September 27, 2004

Chris Vs. Little Rock (#1)

The flight out to Little Rock on Sunday night was as mundane as one would expect. I met Kevin, the Business Consultant and Tina, our Project Manager when we landed. I'd never met Tina, but she was able to guess which passenger I was from the crowd. (The fact that I was carrying my UGA Accidentals suit bag with my name on it apparently didn't enter into it.) The Embassy suites that we're staying in is nice, but the rooms are twice as big as any one businessperson would reasonably need. (Two TV's, two double beds, a wet bar and a living room for one person?)

It was only 9:30 when we headed to our rooms, and even with it being an hour behind my usual schedule, I couldn't just call it a night. I walked out in search of a place that I could have a beer and read my book. Unfortunately, there is little need for places to stay open later than 10 PM in town, even the local Starbuck's. I returned to the hotel and broke out my last resort, the PS2.

Monday morning, we met for breakfast downstairs at 7 and took off to the Fidelity offices at 8. We were joined by Mike, a programmer from Denver and Gina, a Consultant from Texas. The usual kick-off meeting and pep talk followed, and I spent the day debugging various issues. We broke for lunch and drove to Cotham's Hamburgers, a local joint that advertised itself as "Home of the Hubcap." Four of us were curious, and couldn't pass up the opportunity, so we ordered it.

The Hubcap burger was a huge slab of meat, easily two inches thick and 7 inches across. We each cut it in half and forced ourselves to eat that half, along with some tasty Jalapeno cornbread, and took the other half home in a box. On the way back to the hotel at the end of the day, Kevin's laptop case fell on top of his burger box. When he took it out and had a look, the burger didn't even have a dent in it.

Figuring that we could all have the leftovers for dinner, (and since none of us was remotely hungry after that lunch,) we opted to stay in and take advantage of the hotel's "Manager's Reception", which was dollar drinks from 5:30-7:30. To pass the time, we bought a $4.50 pack of playing cards with "Arkansas Sunrise" on the back and I learned to play "Texas Hold 'Em" poker. Once we got a hang of the game, we played for $1 per hand (which would in turn be used to buy the winner's next drink).

The family next to us had two blond-headed boys, probably three and two years old. I couldn't help it, I missed Melissa and my little guy. Tina caught me staring and asked, "You have any kids, Chris?"
"Yeah, one."
"How old?"
"About that old," I said, motioning to the toddler, who was emptying a sugar packet into the Koi pond. In accordance with federal law, I passed around the picture of him.

After 3 1/2 hours of cards and well-mixed drinks, the group was pretty happy when we called it a night. Before retiring to our rooms, we all hit the gift shop to satisfy our munchies. I went back to my room, Drumstick in hand, and ate the remainder of the Hubcap. I'd never watched "World Poker Tour" before, but now that I actually knew what the hell they were playing, I was fairly interested.

It took longer than I thought to finish off that burger, so Melissa called me at 8:30, which was bedtime for Matthew a time zone away. The daily status was exchanged, I told the little guy goodnight, and Melissa that I loved her and hung up. After I did, I took a slow look around the empty room. It has been a long time since the prospect of being alone and bored in the evenings was a problem for me. I wasn't about to turn in at 9:00, so I flipped on the PlayStation 2.

Tuesday passed just like Monday. Learning our lesson from the previous night, we decided to forego the lunch at a place ominously called "The Whole Hog BBQ", and eat at Popeye's. On the way back to the office, we each bought a roll of dimes from a bank, in preparations for another round of Texas Hold 'Em that night.

[Aside: Honestly, I thought I'd have more to write, but every day was pretty much the same. Little Rock has lots of great places to eat, but little else. Nice enough people, but very little to write home about.]

While taking the 45 second trip up four floors in the elevator, a bearded man riding with me was wishing out loud. "It'd sure save some time if we had some technology like Star Trek, where you'd just push some button on your watch and you'd just appear where you're goin'. Would beat these slow elevators." Then, as the doors opened, he took it back. "But then I suppose we'd just have to get more WORK done in the day."

It's tough to be out here by myself. Well, not entirely, I'm lucky to have a great bunch of co-workers on this project. But while it's fun to pass the time playing cards, it's still just passing time, postponing going back to my room and going to sleep alone. I really miss coming home at night and having Matthew give me an excited hug and kissing Melissa. I miss the feeling of total comfort in my house with all of us there. I miss hearing what the two of them did during the day, and being able to forget about work entirely.

There's a small stream carved into the ground floor lobby of our hotel, and Koi swim up and down it. I took a break from the cards to get a drink and I noticed one of the fish off by himself, hardly moving. I though he might be dead, but he was still kicking, if fitfully. Just around the corner, not ten feet away, the rest of the Koi were swimming all around, having a grand old time. And this one was alone, isolated from the group, barely flipping his fins. I never thought I'd ever tell a fish "I know how you feel."

I'm going to have to get used to this, at least for a few months. I ship out for three more weeks this fall, one of them in December, and it'll be just the same.

1 comment:

  1. Alone time is a gift Chris - you've got to learn to enjoy it, especially when its rare for you. Take time to get in touch with yourself, really think, and do think best done alone, like honest writing, or take up a project to teach yourself something over the course of all these nights in the future. Learning to appreciate your alone time will make your not-alone time all that much better.

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