fixed Corey's mistakes, but that was only necessary on one program.

The guy who directed Corey and Brian, Scott, didn't seem any older than they, but he had the big office with a nice desk.  He was a nice guy as well, but seemed to be celebrating St. Paddy's day one day too early- sitting at his station with a light green shirt, green mug, and a lava lamp on in front of him sending emerald green globs of goo up and down.

I met all three of the IT guys yesterday, as I was escorted from office to office by Linda, the engineering clerk and self-proclaimed 'mother hen' of the department-  I'm happy to be one of her many hatchlings, as she's ordering me a new chair along with a number of other goodies that the office I'm taking over could really use.  Linda is super-friendly and brimming with energy.  Judging by her perky, free-spirited attitude, and her nose stud, I can picture her fitting in really well at Woodstock in '69.  She has a pretty cool spoon collection hanging on a bulletin board in her office- many in the office have contributed to the display.

along the edge of the common area, at the heart of the building, lies the black oasis.  The elixer of early morning sanity pours forth from insulated tumblers kept full of hot coffee by none other than Sharon, also known as the coffee princess.  Sharon is lean and in her middle years, yet seems perpetually young- full of spunk, confident, and always with hearty laugh at her disposal.  She collects the dollar a week for the coffee fund, brews it masterfully, and keeps a small pot in her office for a special early afternoon brewing using more exotic beans, freshly ground rather than the standard fare for the mid morning communion. 

Remember in the Bible where Jesus turned water into wine and the guests asked why the host saved the best wine for last?  Well I guess people want to taste the good stuff before they get too drunk to enjoy it.  The opposite is true when it comes to coffee.   We might drink muddy water and not know the difference first thing in the morning if it has enough caffeine.  By the afternoon, though, our brains are humming right along and ready to slurp on a more complex and intriguing roast, blend, or variety.

So far, I haven't met a single person I don't like, and the office is probably the most laid-back I've ever worked in.  That can be good and bad- the hours are more flexible, but having people pop into my office and start shooting the breeze at random, on company time, can be a distraction as well- I'm used to a pretty hard-core Get-er'-done, productivity is everything mentality. . . . and we aren't getting paid to visit- I'd rather get a bonus for profitability than have to work overtime because everyone else is slacking.

It seems like one of the most common ways to welcome a newcomer there, is to talk about good places to eat in the area.  In just two days I've heard of a lot of restaurants.  The thing is, I don't eat out that much.  Even with my wife yet to join me in NY, I've been making my own suppers.  I was amazed to see how low prices are for fresh produce here!  I'm taking advantage of the fact and making super salads for dinner- tonight's was composed of the following: two kinds of lettuce, carrots, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, sesame sticks, almonds, avocado, a boiled egg, and greek dressing.  Yum!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 10B

My first night in this old house in NY was a little spooky.  It was getting cold in here around midnight when I was ready for some shut-eye.  I hunted down a thermostat and cranked it up to 70.  Every room has pipes coming up out of the floor and entering a wood and wicker box enclosing a radiator.  After I cranked up the heat and turned out the lights, those little guys came to life.  It sounded like giant anacondas were climbing around inside the walls and banging steel pipes together.

I could hear the one in the kitchen hissing and popping so loudly that I began to wonder if I had done something that would end up burning this old mansion to the ground.  Each room's unit seemed to wake up and start making noise until it had warmed up, then another unit would begin to sizzle and knock.  I'm guessing it was the expansion of the heated pipes that caused the wood floors to start snapping and creaking, or else this place is haunted by the ghosts of medieval woodpeckers.  Once everything had warmed up, the noise subsided, and now it's quite cozy in here!

This morning I was met by Kristen, the realtor.  She's an interesting one.  She may be the first realtor I've ever met who you might be able to recognize via the glamour shots they paste all over the internet and their business cards.  I guess that's a good thing.  She's also been quite assertive when it comes to getting us information on the region and researching for potential homes to rent, another plus.  On the downside,  her assuming, can-do, go-gettum, gitter-dunn attitude reminds me more of a tiger shark's than a social worker's.

Rather than ask, she told me she was picking me up at 9:45 this morning to look at a property- and she did.  We went to one apartment complex, less than a mile down the road, and that's where we met Bob- I'm not sure if he's the owner, the maintenance man, or both.  He was an odd character, his gray head sort of rolled in circles as he shook my hand, his eyes rolling the opposite direction and never focusing on my own.  He had two lower rows of teeth in the front, and a massive belly that somehow managed to hold up his trousers rather than flowing over them.  He smelled funny.

Bob showed us three different units and jabbered on about how the rent for one of them was going to depend on whether he decided to install large vanity mirrors or not.  The floor plans were nice and spacious, but I wasn't all that impressed.  Kristen and I hit the road again and did a drive-by of another place that she plans to show me tomorrow when it's empty, then she took me all around town, talking as if she were the only realtor in the world and I had pledged my undying loyalty to her patronization.

