Mercedes-Benz meetings, going home

Despite having the room to myself, I was really groggy when I got up this morning. I know it wasn’t a result of last night, though, as I didn’t feel any worse for wear. I showered, packed, and checked out (using the television interface — I don’t go to the front desk unless I have to). Running into Jamie on the way down, the two of us hiked directly over to the Tribune building. We didn’t get a chance to go to the office for email.

I feel really out of touch. I had hoped to have email access while we were in Chicago, but outside of the Critical Mass office, the connection has been abysmal. Not to mention that the Hyatt charges for its access (cheap bastards!) and there’s no wireless access in the meeting room. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There is an internet connection, which the presentation laptop used. We connected that to Casey’s AirPort hub, which (in theory) would have given us all access. Even then, only the presentation laptop was able to work. I’m not sure why the rest of us (including Casey) were deprived. I wrestled with that sucker for a couple of hours without success.

The first order of business was making up the presentation to the group of our misdirected escapades of last night. Originally, we were going to wing it, but one of the groups (who hit the Sears Tower) had gone completely overboard with their presentation. So we amped ours up a bit with a PowerPoint presentation and bottles of water. At least we didn’t feel quite so lame. And I managed to plug the Client-Side Rearchitecture a bit.

The morning meetings zipped by fairly quickly, and we broke into small groups at lunch (all impromptu) to discuss whatever points we needed to discuss. Rich and I had an agenda to talk to Lark about the Client-Side Rearchitecture so we can get the project moving. Luckily, both Rich and I are fairly good at steering conversations, and it wasn’t long before we were actively babbling about it. This was key, since Rich and I had some outstanding questions we needed answered before we could start moving ahead on the next chapter.

The meetings ended right on time — they had to — at 16:00. This was the great divide for us, as those of us from out-of-town had to catch flights back home. The New York Critical Mass staff hurriedly ran out the door, as their flight was among the first. The Mercedes team was next, followed by the Calgary Critical Mass group. Those of us heading back today, that is. Benno, Casey, Christine, and Rich are hanging out in Chicago tomorrow before coming back on Sunday.

Cabs were easy to hail on the street. Szabo, Mark V., and I hopped in a cab and were off. The traffic was already getting bad. Although our flight wasn’t until 19:00, there was a lot of concern that we would be running late. Chicago is a big city, and there’s a lot of distance from the downtown core to O’Hare.

The three of us talked marketing on the way back. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. I’d have just sat there, quietly, minding my own beeswax. Having been in the business as long as I have, though, I’ve picked up enough knowledge to speak wisely of it. Especially when to tell the difference between a good ad and a bad ad.

Take a BMW billboard we saw. The caption read: “Never use a rest stop. Again.”

Simple, but vague. This is because you won’t want to get out of the car? Or perhaps it goes so fast that you’ll get where you’re going before your bladder gets too full? Or perhaps there’s a built-in toilet in the seats? That led to a conversation of catheters (commonly used for sporting events), and Mark V. wondering how popular catheters would become if Apple made them. I already know what they’d called the product, too:

The iPee.

Check-in was straight-forward. A swipe of the passport, and our profiles appeared. Mark V. couldn’t secure an exit row, though, and we were all delegated to middle seats for our return flight. (The joys of a Friday evening flight.) Security was a bit of a nasty clog, but soon we were in the open and headed for our gate. Mark V. was behind me, but we somehow lost Szabo. We found the gate was completely full (another flight was just about to board and leave), so sat at an adjacent empty section. Bill and Jules found us soon after, followed by Mabel and Jamie. Szabo eventually reappeared. I held guard while the others found food — some remarkably poor pizza. Beggars cannot be choosers.

The flight to Minneapolis was mostly forgettable. (I’ve already forgotten it.) The guy next to me slept. We had a quick sprint within the Minneapolis to find our new flight. The wait wasn’t long — not even close to consider the $7 wireless charge. The flight was cramped and hot. All of us were packed into middle seats. Jules, Bill, and Szabo managed to weasel their ways into window, aisle, and first-class seating. Lucky bastards.

I was happy to get off the plane in Calgary. It had snowed since our departure. Minus 11. No biggie, really. Immigrations was fun, especially since I was following Bill and Mabel through the same gate. When I got to the customs officer, I handed her my papers:

“There’s a few of us.”
“Huh?”
“I’m with the two you just passed through.”
“Web design firm?”
“Yep.”
“Welcome back.”

Now, dear reader, this is where my journey should have ended, with a cab ride home. But I thought I’d be the fiscally responsible employee and take a cab. But no, I felt public transit would be suitable. So I took the bus and then the C-Train. Along the way I think I witnessed just about even level of intoxication and ill behaviour before finally abandoning my transfer to the train that would take me to Sunnyside and walked the rest of the way. I was tired, cold, and miserable. I ain’t doing that again.

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