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October 25, 2010

Of Cajuns and Sconnies: All Tangled Up

Of Cajuns and Sconnies - All Tangled Up

You just can't know what my life is like. Even I don't really know who I am, I'm afraid.

Last night, I lay here in this king-sized bed, twisting and writhing in pain. That tiny little Embraer 190 really did a number on my back. I hate flying in those little Tylenol capsules. So small and I'm just all folded up in there like a human accordion.

And at night, I set the thermostat down as low as it will go and I burrow under the comforters and just roll around in pain, praying for a sudden death. Death doesn't come, but eventually the morning inevitably rolls around and I go downstairs to meet friend for breakfast. I don't eat breakfast, of course. And it's nasty outside, so I'll ride with friend today and leave the bike here at the hotel.

We climb into the rental car, jabbering like jays in the sunshine. Blabbering about our kids and Halloween and all points in between.

"I saw your photos from the trip. It looked like a good trip. I should have gone with you. But you know...you get all tangled up..."

I like how he says this. "You get all tangled up [in the normal daily activities]" And he's right. We all do. I'm no exception to this, of course. I look back at what I did this summer and I'm afraid it's precious little. Why did I not plan more trips on my motorcycles? I dunno. I think that part of my brain isn't working very well. The planning part, that is. Maybe it's never worked well. It's hard to say.

Friend is solid. He's one of the guys on the short list of people you'd want on a project with you. As cool as the other side of the pillow.

And we ride into work together, giddy as kids spilled onto a playground.

At work, I start right in trying to get my expense reports sorted out. When you're on the road for a week or two, it's not a big deal, but when you live on the road, your life gets changed into something most people wouldn't recognize.

You have to create little rituals or you won't survive on the road. Have to put your parking ticket and your vehicle locator slip in the same place every time. You spend your days trying to get the change out of your pockets. Out of your backpack. You try not to fly change across the planet. It's heavy and very nearly worthless. You save every receipt and throw away every boarding pass and rental agreement.

Mostly, you spend your days renting cars or buying plane tickets. Filling out expense reports or paying down credit cards. Trying to make sure that everything's charged up and operating properly - cameras and cell phones and laptops.

And I go into work today but the system's not working like it should. I'm trying to do my expense reports for the month of October and the application isn't working like it should and finally, I just set aside my expense reports and I dive into the software to try to breathe life into this stillborn application.

Nothing is working right today and we can't figure it out. We're just all scratching our heads and there's a meeting coming up and it won't work. It just won't. I feel like we're skydiving. It's so stressful you just can't know. Deadlines and changes and all of this is going on and I just want to pull my hair out because it won't work. Nothing can make this thing come to life.

If you look at who the most superstitious people are, you'll generally find they're people that routinely operate in scenarios with a low probability of success. Like, for instance, professional baseball players. If a baseball player fails to get on base 7 times out of 10, then he's among the best in the world. The major league average is between .260 and .275. So, this means that even the best players in the world fail to get on base more than 7 times out of 10.

As a result of this, baseball players are among the most superstitious people in the world. If scratching your foot in the dirt and spitting and rubbing your cap helps, then you do it. And this is how it is with the application I work with.

The smartest people in the world can't get this system to work properly. Oh, don't get me wrong. Everyone tries. Everyone wants to take a swing at it. But when it fails to work properly, as it did today, we're all doing the things that we've tried in the past to make it sing and hum. Everyone has things that they've done before that seemed to help. We all have little rituals that we follow that we swear will help.

I could list everything we tried today to make the application work, but when it starts working, no one really knows what fixed it. Was it the security changes? Bumping the servers? Deleting the cache? Waiting 24 hours? No one knows. No one can say for sure any more than anyone knows for sure if touching the brim of your hat really helps to hit a homerun. Some things are just beyond knowing.

But I digress.

So we're just in this pressure cooker all day. Fighting this crazy application at all turns and just no one on earth is smart enough to figure it out and when the system comes to a grinding halt and the boss walks in, I just want to walk outside in the parking lot and peel off my skin like a grape.

Finally, everyone that has a life goes home and friend and I slip outside into the remnants of the Wisconsin fall.

Normally, we just go out to dinner but tonight, we're meeting some ladies for supper. I dunno why, really. Just that we met them out one night in Madison, and somehow they ordered my book and decided we needed to come over, so we did.

They're Sconnies, but not by birth. One's from Illinois and one's from Louisiana and they're just as nice as can be. Very cool to have a place to go when you live on the road. You get tired of eating out in fancy restaurants every nite. A home-cooked meal is so much better, of course. To have a home to relax in with flowers and custom cabinets and photos of humans on the walls.

Something other than a hotel room and a restaurant and work. Something outside of this. Something very close to life, possibly.

"I dunno why am I going," he complains. "Maybe only you should go alone. I have a wife. I have kids. I don't need to be doing this thing with you..." he whines.

"Look...you got a wife. I got nothing. That girl I told you about in Colorado? She wouldn't spit on me if I was on fire, OK? She's dead to me. I got nothing."

"These are your friends. I don't know them," he continues.

"You know them at least as well as I do. You were with me when we met them down on State Street in Madison. Remember? And besides - all we're doing is going to someone's home for a home-cooked meal. They feel sorry for us 'cuz we live on the road, you see. This is normal. This is what people do in Amerika. Don't make more out of this than it is. We deserve this."

Posted by Rob Kiser on October 25, 2010 at 10:37 PM


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