She's picking me up at 1:00 tomorrow.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week 10

Its been a long week already.  On Wednesday morning, after downing two tasty waffles doctored with love by my wonderful wife (my farewell breakfast by special request), I hopped into my loaded pickup and began the long drive north.  Arriving at the Garfield Hotel in Cincinnati for the night, I felt that counting the receptionist as one of my new names for the week would be out of line, I think I should consider name tags to be an instant dis-qualifier.

They did give me free upgrade to a jacuzzi suite- the place was bigger than the apartment in which I live.  It was a lot of hotel room for the money as well, boasting a full kitchen with fridge, dishwasher, & stove; living room,  balcony, large bedroom with a hot-tub and huge flatscreen, and a separate full bath.  I really didn't need all that.  Having all of that extra space to myself, with my wife back home in Arkansas praying that one of the four tornadoes that touched down that evening wouldn't be what saved her from the killer hailstorm that struck the region, felt sort of weird.

The great attitude and eagerness to please displayed by the people that work there are almost enough to make me want to go back.  Almost.  The building is really old, the elevators are super-slow, parking is a pain, and- judging by the smell of it- my gi-normous unit had been smoked in for years despite the sign threatening puff-daddies with a $200 fine.

This morning I hit the road again, finally making it to Elmira, NY around 6:30 this evening (Eastern time).  I wasn't sure what to expect in regard to the "extended stay" booked by my company.  Turns out it's a really nice (and big) old house, the 2nd floor of which has been converted into two 1-bedroom apartments.  The kitchen consists of a sink, microwave and a mini-fridge.  It was on my tour of the house that I met my acquaintance of the week- my neighbor staying in the other upstairs apartment, Jeff.

Jeff was a friendly fellow, an engineer who works for a helicopter company.  After returning from a trip to the local grocery store to attain a few staples for the week, I took Jeff up on his offer, joining him for a brewsky.  Little did I know what a treat that would be- my neighbor brews his own, and I have to say he's pretty darn good at it!

We were sitting on the back porch, talking about work and life in this part of the world, when his wife got back from rugby practice (yes, I said rugby practice.)  That's when I met Kate-  a wonderfully friendly architect, who didn't seem the least bit shocked to see her husband sipping suds out back with a total stranger.  She's working on drawing up this old house's original plans so that the owners can restore it to it's original floorplan.  Originally designed by a renowned architect from this area, that has some historic significance.

Seeing as I'm in a new state now, I may meet more new people this week to write about, it can't hurt to exceed my quota!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Week 9, Fast Start

Having lived in both Dallas and Little Rock, I had yet to visit The Flying Saucer in either town.  Since I'll be moving to upstate New York in a week, my wife and I met my sister and some of her friends at the great draught emporium last night, forming the team "Trivalocity," to compete on trivia night. 

It was there that I met Mark and Molly,  a really fun couple originally from Indiana.  Hats off to Notre Dame- Mark was our Encyclopedia Brittannica when it came to history.  Molly served as our scribe for the night.  She's a sweet and energetic ICU nurse who takes it gracefully when someone's first reaction to her name is "Oh! I had a dog named Molly!"

Our group fared well in the first two rounds of trivia, but bombed the difficult final round.

Moving is stressful- especially when moving a long, long way from friends and family.  All of the farewell get-togethers organized by those we love leading up to our departure are much appreciated, but sad in a way.  They always lead me to wonder why we didn't initiate things like that more often.  When I meet a couple like Mark and Molly, it's painful to think that the first time we see them is likely the last time as well.

When we live in a destination town, we don't tend to be as enthusiastic about the local attractions as those who fly in from all over the world to relish them.  It's so easy to take things for granted when you feel like you have easy access to them.  That doesn't just apply to places, but friends. . . . even our spouses?  Ouch.

As a side-note, I have a recommendation for anyone who's a fan of dark suds- a new favorite I tried last night at the Saucer:  Young's Double Chocolate Stout  chocolatey, not too sweet, and a beautiful finish with no bite. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 8

Week 8 went without a hitch. After taking half of the day off on Friday I butchered my full beard, turning transforming it into mutton chops to fit the part of my alter ego for the night- Elijah Entwhistle the travelling preacher. We then drove all the way to Dallas for a good friend's annual murder mystery dinner extravaganza! Almost every year a few people show up who I haven't met. This time around I was privileged to meet Jack and Sherry (sp?) a soon-to-be-wed couple. Jack was a tall, mellow character- his other half, a bubbly young lady, seemed to compliment him well.

A third person met that night was Jacob. I believe he was the youngest of our cast, and had one of the best costumes of the wild-west-themed night. In jeans, boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and a white apron he looked like he must have fallen off of a passing chuck wagon! There were a couple of other cool cats who's names escaped me but, considering the fact that everyone had two names that night, I think three for the week is good enough!

In case anyone was wondering- the mutton chops were promptly removed following the party!